Gazing up at night skies packed with hundreds of stars is the stuff of dreams. Yet in England's south coast county of Dorset, astrophotographer Stephen Banks (also known as the DorsetScouser) spends his nights camped out at various beauty spots with camera poised, ready for the perfect shot. To bring you a bit of beauty, here are his spectacular results.
The Milky Way arches over Lulworth Cove
Stephen says: "Not only is Lulworth Cove an iconic location with its natural spherical cove, but it falls within some of the darkest skies in the county. This was created with five vertical shots, stitched together to form a 180-degree panorama. To the left are the glowing embers of a bonfire and to the right are the lights from fishermen’s headtorches while they mend their nets."
Stephen says: "Colmer's Hill is a west Dorset landmark. Everyone who lives locally recognises the trees in this shot straight away. West Dorset is sparsely populated too, with virtually no light pollution whatsoever."
Meteor above West Bay
Stephen says: "A lesson that the more you go out photographing the night skies, the more likely you will achieve spectacular results! This large meteor tore across the skies above West Bay, near to the scenes of much drama in the TV series Broadchurch."
The Milky Way over Durdle Door
Stephen says: "Taken from the South West Coast Path one early morning in June, I walked along the cliff to the point where the Milky Way lined up with the ancient rock archway. Durdle Door is a fantastic spot for stargazing because of the lack of light pollution. It's at least a mile from any form of civilisation so you are cut off from the rest of the world – it's just you and the stars!"
Durdle Door close-up
Stephen says: "After photographing Durdle Door from the cliff, I ventured down to the beach. I decided to try lighting the arch with my LED torch. This was the result. It appears on the front cover of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year Collection 2 book and was shortlisted as one of the best images from the 2013 competition."
Stephen’s technical bit for aspiring astrophotographers
“All the images were taken with a full-frame digital SLR camera and an ultra-wide angle lens. The ISO sensitivity of the shots ranges from 1,600 - 6,400, which is much higher than what you would use for normal photography work. The maximum exposure time I use is just 30 seconds, so you have to set the camera to be as light sensitive as possible in the little time the is shutter open. Any more than 30 seconds and the stars appear to move in the picture and you lose clarity in the Milky Way.”