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Wight By Night - My AstroScapes origins
Those who love the Isle Of Wight may be forgiven for thinking the island is only a magical place during the day. If, like me, you're one of those nocturnal creatures by habit, who explores places under darkness, you'll know exactly what I mean when I say 'The place becomes alive at night'. I used to say that in my younger days, as a single lad, out on the town with my mates on a weekend. These days however, I'm a lot older and my hobbies and interests have changed quite considerably, so the days of pubs and clubs are long gone - to be replaced with family life and my hobby that is photography. A big part of my photography happens at night, under the stars, since discovering a completely new genre - ASTRO PHOTOGRAPHY. It has broadened my horizons no end and there's something quite unique and special about photographing the night sky and all it has to offer.
And what better place to capture those dark night skies than the Isle Of Wight. The island boasts one of the UK's best dark sky areas, so it's there on a plate for all those like-minded astro photographers who are eager to explore all that is on offer. My astro origins go back to to July 2014, when I saw a news article that showed a selection of milky way photographs that were captured on...wait for it...yes, you've guessed it...the Isle Of Wight. This genre of photography was unheard of, as far as I was concerned, and the ability to capture such nightscapes had now registered on my radar. As you can imagine, I couldn't wait to get out there and try this exciting kind of photography, so after seeing the news article, I was most definitely chomping at the bit. It was purely coincidental that, after seeing those milky way shots from the Isle Of Wight, that I was about to embark on a summer holiday to the island just a few days later. It seemed like fate was tapping me on the shoulder and telling me this was my time - a time to give this stuff a real go. And that is exactly what I done. Within a day or so of arriving on the island, I had a clear night sky ahead of me, with no moon, so I was determined to get under the stars and see the milky way for myself. Then there was the small matter of photographing it. I quickly done my research and figured out a starting point where camera settings were concerned and all there was to do was wait it out until darkness fell, which I did.
A couple hours after dusk, I drove along the Military Road, from our holiday base at Island View, Colwell Bay. It was pitch dark. I had no clear plan in mind, as I was simply out there to view the milky way, for the first time in my life. I was quite excited at what potentially lay ahead on the night. Within 15 minutes or so, I had driven along the Military Road and reached the Wight Mouse Inn, near Chale. I decided to park the car, then lights out, before allowing my eyes to adjust to the pitch black, night sky. Within seconds I looked directly above me and saw countless stars and constellations, as well as satellites and aeroplanes. It was most definitely a WOW moment, that's for sure! It was at this very point that the realisation hit me - this was the first true dark night sky I had ever seen! It was completely new territory to me and like a true novice, I simply stood there to drink it all in.
After a few minutes of stargazing, it was time to attempt my first ever shot at Astro Photography. I had now ticked off my first milky way experience - now it was time to photograph it. I had a location in mind, which was only a very short car journey from where I had been stargazing. Blackgang Chine, an adventure park on West Wight, was the place I headed to. At the entrance of the park stands a huge statue of a smuggler, owing its presence to the rich smuggling history that relates to the Isle Of Wight. As I stood in front of the statue, facing south-west, I could see the perfectly aligned milky way, waiting for its curtain call. Conditions were perfect and I swiftly set about the task of photographing it. The place was eerily quiet, with jut the sound of owls calling in the nearby trees. It was all part of my newly found nocturnal experience and I was loving every minute of it. Then the moment of truth - tripping the shutter and checking the monitor. WOW!!! What an amazing shot!!! My photography journey had just taken a detour, by taking me to a completely new place. I knew there and then this was going to the most amazing detour and the addiction was already kicking in. AstroScapes here I come...
And that's how it all started, folks. 8 years on and I'm still at it. As recent as last week (September 2022) I was back on the very same spot at Blackgang Chine, Isle Of Wight, doing a retake of 'The Smuggler', and all those memories of my astro introduction, back in the summer of 2014, came flooding back. You can see this particular shot and other incarnations of it, here in my NIGHT ON WIGHT galleries. The story continues, as we continue to return to the island on our annual pilgrimage, so stay tuned for future updates here at ashleycorr.com.