The weather up until recently has been difficult for my new night project to say the least. The constant cloud cover has been frustrating especially during the weeks the moon has been invisible (good for night shooting). However, as the weather has cleared there have been a couple of opportunities to shoot before the moon appears above the horizon, giving a short window to get some good night shots.
I had investigated this location during the daytime as it was a) not far from home and b) a good excuse to walk the dog somewhere different! It seemed to be ideal apart from the fact a low viewpoint was needed in order to get the stones above the inclined horizon.
The stones were at the head of a 230ft ‘Barrow’ and had long since collapsed before they were reconstructed in 1921. They sit within the mystical area within Wiltshire UK near the Avebury Stone Circles, other Long Barrow’s and Silbury Hill. They are believed to be from the Neolithic era making them potentially over 5,000 years old.
The site is called “The Devil’s Den Burial Chamber (Dolmen)” and with a name like that you can imagine there are some pretty ghoulish stories that accompany it. My favourite being that if you pour water on the top stone and it pools in the rock’s many nooks and crannies then the Devil himself will come in the night and quench his thirst.
Not that I believe any of these ridiculous fanciful tall tales of course. However, when you visit such places in the dead of night in the middle of a very still, quiet and dark, eerie countryside, it’s easy to start thinking the wrong things and building your own imagination. Hearing every rustle of nocturnal wildlife, sounds that only exist in your head (or do they?) and giving them other meanings. There must be a term for sending yourself into a blind panic at every owl screech but I’m not sure what it is (blind panic maybe? Terror?). Anyway, I did the only sensible thing and one which any self respecting man would do and took my wife along with me! Not for any protection of course, just to hold the torches and other crucial equipment…
Anyway, onto the shoot. It was and is for my “Travelling Riches” project. Meaning light painting, night skyscape with the ever present tent. I had problems with low whispy cloud cover (might actually have been high mist tbh) which seemed to roll in as the temperature dropped from the balmy 18ºC during the early spring day. This produced a very high level of dew on the surrounding grass and of course, equipment!
On the technical front I was debuting my latest purchase a Samyang 14mm f2.8 lens. This rectilinear (not fisheye distorted) beauty is all things old fashioned being almost totally manual. It does suffer from some fairly odd and non-uniform distortion (mild for its wide angle tbf) and heavy vignetting across the frame. However, it is fairly sharp, stops open to f2.8 (ie quite fast), is perfect for nightscapes and is very wide at 14mm. It also only cost me £275 new. Its faults can largely be corrected in post processing making it potentially a very good purchase indeed.
Overall I was very happy with the results. We tried a few different things out with the LED torches and subsequently with the post processing too. The actual final shot for the project isn’t featured here yet but will be added to the growing number of shots taken in different locations, with differing astronomical viewpoints for the final project. I attach a couple of images without the light painting of the stones and other features but that do demonstrate how utterly cool the venue is!