January 2014 - Waiting for the Darkness

Category: Newsletters 03 February 2014

Waiting for the Darkness

The stars and Milky Way over Durdle Door and the Jurassic Coast, with the lights of Weymouth & Portland beyond, Dorset.
Canon 1Dx, 17mm TS-E lens, 17 secs @ f4, ISO 6400.

It always takes longer to get dark than I think. The moon was setting over Portland and Venus already stood out proud in the night sky, but still the glow from the sun which had set an hour previously lingered stubbornly on the south western horizon. I paced by the tripod and waited for the darkness, savouring the view I knew so well and reflecting on just how many times I could possibly shoot Durdle Door. I guess I'm on a life mission to find out. For well over 30 years I've been trudging this stretch of coast, tripod on my shoulder. It all goes to show familiarity does not necessarily breed contempt. But what could I possibly do photographically that I've not done countless times before down there on the Jurassic Coast? A star gazer shoot, that's what. With a clear sky forecast and the moon set to depart the scene as night fell all looked promising. There was just one problem; people. Maybe I should have asked my sister in Weymouth to turn her kitchen lights out. 

An image from Behind the Lens in this month's
Chasing the Light Online Magazine.
A late shaft of sunlight on Tutshi Lake,
British Columbia, Canada.
Canon 1Dx, 200-400mm 1.4x lens
@ 386mm, 1/640 sec @ f5.6.

Since my nocturnal photo sessions in Burma over a year ago my new found obsession with shooting the stars has been nurtured in Utah, Patagonia and the Yukon. Photographing a landscape incorporating the night sky is not easy; framing, focusing and exposing in the pitch black for a start is a game, and knowing where and when to be to see the heavens at their best is a whole new challenge. Our f11 Members can read all about those challenges, pit falls and rewards in Part One of my special Shooting Stars feature in this month's edition of our Chasing the Light Online Magazine. It's a bumper Edition to kick off the New Year; here's Editor Freya Dangerfield with a round up of what else is in store for you in this, our 24th Issue 

FD: In this month's Behind the Lens article David returns to the Yukon, sharing with us the last instalment of his trip journal, accompanied by the latest engaging Yukon Gold Video Blog. There are our usual two Fundamentals of Post-Production Video Tutorials which work through how to extract the full range of highlight and shadow detail from a shot of an Exmoor Pony by merging two conversions of the same RAW image. Part 1 looks at the adjustments necessary using Lightroom with particular attention to black and white clipping, the tone curve and sharpening masking, while in Part 2 David merges the two conversions using Layer Masking. The Low Down David brings to bear his extensive experience of travelling the globe to compile a (slightly tongue-in-cheek!) Guide to Flying with Photographic Equipment. Stepping Back this month takes us to China, where David made the most of this country's somewhat grey lighting conditions with a touch of travel portraiture to capture The Smile. Ben Pipe pens this month's How It's Done, as he describes the photographic vagaries of shooting an Arsenal-Everton Premier League Football match at the Emirates Stadium. For our Guest Feature we explore the fascinating world of street photography with talented practician Ronya Galka, as she reveals the candid observational gems she has caught in her city of residence, London.

A solitary figure on the Charles Bridge at dawn with the towers and spires of the Old Town beyond, Prague, Czech Republic.
Canon 5D mkIII, 70-200mm lens @ 100mm, 8 sec @ f11.

DN: Speaking of cities last month saw a flying visit to Prague. It was writing last month's City Lights feature that prompted the impulse to jump on a flight to the Czech capital. Life is enriched by the ability to make such impromptu decisions, and there too I waited for the darkness, this time willing the flood lights to come on over one of Europe's most beautiful cities. You'll hear all about that experience in next month's issue of our Chasing the Light Online Magazine. Just to recap the Chasing the Light Online
Magazine is published monthly exclusively for our f11 Members. For those of you yet to join f11 Membership costs £36.00 per year. By joining, you'll receive full access to the monthly edition of our Online Magazine and all 24 (and counting!) back issues, as well as discounts, the Composition Tutorials eBook and the opportunity to enter the Your Vision Competition.

Right now we're in the midst of judging the 2014 f11 Member's Your Vision Competition. It's tough; some agonising decisions have to be taken by me and the other Judges, the entries are just too strong. We'll be announcing the winners next month in a special edition of the Member's Gallery.

The Charles Bridge over the Vltava River at dusk, with the Castle District and St Vitus's Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic. Canon 5D mkIII, 24-70mm lens, 13 secs @ f11.

So what else is News? Christmas came and went; now we're looking forward to a host of events coming up. I'm off to Brazil next week, returning in time for the Telegraph Outdoor Adventure & Travel Show at London's Olympia. Wendy and I will be there all four days of the Show, with a permanent presence on the Paramo stand, so come along for a chat. I'll also be doing a talk each day "Round the World in 40 Minutes" in the Outdoor Photography Photobox plus two talks per day on the CVP stand.

Life on the Road; Bunyerro Gorge, Flinders Ranges, South Australia.
Join us at the Telegraph Outdoor Adventure & Travel Show.

Also coming up is our Iceland Adventure (fully booked) followed by Road Shows in Newton Abbot on 6th April and Hungerford on 8th May. In between all of that there will be the monthly publications, regular as the moon, of the Chasing the Light  Online Magazine. Busy? Just a bit, which is why, if you are wondering, our Workshopschedule features just a few jewels in the crown this year. However if you do want to spend time behind the lens in an evocative location with me either on a One-to-One basis or as a Small Group let us know and we'll come up with a plan and a price. It may be much more feasible than you expect.

Travelling the world with bulky gear like this has its fair share of problems, as I expound on in this month's Low Down

As the glow of sodium light pollution from the lights of Weymouth replaced the twilight I realised it was as dark as it was going to get. Clearly I'd been spoiled by the remote dark sky locations I'd become accustomed to in Canada, the USA and Argentina. Well, as always with landscape photography we just have to make the most of what's available, and turn adversity to advantage. One lean streaky cloud in the sky provided a strong diagonal lead-in line taking the eye straight towards the luminescence of Weymouth and Portland. Just maybe that glow could become part of the picture. Altair in the Aquila constellation was at the top of my frame, with Capricornus just discernible above and to the south (left) of the moon now conveniently masked behind clouds. There was way too much light pollution for a real astronomical study, but I was going for the pictorial impact as always. I had the whole scene to myself. I looked up at the stars, wondered about the meaning of life as I always do when in such situations, and pressed the shutter to start my 17 second exposure. The monitor on the back of the camera shone; maybe the shoot could work. Don't you just love this game called photography?

Keep exposing.

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David Noton Photography
Clark House
Milborne Port

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