Monday, 19 November 2012

Sky At Night

We had a rare clear sky a the weekend that coincided with the Leonid meteor shower (well one day late actually). I've not seen a meteor shower since my youth when I lay on the lawn (slightly inebriated I suspect) in the beer garden of a local pub.

I've always had an interest in the night sky and had been considering photographing a meteor shower for some time. I'd done my research, but had not managed to find a clear night on which a shower was due. All right, I'd usually forgotten to check my diary and missed most. So on discovering the news of a meteor shower I took my camera outside into the garden just after midnight to see what I could manage.

I located the area of the sky the meteors should be seen and set-up my camera with a wide angle lens to maximise the chances of capturing a meteor in the sky. I set-up the camera's intervalometer to make continuous exposures for 2 hours in the hope that I would capture a meteor or two in that time.

By now my eyes had become well adjusted to the dark and I became aware of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, so clear overhead along with a fantastic number of stars. The local council have recently been turning off the street lights at midnight as part of it's austerity measures to save money and this has removed a large part of the light pollution that usually hides most stars. It was too much to resist and it wasn't long before my camera was being repositioned!

I included some of my house for perspective. A neighbour's outside light was illuminating the wall of the house (have they not heard of austerity?) and the warm glow gave a nice contrast to the cool dark sky above. Happy with this image I turned the camera back to the meteors and re-stared the intervalometer. I planned to leave it for a couple of hours before bringing it in so retired to bed for a little sleep.

The next morning I woke to see the first rays of sunlight coming through the curtains. I'd slept in! The camera was covered frost but the memory card contained over 250 images. I imported these into my computer and impatiently scanned through them looking for a meteor. Not a single one! However the images I did have made an interesting, if brief, time-lapse video of the earth's rotation.

Undeterred by the lack of meteors the experience has given me plenty of enthusiasm explore night photography (still and time-lapse) further. I have a few ideas for suitable locations. Now all I need to work on is rehearsing my explanation for lurking suspiciously in the local church yard in the dark for 3 hours in case someone should call the local constabulary!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Family Holiday in the Lake District

So, the very day after I posted that I had decided to work on making images closer to home I drove the 260 odd miles to Ambleside in the Lake District! This was, of course, a family fell walking holiday that had been booked almost a year and a half before but it was inconsistent enough to my to my last post to warrant explanation.

The thing with these holidays is that deep down I know I will be very unlikely to get a chance to do some real landscape photography. By that I mean work with my large format camera. Lets face it, there is no way on this earth that my family are going to hang around for the hour or more it usually takes to set-up and wait for the right light.

Even when carrying something light like my little Panasonic GX1 it's quite amazing how quickly everyone disappears into the distance the moment I stop to pull the camera out of my coat pocket. Half of my time on the fells is usually spent running to catch up.

It's a fact of life that I find hard to come to terms with though and inevitably the back of the car is filled with my large format kit bag, tripod, film, film holders and changing tent before I think about our clothes. The whole family all have to point out how much room my gear is taking up and remark that someone will have to squeeze into the car in the back seat alongside it all.

We all know all this gear will spend the week left untouched at the cottage and sadly last week was no different, although the tripod and a few neutral density filters did still come along for most of our walks. My Daughter pinched my pocketable Panasonic GX1 so I found myself carrying a big DSLR which meant a rucksack was required to keep it dry which meant running after everyone was going to be tougher than usual!

Autumn here in the south west, has been a bit strange this year and it was much the same in the Lake District, although perhaps a little more advanced. In recent years the colour changes have generally occurred at roughly the same time giving a short lived riot of colour.

This year however the colour changes seem to have been all over the place. Many trees had already lost their leaves, a few were on the change but a good many were still green. In a short walk though one woodland it felt like we were in September one moment, December the next.

It wasn't all that bad though and in any case what the landscape lacked in autumn colour, it more than made up for in weather. Much of this weather was rain, more rain and a bit more rain for good measure but between the downpours we were treated to some quite spectacular light.

At the end of the week were lucky enough to wake and find a good layer of snow cover on some of the higher fells too.

In the end the weather and minor illness curtailed some of our more adventurous plans, but we still thoroughly enjoyed our stay and I came away with a surprising number of memorable pictures, despite not using my large format camera. What more could anyone ask for?