New for 2006-7

My focus is slowly swinging to the astronomical as winter develops.

As a child I was exposed briefly to the night skies in a part of the world that once had little skyglow. I can never forget the colours and beauty of those momentary glimpses down the telescope eyepiece, a magical world lay there, yet the skies being looked at just seemed a wash of faint stars.

In 2004 my first attempt at bringing a fresh perspective on the matter pushing digital beyond its limits, produced a wonderful image of the Milky Way reaching down to the land beneath. It has become iconic in that it produces a visual perspective that takes you out of the Galaxy you live in, and allows you to see it for the first time.

I never really realised just how this image changed the way I saw the universe above on dark nights, and now my issues are to further explore this.

The technicalities of doing one are not at all easy to master, the effort considerable, frequently frustratingly fruitless, but when successful, the results truly awesome, and humbling. Although they are becoming easier to do, there is still a lot to understand before you can start to produce them in their full complex organic glory.

 

North West Mull is a very, very interesting area for daylight imagery. Almost daily in passing there is someone standing looking at their camera, as they take pictures.

Yet in one of the safest places in the world for night photography, when it gets dark, they go home. With an irrational urban fear of darkened places.

I moved at the age of 9 from the urban to this empty dark at night rural environment, where you could often not see your hand in front of your face, and felt that fear. Now the night is a friend, as my eyes gained the strength to see where before they saw nothing.

Where in other parts of the country it is wise to make sure the police know who you are and what you are doing, stumbling around in the dark, here nobody bothers.

I must note that you do this to avoid awkward questions, not because somebody will hurt you.

And in utter pitch black where all you can see is starshine, the potential is mind numbing.

Vega blindingly bright in the top right of the picture, draws the eye to the vertical arm of the galaxy, stretching from the horizon to above your head.

No skyglow, a small hint of light from Tiree. When the picture was taken, stumbling was the word, you literally could see only starlight.

Add a small amount of artificial lighting to produce a sense of perspective, and the scene is complete.

By the time I got this image most people were snuggled up asleep, completely unaware of what was lying outside of their closed windows. and the drawn curtains of their minds.

This image is 18 megapixels in size and shows close on a million stars, emission nebulae, galaxies, and the hint of human presence.

Digital cameras took a whack of criticism for their weakneses over film.

I never understood what the fuss was about as both media were digital, having worked a darkroom and hated reciprocity, and cost. Digital felt like an adventure of exploration where none had existed before. Like climbing out of a box.

There is a lot in this image at the level of technique, in truth good manually taken digital photography overpowers film's inherent weaknesses, and loses some of its greatest strengths.

This is what you win.

Land and Deep Sky

Another clear night and the chance to look deeper to the south despite the skyglow from Oban.

It is sad that we live in a world swamped by skyglow.