I am sitting here quite tired wondering how to describe my weekend. Eventful might be apt. As I look back on the last two days I guess a summary would be:

  • Celebratory picture buying in Dunkeld
  • Business owner discussion in a Birnam second-hand bookshop
  • An anxious swim in Perth
  • Recovering from said swim
  • A bit of writing
  • Video gaming
  • Finishing the writing
  • Going to recorder orchestra in Stirling
  • Spur of the minute night-time photography near Aberfeldy
  • Reversing the car into a ditch and having to be rescued

At each stage there some feeling or emotion to be looked at but I guess I am just feeling too tired to systematically go through them all. The ones that stand out to me are the, dare I say it, excitement of buying a picture, the anxiety of public lane swimming, and the calm way I dealt with the getting myself stuck in the middle of nowhere.

I am a man that is not easily dissuade from a course of action once I have decided upon it. So having noticed the beautiful calm afternoon and the clear skies local to home, I decided that tonight would be a time to get out and take a few photos. I had the night sky in mind rather than town scenes. Having gathered together the minimum photographic equipment and warm clothing, I let my wife know I was going for a drive northwards. Stepping out of the front door immediately through a spanner into the cogs in that the moon was awfully bright, in fact pretty much full. From my online course, I knew this wasn’t a good combination but ignored it because sometimes I think it is good to experience the issue to make full sense of it (for example light pollution to the eye and camera are on very different scales).

I had used Dark Site Finder, to identify that if I aimed for Amulree and headed towards Aberfeldy along the A826 for a few miles, I would be in a significantly less light polluted area than the time I took some images ten miles from Perth. Whilst the road is quite windy (I have just realised that a road with lots of turns on it and the movement of air is spelt the same – English is bizarre at times) it didn’t take me too long to get there and after missing two laybys by being indecisive, I stopped and parked in the third.

The moonlight acts very much like sunlight with a long enough exposure and although there was no orange haze in the photos, the sky is distinctly blue and the land lit up. Nether the less I took so pictures of the Orion and Cassiopeia constellations. Occasionally a car would pass heading north to Aberfeldy so I decided to do some car trail pics and got what looks like a brochure shot of my car. After an hour of trying a few different things, I figured it was time to head home. I drove south along the A826 until out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw a stream and suddenly I thought that might be worth taking a picture of. I stopped quite sharply and reversed into a layby. At least that was my intention. In fact, I reversed into the verge and managed to find a drainage ditch with my rear passenger wheel. A sufficiently deep ditch that my front wheels no longer gripped enough to pull me free. Just like that I was stuck in quite a remote spot.

I got out of the car. It seemed obvious to me that no damage had been done to the car, but equally obvious that I needed to be towed free. Being of a logical mind, and a man of few emotions actually comes in handy sometimes. I felt no anxiety at my predicament and no need to blame myself for the incident though it was a learning point. We have free roadside recovery with the car so I merely found the number and called the hotline. After a couple of conversations with the AA I waited for the local garage to call.

It was not such a bad night for waiting. The weather was pretty calm and clear, with only the occasion breeze and the temperature was around 4 degrees centigrade. I was dressed for being outside with my down jacket overlaying three other layers and my only regret with that I haven’t put a pair of trousers on despite the thought crossing my mind as I left the house. The garage called. They had three calls in at the same time so it was going to be an hour before they got to me. I was a little disappointed at this due to the temperature but things could have been so much worse. I passed the time by taking photos, talking to the drivers that stopped whilst passing by, serenading the moorland with a bit of Alison Moyet and Human League, and the occasionally two minute jogging to keep warmth in my feet.

I was on the phone to my wife when the car transporter turned up twenty minutes ahead of schedule. After inspecting the car for difficulties and taking a few photographs, the guy attached a tow line to the appropriate point in the bumper and whilst I sat in the driver’s seat with the engine running by the car in neutral, he slowly eased the car back on the road. All very straightforward really. Towline removed, I drove down the road a short way where another inspection and photo session took place. All was fine, so I signed a mobile screen with my index finger and was off heading back home.

So what lessons did I learn? Certainly that a full moon is not good for taking star pictures although it does offer other opportunities. Don’t reverse into laybys on single carriageway roads, reverse back along the road first then drive forward into the layby. Take a hot drink and something to eat when you head out into the countryside, you never know when you are going to need it. If possible make sure you have mobile phone reception where you are heading to (thankfully it was fine where I was). Finally, if you wonder about taking something like trouser or another jumper, just put it in the car, you are driving for goodness sake.

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The Orion Constellation
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Something for the catalogue?
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Not for the catalogue!
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