Monday, 16 September 2013


I have started a project for this autumn/winter on the isle of Mull to photograph the night sky in 20 iconic locations on the island. I will be doing this for a number of reasons including to help improve my photography skills in the challenging conditions of the night time environment. Also to help me increase my knowledge of the night sky and all it has on display including the constellations, individual stars, meteor showers and the unique experience of the aurora borealis.
Another reason is I hope to promote night sky viewing on Mull using the still images and a time lapse sequence. If the completed result is up to standard it will hopefully be displayed in the cinema room at the Tobermory harbour visitor centre along with other locations and also online. 
The main reason to do it is because I love being out in a wild area under a full star lit sky. The experience takes my breath away every time (sometimes because its that cold!) and I always feel so relaxed and peaceful like I am the last person on the planet. Astronomy fascinates me, not just to look at but to think about...we know very little, that is the beauty. 

Star trail and sunset remains with boat traffic...

My first location was from earlier in the season from the north shore of Mull looking across to the Ardnamurchan peninsula. I was wanting to capture boat traffic going up and down the sound of Mull along with a potential Aurora display. I shot 160 frames and managed to get the motion of vessels underway but no dancing lights. The great thing about photography is you can always improve your results and I might head to the location again at some point.

My next location I chose was Tobermory on the 9th September because of the conditions with no moon light present I shot a location with artificial light. It was difficult getting the balance right between exposed street lights and enough stars visible and my result was a slightly over exposed urban lighting to produce more stars in the frame. Another problem I had was the strong artificial light enhancing the dust spots on my sensor causing blemishes in the frame which was very frustrating. After a light cleaning of my sensor it seemed to improve results a small amount. A Barn owl flying right over my head a few times added to the experience along with 2-3 fledglings calling from the near by crag. 

The higher ground looking over Tobermory...

My third location I photographed was on the 13 September and with a 35% moon crescent on my back and 25% cloud cover I chose Aros castle to give a bit of natural painting on the building and a bit of dramatic cloud to create a nice effect. I had a problem with condensation even with the heat packs as there was low lying mist and a lot of vapour in the air but quick intervals throughout the sequence meant I hopefully got away with it. I captured an iridium flare and a bit of air traffic to add to the interest. I was joined by Rachel French and while the camera was automatically shooting frames we did some constellation ID work.
On the wildlife front we had Greenshank and Curlew calling at dusk, Pipistrelle bats which seemed to appear from their castle roost site and Barn and Tawny owl calling later in the night.

Aros Castle under the stars...the main constellations on show include Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Hercules, Corona Borealis and Lyra with the brightest star Vega...

More updates on MULL@NIGHT results will be published int he coming weeks...