It’s Dark Out There


Llyn Aled is a natural lake located on an isolated part of the Denbigh Moors at an altitude of about 1,227 feet (374 m) above sea level.

The Afon Aled, (river) which flows from Llyn Aled was damned in 1938 and this created the Aled Isaf Reservoir. This was were I was going to be based for an evening trying to capture a sunset over the reservoir and maybe some star trails.

Although the reservoir is isolated on the moors there is a single track road running along the side of it, which means of course that I didn’t have to walk to the reservoir. Zoom the map and you can see the road crossing the reservoir.

Sunset was at 19:14 and it was a bust. Hardly a cloud in the sky

E-M1MarkII OLYMPUS M.12-40mm F2.8 12 mm 1/20 sec at ƒ / 8.0 200

There’s not much of interest on the lake side of the reservoir. Just a solid concrete pump house, pretty boring to photograph as well. There was a bit of a wind and the water was choppy. So with the aid of a 10 stop ND filter and a 14 second exposure I was able to smooth the water out

E-M1MarkII OLYMPUS M.12-40mm F2.8 15 mm 14.0 sec at ƒ / 8.0 200

Sunset over and now it was choice of what to do until it went dark enough, approximately two hours when we could try and photograph the stars. Did I mention I was out here with one of the ladies from the camera club. We’ve both been wanting to have a got at astro-photography, she didn’t want to venture out alone, so it made sense to meet up there. Yes, we did social distance by using our own cars to get there.

Whilst we were waiting we had a go at light trails along the lakeside.

E-M1MarkII OLYMPUS M.12-40mm F2.8 12 mm 1.0 sec at ƒ / 2.8 200

I’m lucky that my Olympus camera has a mode called Live Composite that is designed to easily capture light trails, star trails etc. All I had to do was set the mode, press the shutter and let the camera do the rest.

So I went for a drive along the lakeside whilst Sue stayed watching the cameras. It is isolated here but the occasional car does come along and we didn’t want to leave the cameras unattended in case someone thought they had a lucky find. We also had to consider one of the sheep, that freely wander on the moor, bumping into a tripod and knocking it over.

By now it was getting dark and using the advised settings for the Olympus E-M1 Mk2 (f2.8, 20s &ISO 1600) I pressed the remote release for my shutter…and then this car came over the hill and lit up the lake and the sky.

E-M1MarkII OLYMPUS M.12-40mm F2.8 12 mm 20.0 sec at ƒ / 2.8 1600

In a way it’s a better light trail then I could do, but look up into the sky. You can just see the Milky Way, it’s faint but it is there. That bright object is Jupiter and to the left of it is Saturn.

It’s now about 2050hrs. It’s dark, cold and we’re standing on a hill looking over towards the reservoir. We can hear the sheep and a fox is barking somewhere in the distance. Quite eerie and this is where I screwed up. I decided to try and get a portrait photograph of the milky way which means tilting my camera on the tripod. In the dark I must have moved the aperture 1 stop to f3.2 which meant that I was letting less light into the cameras sensor. So the four photographs I took in portrait mode were all very dark when I looked at them in Adobe Lightroom. To get something bright enough to show I had to increase the exposure and shadows more than I liked because the downside of doing this is more noise is generated in the photograph.

E-M1MarkII OLYMPUS M.12-40mm F2.8 12 mm 20.0 sec at ƒ / 3.2 1600

It looked absolutely pitch black when we were out on the moor, but light pollution is there. I couldn’t see it, but the camera certainly did and by increasing the exposure to compensate for my screw up all it did was increase the light pollution in the photograph.

But hey! For a first time out, I’m happy with the two photographs I got. I’ve got a lot to learn about astro-photography, wish I had attempted it sooner and now the weather has turned I may not be able to attempt it for some time.

Looks like we could be heading for another lock-down soon. Cases of Covid-19 are starting to rise in our area, not dramatically, but there has been an increase and the Welsh Government are considering all options. Some restrictions have been put in place, if they don’t succeed, the restrictions will get more severe.

Stay Safe – Mike

3 thoughts on “It’s Dark Out There

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  1. The last picture looks pretty good to me. (Though I’m no expert of course). My wife and I are now isolating ourselves in Lllanbedr (well, nearby), so we’re keeping a close watch on the latest rules for Wales (and England for that matter as we go there at the end of next week).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s difficult to know what to do with this Covid 19, Mike. Hopefully you will get to go where you want before any further restrictions are imposed.

      One thing I have learnt about my short journey in Astro, it’s easy to capture the Milky Way. It’s much harder to actually show it in all it’s glory. When I got home I could see that I did have something but it was very light. Some research showed that most people processed the images pretty heavily to get something that we see in photographs.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Your photos are interesting and at least you got something even though the pics did not come show what you had hoped for. As you say, it is a learning experience and I am certain the next outing will likely give you the results that you want.

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