Mercury and the ISS at the Devil’s Den June 1st 2020

In late May Lacock Photography organised an online astro-photography course to be given by Robert Harvey. Four members of the Club signed up for the course and our late addition to the numbers allowed the course to go ahead. By special agreement the course was scheduled to miss our Monday evening online evenings.

Over three evenings we were taken through Robert’s course but without visits to local Wiltshire landmarks to practise what we had been taught. Robert told the attendees that he planned an outdoor workshop the following Monday at the Devil’s Den to take advantage of the relaxed guidance on meetings outside AND more important to capture the passage of the International Space Station (ISS) over the stones and the position of Mercury in the night sky.

Alan Edwards and Steve Hubbard took advantage of Robert’s added workshop and went to the Devil’s Den On Monday evening.

Alan Edwards’ notes and images
On 1st June, instead of being at the Club, Steve Hubbard and I went on an evening astro-photography workshop near Marlborough run by Robert Harvey. His name might be familiar because he came to our club last year talking about desert photography. There were six of us in all, to keep it legal, and we kept at least 2m apart. The group hiked from the meeting point for about half-an-hour to the location, a prehistoric stone structure called Devil’s Den. We were lucky with the weather – a beautiful clear sky all evening. After the shoot we returned to our cars at about 12:30am – a good evening.
Initially we took some views of the structure in the evening sunlight. Then as the sun set we tried to capture starbursts through the stones, one at a time to get the exact right position. Then we photographed Mercury also through the stones flanked by Castor, Pollux and Capella. Next up was the International Space Station (ISS) passing and finally an attempt at creating star trails.
I wondered if it would be difficult to maintain our social distancing but it proved to be fairly easy in practice.

Star burst at Sunset – Alan

Shot at 35mm, f/16, ISO100. Then three exposures merged at two stops apart each – 1/1250s, 1/320s and 1/80s

Copyright Alan Edwards
Starburst sunset at Devil’s Den

Star trail – Alan

107 images combined in StarStaX. Each image shot at  30s, 16mm, f/4, ISO400

Copyright Alan Edwards
Star trail at Devils’ Den

Steve Hubbard’s images and notes

The Devil’s Den before sunset -Steve

Shot on an iPhone using DJi Gimble – its a 9 picture stitch, which shows the area before sunset – you can see two members of the group on the left

Copyright Steve Hubbard
The Devil’s Den before sunset

Starburst through the stones – Steve

As the sun went down we shot though the tiny crack to get starbursts

This is a 5 image bracketed shot at a range of -2 to +2 in full stops – shot at F16 1/15 (0 exposure), Sony A7R3, 20mm lens.

Copyright Steve Hubbard
Starburst through the stones

Mercury through the stones – Steve

This was as the sun went over the horizon, we were trying to catch mercury in the hole – the issue was that it was very bright still from the sun. Mercury is just visible. Sony A7R3, 20mm, 5s at F4 (Single Shot)

Edited in Luminar to enhance star bursts

Copyright Steve Hubbard
Mercury through the stones

The ISS over the Devil’s Den -Steve

Next we looked for the ISS.  It was low in the sky, and we were given a couple of choices, I went for shorter busts but more shots at a higher ISO to get better contrast. This was a series of around 50 shots, it didn’t quite work, as I would need to cheat and add the gaps in – but I haven’t 🙂

Shot at 2 seconds at F4 ISO 1250, 20 mm

Then edited and synced in Lightroom first, then Combined using Photoshop Layers (single shot), brought back into Lightroom for final adjustments

Copyright Steve Hubbard
The ISS over the Devil’s Den

Star trails over the Devil’s Den – Steve

This was our final assignment – to capture star trails. We didn’t face North, because the sky was still relatively light in that direction, so the trails took on a strange warp.

This was a series of around 100 shots over the course of almost an hour. Sony A73R with Canon 17-35mm Lens, F4, 30 seconds per shot, ISO 2500

Then edited and synced in Lightroom and finally layered in Photoshop.

Copyright Steve Hubbard
Star trails over the Devil’s Den