milkyway night sky

Night Sky Photography in Dorset

** Oops, an article written about night sky photography back in March of which I forgot to post (still relevant, honest…)

So now the winter months have passed there is an old friend rising from the east every morning. The Milkyway’s ‘galactic core‘ is now visible for around 90 minutes before sunrise with this time increasing every month through the year.

This winter I concentrated on the night skies with deep space astrophotography by taking advantage of my new tracking mount that allows me to shoot longer exposures of the night sky, providing me the ability to shoot distant nebulae and galaxies.

orion nebula dorset

The Beauty in Shooting Nightscapes

Whilst I love capturing the splendour of deep space, there is nothing that quite beats shooting nightscapes which allow us to enjoy the night sky’s beauty from the perspective from our tiny planet. This genre of photography has a plethora of subjects including meteors, aurora, noctilucent clouds, milkyway and planets.

I had the weekend of 24th February 2018 in my diary for a while as planning shown this to be the optimum time to capture the core for the first time this year. After a 5 month break from shooting this fantastic subject I decided on my location and planned a different shot to my usual Dorset nightscapes.

I found myself alone in the pitch black and freezing at Studland beach with my camera waiting for the Milkyway core to rise from the horizon over the famous Old Harry Rocks. Unfortunately when I got there I had thick low cloud over the exact spot that I wanted to shoot, I decided to setup my camera anyway and aligned my new tracker with Polaris to allow me to shoot longer exposures and produce better quality images.

With around 10 minutes to go before Astronomical Twilight started the cloud parted slightly and allowed me to view glimpses of the stars trapped behind. I kept with my initial plan of shooting an up close and personal view of the core shooting at 63mm (3x closer than my usual 21).

The final result was far from perfect with the cloud hiding much of the wanted detail but just being out shooting the Milkyway again was a great experience.

milkyway night sky

Astrophotography plans for this year

This year I have a few new ideas in the pipeline, my new tracker will allow me to shoot ‘better’ and ‘cleaner’ versions of old favourites such as Osmington Mills, Mupe Bay and Durdle Door.

One thing I am looking forward to trying is shooting a more up close and personal view of the core. Usually I shoot using a wide angle lens but I would like to compress the perspective shooting using a standard focal length such as 35mm or 50mm filling the sky with colour and showing greater detail of the stars and nebulae.My new tracker will also allow me to create dynamic timelapses where the camera will slowly spin as each shot is taken.

With all this in store I cannot wait for this summer, wishing everybody clear skies to enjoy the beauty of this universe we find ourselves in.

Sam King
samking_uk@yahoo.co.uk