The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival‘s annual photography competition showcases some of the most striking images of our islands’ incredible dark skies.
This year we have selected five winners – Chris Murray, Derek MacKinnon, Grant Anderson, Alejandro Basterrechea, and Gordon Macdonald – all of whom have been invited to exhibit their work at An Lanntair as part of our festival programme. Pictured above is Chris Murray’s colourful image of a winter moonrise at Dun Carloway on Lewis.
Below, the photographers describe their winning entries in their own words:
Aurora over Bragar shore, Isle of Lewis, by Derek MacKinnon
Derek says: ‘I wanted to try and get as far on the west side of the island so I wouldn’t have anything to block the view of the aurora. I spotted it from Sandwick and decided to drive over, past midnight, to see if it would still be visible. Thankfully it was and had a lovely arc to it.’
Dun Carloway, Isle of Lewis, at winter moonrise, by Chris Murray
Chris says: ‘It seemed the perfect evening for a trip to the west side so I navigated my way to the Carloway Broch and set up my camera gear along with the help of a little artificial lighting the scene was set . I didn’t have to wait long before the moon settled itself briefly above the ancient walls to catch the moment forever with this long exposure shot and I must admit I find it quite haunting.’
Bun-A-Mhullin, Eriskay, by Alejandro Basterrechea
Alejandro says: ‘This image was taken during a New Year’s holiday in Eriskay, from the Bun-A-Mhullin area during a beautiful clear night. It was the only clear night I managed to capture during my stay on the island. The moment was perfect as there was enough available night to capture the house, the car and the incredibly starry, clear and crispy sky that this part of the world offers. Influences and inspiration come from various art forms such as painting and film. In this case, Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh is one of them. I wanted to capture the essence of what a clear and clean night represents, the interaction with the human transformed landscape and the pureness and nature of the Hebrides.’
Aurora Spiking above Maraig and Loch Seaforth, North Harris, by Gordon Macdonald
Gordon says: ‘This was a very lively display of the northern lights in September 2020, with regular bursts of intense activity visible to the naked eye, but the almost full moon created difficult shooting conditions and a slightly surreal landscape of contrasting highlights and shadows.’
100 Thousand Million Star Hostel (Gearrannan, Isle of Lewis), by Grant Anderson
Grant says: ‘This image was taken at Gearrannan Blackhouse village. We’d had a particularly energetic crossing from the mainland as we chased the waves from a large surge from the Atlantic. I have never been happier to be on dry land than I was that day. We were lucky, as the main body of the storm passed the weather cleared to offer up a dizzyingly clear autumn night sky and a faint aurora in the distance. We enjoyed the show for a few hours and with a bottle of island malt to keep us warm.’
The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival takes place against some of most extraordinary dark skies in the whole of the UK – with breath-taking scenery to match. In winter, in particular, many astronomical sights can be seen through the naked eye including the Orion Nebula (over 1,500 light years away), the Milky Way Galaxy, and one of the Milky Way’s companion galaxies the Great Andromeda Galaxy. The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, can also be seen from the islands, one of the very best spots in the UK for watching this incredible phenomenon.
The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival will run from Friday 5 February to Thursday 18 February, and is led by An Lanntair in partnership with Calanais Visitor Centre, Stornoway Astronomical Society, Gallan Head Community Trust, and Lews Castle College UHI.
The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival is part-financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Outer Hebrides LEADER 2014-2020 programme. We also want to say a huge thank you to Caledonian MacBrayne for supporting this year’s festival.