Discovering: Astrophotography in the Yorkshire Dales

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Sam Cage

I’m Sam, Creative Content Assistant at the Yorkshire Dales National Authority as part of a Junior Content Producer apprenticeship. My role is to create content for the Authority’s social media and website, whether it’s blogs, videos, photography, or infographics. I’ve been working at the Authority for 6 months and am really enjoying it. Being able to do part of my job outside in the countryside is an amazing experience and makes the job special.

Astrophotography at Semerwater

During the pandemic my long love for stargazing grew, with more time to read and study my interest further. As lockdown went on, I spent every chance I could outside looking at the calm, clear, starry sky, memorising the shapes and reading about the myths behind the constellations. Last year the Yorkshire Dales National Park was designated an International Dark Sky Reserve, and I’ve been helping the Authority pick out great astrophotography to showcase on its social media. My interest in astrophotography has grown, but I never felt I could pull it off. I’d done a lot of photography before but always saw astrophotography as something completely new that would be hard for me to do. After reading more about it and how to set up a camera to pick out the stars I finally decided to give it a go. Going into it I thought, if I could just get one clear star that’d be a good achievement, and if I could get more than that then I’d be incredibly happy.

I waited for the perfect night and headed to Semerwater, a beautiful lake in Raydale which is one of the side valleys from Wensleydale. Most winter nights are clear, but this night was particularly beautiful. Without a single star hidden by the clouds it was the perfect night for trying to take some pictures. I set up my camera on the rocky shore and aimed it at the hills. The first shot came out blurry. The process went on for a while but I didn’t mind, in between changing the settings of the camera, I could look at the stars and spot the shapes of the beautiful constellations as I waited. Although it was a dark winter night it wasn’t too cold, with a slight breeze in the air just enough of a chill to keep hands stuffed in pockets and faint enough to keep the water incredibly still, like a mirror for the stars.

Although I never got any usable photos, I still enjoyed the experience and look forward to trying again. The quiet night and the peaceful sky is something that I will remember forever as it inspired me to try even more astrophotography in the hopes that one day my photography will be popular and good enough for use on social media or even to enter in photography competitions.

Learn more about stargazing in National Parks

Photography (top) Grimwith Reservoir by Matthew Savage (above) Twistleton Scar by Danny Lawson
Photography (top) Grimwith Reservoir by Matthew Savage (above) Twistleton Scar by Danny Lawson


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