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Photography Applications Wot I Use (part 2)

Spurn Point Lighthouse Star Trails
Spurn Point Lighthouse Star Trails

This image was created at 2:53am on the 17th April 2016. It's a single frame with the shutter open for 20 minutes and 23 seconds and I have never been so cold in all my days, stamping my feet on the sand to keep the blood flowing while waiting for the shutter to close and to see if it had worked. It is amazing how far the sea comes in in 20 minutes

In order to take this image I had to be in the right place at the right time. Spurn Point is a fabulous place to be and it is a long spit of ever changing land that juts out about 3 miles into the Humber Estuary in Yorkshire. It's a real nature reserve, there were dear and rabbit prints in the sand that night. It is created and recreated from the coastal erosion to the north, the currents laying down the debris as Spurn Point. A storm and its tidal surge on December 5 2013 washed away the road and now at high tide, like Lindisfarne on Holy Island, it becomes separated from the mainland. I like this separation, there's a special peace when the mainland is left behind. Anglesey is the same the moment you cross the Menai Strait. To find out the times to cross I used and the Spurn Crossing Times here

Armed with this info I parked my car at midnight at the mainland end of the spit and set off with my camera bag on my back, tripod in one hand and torch in the other for the trek to the Lighthouse. I had been tipped off that it's renovation was complete - the previous visit it was still wrapped in tarpaulin and scaffolding - I was ready to make this image.

I needed to know where the moon would be as it is the only source of illumination for the Lighthouse (at 2:53am) and I checked that the Light on the Lighthouse itself hadn't been restored. Flashing beams of light would have ruined any possibility of star trails.

To find out about the moon I used The Photographers Ephemeris shortened to TPE. This is a web application that is also available on Android and iPhone as an app. Here's the info it provides about 2:53am...

That light grey line is where the Moon is at the time and you can see the Moon will set (when it reaches the Dark Line) at 4:20 am. So while I am taking the picture it is setting over my left shoulder and illuminating the left side of the Lighthouse ... perfect

(The orange lines are where the Sun rises and the Sun sets)

Despite the moon It's still pitch black and autofocus doesn't work in the dark, so I manually focus on the moonlight reflected in the glass at the top of the tower and rely on depth of field (f8) to keep the stars in focus. I need the lighthouse to the north of me as I want the stars to spiral in line with the tower. So I have to find the Pole Star, Polaris, around which the stars rotate as the Earth spins on it's axis ...

Finding Polaris I line myself up and, after a few experimental exposures, I open the shutter for 1223 seconds with my wifi remote release.

20 odd minutes later... thanks to the help of the weather apps to get that cloudless sky, the tide tables to make safe the crossing and TPE to know where the moon light was going to be. I have an image to treasure - check it out the print store. By the way the home page backdrop for the website is an image I took as the sun began to rise later that morning. I call it "Renewal" the whole of Spurn Point being refreshed every day.

Still no mention of Photoshop ... maybe in part 3 :-)

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