Inspired by those wonderful night time photos of the milky way or meteors streaking across the sky I headed out for a night with the stars.
I’m pretty much a novice when it comes to knowing how to properly use a camera. Sure, I’m a dab hand with the various auto settings and am comfortable messing about ‘off piste’ with manual controls, but I’m still very much a learner. Trial and (lots of) error is my default strategy rather than being able to confidently set up the perfect picture.
I’ve enjoyed taking photos of the stars, milky way, northern lights and International Space Station but in the heat of the moment, when you have just a few minutes to take that perfect shot, not only do you need to get the settings right but also the composition of the picture. What often sets out a fantastic shot from a so-so snap in these situations is having an interesting, well-lit foreground, perhaps a building, trees or landscape element such as rocks or cliffs.
I decided to experiment taking photos of Doune Castle, just north of Stirling. The Castle dates from 1260 and was built by Robert Stewart, the 1st Duke of Albany, the first King of Scotland in all but name. It was used as a royal retreat with Mary Queen of Scots and James VI being famous visitors. It’s now managed by Historic Scotland and has found recent fame as a film location for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the pilot for Game of Thrones and the fictional Castle Leoch for the TV adaption of the Outlander novels.
It was a clear, starry night, just a few days after the peak of the Perseids meteor shower and with the prospect of the northern lights that night. (They did indeed show up and you can see my photos here).
I’m sharing the best of my experimental photography that night, all shot with a 30 second exposure and with me illuminating the castle with my LED torch. I think I may have even captured a meteor in the shot below. It was nice of Historic Scotland to leave a light on to create a bit of interest too !
To all the more expert photographers out there, have you got any advice for me in taking better shots ? I’d be keen to find out what else I could try to do to improve.