Don't be afraid of the dark

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It was necessity that first drew me to night photography. Being the father of a family of young children meant that days and early evenings tended to be busy. If it wasn’t supervising home works, it was offering an on demand ‘Daddy-taxi’ service. If it wasn’t tidying up the day’s mess, it was contributing further to the mess by scattering assorted toys around the floor while playing with the kids.

The net result of this was that it was very often after 9.00 o’clock at night before I was close to being free enough even to think about heading out for some photography.

But what I soon discovered was the wonderful charm and allure of taking photos at this time of night. Partly it was the peace and tranquillity that seems to permeate locations in the stillness of the late evening. Parts of Belfast that heave with people and frenetic activity during the daytime are transformed into serene havens in the cover of darkness.

Partly it was the opportunity to call a mate or two to join me on the trip, bringing the chance to enjoy a bit of fun and to learn together as we experimented with camera settings and lenses and compositions.

And partly it was simply the knowledge that the day’s duties were done. There were no more obligations, no other duties to fulfil. When all that remains is this moment into which you have entered fully and deeply, as any landscape photographer must do.

It is in this context that I have been, and continue in, learning my craft. I have ventured out to all sorts of places and in all kinds of weather in the darkness, climbing hills when all other sensible people are safely tucked up in bed, searching out the darkest of locations on the north coast to get away from that almost ubiquitous light pollution. I have picked my way through the Mourne Mountains in the dead of night while setting up for a Milky Way shot. I have experimented, made many mistakes, tried to learn from them and sought to hone my craft so that I could capture something of the vision that was inside my head for that particular shot.

So what I offer in this eBook are some of the lessons I have learned along the way. They are something of my personal journey and story presented to you in the hope that they will help you discover your own joys in night time photography.

But most of all I hope they encourage you simply to head out there. Practice your art. Make your mistakes. Live deeply in the moments. And, above all, don’t be afraid of the dark...

To mark the launch of the book, I was honoured indeed when Martin McKenna agreed to write an endorsement. I have been privileged to develop my photographic craft along side many fellow landscape photographers, and I am deeply indebted to their generosity of time and spirit. But Martin in particular has been an inspiration when it comes to night photography. It was his photos of the aurora back in 2012 that first clued me in to the fact that we could even see this display in Ireland. We share interests not only in photography but in extreme weather and astronomy. But it's his passion and enthusiasm for communicating that with others that are particularly striking for me (his blog is a must read). That, and he's a thoroughly decent bloke! I am thrilled that he was so kind as to pen a few words for me.


"Once picked up, ‘Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark’ is hard to put down thanks to Alistair Hamill’s fresh and engaging writing style which takes the reader on a journey experienced through the viewfinder of a photographer who has cast aside the comforts of sleep to capture the mysteries of our night sky and enthralling landscapes across N. Ireland.  

Relax in a cosy seat and let Alistair take you on a tour across Co. Antrim and Co Down while learning valuable tips which can only be learned by one who has spent hundreds of hours in the ‘field’ learning his craft first hand while battling the elements through all four seasons of the year. This pleasant book is filled with stunning imagery ranging from night panoramas of Belfast City, to the wonderful celestial delights in our skies, such as the Milky Way from the Mourne Mountains and the spectacular Aurora Borealis over the ancient ruins of Dunluce Castle.

Don’t be surprised if you feel the urge to reach for a coat after reading this book, for Alistair is one of the few writers out there who makes the reader feel they are there with him laying in the snow or getting whipped by gales in order to get that perfect image.  ‘Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark’  is so much more than a ‘how to’ for this book is really about passion and one man’s quest to experience nature first hand while balancing his love for both his family and his photography.  I read it all in one go and couldn’t help but feel inspired with a warm smile as my own thoughts turned towards the night sky and my camera bag thanks to Alistair’s profound passion for the outdoors and photography."

Martin McKenna

Night Sky Hunter, Astro & Extreme Weather Photographer