January was a fantastic month for my astrophotography. I embarked on seven incredible shoots around the Cornwall and Devon coastline as well as spending an evenings up on Dartmoor. I can’t remember a month that was so positive for clear skies and favourable conditions.
Another highlight for me was meeting an incredible photographer and human, Esme, and being able to share some of these shoots with her.
Soussons Stone Circle - Dartmoor
My first location of the year was just outside Postbridge and sits on the edge of Soussons Down Woods. Photographing Dartmoor's Stone circles at night has been an ongoing subproject, and it was great to add a new addition to this collection. You can read a bit more about my Dartmoor mini projects here:
The forecast wasn't confident for crisp, clear skies this night, but my aim for 2019, is to take more risks in photographing when our changeable weather isn't looking perfect. Being out on winter nights like this is always rewarding regardless of the photography, and it was surreal to watch the winter constellations slowly trekking across the dark blue sky above these beautiful woods
This photograph was, in fact, my last composition of the night where I was interested in adding a human element to the scene with some dramatic light. You can see the constellation of Orion just clipping the treetops, with a threatening bank of cloudly stubbornly holding out to the west, reflecting the glow from nearby towns.
Hartland Point Lighthouse
My second shoot from January involved meeting up with photographer Esme, for the first time, and wandering to Hartland Point Lighthouse on the north Devonshire coast. The Quadrantids meteor shower was peaking on this night, so we intended to photograph some of these with the Lighthouse as an interesting foreground.
Once we arrived and begun walking the windy coastal path in search of an elevated viewpoint, I remember being mildly concerned with the cloud cover, but there were gaps, and the meteors were flashing by through the openings dramatically. It was also bitingly cold, so we worked quickly and kept our spirits warm through conversation while capturing some striking images. The first of many memorable night adventures we would embark on in the coming months.
Great Staple Tor
The following night, Esme and I met up again in our pursuit for clear skies and exciting locations. This time we decided to photograph Great Staple Tor. A dramatic place I know well, but which I have never shot under the winter sky previously.
Cloud initially concerned me again while we journeyed up, but as is often the case with the Moor's elevation, clear skies can prevail wherein lower locations, it may linger. Spectacular clear skies greeted us when we did arrive, and I recall the winter circle glistening beautifully about the main stack.
We worked a few different compositions, star gazed and exchanged chat — a perfect night.
About a week later, I spent a dreamy ice cold night at Crackington Haven. The clearest darkest skies I've experienced for some time in Cornwall.
There was a lot in the sky this night for us to enjoy including the Andromeda Galaxy, the star cluster Pleiades, and of course the winter sky superbly glistening above the rugged coastline.
Rumps Point Lunar Eclipse
My fifth shoot in January was extraordinary. Early Monday morning, Esme and I journeyed to the north Cornwall coast to photograph and experience the much anticipated lunar eclipse.
I previously photographed a close-up sequence of a lunar eclipse a few years ago, so wanted to capture a wide angles nightscape with the moon as an element to the overall composition rather than the main focal point.
Typically, the timing of totality was very early in the morning, and on a working weekday, with a high-risk of cloud interfering, it all sounded a perfect combination of circumstances to warrant a trip! A few hours kip after arrival on location certainly helped and we were alive for an exciting event. We chose to visit Rumps Point, as it was an impressive location with dramatic rugged cliffs and importantly dark skies.
It is interesting, because sometimes as a photographer, my impression of an image is influenced by my experience at the time of taking a photograph. I am not sure if this is particularly good from a composition standpoint, but for me, this photographs represents the excellent company, steep moonlit trails, incredibly crisp dark skies, and a powerful sense of peace and tranquillity. What an enjoyable start to 2019 chasing dark skies!
About a week later, we ventured to a local beach called Portwrinkle on the southeast corner of Cornwall. I enjoy photographing placing close to home; it's nice to be able to shoot and not need to journey hours to reach home.
This particular night wasn't perfect; it was hazy with high-level cloud but a few hours well spent.
My final shoot of January, saw me take a solo trip to snowy Dartmoor to photograph the few locations around Sharp Tor and the Dart River.
The night began with a dash from work, full of motivation to have an adventure, or just get lost somewhere within the expense of Dartmoor. I find a strange comfort in the coldness of the moors in the wintertime, so this was my obvious choice. The plan was to trek a 5km circle around Mel Tor, Luckey Tor, and up to Sharp to explore a few places I have previously scouted.
The night was beautiful, the crunchy snow crackled beneath my feet, you could hear owl calls echoing in the dark, and the hum of the mighty River Dart below the peacing stars glistening blissfully above.
For the first time in a while, I actually felt haunted wandering around, been a while since I have ventured out somewhere this isolated solo, but it was refreshing too.
What a month for astrophotography!