Back in 2015, end of what we call the Milky Way season (that in reality means end of the visibility of the galactic core!), I headed towards the Jurassic Coast, specifically to a beautiful chalk formations. Old Harry Rocks are located in the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset, United Kingdom. This was a really windy night, and the location very, very dangerous. I was sat all time as a gust of wind could have easily pushed me to death. I wasn’t sure that I was going to get the photo due to the light pollution coming from Swanage. I took several images at different exposures, my Canon 6d Mk1 and Samyang 14mm F2.8 as the resource, with occasional shots with the Canon 24-105 F4 series L. No tracker, only pushing the trigger. I have to say, I was really pleased with the result.
My friend and fellow photographer Matt Pinner(pinners-photography.co.uk) and I had this planned from years ago. We always talked about it and for one reason or another, we could not make it to the place. It is very difficult to access and dangerous if you don’t know the way.
The day started with a really nice re-encounter with my friend after a long gap without contact with him. As always, we were talking on the way there about possible places, possible photos. We then stopped to photograph a field full of sunflowers in Hampshire.
The sky looked unsettled, with a promise of clearing later on. From there, we headed to Wiltshire towards Salisbury and we noticed that the fields were now being flooded by mist. Matt had a place in mind and we took a little detour to capture this view during the blue hour.
We left the place, and the mist became more and more abundant, now to the point that visibility of the sky had reduced. We keep going with the hope of going to Stonehenge and capture the Milky Way. When we finally arrived, mist was present, even by the stones, but it was thin enough to allow a photo.
I did research about previous attempts from other photographers and I learned that despite the apparent darkness of the place, the sky right behind the monument is heavily light polluted. With that in mind, I started with my first attempt.
The mist made the light pollution problem worse, and it was also aggravated by the continuous passing of cars behind the monument, the lights were amplified by the mist, creating a huge glow. The road was so busy that it was impossible to wait until there were no cars passing through it.
Now the mist was creating heavy condensation on everything. The camera body, tripod, nothing escaped, and as I wasn’t expecting this, I didn’t bring the heaters for the lens, so I found myself cleaning the lens after each shot of the pano. Conditions were also deteriorating very quickly, and I had no choice but to start to do single shots. I positioned the camera in portrait orientation and also changed the lens to my beloved Samyang 14mmF2.8
I have to say that when it comes to foregrounds at night, nothing beats the Sigma Art (not even the expensive Canon lenses). This is to the point that I have experienced the re-birth of my Canon 6D MK1 with the Sigma Art. But when the stars are the subject, the old and mechanical Samyang 14mm F2.8 still producing the most beautiful night skies (I still need to test the Sigma Art 14mm F1.8 which looks very promising!). The lack of light gathering capabilities compared with the Sigma produce more contrast which helps in creating darker skies.
Conditions deteriorated now to the point that clouds started to cover the sky, and the mist became more intense. We had to leave the monument, but we left it bringing with us one of the most beautiful experiences ever, the beautiful energy that emanates from the site, combined with the stars what were visible, a formula that heals the soul, not everyday I have the opportunity to photograph the milky way in the most known and one of the most fascinating places of earth. I thank you all the energy of this universe that took me there.
This year 2017, started with big expectations, always trying to be realistic too about what it could be achieved, as the windows of opportunities in the UK are extremely reduced…so every clear night is so precious, to the point that if I miss one window(a clear moonless night ), I feel like I just wasted my time by doing something else. It is a journey, and a great learning experience and it has become a religion.