Portfolio > AstroScapes (The Night Sky) > AstroScapes (Part 3) Click on an image below to reveal enlarged version
AstroScapes (The Night Sky)
Although I'd done an awful lot of low-light photography at night, mostly in a built up environment, I hadn't attempted Astro Photography until the summer of 20014. I'd recently seen a photograph of the milky way, taken by Durham photographer, Mike Ridley. I was in awe of the image he'd captured and was amazed that a camera could actually pick up so much detail in the night sky. I began to wonder what it would be like to stand beneath a sky full of stars, on a clear night. Living in a built up area all my life, I was beginning to believe I hadn't seen a proper night sky, as light pollution always hindered any chance of seeing a true night sky in all its glory. Mike's image was so inspirational, I decided there and then I was going to get out there and do a spot of stargazing, with my camera over my shoulder. I done some research on the internet, mainly concentrating on what particular tools I needed (ie; fast lenses, high ISO capability, intervalometer, etc). Once I'd got my hands on these, it was a case of waiting for suitable night sky conditions. It wasn't long before clear skies were forecast, so off I went to Kielder Water Park, in Northumberland. A couple of fellow photographers were with me and they were just as keen to unleash their camera's on the night sky. Around 1045pm the milky way was visible and what better place to see it... in one of the UK's best dark sky areas!! It was an amazing experience all round. I guess this is where Astro Photography all started for me and I couldn't wait to get back out there to gain more experience of photographing the amazing night sky.
Looking back at my first Astro photographs, I occasionally cringe at the poor processing techniques I used back then and also the noise levels. However, you've got to start somewhere and I've decided to include all my early novice shots in my AstroScapes galleries, just for reference. After all, this was a special time and a turning point in my photography. Although I was unaware at the time (back in 2104), Astro would feature very prominently in the bulk of my photography and would be a regular genre for years to come.
I began to take an interest in other areas of Astro Photography, such as star trails, time lapse and Aurora chasing. Many nights out were had, mostly with my brother Chris, who'd recently taken up photography as a hobby and was keen to learn from me. We'd head out to remote places in the dead of the night. It was all part of the fun. Sometimes we'd be out there in sub zero temperatures, standing around for hours on end, while our camera's worked on star trail sequences. Whether it was on the North Yorkshire Moors or in the middle of an airfield in Cumbria, it didn't really matter, as were pulling in some great images of the night sky.
The highlight was undoubtedly the night we headed to the coast near where we live. It was Sunday 6th March, 2016 and it happened to be Mother's Day. Souter Lighthouse was the location of choice and we were hoping to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), after receiving an alert from an app I'd recently installed on my smartphone. We weren't disappointed! The sky on the northern horizon exploded with colour, around 8.30pm. Lady Aurora danced across the skies in front of us, with huge magenta spikes and an array of green. It lasted over an hour. One of the most amazing things we'd ever witnessed - and all on our doorstep! I was running two camera's on that particular night. One for stills and another to run continuously, as I was attempting my very first time lapse video. It couldn't have worked out better. as I filled both memory cards with some of the best shots I'd ever taken. This event was on a completely different level and I was now officially hooked on Aurora chasing! Several images from the 2014 Mother's Day Aurora are featured here, in my AstroScapes galleries. You can also view the time lapse by clicking here - Northern Lights (Mother's Day Aurora, 2014)
As well as Aurora chasing and milky way photography, I'd also started doing star trails. This involves taking one shot after another, for an hour or so, as the earth rotates. When each image is stacked together in post processing, the finished shot shows the motion created by static stars as the earth rotates on its axis. The effect is quite impressive, especially when you include Polaris (The North Star) in the shot, as this remains static, as the earth turns. I've included many of my star trail sequences in my AstroScapes galleries.
In addition, you'll also find a few moon shots, iridium flares, shooting stars, International Space Station and other bits and bobs that I've captured, under the night sky. Being out there at night is quite addictive and although I feel that I've gone as far as I want to with this particular genre of photography, I'll probably still head out from time to time. It really is a hard habit to break...