Amazing Images of Wales by Starlight

Celebrate the last of the dark winter nights with one photographer’s tribute to some of Britain’s darkest skies

By Simon Ingram
photographs by Alyn Wallace
Alyn Wallace: "The jewel encrusted winter night sky above Garreg-Ddu reservoir in the Elan Valley, Mid-Wales. ...
Alyn Wallace: "The jewel encrusted winter night sky above Garreg-Ddu reservoir in the Elan Valley, Mid-Wales. The Milky Way arches across the sky and the triangular diffuse glow of the zodiacal light extends from the horizon. Other notable subjects include Sirius, Orion, Pleiades the open star cluster, and Andromeda the spiral galaxy."
Photograph by Alyn Wallace

Light pollution is the thief of truly dark skies. Even when not visible to the naked eye, the insidious glow from towns and cities reduces the intensity of celestial objects and turns a potentially knockout starlit canopy into a merely pleasing one. And that’s without considering the human, animal and environmental cost of excessive nocturnal illumination on natural circadian rhythms.

And if you’re a photographer, even distant or faint ‘night blight’ throws a sickly colour cast into the sky, reducing the visibility of everything in it – particularly during the relatively long exposures necessary to capture detail in the dark. So for successful celestial shots, it helps to have as dark a sky as possible. 

Photographer Alyn Wallace has the perfect theatre of operation for his nocturnal imagery of nigt-time wonders such as starlight, meteors and even marine phosphorescence: Wales.

After sunset, southern parts of the sparsely populated, largely rural country have darkness so pristine they have been internationally recognised as a Dark Sky Reserve. The entire Brecon Beacons National Park falls within the designation, granted in 2013 by the International Dark Sky Association, based in Tucson, Arizona. (Related: see the best space pictures of 2018)

Part of the designation encourages the 33,000 residents of the park to reduce artificial lighting to maintain the clarity of the park’s night sky. North Wales, with the steep peaks of Snowdonia National Park keeping human activity to the valleys, is similarly blessed. Snowdonia was recognised as a Dark Sky Reserve in 2015. (See the wild horses of Wales here.) 

Of his native land, Alyn Wallace is as proud as he is enthusiastic. “18% of the country is protected against light pollution. We’re a world leader.” He says. “No matter where you are in Wales you're never too far from dark skies. Even a 30-minute drive from our capital city and it is dark enough to appreciate the Milky Way.”

Follow Alyn on Instagram


Light Pollution 101
Ever since the light bulb's invention 150 years ago, artificial light has illuminated homes, streets, and skies -- but with some unintended consequences. Learn about the major types of light pollution, their impact on human health, and how the worldwide glow from artificial light may continue to grow.

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