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Avebury, the Cove. Image credit Chris Brooks

It’s funny how, in the face of failure, some good can be salvaged. This is how my photograph of the Avebury Cove Stones came to be.

I had decided to get out to Avebury with the camera on Saturday evening to do a little bit of experimental photography as the sun set. I had just missed the long autumn shadows of the West Kennett Avenue by minutes so I stood atop of Waden Hill hoping for nature to give me gorgeous red clouds over Silbury. Again this was not to be, so after about an hour, I walked back to the car and drove into the Village and parked up.

Pondering what to do I decided to get some long exposure shots of the stone circles and use EX580 flash to give them some texture. The intention was to put the camera on its longest delay (10 seconds on the EOS7d) then run out over to the stones and flash them one at a time as I passed them during a 30 second exposure. The results were a mixed bag and I had trouble getting even exposures on the stones as I moved further away. There were also people wandering around the stone even though it was getting quite dark (I think they were just wondering what I was up too!).

After a while I had enough and was thinking of packing away, but then noticed the glow of the moon on the eastern horizon. I had always wanted to get a picture of the moon against the stones, so having had my 10-22mm lens on the camera I swopped to the 75-300mm. I moved as far back as possible (without falling into the Henge ditch) and aligned stones 4, 5 and 6 with the waning gibbous moon on the eastern horizon.

At full zoom the moon is quite large and the stones still fairly small. Even stopped down to f22 I would need a short exposure to prevent over exposure of the moon which would mean I probably would be able to set the flash off manually. The EOS7d and the EX580 flash can talk to each other remotely and my idea of getting around the expose problem would be to use the “timer delay/running up to the stones” method but to remotely set off the flash. OK in theory but I soon found out that the remote flash was only good for about 20m from the camera which wasn’t going to be close enough to the stones. The second idea was to use the headlights of passing cars to illuminate the stones but unfortunately this also illuminated the road signs and anything else in the picture. In the end I got a few good shots after messing around with film speed settings but nothing very spectacular.

I then thought about trying to get a picture of the Cove stones so ambled on over to the northeast quadrant. It was now very dark but the outside lights of the Red Lion pub gave me a little light. I set the camera on the tripod and, forgetting what the settings were set to, took a quick shot or two. I was quite amazed really as what I think is sodium lights gave the Cove a really nice yellow glow but with an eerie red glow to the sky. This gave me a few ideas which accumulated in the picture of the Cove which was achieved using the wide angle lens set at 10mm with a 10 second delay followed by a 2.5 second exposure. After starting the count down I run out over to the cove stones and set the flash off 2-3 times during the exposure period (at the same time keeping out of shot). The rest was done by the glow of the Red Lion exterior lighting and the light pollution of Swindon (and possibly Calne). No processing has taken place and the graininess is there because I had left the ISO speed at 6400 but I think this just adds to the final result.

For the anoraks the details of the shot are as follows.

File Name The Cove 098.CR2
Camera Model Canon EOS 7D
Shooting Date/Time 28/08/2010 21:45:43
Owner’s Name Chris Brooks
Shooting Mode Manual Exposure
Tv( Shutter Speed ) 2.5s
Av( Aperture Value ) f5.0
Metering Mode Spot Metering
ISO Speed 6400
Lens EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM
Focal Length 10.0mm
Original Image Size 5184×3456
Original Image Quality RAW
AF Mode Manual focusing
Flash Model Canon EX580 MKI
Flash Setting Full Power (Manual)

Chris Brooks

A reconstruction of the Neolithic era Meare Heath Bow recovered from the Somerset levels has indicated that it would have been accurate up to 100 yards, could silently kill a deer at 50 metres in just over a second and could shoot arrows 9 metres per second faster than medieval longbows of similar poundage.

Not bad for “howling barbarians” Prof Atkinson!

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