‘City Lights To Dark Skies’ is my contribution to this years International Dark Sky Week, which runs from the 20 – 26 April 2014. I spend a lot of time photographing the night sky and have seen many of the negative effects that light pollution can have. So I thought one of the best ways to educate people about light pollution would be to show them the difference between a light polluted city sky and a dark sky with little or no light pollution. I used time-lapse photography to demonstrate this, and spent many hours in different lighting conditions capturing the footage.
The footage was shot around the Wellington and Wairarapa region on the North Island of New Zealand. We are very lucky here, as the light pollution around Wellington itself is no where near as bad as it is in larger cities such as New York, London or Sydney. Wellington is surrounded by hills, so a lot of the light pollution is contained within, and you can travel just 20 minutes out of the city center to find skies dark enough to view the Milky Way with the naked eye. I also traveled to locations with varying degrees of dark skies. From locations with moderate light pollution to the darkest of skies miles from anywhere in the Wairarapa – it was an interesting exercise to see what is visible in the night sky as you go from place to place.
During my time as an astrophotographer, I have spoken to many people from around the world who have been interested in my photographs and videos. I was truly shocked when some of them said to me that they have never seen the Milky Way with their own eyes before. I did some further research into this and found that more than one fifth of the world population, two thirds of the US population and one half of the European Union population have already lost naked eye visibility of the Milky Way! This is a real shame, and the knock on effects of light pollution can be a lot more serious than just not being able to see the stars at night.
Finally, I urge you to go check out the International Dark Sky Association. You can access their website at darksky.org and also the International Dark Sky Week webpage at darksky.org/resources/109-international-dark-sky-week Here they have a lot of information on the effects of light pollution, and what can be done in your community to combat it. And during International Dark Sky Week, do yourself a favor and head out of the cities for some star gazing. It can be a truly humbling experience, especially if you haven’t done it before. It’s certainly a release for me from every day life…after all, life without dark skies – you don’t know what you are missing…
The music, Nocturne 1985, by Rhian Sheehan was used with permission. You can check out Rhian’s latest album, “Stories from Elsewhere” and more of his amazing music here: rhiansheehan.com