Showing posts with label isle of wight. Show all posts
Showing posts with label isle of wight. Show all posts

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Isle of Wight Astro Photography (Part One)

CASTLEHAVEN COVE (12th September, 2020)

As coronavirus played havoc on our everyday lives, what turned out to be a cancelled holiday to a Greek island, turned out to be a week long holiday on another island. From Santorini to the Isle of Wight...

After the disappointment of learning that our Santorini holiday in mid-September had bit the dust, my wife suggested we book another holiday on home shores. Not wanting to waste an opportunity to get away, we booked a caravan holiday in Newbridge, on the Isle of Wight. The island had been the destination for many a previous family holiday, beginning in 2003, when our kids were young enough to enjoy everything the island had to offer. In fact, this was the place where I saw, photographed and edited my first ever milky way, back in 2015. I remember the night very well and it began what was to become a completely new genre of photography to me. I remember standing in awe, looking at the milky way on a clear, moonless night, with the smuggler of Blackgang Chine in the foreground. It really does seem like yesterday!

And here I am again, back to this small island - an amazing location for dark sky photography. And luck was on my side once again, as I just happen to visit during a full week of clear, moonless skies, once again. Well, an opportunity to walk those night time paths was here again and even better that it is September, when the sky would be dark enough to photograph at 8.30pm!!! September is traditionally one of the best months to photograph the milky way, as the galactic core is visible in all its glory at this time of year, so photogenic opportunities were in abundance. 

My first night of astro took place at a small fishing cove near the southern tip of the island - Castlehaven. I'd done my research earlier in the day, as my wife and I drove down to St. Catherine's Lighthouse, before walking along the coastal path to nearby Castlehaven. We walked through a small caravan park that overlooked the sea, before arriving at the small cove, which we had to ourselves. I scouted the place out, realizing there and then that it was an ideal spot to photograph the night sky, facing south-west, towards the milky way. There was a few small boats dotted about, which would add good foreground interest, so I bookmarked the place in my mind, before we headed off to the nearby Buddle Inn, for a well earned drink. The dirt track up to the pub was very steep and bumpy. I knew I'd have to drive back down this road later on, in pitch darkness, but it was the only access road to Castlehaven Cove, so it had to be done.

A few hours later, I was in the car and heading back to Castlehaven. The dirt track to the cove was every bit as bumpy as I'd expected. What an experience. It was like riding one of those mechanical bulls you often find in foreign pubs. Oh aye, I got flung all over, even at 10mph. Not a soul around. I eventually parked at the bottom of the track, next to three other cars. I made my way down the very short ramp towards the cove, with the help of a handy Poundland torch to light the way forward. I switched off the torch and allowed my eyes to adjust to the pitch black conditions... and it was as dark as I'd ever imagined...but what a night sky....amazing!!!  The milky was was ideally positioned, so I quickly scouted out a position behind a few small boats, knowing this would offer a good composition with interesting foreground. The waves lapped in slowly and the temperature was a welcome 16 degrees. I was still wearing shorts and t-shirt! 

I must have only been at Castlehaven for a matter of ten minutes or so, grabbing the shot I wanted, before heading back to the car. I was mindful that I still had to get back up that bank and out of there. If anyone else had parked up on the bank I was knackered - no way out. Luckily enough I had no real problems in negotiating a quick exit, so the night had got off to an excellent start and it was only 9.30pm - still time to head off to more locations, for those elusive astro shots!  

I was hoping to fit in Blackgang Chine Adventure Park, before finishing off at Compton Bay Car Park, for a spot of car photography. One of three planned visits was now in the bag...let's get to Blackgang Chine, for more of the same...and to tick off location 2...

Coming next (stay tuned!!!)


Monday, 11 August 2014

My First Bash At The Milky Way

The Milky Way. What exactly is it, I hear you say. Well, good question, as I never knew the answer myself until very recently. Chocolate bar isn't the answer, by the way. Copied and pasted from the ever trusty Wikipedia -

The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains our Solar System. Its name “milky” is derived from its appearance as a dim glowing band arching across the night sky in which the naked eye cannot distinguish individual stars. The term “Milky Way” is a translation of the Latin via lactea, from the Greek (galaxías kýklos, "milky circle"). From the Earth, the Milky Way appears as a band because its disk-shaped structure is viewed from within the Galaxy. Galileo Galilei first resolved the band of light into individual stars with his telescope in 1610. Up until the early 1920s, most astronomers thought that all of the stars in the universe were contained inside of the Milky Way. Observations definitively showed that the Milky Way is just one of many billions of galaxies.

I had seen one or two outstanding photographs of it on social media, which awakened a side to my photography that I never existed until that moment. Intrigue got the better of me, so I done some digging via the internet and decided I wanted to have a go at photographing the Milky Way. I hadn't even seen it before, let alone photograph it, but I knew that if I ever did catch sight of it with the naked eye, then there was every chance I could record it as a photograph. A perfect chance presented itself ten days ago, during a family holiday on the Isle Of Wight. A perfect Summer day ended with a clear sky, which is an ideal backdrop for Astro Photography, as cloud cover can ruin any attempt at photography. The Moon had set too, which was another major factor, as any light source (Pollution) can also detract from the shot. With everything on my side it was now a case of hunting for the Milky Way, which began with a midnight car journey along the Western edge of the island. There wasn't another car on the road, which wasn't a big surprise, as I drove further into the darkness. I decided to pull over and step out of the car, hoping to get my first sighting of the Milky Way. I switched the car headlamps off and it this point I was surrounded by pitch darkness. I looked across to my right, over the sea and across the horizon...and there it was, stretching high and arching across the sky and into the distance over the Chale landscape. It was a kind of Eureka moment, seeing the glowing band for the very first time, and it this point I realised it was 'Game On'.

I was back into the car in a flash and driving once again. It didn't take long to arrive at Blackgang Chine, an adventure park built into the hillside, overlooking the sea. I was here just a few hours earlier, mingling with hundreds of other families as the park went into full swing. In stark contrast the place was now desolate. I was stood at the entrance to the now closed park, where the statue of a giant towered over me. What a picture that would make, I thought to myself, with the giant in the foreground and the Milky Way as a backdrop. Adventure Land, it certainly was. I switched the car engine off, plus the headlamps, again rendering the area in pitch darkness, apart from the window light from the foyer, which offered at least some illumination. Out came the big torch, leading the way and proving a godsend in poor light. Paranoia kicked in once or twice as trees rustled, owls screeched and even a fox walked by at one point. Being alone in a strange place, in the early hours, in pitch darkness isn't for the faint hearted. But when you're presented with a sight like I was, you just kick into gear and get on with the task in hand. And that was the story for the next half hour, as I ran off a few frames, using my torch to help me focus the 17-40mm lens, which at first failed to lock on to anything due to poor light.

I was crapping myself to be honest. I was sure someone was lurking in the trees behind me. It's a wonder I never knocked me neck out judging by the amount of times I quickly turned my head to see what was making the noises behind me. The mind boggles as to what it was. Best not go there, eh. And not before long I packed my gear up and headed to the relative safety of my car, locking the doors as soon as I was sat on my arse. Job done. Great experience, despite the fear factor, which in hindsight, was all part of the fun. It was certainly a sight to behold though, and one I'd like to see again in the not too distant future. I do believe an addiction to Astro Photography has kicked in!
Looking forward to the next chapter already...

Back soon, Ash