Archive for the ‘Mirrie Dancers’ Category
What an amazing night! After a few days of muggy, misty, cloudy and damp conditions, the forecast was for a clear night, the temperature perhaps getting down to freezing. I began looking forward to taking some photographs of some planets, perhaps some star trails and other possibilities. After much thought I decided to head out to Burra because I wanted some interest in the landscape and I knew just the place to get some domestic lights and streetlights as well as some nice areas of sea that I hoped the quarter moon would illuminate. But before I left home I was pleased to see Mercury above the hill at the back of us. Later, I also had a good view of Mars in the opposite direction, its distinctive red colour making it an easy sight.
Wow, I was not to be disappointed at my chosen spot in Burra! Not only did the moon help to illuminate the sea and the landscape but I could also see Foula on one set of photographs. That was the set that I hope will make a nice timelapse of Venus and Jupiter. But, more than all that, no sooner than I was there but I could sense the aurora and, as my eyes adapted I could see it too. So I set up my other camera facing over Lang Sound and was delighted to get some nice aurora shots and a cool green reflection in the Sound. As you can see it was mostly the auroral oval but there were also some beams and rays and a very brief period where the oval folded into a curtain. I also now see on some of the photos that there were some overhead forms too, though I didn’t notice at the time. As you can see, the lights were not very strong tonight and, of course, the camera sees much than the human eye but they still inspire me and I’m really glad I was in a great position to see them – I never tire of seeing the mirrie dancers.
I posted these photos on my Facebook page earlier this week and they generated a lot of interest and a request from my dear friend Marjolein that I post them here to make them more widely available – so here they are! Most of them are on my main website but they aren’t yet together as a group yet! Anyway the story behind this post follows and I tried to pick an appropriate image for each “Wonder”.
There has been quite a lot of positive publicity about Shetland at the moment and the Auld Rock is riding high and I thought “why not put together a 5 wonders of Shetland album?” “Why 5?” you may ask. Well, I’m sure I could have made it 7 but that might come later! So here goes. It’s already well known that Up Helly-Aa is Europe’s biggest fire festival; with the growth of the internet this fame has spread far and wide and it’s regularly featured and recommended in the media worldwide. The most recent accolade is in Up Helly-Aa being chosen as the best winter festival in Europe, according to Wanderlust. Also last week Islesburgh Youth Hostel was chosen as the best youth hostel in the world by Hostelling International; that’s an exceptional achievement in itself but comes on top of coming runner up last year! Talking of last year, the Shetland Folk Festival was crowned Event of the Year in the Scots Trad Music Awards. This year will be the 32nd Shetland Folk Festival and plans are already well ahead to make it another fantastic festival
Moving to natural wonders, anybody who has seen a television over at least the past decade must know by now that Shetland has some of the best opportunities for viewing wildlife anywhere. When, 20-odd years ago I started telling folk that Shetland is of worldwide importance and a global destination for landscape and wildlife eyebrows were raised. When I said it was as important as the Galapagos I found few who openly agreed. But pose that question today to Promote Shetland, or any of the highly successful companies providing wildlife and visitor experiences to Shetland and they will all tell you that’s precisely what their clients think and why they come. Whether it’s orcas or marine wildlife generally; stunning seabird cities or mega-rare vagrants; or the humble mountain hare, there’s always something to see. Also on the natural wonders front is that elusive phenomenon Aurora borealis, aka northern lights, or “Mirrie Dancers” in Shetland. Perhaps less well known outside Shetland is the fact that this is one of the best places in the UK for viewing the northern lights! Wow – it’s just awesome! And there are loads more things to see and do too. Have a look at some of the wildlife, landscape and night galleries over at my main website Austin Taylor Photography for some inspiration or just browse the stock images gallery to get an overall flavour.
Here again are the 5 photos I posted to my Facebook Page in celebration of these wonders.
The buzz started soon after it got dark with Aurora alerts coming in suggesting it should be visible from Shetland. It was partly cloudy and there had been some snow. Wait. Check all the alerting and information services. Yes, activity levels were high enough, the solar wind was blowing. Just need clear skies! It snowed – quite hard and for quite a while but, as it turned out, not to any great depth – it was mostly haily puckles as they say here.
