Our aim at Dark Sky Destinations is simple: to share our love of the night sky and show people how to explore and capture its wonders on camera. Our evening courses — held in some of the UK's most spectacular dark sky areas — draw on our decades worth of astrophotography experience and are designed to help you gain the skills and know-how you need to take beautiful astro images. For details of our next course please see the information posted below.
For THOSE JUST STARTING OUT
Our courses are primarily aimed at DSLR users and are designed to be as friendly and accessible as possible. We'll assume that you know the basics of operating your own camera — such as how to change the exposure and sensitivity settings and adjust the focus of the lens — but when it comes to astrophotography, and our course content, we'll always endeavour to describe & explain the concepts and techniques we discuss as carefully and clearly as we can.
For adventurers & explorers
From wild camping under a sky full of stars to long summer hikes that finish with an evening admiring the Milky Way, we know that the night sky is often a big part of any outdoor adventure. So why not learn to capture photos of the spectacular celestial sights you see wherever your travels may take you? At our events we'll teach you the skills you need to 'get the shot' in the field, and before long it won't be just your tales of adventure that amaze and enthrall all your friends.
For budding astrophotographers
Do you use a DSLR camera regularly, but are not sure how to go about using it for night-time astrophotography? Maybe you are looking to hone your nightscape and wide-field imaging skills? Or perhaps you'd like to learn how to better process your data once you've captured the raw images? If this sounds like you, a Dark Sky Destinations course could be just the thing to guide you as you take those exciting early steps in the world of astrophotography.
EXMOOR's night skies
Why did we choose Exmoor as the location for our astrophotography events? It's simple really. It has some of the darkest night skies you'll find anywhere in the UK – so much so that in 2011 a large part of it was designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve.
This all means that when the skies are clear the view of the stars from the moor is truly captivating. If you're interested in finding out more, our short film on Exmoor's night skies (left) looks at some of the spectacular sights that can be seen once the Sun has gone down. And if you feel inspired to pay the area a visit to view or photograph some of those sights for yourself, why not time your trip to coincide with one of our evening courses...
About our experT
Will Gater is one of the UK's best-known popularisers of astronomy. Alongside his work as a journalist and science presenter he is also a seasoned observational astronomer and astrophotographer with over twenty years' experience of observing and photographing the night sky. His astronomical images have appeared in books, magazines and on television all over the world and he has been a judge on the Royal Observatory Greenwich's Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition since its inception in 2009. Originally from Devon, and now living in Somerset, Will is passionate about celebrating the famously dark night skies of Exmoor and Dartmoor, as well as teaching people how to explore for themselves the spectacular celestial scenery above these picturesque earthly landscapes. You can find out more about Will here and browse his portfolio of astrophotography at www.willgaterastrophotography.com.
Our latest COURSE
Map of the course location within Exmoor National Park
Examples of 'nightscape' astrophotography
Staying on Exmoor
While accommodation is not included with this event we imagine that many delegates will want to make our evening course a part of an extended visit to Exmoor and its wonderfully dark skies. If you're looking to stay on Exmoor why not check out the hotels listed below*.
The Luttrell Arms Hotel, Dunster (approx. 22 minute drive from course venue)
*Please note Dark Sky Destinations are not responsible for any bookings or dealings you may have with these accommodation providers.
AN INTRODUCTION TO NIGHTSCAPE ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY
8th September 2018
THE EXMOOR White Horse Inn, Exford, Exmoor National Park
Experience level: this course is aimed at beginner to intermediate level photographers. We’ll assume you know the basics of using your camera such as how to focus the lens and how to select the ISO setting, lens aperture and exposure length.
What you will need to bring: a DSLR camera with a wide lens (a standard wide-ish kit lens, e.g. 18-55mm, like those often included with new DSLR cameras is fine); a sturdy photographic tripod to mount your camera on; suitable clothes and sturdy footwear for being outside at night on uneven, grassy ground; a red-light torch is essential.
