The Right Place At The Right Time Doesn't Always Guarantee the Results

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Milky Way & Bardsey Island
Sometimes photography is about being in The Right Place at The Right Time, but even that isn’t enough to ensure you can take a brilliant photograph.

Last week Liss and I were camping at the furthest point on the Lleyn Peninsula, North Wales. The first night it poured down and left everything soggy. The rain continued most of the following day. And then the sun came out, dried everything out and life was good once more.

The following night the sky was wonderfully clear. Being out on the peninsula was almost like being in the middle of the Irish Sea. On the top of the Mynydd Mawr hill, I was surrounded on 3 sides by water. The nearest sizable town was Pwllheli, fifteen miles behind me. To the south there was a feint glow from the lights of towns along the coat of Cardigan Bay. To the west Ireland lay somewhere in the pitch dark. To the north a few lights could be seen on Anglesey.

There was no moon. It was at the end its waxing phase and almost new. And it had been rising during the day not during the night. So there was no ambient light. It was very dark. And the sky was very clear. High above I saw the International Space Station fly right over head from West to East. You can tell it’s the space station as it’s so much brighter than any of the other half dozen satellites I saw that night. And then there were at least a dozen shooting stars during the couple of hours I was out.

It was the perfect night for photographing the stars. There were so many of them. I saw something I had only seen for myself once before : The Milky Way. At first I thought it was cloud. A long thin one stretching in a north-south direction, but it was a cloud that never moved and had stars in front of it. And was there the following night too.

As I said, just because you’re there doesn’t the results are guaranteed. At first I tried taking star trails as they rotate around the North Star. I spent half an hour on a cold damp hillside, with only sheep for company. And after the 30 minutes were up, the results were rubbish. I had my ISO too low as it was so dark, it was still too underexposed. It may have been an amazing sky, but another half hour in the cold and dark with only my Kindle for company was too much for me. Time to change track. (See Steve Buckley’s Facebook albums for examples of how to take star trails correctly)

I had a go at photographing the Milky Way with Bardsey Island in the fore-ground. To do so I and to up my ISO to a whopping 25,600. Facing due south the movement of the stars should be minimal, but too long an exposure would result in blurring. So I experimented with several exposure times but settled on 10 secs. The results were amazing although a little bit “noisy” . A bit of creative processing in Lightroom and you can see the results.

Sadly I didn’t catch any shooting stars, and to prove the point of being in the right place at the right time, this week’s Perseid Meteor shower was mostly hidden by the clouds.
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