Living in the North East of England offers so many opportunities for days out, camping trips and best of all photography opportunities. I have a collection of images that I dont always share right away and await for the right time to share them, usually when I feel like I need a boost to remind me of the amazing places we have on our doorstep to explore.
If your a big Countryfile viewer like us then you may have seen the episode a couple of weeks ago showing Kielder Water. It was a good episode showing just how amazing the area is and the beauty it withholds. One thing it didn’t mention, unless I missed it below the noise my children create, is that Kielder is actually one of the UKs dark sky locations for star gazers and photographers. It even has its very own observatory. There are many dark sky locations around the UK, but having one so close to home is amazing.
Late last year me and my family took a trip out to Kielder for the day . Our plan was to spend all day walking and exploring, grab some tea and then stay until night to try and see the stars. And obviously to get some photos.
We had our picnic for the day and the stove for much needed hot drinks as temperatures were around 2c maximum. Zachs favourite part of the day is always his picnic and now we have a stove in the car – he loves to make hot chocolate with marshmallows. We have took Zach out on our adventures from him being very small and so he knows no different now and rather than asking to go to some god awful soft play centre he usually asks to go for an adventure and a picnic.
The idea of our day was to explore new areas of the forest and water that we havent been to before. As Kielder is a very large area and it is impossible to see everything in one go, so every so often we like to take a trip up and explore somewhere different.
This time we explored part of the forest near Butteryhaugh. This walk didn’t offer great views of the water but it did give us the chance to make our way through the woodland trying to spot any wildlife with Zach and Marley enjoyed the good walk with no others around for miles. We also got up onto the Kielder viaduct and we spent some time watching the various water birds.
After a good few hours walk, it was time to make our way back to car and head down into Bellingham to grab some tea and warm through whilst it grew dark outside. Then we headed back up to the water and waited for the dark sky to rise above us and oh boy did the skies put on a good display. We have stayed with Wild Northumbrian a few times and have experienced the breathtaking skies before, but each time you see them is just as good as the first. Zach loves to sit and try and spot pictures in the stars with his hot chocolate in hand. If you havent been to a dark skies area yet and stargazed – you best get it on your bucket list. Its incredible – not every day do you get to see the milky way through the naked eye.
How I shoot the image
So what happens if your wanting to take images like this if you were to visit a dark sky location? Well firstly lets talk gear, as this is the most important part.
I use the Sony A6000 and a Samyang 12mm F2. By having a lens that can go wide open it means you can get as much light to the sensor as you can. you can still achieve decent images without this feature but if you want good night images then a good low F number is a must.
Another thing to consider if your wanting to shoot night night images is a good sturdy tripod, I have 2 different ones for different things, I have a travel tripod which is brilliant for folding down small and carrying it in your bag, My other is a super sturdy tripod and a must in a anyones camera equipment.
If you have a new moon(no mood) and clear skies then this is the best time to go out and shoot stars, I use a lot of different apps Storm for weather and Photopills for stars. sometimes when your out the milky way isn’t visible to the eye but its there, so using an app like Photopills will help you locate it then you can frame your shot perfectly. But the core of the Milky way isn’t always available, there are good times throughout the year to shoot this so depending on where you are living will depend what your seeing.
Once you are set and your camera is on a tripod you can use these setting as a guide.
For all the shots in this post the setting were near identical. ISO 3200 | F2 | 25 seconds | 12mm
By using a high iso you help the camera gather as much light as it can, accompany this with the right shutter speed and aperture then you should be ok. It is always best to switch your camera to manual and remove noise reduction as this will stop your camera hunting for a focal point.