This course will focus on giving you a gentle introduction to the exciting world of nightscape astrophotography. Nightscape astrophotography involves capturing images of the night sky over a landscape – typically with just a DSLR, or advanced mirrorless camera, and a static photo tripod – and draws on many different skills. During the course presentations we’ll look first at what challenges this type of astrophotography presents, from the motion of the night sky to the fact that what we’re trying to capture is often quite faint. We’ll examine how we can tackle those challenges with careful selection of camera and lens settings to get the best possible image.
We’ll look at the many different celestial phenomena that make superb targets for ‘nightscapes’ including prominent constellations, groupings of bright planets over twilight skylines, the Milky Way, as well as more elusive phenomena such as meteors and noctilucent clouds.
We’ll also explore key concepts such as image composition, framing and how to draw the viewer’s eye into a picture. We’ll then look at what’s needed to create stunning ‘startrail’ shots before exploring more advanced nightscape photography as well as key image-processing techniques, such as ‘stretching’ image data to bring out more detail, colour balancing and noise reduction.
Finally, after the presentations – and if the skies are clear – we’ll head outside to a site where you’ll have a chance to put into practice some of the nightscape capture techniques we explored earlier in the evening.
Detailed itinerary (all times given in local time)
7:30pm – Delegates arrive at the Haddeo Suite within the beautiful Exmoor White Horse Inn, Exford.
7:45pm – Welcome introduction by course leader and expert astrophotographer Will Gater followed by first presentation exploring the basics of nightscape astrophotography.
8:45pm – Short break. Teas and coffees will be served during this time.
9:00pm – Second presentation from Will Gater expanding on more advanced nightscape astrophotography techniques and image processing.
9:45pm – Delegates leave the Exmoor White Horse Inn and walk* a short distance to a specially selected workshop site outside where – if the night skies are clear – delegates will have a chance to put into practice some of the astrophotography techniques discussed, using their own equipment†. Will will mingle informally around the group during this time offering photography guidance as delegates capture the night sky over Exmoor.
Please note: if poor weather (clouds, rain etc.) prevents us from running the outdoor workshop element we will stay in the Haddeo Suite and there will be an extended image processing demonstration and informal Q&A session with Will; this will only occur if we do not go to the workshop site‡.
10:45pm – Delegates return from workshop to Exmoor White Horse Inn to depart. Course ends.
COURSE FEE: £85
Terms and conditions
* The walk is a distance of approximately 450metres/5 minutes on a mixture of roadside, pavement, gravel path and soft, grassy, ground so please bring sturdy footwear.
† Delegates will need to bring their own DSLR or advanced mirrorless camera, lens and photographic tripod and will need to be familiar with how to access in-camera menus and adjust basic settings on their own equipment e.g. ISO sensitivity, exposure length, lens aperture and focus. Please also ensure that your equipment is adequately insured as Dark Sky Destinations and Will cannot be held responsible for any equipment lost, damaged or stolen during the course.
‡ Please note that full or partial refunds will not be issued if the outside workshop element of the course does not go ahead, or is curtailed, due to poor weather (cloudy skies, rain, wind etc.) or conditions that are deemed by us to be unsafe. The decision on whether to proceed to the workshop site will be taken after the second presentation and will be a) based on the weather conditions at that time and b) at the discretion of the course leader. If inclement weather, including cloud, forces us back into the venue from the outdoor workshop site the course leader will use their discretion on how to fill the remaining course time; in this scenario, due to time constraints, we will likely not be able to include the full (hour-long) extended image processing demonstration and informal Q&A session that would have occurred if the outside workshop element had been cancelled before its scheduled start time.
Delegates under 18 years of age will need to be accompanied by an additional paying adult, who is responsible for them.
Dark Sky Destinations will undertake a risk assessment of the course and outside workshop, however delegates are responsible for their own safety, and that of their equipment and possessions, during the event – including when outdoors.
Refunds may be issued up to 30 days before the event and can be requested through Eventbrite.