Then it came, first word of aurora sighted in Shetland! I already had my camera, tripod and snacks ready to go and looked out to the north, shielding my eyes against the glare of the town’s streetlights. There! A clearly visible green shape in the sky to the north over Staney Hill. Usually in town I cannot discern colour because of the orange glow of the streetlights and general light pollution but tonight I was sure could see green – fantastic. No more hesitation – aurora, snow; what more did I need to create some photos? Well, the ability to get out of town for one! I was distinctly nervous about the snow on the road – my car isn’t best suited to such challenges.
Gingerly, I drove north and was relieved to see that my car managed the steep hill out of town and I had no difficulties down the other side or on the other hills past Burradale and Tingwall. As I continued north I kept my eye on the other side of the road, checking there remained vehicle tracks and a visible route for my journey back later; the further from town I got the less obvious these became until there was just one track left.
I stopped and turned the car lights off. Wow! As my eyes adjusted the glow came alive, moving and changing shape at quite a speed. Shafts pierced upwards into the twinkling, star-filled vastness of the sky above. Pulses, like huge lumpy waves, raced across the sky one after another at what seemed like millions of miles an hour. There was an arc but it was accomapanied by flowing curtains, the whole display tilted maybe 10° up from the horizontal at the left (west) side. I imagined I saw variations in the colour but realistically it was more likely to be variations in intensity; I don’t think the display was bright enough for the human eye to distinguish colour. However, the camera LCD screen confirmed that there was green and purple visible and this was the most colourful display I have seen since December 2006, when I saw green, red, blue and purple together in the display.
Tonight’s show was more subtle, mostly green with light purple dancing along the top of the curtains. The other colour in the sky was the dreaded light pollution, reflecting off the clouds, even out here 10 miles or so from Lerwick. Apart from the millions of stars there was one other source of light – the moon, which limited visibility of the aurora to the west and I took advantage of passing clouds and a hand cement mixer to partially block its glare. Fortunately it was still less than a quarter full but it’s amazing how bright it is, even at that.
I was aware that the clouds were amassing behind me to the south and had already noted that the further north I had travelled the less snow there was on the ground. After about an hour and a half – by which time I was thouroughly frozen – I decided I had better head back. I wanted to carry on looking for suitable landscape backdrops but decided it was probably too risky to go down any side roads and I convinced myself the display was subsiding anyway – which I think it really was. More to the point I was becoming worried about getting back up the hills towards town if it snowed any more. As it turned out, no sooner had I packed up and set off than the snow started and it developed into quite a heavy shower, which limited visbility and meant I had to drive quite slowly. Fortunately though it was still fairly small and dry flakes and didn’t greatly affect traction or build up to any depth by the time I got back home. Once there I checked my photos and was delighted to have captured some of the essence of the display, shown below with some more over on www.austintaylorphotography.com
Finally, I got around to creating and uploading the time-lapse movies from the Auld Chapel, Longfield, Dunrossness. These were all taken on the same day, 1 March 2010, there was snow on the ground and a beautiful deep blue sky with a few clouds as backdrop. I think these are some of my favourite, partly because my technique has developed over the set, but mostly because of the gentle fade through dusk to dark, especially in video no. 2. Video 1 was slightly spoiled by an artificial light source becoming visible to one side during the take – it wasn’t illuminated at the start, let alone visible, and resulted me in moving the rig for the second series.
I don’t intend to create any more time-lapse movies of the Mirrie Dancers Winter Illuminations project but fully intend to post time-lapse works of other projects in future. I’ve created a number of time-lapse projects in the past but this series has certainly concentrated the mind and helped develop my technique, both on site and in production.
Best viewed full screen and 480p to see the subtle cloud movements and sky colour change.
