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20th December 2019, by
Lake District Dark Skies
20th December 2019

Lake District Dark Skies

Looking for peace and quiet and time away from the crowds, you walk up to Blea Tarn on a clear, dark night. Gazing up at the enormous dark Lake District sky and you realise that actually we are not alone. There can be as many as 2000 stars clustered all around you in the Lakes, compared with a dozen or so seen by the naked eye from a London location.

Rare Stars

Orion is perhaps the most well-known winter star pattern, but the Lake District gives us the rarest of opportunity to see some of the lesser-known celestial delights. There’s climbing a mountain to reach England’s rooftop to sit amongst the stars and capture the rarest of photos – a snap of our sister galaxy, Andromeda.

Deep within Grizedale Forest, you are well protected from light pollution giving a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness all sorts of heavenly sights, such as Mercury in transit or Jupiter’s moons and even the famous Aurora.  Or, there’s spotting the Winter Hexagon or Polaris from the otherworldly location of Castlerigg Stone Circle, one of the earliest in Britain and is thought to be an ancient astronomical observatory. There are lots of different ways to plan a holiday around stargazing.

Losing the Dark

Here in the UK, we have some of the largest ‘dark sky reserves’ in Europe. Hopefully soon to be added to the list of four official UK dark sky reserves is the Lake District. Awarded by the International Dark Sky Association, this accolade is no easy feat especially with light pollution increasing, rising by 2% every year for the last four years, sadly. The protection of rural areas with ‘dark sky status’ preserves mankind’s oldest natural wonder that is the starry night sky – a natural phenomenon that 85% of the UK may no longer see at home. It’s not just humans that miss out – 50% of animals in the UK are nocturnal, relying on the night sky for their feeding and breeding patterns.

 

Left to Right: Blea, Andromeda, Langdale | Buttermere Stars | Castlerigg January Snow

Night photography advice from Ben Bush, Astro Photography

Night photography is possible even with some very basic kit.

  1. An entry level DSLR is a must, as is a tripod to get started
  2. A good photo guide to decide on some locations as well s the basics of being out at night and operating your camera in the dark!
  3.  Local knowledge to negotiate the weather and capture the best locations and sights. YouTube is a great resource and a brilliant learning tool to learn long exposure photography
  4. Continually change your settings and try different compositions and locations
  5. Then when the camera function becomes easier, put your creative brain to thinking about different compositions
  6. One of the main things though is just to get out there. Keep trying and soon enough the results will show and you’ll get shot after shot. The sky is literally the limit!
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