Sunday 23 February 2014

Stars or the pub?

Wednesday night is quiz night at the local, but it was a crystal clear night too, and that had to take priority as it hasn’t happened often this winter.

With no moon to interfere with the milky way I headed off down to Wingletang, an open area of heath on the South side of St Agnes. There are some interesting granite rock features on the island which I’ve been planning to light up with a torch ‘painting with light’, one of these rocks is called the Punchbowl and it’s on Wingletang.

This is Barnaby lane, the main route on to Wingletang.

20140122-DSC_3147This is the gate down Barnaby lane

20140122-DSC_3156Here I am, silhouetted on the Punchbowl by my headtorch.

In the image above I’ve used my LED headtorch which emits a ‘cold’ white light. This is in contrast to the image below where I used an AA maglite, and unscrewed the reflector to expose the bulb. The incandescent bulb gives a much ‘warmer’ light. I personally find my headtorch too cold, and the maglite too warm, so I’ve been using them both combined to light up the hedge, wall, gate, rocks etc. in these images and get a more pleasant hue.

20140122-DSC_3164Writing with an exposed torch bulb

20140123-DSC_3705 PanoramaA large panorama of the Punchbowl and milky way. The clouds on the right are lit by light pollution from St Mary’s.

I was quite amazed to see the amount of light pollution coming from St Mary’s.  Even in a location as remote as the Isles of Scilly you can’t get away from it! Maybe they might think about night sky friendly lighting if I sent them a copy of this photo.

Saturday 15 February 2014


Having spent 3 seasons working at Hermaness in Shetland, and living at Muckle Flugga lighthouse shorestation I have some affection for lighthouses.

One of the most obvious features of St Agnes is the lighthouse, perched on the highest point of the island, and a handy beacon to aim for when heading back to our base. Just below and to the left of the lighthouse is the Coastguard cottages, made up of three residences with a look out tower at one end.
St Agnes lighthouse is the oldest in Britain, and was built in 1680. There was an objection to its construction from the local governor as it would lead to a loss of revenue from wrecks! The tower is 60 feet tall, with a 20 foot lantern, on a hill 100 feet above low water. Originally if was lit by a coal fire, and its last iron brazier is now in Tresco Abbey gardens. It showed a steady light until in 1720 when it was replaced by revolving oil lamps, before this it was sometimes mistaken for Eddystone Lighthouse.

The Coastguard Cottages were built in 1928. Ironically they built the tower at the wrong end, looking towards St Mary’s rather than towards the Western Rocks! The building with the conservatory is a cafe, and does good food in the evenings too.

The other lighthouse we can see from St Agnes is on Bishop Rock Lighthouse, the most South Westerly in the UK, and completed in 1857. Recently there has been a helicopter heading out to the lighthouse, presumably for engineers to check that all is well and functioning correctly, especially with the recent storms that have been giving it a good pounding. More information can be found at the trinity house Bishop Rock Lighthouse web page.


Saturday 1 February 2014

Making monitoring tools

As well as wax blocks we have tracking tunnels to record footprints. There’s an ink pad in the centre, and either side is blank card, when baited with peanut butter small mammals will wander through and leave their footprints for us to identify.

20131207-P1030690Shrew footprints

As I haven’t posted many photos there are a few nice ones to share. I have enjoyed playing with my very dark ND filter, as it lets me use slow shutter speeds even in sunlight. This allows motion to be visible, where usually the motion would be frozen.

20131114-DSC_1820The motion of seawater

20140111-DSC_2927Sunset on a rocky shore

Of course the other way to get a long shutter speed is to wait until it is dark and photograph at night. I intended to get some star photographs, but when I went out there was a really bright moon, which wasn’t even full. I had to change my plan and made use of the clouds that were scudding across the sky instead.

20140111-DSC_2973The Nags head at night

With the moonlight coming from behind the Nags head I had to light the rocks using a combination of my headtorch and mini-maglite. I find the LED’s in my headtorch to be too blue/cold, and the mini-maglite a bit too orange/warm, so a bit of both seems to strike a good balance!

With such a bright moon you’d hardly believe these photos weren’t taken during the day, you can just about pick out the stars in the sky though.

20140111-DSC_2981Road to the lighthouse.