Last week the stars aligned (pardon the pun) for some Milky Way shooting. The night ahead looked clear, from what I could gather from my phalanx of weather Apps, there was a new moon and I had plenty of enthusiasm for the chase... even though it meant getting up at around 1.30am.
I've done a little Night Sky photography in the past, but I've never created any specific goals of capturing the galactic core of the Milky Way. I knew that there was a 'season' during the which the core is visible (February to November, fact fans), but I didn't know where exactly to look, or how to time the shoot. So I did what any good photography geek would do, and dived deep into Photo Pills to meticulously plan the night ahead.
I'd planned to head to Folkestone Warren. The tide was receding and I was confident I could pull off an image with some interesting jetties in the foreground, with the Milky Way arching across the sky. As I drove down the hill into Folkestone at 2.30am, it was such a clear night I could see the lights of the French Coast clearly, and immediately realised there was wayyy too much light pollution here to get a decent capture. I quickly recalibrated and headed off on the 45-minute cross-country drive to Fairfield Church. This is a beautifully remote spot on the Romney Marsh, and somewhere I've shot many times, but I felt like it was the best bet at short notice.
On arrival I noticed it was breezier than I'd expected which created quite a wind chill, and before long my hands were freezing as I fumbled to set up compositions and angles I was happy with. The biggest issue, though, was light pollution. Even though this spot feels right out in the middle of nowhere, there are a few houses nearby, and one of them has a raft of blinding floodlights shining pointlessly into the night sky. What made these lights even more grating was the fact that they were shining right at the very base of the Milky Way, where it was rising in the sky, and it was almost impossible to find an angle where I could successfully obscure them from appearing in the frame. Then there's the light pollution from Ashford, which may be some fifteen miles away, but its lights are glaringly obvious from that distance.
As I started to shoot, I noticed that there was a very subtle amount of super thin high cloud streaking across the sky. It was barely perceptible to the naked eye, but in-camera it was very obvious as it picked up all the ambient light from the neighbouring area. I managed to get a couple of shots that were useable, but next time an opportunity arises to capture the galactic core, I'll be heading to a Dark Sky Area, far from the lights of our bustling world.