SUDBURY -- For the last seven years, Allison Beaulieu has been a mild-mannered office administrator in northern Ontario by day and a serious astrophotographer at night. Her ultimate goal is to one day become an expedition photographer.

Recently, the Sudbury woman captured some amazing images of the Milky Way during a trip to Killarney, which won her the top prize in the "Show Us Your Best Killarney Shot" photo contest.

The winning photo, which earned her a weekend stay at the Killarney Mountain Lodge and Convention Centre, is of a lighthouse in Killarney Bay.

"The light was hitting the rocks just right" that day, Beaulieu said, and the blue sky and the orange colour on the rocks contrasted so nicely.

Lighthouse in Killarney, Ont.

During her recent stay in Killarney, she trekked out to one of the lighthouses at 1 a.m. and took photos of the night sky capturing some incredible shots of the star-filled sky. The series of photos are her new favourites of all of the photos she has taken.

View of Milky Way from a Killarney lighthouse

Previously, Beaulieu has had her images featured by Northeastern Ontario Tourism in brochures, and she has even done corporate photography at Health Sciences North and SNOLAB.

At Sudbury's hospital, she documented images of amputations and vascular complications.

She was selected to take photos in Sudbury's underground neutrino science lab and one of her photos ended up winning a people's choice award with a local newspaper.

Allison Beaulieu's photo taken at Sudbury SNOLAB

While she is grateful for the opportunities, mainstream and corporate photography are not where her passion lies.

Beaulieu has a deep connection with the northern Ontario sky. Growing up in Marathon, a rural community between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay, she developed a great appreciation for nature from a young age.

When she was little, her mom would wake her in the middle of the night and wrap her in a blanket so they could watch the aurora borealis together. Now that her mother has passed, the northern lights remind her of those precious memories together and bring her tremendous comfort.

She remembers seeing a picture of the Milky Way for the very first time.

"I don't know what it will take, but I will learn how to that," Beaulieu vowed at the time.

Her in-laws bought her an entry-level DSLR camera as a gift and it sat in the box for about six months before she started using it. When she realized her photos taken with her cellphone were lacking depth of field, she started using the DSLR, playing around with the settings and was hooked.

When the photographer was first starting out, she joined a local astronomy club at the university and even got a job working at a local camera store, where she learned to use the equipment. She has also done work at local provincial parks doing talks about the sky for campers and people started asking her to teach them.

Now, Beaulieu uses a Canon 6DMark II full-frame camera and her go-to lenses are 24-70mm f/2.8, 14mm F2.8, and 150-600mm lens for wildlife.

For her astrophotography, she uses a 30-second shutter speed and takes trailing out using photoshop. She said using a lower ISO gives less digital noise.

Two locations on her bucket list to photograph are Tofino, B.C. and Nunavut.

She said she has found her true calling in life after using photography as a type of therapy.

When asked what is next, Beaulieu said she has been planning to hike the Mount Everest Base Camp while documenting her journey, but that was sidetracked when her husband was diagnosed with cancer. She still plans to make the trip when she is able.

Her advice to any aspiring photographer:

"If you're serious, set your intentions and never stop learning. Never stop reinventing yourself. Media is constantly evolving. If you're stuck in a rut, which often happens to creative people, keep plugging away with an open mind and keep experimenting."