Dorset has become well known for its clear night skies and low levels of light pollution, making it perfect for budding astrophotographers. Now one of the best places in the UK to sit and admire the beauty of the Milkyway, it's a favoured spot for astrophotographers to enhance the beauty of the Jurassic Coast. Kevin Ferrioli gives us an insight behind the lense, and shows us some of his most impressive work.
"I'm an SQL programmer by profession, living in Dorset which is an amazing place for people who love outdoor activities. I love mountain biking which has taken me to stunning locations and there are miles of breath-taking walks with lots of nature and history around - every corner has a surprise, it's like living in a fantasy, at least that's how I see it."
How did you first get into astrophotography?
"I started about 5 years ago, when I saw articles from other photographers, mostly from the USA. The first thing was for me to buy a fast wide-angle lens. At that time I bought a Tamron 17-50mm F2.8, but it was not bright enough for my old Canon 450D. It could have worked easily with a sky tracker though. I needed something that would allow more flexibility and be capable of going to a higher ISO. I did quite a bit of research, to the point of comparing pixel by pixel, and I came to the conclusion that Canon 6d (3 years ago) was my top choice. I bought the camera, and I tried to shoot the Milky Way from any imaginable location, from dark skies in the countryside to the light polluted areas around the city. This gave me the experience with the camera, and I now know exactly what I can and can’t do with the camera. As a result, I have captured images of the Milky Way in locations where other photographers thought were not possible. But still, nothing beats the beauty of a dark sky."
What was it that inspired you to get into it?
"Since I was a child, I've always had a fascination for the stars. I had the opportunity to visit places near the equator with true dark skies, where the Milky Way core is visible up in the sky - unlike in the UK where the core is barely visible on the horizon. It's of unbelievable beauty. I spent most of my childhood visiting locations in the rain forest, flat lands and my favourite - the mountains, especially over 4000 meters.
My fascination for the night sky has always been with me and I have always wanted to capture their beauty. Then I saw images from Michael Shaimblum and he then became my main influence and inspiration. I've never looked to replicate his style or the others, it was just that I loved how his images made me feel so immersed. It inspired me to do the same with my photos, to capture an image that would put the viewer under the stars."
How do you create one of these amazing photos? Talk us through your process
"There isn't one way to create a photo, but there's some general guidelines to follow. First thing is the can-do attitude. If you feel the location would look pretty with the Milky Way, then go and give it a try. Eventually you'll get a surprise. The second – just as important as the first, is planning. I am very old fashion and I use TPE (The photographer Ephemeris) to check the moonrise and set times, as well as the times for the beginning and end of the astronomical twilight. Then, I use stellarium, a free app for desktop, which shows me the position of the Milky Way every minute but I also use sky safari on the phone for when im out. Finally, I use Google maps, to make the imaginary lines against the subject, although there are apps that do this for you like Photopills.
I use the Canon 6d Mk1 body, which is my main camera, coupled with the Samyang 14mm F2.8 manual focus lens. I used a Sigma 20mm F1.4 for one year, which is superb for foregrounds but terrible for the sky and the creation of panoramas. So my Samyang has been my workhorse, an amazing lens to capture the sky.
Once in the field, I take some test shots to see if I am happy with the composition. Time is fairly limited with only around 2 hours to shoot at night, although some photographers make their foregrounds shooting during the twilight. On average, the editing takes me around 4 hours per image. It's not about photoshopping as some people would think, it's more about getting the image where I want and transmit what I felt, enhancing the original colours. The main work is done whilst out in the field, the editing process isn't to make major changes, just to finely balance the contrasts between the stars and the landscape in the photo.
My favourite part is actually capturing the image at the location. Nothing beats the feeling of being under the stars, and the huge reward when you see what you've captured in the back screen of your camera. "
Talk to us about one of your most memorable images?
"My most memorable image is one from Corfe Castle in the mist. Most photographers try to capture this icon in daylight surrounded by mist but being an astrophotographer, it was the night that really drew me to the location. I didn’t have Corfe Castle in my mind when I went out, I was just aiming to get a very dramatic misty shot. That night there wasn't any mist but a heavy fog. So I sought out higher ground - the fog should stay lower and I would be able to see the stars. When I got to the hill opposite the castle, the fog was so heavy that nothing was visible, but suddenly it started to clear. We just happened to be at the right place at the right time, and now only me and my friend have the shot from that night that’s so sought after."
If you could choose any spot in the world to capture, where would it be and why?
"The Andes is definitely on my list, either Chile and Bolivia. Nothing around the world inspires me more than the beauty of this mountain range. Some places there are out of this world. Atacama, is possibly my most desired. I'll get around to these one day, but I'm lucky to be situated where I am in the UK – the Jurassic coast is the perfect place for me to capture the milky way."
See more of Kevin's work at: