Photo Friday – Midday Dusk at Halley

It’s been a while (some would say almost three weeks?) since my last actual Photo Friday post. I did put a few other, not strictly Photo Friday posts during that time, but it’s no excuse really.

This weeks Photo Friday is about the Dusk we have been experiencing last week, which was special as it actually took place around mid day. See more after the break!As you may be aware, on 1 May 2014 we had a Sun Down, which is the day on which the sun sets for the last time as we’re getting into Winter. That doesn’t mean it immediately is dark here for 24 hours a day – we still get some daylight, although the Sun doesn’t rise above the horizon. Also, each day we get much less of that light, whatever is left of it and it’s the time of the year when the difference in how much daylight we lose is the biggest.

We have been really lucky both last and this week with the weather – we only had a day or two of a bit stronger wind (reaching about 25 knots) and other than that it was clear skies, not too cold (-20°C to -30°C at the most), great moon rises and moonsets and even some rime and hoar frost on the modules making everything look really really nice, clean and pristine (and frozen!).

Challenges of low light photography

The challenges of taking pictures in these conditions are mainly around the low levels of light. You can’t, really, just grab your camera and bring it out and take a few snaps, it’s more of an effort now. If you want a bit of depth of field, and absolute sharpness in your images, you better be prepared for bringing a tripod out with you, plus a few spare batteries (unless you go for something like my External Battery system). All this means that it’s a bit more of a pain as you have more to carry, more to set up and everything takes that much longer. Also, you’re dealing with more stuff you need to move, and you either have a choice of absolutely no dexterity, but keeping your hands warm in your gloves, or you take your gloves off for just a quick second or two to move that knob or press that button, and then suffer for 10 minutes or more trying to get them back warm again. Oh, the joy of taking pictures in Antarctica!

You’ll be then battling with different levels of light for sky and the ground – sometimes it’s good, as you can just get a nice silhouette of the features on the ground against the sky, but I wanted to show at least some detail of the station.

I also knew I wanted the pictures to be sharp and clean, so for the first image, I opted for low ISO and longer exposure times (as I had my camera on the tripod anyway) and just patiently took a number of images varying the composition and exposure between them . As it turned out later, a lot of them still showed camera shake and this was down to the fact that I had my tripod set up on the platform of one of the peripheral buildings (this one is called CASLab – Clean Air Sector Lab) and as it’s put on four massive steel legs about 4 metres off the ground, it shakes a little bit when you move around. It’s not much, but it definitely was enough to introduce the shake to the images.

What did work in my favour, however, is the length of time the so called golden hour lasts here. If you’ve never heard of the golden hour, in landscape photography it’s the time around sunrise and sunset, that typically starts around 30 minutes before the sunrise or sunset, and ends around 30 minutes after. It’s during that time, that the light levels change subtly but significantly, and if you’re prepared and at a right spot, you might be able to get some magic colours captured in your photo. So anyways, as I’m so far down South at the moment, the golden hour takes about three hours in total around this time of the year (well, actually maybe less this week, and probably next to no time at all next week or in two weeks time).

The second of my images is actually a panorama, which maybe is not my most exciting one in terms of the technical side, it’s size or the number of pictures stitched together, but it does show one cool phenomenon. As the Sun is just below the horizon, the Earth casts its own shadow onto the atmosphere. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that – perhaps it’s because I wasn’t looking, perhaps it’s because over here the air is so clear that the visibility often exceeds 150km, or perhaps it’s because it’s so flat here, that nothing blocks the horizon.. I don’t know, but I do think it’s brilliant!

I’ll let you be the judge though!

Noon at Halley

Noon at Halley

Earth's shadow

Earth casting its own shadow on the atmosphere

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