Well, the final Mirrie Dancers illumination is now showing – and what a show! I really like this one, it’s ethereal – or it was when I went for my first visit. It was bitingly cold with a strong NW wind, clear starry skies and a snow shower. The first challenge was to get my gear up the hill made slippery with vehicles having compressed the snow to ice and over the very narrow stile over a barbed wire fence carrying two cameras, tripods and other stuff whilst wrapped up like Michelin Man against the cold. Then to choose camera positions, one for the time-lapse sequence and the other camera for a series documenting the installation. The first location I chose for the time-lapse camera proved unfortunate – as darkness fell the light pollution from the adjacent house cast an orange glow across a bottom corner of the frame so I had to reposition, which spoiled the attempt to get a complete series from dusk to dark in the same location.
On to the second camera and I took shots from nearly every angle – as Roxane (one of the artists) said, it’s visible from 360°. I took close up, arty, distant and environmental shots, with stars, distant streetlights, footprints in the snow and the rising Moon. Here’s a taster image and a full set will be on www.austintaylorphotography.com soon. I encountered a situation while taking this series of photos that I haven’t encountered before. The wind was blowing so strongly at one of the positions I chose that, even with my fairly substantial tripod, the camera was moving. So I tried to dig the tripod legs deeper in the snow but this just had the effect of splaying the legs like a bendy car aerial and achieved nothing until I closed the legs a bit and tried again allowing them to open as I pushed down. Later, while choosing another position, my legs splayed like a bendy aerial as me and the camera fell in a two foot snow drift – well it was dark so that’s why I failed to notice it! Needless to say I was glad to get back in the car and put the heater on full blast for the drive home!
And the Egyptian goose? Well, I’m not a twitcher but it’s a first for Shetland, is 5 minutes from my house and is very photogenic, so here it is.
So there I was, getting my stuff together for another trip to Garths Ness because they’d installed a new lighting installation. Weather was good, it was the weekend, so time pressure was less, all equipment ready and batteries charged. Forecast said snow was going to arrive again in another day or two so time was of the essence. Then, I spotted an update from an old pal to say he was looking forward to the new installation near his house – only about 35 miles from where it was supposed to be! I checked what was going on and there’d had to be a change of plan with a couple of sites pulled out of the reserve list – Houss and Duncansclate. What a great idea, I thought. The Morse code lights particularly intrigued me. Anyway, I postponed my trip that day because they were still working on the installation at that time and went the next day. Anyway, when I got there the next day it was a beautiful evening, not too cold, very little wind and dry. So I got to work with two cameras as usual but this time the illuminations were bright enough to record video as well. With my basic consumer video camera previous illuminations have been too dim and the result hasn’t been a great success but first look back in the studio makes me think we can do something with this. Hopefully we’ll post something soon.
You can see the stills over at
http://www.austintaylorphotography.com/mirrielight.html but here present another time-lapse sequence.
Here’s the time-lapse we’ve put together. I think this one is the best we’ve done so far. We’ve varied the timings of the frame sequences so that the flickering colour based upon the underlying videos is closer to real time than on previous time-lapse movies while the long periods of same or similar colour are much speeded up so as to keep the overall movie to a reasonable time length and ensure the viewer doesn’t get bored. Also, look out for the Morse code being tapped out by the light in the left hand window. Don’t expect to decode it – this isn’t video, remember! See what you think and let us have comments!
Finished uploading all the timelapse movies that I’ve made so far of the Mirrie Dancers project – quite a bit of work! See them all at: www.youtube.com/realzelk
This was a quite beautiful site as the sky darkened to a deep blue and the Moon set, dodging the clouds as it went. It was joined by Jupiter, shining brilliantly close by. I had been hoping for a clear sky ever since Roxane told me that the Reawick Church illuminations had been brought forward and wasn’t disappointed. I have posted a timelapse movie of this event on our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/realzelk to add to those of 2 of the other sites already up.
Remember the Mirrie Dancers winter illuminations? Well I started work on a timelapse project at the Tingwall glasshouse tonight. Got three sequences and some new stills, snow included. It was pretty cold but not too bad as there was little wind – I met Roxanne (Mirrie Dancers artist) out there charging the batteries with generators because of the lack of wind – that’s dedication! New images and the timelapse movie will be posted here when I’ve done. In the meantime, this coming weekend is your last chance at Tingwall – if you haven’t seen them yet then you should. And if you saw Tingwall before the snow, go again if you can because it’s now quite different.