COS­MIC SNOW­DO­NIA

I’ve al­ways loved pho­tograph­ing the night sky when­ever I get the chance. Us­ing the cam­era as a tool to cap­ture the bil­lions of stars out there, it is hard not to feel small on our lit­tle blue planet as you look up at the in­fi­nite space sur­round­ing us.

Say Yes To Adventure - - Features - Sam Gore

I ALSO LOVE camp­ing, but on the af­ter­noon of the 28th De­cem­ber, it wasn't on my mind. It was a glo­ri­ous day in Snow­do­nia, not a cloud in the sky while out in the moun­tains, but know­ing that the weather can change in a heart­beat I ex­pected it to cloud over by night­fall. How wrong I was. My girl­friend is lucky enough to live in Snow­do­nia Na­tional Park, sur­rounded by moun­tains and rivers in all di­rec­tions. After a lovely day ad­ven­tur­ing, we headed back home. Snow­do­nia has re­cently been made an In­ter­na­tional Dark Sky Re­serve due to its lack of light pol­lu­tion, so after fin­ish­ing din­ner, I went out­side and checked the night sky. What greeted me was in­cred­i­ble with so many stars clearly vis­i­ble. It was so spec­tac­u­lar that even though it was after 9pm, we de­cided we had to go camp­ing. We threw the tent, sleep­ing bags and roll mats in the back of the car, and to pro­tect our­selves from the cold we put on ther­mals, hats and two pairs of socks, and started driv­ing.

Ar­riv­ing at Llyn­nau Cre­gen­nen, Cre­gen­nen Lake, we quickly set up our tent us­ing the light of our head torches. The lack of cloud cover re­duced the tem­per­a­ture fur­ther so we un­zipped a sleep­ing bag to use as a base, had a sleep­ing bag each, and as many lay­ers as we could man­age. The lay­ers were essen­tial be­cause my de­sire to pho­to­graph the sky meant we would be stand­ing out­side for hours be­fore we headed to bed!

It is not just the lack of light pol­lu­tion that made it a great night; mul­ti­ple fac­tors aligned to make it the best night I have ever ex­pe­ri­enced. There was not a cloud in the sky, so ev­ery star above the hori­zon was vis­i­ble. There was no wind, so the sur­face of the lake re­mained still and re­flected the stars per­fectly. And fi­nally, and most im­por­tantly, there was no moon. I've had these con­di­tions be­fore, but with a full moon, or even cres­cent moon the ex­tra light means that some stars can't be seen. The ab­so­lute dark­ness not only caused an al­most ver­tigo feel­ing when look­ing up, but it also meant that com­pos­ing my images re­lied on trial and er­ror. I could light up rocks or trees in the fore­ground, but the sky and lake were in­dis­tin­guish­able when look­ing through the viewfinder.

Cre­gen­nen Lake has an is­land near its mid­dle that makes for a beau­ti­ful sky­line re­flected in the wa­ter, far more im­pres­sive than any city, if you ask me. By open­ing my cam­era shut­ter for 25 sec­onds, I could paint the is­land and its trees with my head torch il­lu­mi­nat­ing them. Even though it is a dark sky re­serve, Snow­do­nia is not com­pletely light free, and I could see the faint yel­low glow on the hori­zon from the town of Dol­gel­lau, over five miles away.

The Milky Way, although be­ing the wrong time of year to see the most im­pres­sive part of it, was still awe­some. Dur­ing win­ter for the North­ern Hemi­sphere, the Earth ob­scures the bright­est part of the Milky Way, but on this night the band of ‘dust' that is made up of dense clus­ters of stars mil­lions of light years away stretched the en­tire way across the sky. I was in heaven, my only re­gret be­ing that I didn't have mul­ti­ple cam­eras to shoot in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions. The beauty of the place meant that it wasn't hard for me to get beau­ti­ful shots, I only had to point and shoot and re­lax for 30 sec­onds as shoot­ing stars ap­peared spo­rad­i­cally. My girl­friend Beth was very pa­tient and would sit or stand still for 30 sec­onds at a time while I took pic­tures of her in the fore­ground, ask­ing her to move ever-so-slightly, and promis­ing more than once that “the next photo will be the last.”

I wanted to cre­ate some time lapses to show the ro­ta­tion of the Earth and the stars mov­ing across the sky, so at mid­night I set up the cam­era, tak­ing an im­age with a 25-sec­ond shut­ter speed ev­ery 30 sec­onds be­fore re­treat­ing to the tent to warm up. Set­ting the alarm for 1am, I quickly drifted off to sleep, only to be wo­ken in what seemed like a few min­utes. Bleary eyed I ini­tially had no de­sire to leave the com­fort of our lit­tle nest, but telling my­self ‘no pain, no gain', I pulled on my boots and ven­tured out into the dark­ness once more. As soon as I was back un­der the twin­kling blan­ket of stars, I for­got all about sleep and was once again en­grossed in cap­tur­ing the night sky. The cam­era had been tak­ing pho­tos for an hour, and by com­bin­ing over 100 images, I could cre­ate a sin­gle im­age show­ing the move­ment of the star trails, in both the sky and re­flected on the lake's sur­face.

It's easy to get caught up in the de­tails while pho­tograph­ing, such as what

ISO to use, so I al­ways try and re­mind my­self to en­joy the mo­ment. While the cam­era was click­ing away by it­self, I would wan­der off and find a spot to lie down. Look­ing up, my en­tire vi­sion was filled with the cos­mos and noth­ing else. We have lots of an­noy­ances in our daily lives, whether it be the traf­fic on the way to work or an­other bill to pay. It's im­por­tant some­times to stop and look, ap­pre­ci­at­ing for a mo­ment how in­signif­i­cant we are amongst a vast uni­verse that is con­tin­u­ally ex­pand­ing in ev­ery di­rec­tion.

As the morn­ing ar­rived, we woke slowly, al­low­ing our­selves a sleep-in after be­ing up for much of the night. Unzip­ping the tent, I took in the sur­round­ings that had pre­vi­ously been in­vis­i­ble in the dark of night. Grey skies with low cloud, and the odd sheep wan­der­ing across our view, only con­firmed we had al­ready ex­pe­ri­enced the best part of our short stay.

Was last night even real? Or per­haps it was just a dream.

Sam Gore is a 22-year old pho­tog­ra­pher and film­maker based in Corn­wall, UK. He uses his work doc­u­ment­ing na­ture and the world as a tool to in­spire more peo­ple to get out­side and en­joy it, and in turn, pro­tect and re­spect it too.

www.sam­gorephoto.com @sam­gore94

OP­PO­SITE PAGE: Ta­mas Cserep is an aes­thete, philoso­pher and de­signer from Bu­dapest, Hun­gary. He is in­spired by the sub­lim­ity of na­ture and the hid­den or­der of our Uni­verse.

www.ther­awflow.tum­blr.com @the_rawflow

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