Thursday, 24 July 2014

An evening at Hurst Castle

I never know how to start these posts.
I think I need to start them with some sort of banner that sets your(the reader's) expectations.
Ta-Dah! There we go!

Okay... I think I need a sort of set of notes for every astrophotography type run I do to help me get things rolling.
So, let's try that... now:

The Plan!Date: 23rd of July 2014
Location: Hurst Castle
Weather: Mostly clear skies to the south.
Temperature: Pleasantly warm (Didn't even need a jumper)
Wind: Very slight
Logistics: Estimated 40 minute walk along a shingle spit to get to and return from location.
  • Arrive early to use of dusk-light to on approach to castle
  • Shoot the Milkyway over the Isle of Wight
  • Capture something interesting using the castle itself 
  • Get a star trail shot making use of the lighthouse that is there(If it is accessible)
  • Explore and have fun
Potential Concerns:
  • I've not scouted the location at night before and it's been years since I visited during the day.
  • Not sure how much light pollution the Isle of Wight will kick off. (Vaguely aware there are towns/villages on north-facing(my) side of the island.)
  • Whilst the castle is potentially a great site there is no interior access at night so only steep plain walls are available to shoot. (Will need to look for interesting features, first consideration would be the main entrance/gate.)

Okay so we arrived on time. The sun had just finished setting and we set straight off down the shingle spit towards the castle.
I stopped once about halfway down to shoot the fishermen.

The entire length of the spit was littered with fishermen taking advantage of the warm evening.

At the end of the spit we sat down and re-hydrated, it was still too light for star photography so I just mucked about for a while. This shot is the first one of the castle.
As you can see it's mostly tall walls. I immediately got distracted by coastal features however so expect the next set of shots to not include the castle that much as I proceeded to spend the next hour, whilst it was still getting dark, trying to take shots of the sea-defenses.

You can faintly see a smear in this shot of the Milkyway coming down diagonally from the upper left corner.

A lot of traffic in the sky.

A bit of clambering was involved but I really wanted to play with the wooden structures that led into the water and now the sky was about as dark as it was going to get.

We then started to move round the castle a bit towards the lighthouse.

The Lighthouse

So turning round the last bit of castle wall we come up on the light house.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect, certainly wasn't expecting a single solid beam of light pointing out over the castle wall and the main lighthouse flashes weren't even so bright as to cause hideous over-exposure in the shots.

I tried various different angles and moved around to get different angles.
Two key compositions would involve
1. The light house with Polaris
2. The Lighthouse with the milkyway.
The exact positioning of each within the shot would be dependant on where I could get to and my creativity.

So... as per the plan, I tried to get a nice circular star trail over the lighthouse. (Ideally with Polaris centred on or behind the lighthouse.)
I tried an experiment of limiting my sequence of shots to 15 minutes to see if that was enough to get a good circular trail. It's not until I got to post-processing that I could see it wasn't really enough for what I wanted and, unfortunately, there was another problem... i'd been having trouble with my tripod in portrait mode all night and was thinking I was shaking the camera but, as the stacked images from the 15 minute sequence shows, my tripod was slipping. The camera was sinking throughout the 15 minutes, creating an unintended spiral effect with the trail. (I composited the lighthouse back in manually so it wasn't blurred.)

Castle Gate and the road home

So, with the lighthouse and sea defences bagged and the night sky truly dark we turned on the castle itself once more.

Again you can see the tall walls with minimal features.
In truth there is lots do with creatively with the walls of the castle I just was easily distracted by other subjects. (And my tripod problem.)
I tried to get a shot of the milkyway over the gate for the castle but couldn't quite find the right composition. This was the best of the bunch.

This is the jetty that is used, within normal hours, to get to and from the castle. It points directly into the light pollution of the main land unfortunately.

One last shot of the Milkyway over the Isle of Wight half-way back along the shingle-spit as we headed home.