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October Skies

After what seemed like an eternity, the weather forecast was looking promising for a clear night up high and with the moon setting before sunset equalling a dark night, hopefully a perfect opportunity for more experimenting with astro photography.

I'd been itching to get up the mountains to wild camp in these conditions but not only needed the above conditions, it also had to be on a night where i wasn't working the next day.

I looked at the weather and had a few locations in mind but the Goatfell area was looking the best option for minimum cloud cover( always still a bit of guess work and luck in the mountains!!)

With a clear night anticipated, i packed my rucksack with extra layers for warmth and warm coats for the dogs for overnight.

I set off from high Corrie at around 1630 and headed to the head of Coire Lan with the plan of finding a camping spot somewhere along the ridge between North Goatfell and Stacach.

On reaching the high point at the top of the Coire the sun was getting low and the light was just catching on the ridge of North Goatfell. I stopped here to take a few pictures - a view that never dissapoints!

Low light, North Goatfell

Mountain Layers, North Goatfell

After taking in the incredible views, it was time to head along the ridge to find a suitable spot for the night. I chose to come to this location as although the views from the summit of Goatfell are incredible, i wanted minimum light pollution and also something interesting to frame my nightscape photos.

Camping along the ridge achieved this for me as i had various options with the shapes of Mullach Buidhe and the ridge of Am Binnein, Granite stacks of North Goatfell and the ridge of Stacach with Goatfell standing tall behind.

Although slightly more exposed, i was willing to take the risk of no sleep if the wind increased.

After setting up the tent it was time to put on a few more layers and watch as the sun set to the West.

The clouds were heavy and distant rain showers added drama across the Western mountains as the last golden colours of the sun drained away.

Looking at the clouds at this point, i wasn't very optimistic at getting a clear night but we live in hope!

Here are a few pictures of that wonderful sunset..

Purple Rain across Iorsa

Golds and Greys over A'Chir ridge

Caileag, looking after our territory for the night

Shortly after the sun set, the clouds rolled in a bit more and it was time to head inside the tent and cook some dinner.

The temperature dropped considerably so i climbed inside my sleeping bag and sheltered in the tent for a while until darkness had completely fallen. It took a bit of energy to get myself up after an hour or so but after peeping out at the night sky it was everything that i had imagined.

The clouds had cleared revealing the most incredible dark sky and the more my eyes adjusted to the darkness the more i could see.

To frame my shots i used a tip i had learned of turning up the camera's ISO settings to the max and taking a test shot to make sure it was a) Straight and b) framed correctly. This works a treat and once framed you can just turn the ISO right down again.

Another good tip is to turn the cameras LCD brightness right down so not to ruin your night vision.

The darker the night became the more stars became visible and after initially not being able to locate the Milky Way due to my eyes not adapting, after a while it appeared in all it's glory!

The night just got better and better and the feeling of cold disappeared as i took it all in.

You are never alone in the hills. As i took one of my last few shots of billions of stars behind North Goatfell, the dogs grumbled and two bright eyes appeared from the ridge in front of us. With an almighty roar, it was clear that it was a Stag, more than likely annoyed as he'd spent a tiring day rutting and we'd pinched his spot for the night...

He gave the odd grunt throughout the night but didn't come too close thankfully!

After quite a cold, calm night, the wind switched itself on at full blast in the early hours and the noise felt similar to that of a jet engine.

Not any proper sleep had but the brain switched off enough for the time to pass until morning and daylight appeared.

Sunrise was a slither of intense pink for a brief 30 mins then the wet and stormy weather began to creep its way in!

A quick pack up and it was time to leg it back down to Corrie and get home to a nice warm house.

This was a completely new experience for me in Autumn as although I've been out on the hill overnight throughout the year, it was a first to camp out in the cold weather!

Sometimes it does you the world of good to break away from your comfort zone and see the world from a different perspective and grasp the bigger picture - A great experience!

Here are some of my favourite images from the night..



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