Monday, 20 March 2017

Stargazing Scotland - Viewing and Photographing Celestial Events of 2017

Each year a large number of different celestial events occur in the night sky. Meteor showers, lunar phases, the aurora: different celestial events happen for different reasons, and each has it’s own unique beauty. In this blog I’m going to briefly explain some of these events before highlighting a few tips about how to view and photograph them.

Lunar Phases
On an Autumn night the full harvest moon rises as a giant, wobbly orange ball. Get up before dawn on the approach to new moon to see a slender crescent ascending from the East. Not only are lunar phases regular, they’re magnificent. With a bit of careful planning around the lunar calendar it’s possible to predict where and when the moon will rise and set. Combine this with a planned composition, get lucky with the weather and it’s possible to capture this beautiful phenomenon in all its cosmic glory. www.sunrisesunsetmap.com gives an accurate lunar forecast specific to your location. From March 29th, look West after sunset to see the evening crescent moon sinking into the horizon.



The Aurora
A description of the aurora is not necessary for the readers lucky enough to have witnessed this elegant form of space weather. For the readers who haven’t seen it, any description I can offer will fall utterly short of the ethereal dance of the northern lights. The sun ejects charged particles (solar wind) into the solar system, these are attracted to our magnetosphere and directed to the poles. They react with the atmosphere, making it glow in green, white, red, purple, yellow, blue…

Following www.spaceweather.com will give a reliable solar wind forecast. There are other sites too but this is a good starting point. For reasons not fully understood, around the Spring and Autumn equinoxes a large aurora display can be triggered by the most gentle solar wind. Because of this, the best times to ‘chase’ the lights are the equinoxes. Time your trip with a new moon to maximise the detail in an display you see.



Meteor Showers
Comets originate from the outer areas of our solar system. When they enter the inner solar system radiation from the sun heats their core, stripping away parts of their bodies to form a tail of ice and dust. Sometimes these fantastic objects pass through Earth’s orbit, leaving their tails behind. Every year, Earth passes through the tails of past comets. As our planet ploughs through such a tail, ice and dust burns in our atmosphere as meteors.

With a little planning it’s possible to witness and photograph these amazing celestial events. The ‘peak’ of the meteor shower is when Earth passes through the thickest part of a comet’s tail. Because Earth is travelling in a specific direction through space, the shooting stars appear out of (or ‘radiate’) from a specific part of the sky. This is called the ‘radiant.’ Meteor showers are named after the constellation from which they radiate. Download the free planetarium software - Stellarium - by following the link below. You can use this to learn about the constellations for meteor shower viewing.

http://www.stellarium.org/en_GB/



Below is some information about two of the best annual meteor showers. Also, follow this link to find out about other showers. http://www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-current.html.
Any photographers wanting to capture shooting stars should plan a composition (at an area free from light pollution) to include the radiant. Then, during the peak of the shower, use an external shutter release to capture hundreds of images in succession. This will maximise your chances of a meteor appearing in your frame.

Perseid Meteor Shower
Peak: 12th - 13th August
Radiant: Perseus
Origin: Comet Swift Tuttle

Geminid Meteor Shower
Peak: 13th - 14th December
Origin: Comet 3200 Phaethon



Planets
The planets orbit the sun. Because of this they constantly change position in the sky; the name ‘Planet’ originates from the ancient Greek word for ‘Wanderer.’ It’s easy to follow the movement of the Planets, use Stellarium (linked above) to track their movements across the heavens. Below are some good dates to see some of the famous planets in our solar system.

April 7th. Jupiter at opposition. On this date, the largest planet in our system will be at it’s closest approach to Earth and therefore at it’s brightest. A pair of binoculars should also reveal its largest moons.

June 15th. Saturn at opposition. This is a good summer opportunity for stargazers and photographers. Saturn remains in the area of the sky close to the heart of the galaxy; a brilliant opportunity for any photographers wanting to capture two of the most beautiful celestial sights in one image.



I have covered just a few of the many exciting things available to view and photograph in the changing 2017 sky. If you have any questions about these events and how to photograph them please feel free to contact me.

