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Shooting the Summer Solstice in Milton Keynes

So this was a new one for me. I've been a photography addict since I was about seven, but have never got myself out of bed at silly-o'clock on 21st June to shoot the sunrise. But that all changed this morning. After some encouragement from fellow Milton Keynes photographers, and a very favourable-looking weather forecast, I decided it had to be done.

Leaving my husband snoring gently, I crept out of bed at 3.45am (eek!), grabbed a cup of tea, threw on some clothes and headed out the door with my camera bag and tripod. By 4.10am I was standing in Campbell Park, Milton Keynes along with about 40-odd other people (one who'd come all the way from Sheffield - and I though I was dedicated!) waiting for sunrise. I was pleased also to see some members from our 'Photography in Milton Keynes' Facebook group as well, who'd also taken the plunge.

The Summer Solstice is especially relevant in Milton Keynes, as the 'new city' was designed specifically so that the sun will shine straight down Midsummer Boulevard, through the centre of town, on Midsummer's morning. You can draw a straight line from the Light Pyramid in Campbell Park, right through MK Rose, over the bridge and all the way down Midsummer Boulevard to the train station. Quite impressive really.

As to weather conditions, today we were certainly not disappointed. Right on cue at 4.42am, after a beautiful pink glow on the horizon - which could be seen even before I left home - the sun made its appearance. Actually just to the left of the Light Pyramid, as the developers clearly realised it needed to rise a little before being in optimum position to shine straight through town.

The challenge from here on was to capture the scene without the sun itself 'burning out', as very bright areas have a habit of doing - yet without under exposing so much that you lose shadow detail elsewhere. A fine balancing act.

The other challenge with this location is to decide where to stand, in order to capture the best selection of shots. Straight on the path? A little to one side to get the sun closer to the Light Pyramid as it came up? Further back behind MK Rose to capture some fabulous shadows? Or somewhere else entirely . . .

I did my best to do a bit of everything and I don't think I did too badly. With the added bonus that many people actually left as soon as the sun was up, rather than waiting for it to get right into position just above the Pyramid. Slightly odd decision, or maybe that's just me, wanting to make sure I capture it all!

In fact, I think I was more or less the last to leave, at about 6am - definitely with time for a couple more hours' snooze. If I could resist the temptation not to view and edit my images right away . . . Happily my Lumix G9 has a wi-fi function, so I was able to send some images straight to the iPhone for editing in Photoshop Express. A very handy trick, which can save time when you're wanting to get a few shots on social media while a subject is still topical!

So will I do it again? Hmm, possibly! With the right weather forecast and maybe from a slightly different location within MK, just to mix it up a bit. Having done it once, I have more knowledge now on how to tackle it best - and good research can make all the difference in landscape photography.

One last thought - if you've never done this, whether you're a photographer or not, it's definitely worth making the effort at least once. In fact I met one guy up there who said it was the first sunrise he'd ever watched - so I was really pleased for him that he got such a good one . . .


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