MJ Sharp / A Visual Journal
Fulbright 2021/2022
at the Environment & Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter in Penryn, Cornwall, UK
Our Disappearing Darkness and Recreating True Night

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Below are images from two prehistoric sites in Cornwall—Hendraburnick and Lanyon quoits. I'm testing night photography variables in preparation for the visual components of the Fulbright project.

October 22rd — I tried out the astonishing low-light capabilities of the Sony Alpha 7 digital camera in the field near Camelford that contains the Hendraburnick site, which is thought to be night sky related. One a.m. with an almost-full moon, which gently illuminated the night clouds and the sheep. I've always loved the Limbourg Brothers' Book of Hours from the early 1400's, and somehow this image puts me in mind of those blue skies with stars in them.

 

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From earlier that same night, here is the main Hendraburnick stone. It will be tricky to photograph. It's hard to convey the scale (it's very big) and also to incorporate the commanding position it holds at the top of the surrounding landscape. In this test image with the low-light digital camera, none of this vibrancy, color, or detail was visible to the naked eye. The only hint that it's a night scene are a few star points in the sky.

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October 23rd, 7:30 p.m., after sunset and before moonrise with a socked-in cloudy sky.
I was revisiting Hendraburnick from the top side of the rock. To give you an idea of the capabilities of these low-light digital cameras, I literally could see no sheep in the scene—I just saw a vague lumpiness where I knew the stone to be. I literally photographed it so I could see what was there. Since the clouds made for disappointing conditions for night shooting anyway, I tiptoed away instead of disturbing the sheep further. Apparently, everyone loves a big rock!

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October 24th. 9:30 p.m. A waxing gibbous moon just after rising. Lanyon Quoit near Penzance. The moon rises around sunset when full but on average 50 minutes later per night after that. Once you're more than a night or so after the full moon, you're beyond the best conditions for moon shooting.

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October 24th. 10:12 p.m. Lanyon Quoit facing away from the moon.

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November 3rd, just after midnight at Carwynnen Quoit, Neolithic site near Redruth, Cornwall