Jesse Beaman
Stargazing Scotland

https://www.facebook.com/StargazingScotland/
http://www.stargazingscotland.com/

Monday, 13 March 2017

Allan Wright - Skye – A Photographic Communion


Renowned worldwide for having some of Scotland’s finest landscapes, Skye looms large on the landscape photography map. I had kept it in reserve until the time was right and so finally in August 2014 I commenced my exploration which extended extended over a two-year period totalling seven or eight weeks. The result is a new book with the title: Skye – A Photographic Communion published at the end of this month in softback at 130 pages it is available online at https://mybooksource.com/skye-pb-74239.html price £20.

Here are a handful of images and extracts of text from the book.

Up and over to the West of Carbost through Glen Oraid is the photogenic gem of Talisker Bay. On my chosen day in August, after a few dry runs, I got my chance to celebrate the beauty of this place. I arrived in time for a nicely-centred crimson sun dipping below the horizon out on the Western ocean. The bay made a fine subject with its shapely foreground rocks and a prominent stac, all strewn harmoniously along the shore. Long exposures were in order - during which I took a ‘slainte’ moment with a wee ‘deoch an dorus’ of Talisker spirit before ambling back to camp in semi-darkness. A perfect end to a perfect day.



Near the Point, an encounter with a roofless but otherwise fine stone cottage brings on a melancholy moment, despite the drama of its setting. In such moments, the sadness inherent in these places feels palpable: the truth behind the loss of former inhabitants, the stories of past lives and the hardships or abuses suffered pierces through nostalgic illusions of Hebridean tranquility. What was the story of this cottage, I wonder? Is its dereliction the result of non-sustainability, or was it abandoned through the ruthless actions of some Laird or other?



A huge variety of coastal subjects presented themselves to me on Sleat: and a lonely wee inshore fishing boat working quickly on ominously grey water ahead of an encroaching storm. Rising behind the mountains of Knoydart.



A couple of miles inland from Uig lies the Fairy Glen, a notoriously magical place. It has been labelled ‘preternatural’ - which, according to Wikipedia, means ‘suspended between the mundane and the miraculous’. This heavily-glaciated landscape evoked instant curiosity and showed great promise from the beginning. In practice, though, the Fairy Glen did not give up its secrets to me easily. It took me eight visits over two years before some special dawn light delivered a result. I am not big on superstition, but on this day I saw and felt the power of this magical place.



Uig is a busy ferry port on the north-west coast of the Trotternish Peninsula. From here Calmac ferries serve the Outer Hebridean ports of Tarbert, Harris and Lochmaddy, Uig served me well as an overnight stop, offering both logistical convenience and generous photo opportunities. On one particularly restless day and purely by chance I caught the widest of rainbow arcs linking both sides of the broad bay.



https://mybooksource.com/skye-pb-74239.html

Allan Wright
http://www.allanwrightphoto.com
https://www.facebook.com/allanwrightphoto

Monday, 6 March 2017

Laura Hudson Mackay - You Can Find Me in the Forest...

Straight out of fairytales, forests are places where people can hide away or get completely lost. They are silent and beautiful in a weird and ancient-feeling way.



Spending time photographing in forests takes me back to my childhood and hearing my parents say those wonderful words ‘Once upon a time’. When they read to me, a doorway opened in my imagination that has never closed. As an adult, I still read fairytales, but also study them, researching folklore, myths and all things magical.



Bringing together my love for these stories and photography, I’ve begun a journey, crossing cultures and linking both the traditional and modern Celtic and Arabian storytelling themes. The project, ‘Confluence’ is an international collaborative project, which sits within Upland’s overarching programme of international development.



Together with Scottish storyteller, Anne Errington, Moroccan photographer, Houssain Belabess and Moroccan Storyteller Mehdi El Ghaly, we are creating a body of work based on the many themes, which link our traditional stories and cultures. And, just like the characters from fairytales setting out on a long journey, over the sea and mountains, and finally descending through thick forests, to eventually arrive at their destination, ‘Confluence’ is an exciting adventure leading us on a journey of discovery.



You can follow the story here  or search #confluenceupland 


Laura Hudson Mackay
http://www.laurahudsonmackay.co.uk
https://www.facebook.com/LHMphotoLRPS