Portland Bill Lighthouse

Keeping going with the night project has been good during these clear nights and we decided to make the long cross country trip to Dorset on the south coast last week. All the appropriate conditions were looking good. Weather forecast looked clear but with a slight chance of some sea mist rolling in towards daybreak. The Milky Way Galactic Centre would be up just before the pre-dawn light at around 4am and the moon wouldn’t rise until around 5am.

So, off we set for our 2hr 15min slog south. We duly arrived around 12:30am and although I knew the area, I hadn’t pre planned the shooting position so a quick recce was in order. We walked towards Pulpit Rock by torchlight but the rock itself was a bit low down meaning the lighthouse was partially obscured by the surrounding land. Getting the sea in shot, as the tide would also be in, would have been really good but I couldn’t get a good viewpoint and include the lighthouse as prominently as I wanted for this particular image. The other slight challenge was that the lighthouse light is very bright (obviously!) and also emits four beams in its sweep not just the one. This meant that shutter speeds would need to be kept short (around 8 secs max I calculated) in turn meaning iso sensitivities would need to be high.

After a very short snooze in the van we got up at 3am and headed to our planned viewpoint. After a few shots I decided the Milky Way wasn’t quite in the position I thought it was and was able to adjust the composition to a more pleasing one keeping the lighthouse in the centre of the image (I’d stupidly thought the excellent “Photo Pills” app wasn’t quite as accurate as it indeed is!).

Timing the sweeps of the beams from the lighthouse proved tricky and its fair to say I shot quite a few images, shooting it in different places as it polluted the night sky quite heavily. I ended up using iso 6400 and a shutter speed of around 4-5 secs for the main night sky exposure. The compromise was noise versus light pollution from the lighthouse. We got the main shots and then had a play with the wonderful Canon fisheye 8-15mm L lens and the beautiful Canon 17mm TSE.

The result being I have another shot in the bag for my ongoing project and a couple of fun photographs taken during the expedition as seen below. We retired to bed in the van around 4:30am and slept for four hours before being awoken by the lighthouse emitting ear splitting fog warnings to those sailing out on the seemingly millpond-like waters of the English Channel.


The Milky Way over Portland Bill Lighthouse


The Milky Way over Portland Bill Lighthouse with van left of shot!


About squashimagery

Uber cool photographer bloke!!
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