Some slightly off-beam or faulty images of the venerable old Lovell radio telescope at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire … yet again! I wanted to include these, or continue to work with them for two simple reasons. One, I was lucky to catch the telescope in this position and during a late night operation – hence the floodlights. Two, the images have some unique qualities of light, contrast, and detail that I wanted to use. However, there was also a massive internal lens flare in the top part of the image above. I have tried to remove it but damaged the background in the process – don’t look too closely!
This was a very memorable trip on the bike. It was a very warm night in the middle of a significant heatwave which gave rise to some remarkably comfortable late-night conditions, maybe not so comfortable for those trying to sleep without AC though! After a last stop to replenish supplies from the late-night garage at Chelford roundabout I headed off down the quieter lanes. It was fun to feel the zephyrs of even warmer air wafting past me as I rode along the dark and winding lanes of Peover, Snelson and Withington. Lots of insects and small moths flitting in front of my bright LED headlight.
I’d had this objective in mind for a few weeks and could not really tell what position the telescope would be in until I was well within sight. At night this means being right down by Bate Mill, beyond Snelson. I was lucky to find the dish in this almost perfect orientation! Many other positions are not so good for photography, or at least photography from any of my intended vantage points.
The main picture above was a 15 second exposure at 100 ISO with an f2.8 aperture on my fast 50mm f1.4D lens. I know it’s a bit naughty but I was deeply behind public lines for this shot and was feeling paranoid about strange noises. I should have given it another shot, at least f4, or even f8 for more sharpness and depth, and maybe just cranked the ISO up to 350? This is pretty much the limit for my old D200! Any higher and low-light long-exposure shots would be far too noisy to use. Moral of the story is; I will try again!
Once I was reasonably happy with what I could see on the camera screen it was time for a quick de-rig of the tripod and electrics and then to ‘commando’ my ass out of the field I was in. This operation would have been a lot faster if I had not dropped the shutter release cable in the dark and had to spend another ten minutes hunting for it in long grass, with the aid of the camera focus assist lamp! I was well away from my bike which was by a gate that I couldn’t see. The telescope was in operation and obviously observing something, it was moving very slowly and making creaking and banging noises. But there is nothing like the elation and feeling of satisfaction after a mission like this when you think you have captured something really good — ‘think’ is the operative word here of course!
Both images have been treated with some pseudo HDR and my signature Orton off-set laying technique.This creates a very atmospheric and sometimes quite surreal effect that people either like or don’t. Some think it makes everything look ‘creepy’, but the other-worldly ambience of these pictures seems quite apt to me, given the subject?
It was strange how on the return journey I had a brief spell of the ‘creeps’ – that odd sensation when it feels as if someone or something is watching us or following us. Then you half expect something to lurch out of the darkness or come out of the sky! I was kind of powering along to get back to Chelford Road at this point lol.
The moon was in its full aspect though looking strangely dim, maybe this was due to large amounts of water vapour in the air? It was, as I say, very humid. I could not quite get the moon into any of these shots and make a good composition with my 50mm lens but the telescope was more-or-less ‘looking’ in the direction of the moon.