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James

The Road to the Roque, a timelapse from La Palma

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This August I was lucky enough to go back to La Palma with the family for a couple of weeks. Perhaps more importantly I was able to take my cameras, and this time I hired a telescope over there rather than look at the skies wishing I had my scope with me.
Same as last time we were unlucky with the weather, by La Palma standards, and several nights were lost to very thick Calima - dust laden winds blowing from the Sahara . These clog up the sky and raise the temperature quite drastically. It also severely hampered my ‘schedule’ of timelapses I wanted to get but living in the UK I can expect perhaps one night in two weeks to be clear. I can’t complain at the loss of 4-5 nights out of two weeks! Although it was frustrating to miss the Perseids again - they were on the one night it actually rained!!

La Palma, perhaps surprisingly for one of the best locations for astronomy in the world, is a very cloudy island. When conditions are ‘normal’ it is usual for the inhabited parts of the island at less than 3000 ft to be frequently cloudy at night time. The cloud comes and goes but is often there and can be seen in several of my timelapses. There is an inversion later at approximately 3000ft though above which it is as clear as it’s cloudy below. So, if you can get high enough you can get above the clouds and almost guarantee starry skies. But, the same situations that give those clouds give us cloud waterfalls over the Cumbre Vieja (the ridge of hills linking the north and south of the island) and some amazing fog. I could go back to La Palma just to do timelapses of the fog/cloud!

If you can get high enough it’s truly worth it. Up at altitude the skies are very steady and clear. I could see detail and texture in the Milky Way right through from beneath Scorpius/Sagittarius, right overhead and down into Cassiopeia and Perseus. The Milky Way was visible right down to the horizon and the stars were pinpoint spots of light - no twinkling, not even low on the horizon! There are various spots at the side of the road you can set up on - although be prepared for a number of cars to drive past with their lights full on! I was quite surprised at the number of cars - several of my timelapses show the observatories lit up by cars with their lights on full. Of course, arguably I was part of the problem… but then I was happy to drive around on sidelights (once I’d sorted out turning off the cars internal illumination!)

I met and spoke with a surprising number of people, mostly Spanish and German. But it was frustrating whilst taking a timelapse to have people drive up and take pictures of themselves pointing a torch at the Milky Way, right in my field of view. Some of my timelapses show this despite my best efforts.

I was able to take Tom up with me a couple of times (even Kate came up too one night!). I quite like being on my own at night but at altitude and with the humidity at less than 5% and the walking around often being on rocky broken volcanic surfaces it was good to have company. Of course, Tom being 10 he can see way better than me, something he was happy to point out regularly!

I've put together a timelapse which I’ve called the Road to the Roque.  Whether you approach the Roque from the east from Santa Cruz de la Palma or from the north west (Hoya Grande) it’s at the top of a long very switchbacked road. Driving up and down 7-8 times over the two weeks burned out the hire cars brakes  - thank goodness for power steering! You can’t get to the top without going up the road - the views along the way were stunning so any timelapse I put together I wanted to include that part of the journey! The car brakes really were burned out. On the last day driving back to the airport they were noisy enough I felt it best to leave the car in second gear for the last 13km (downhill)..

I hired a telescope for about a week out there from an outfit that turned out to be just 10 minutes up the road ( http://athos.org  ) A German setup (the guy I spoke to, Jan, spoke perfect English!) which has to be the kind of place I’d happily just move to (just as soon as that lottery win comes in). They have a place with several small houses for accommodation, observing platforms, observatories, plenty of kit and are in a truly dark spot. Absolute Paradise! :) They kindly gave me a guided tour (they took care I didn’t wake up some of the astronomers that had been up all night) but the place was great. I have started siphoning off money from my joint account… (luckily Kate doesn’t go on SGL!). 

I hired an Evolution 6 with Starsense. My rationale was to have something I could carry around easily and for it to be smaller than my main scope at home and something I haven’t used before. It worked out perfectly, the little 6 inch was giving me much better views than my 10” Newt does a home and many an hour was spent looking at Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Venus and looking at objects in the lower reaches of the Milky Way that we can’t normally see from the UK! The starsense was cool - level, aim north, hit a button… and it just worked!

I could blether on for hours but won’t - here’s a link to the time-lapse I’ve done. Its missing some stuff I wanted to get but some stuff worked better than I’d expected so I can’t complain. A couple of the timelapses were done in strong dusty winds, in one of them I spent an hour hunched over the camera on it’s tripod holding a large black cloth as a shield for me and the camera from virtually gale force winds. Amazingly that one worked well although my shoulders weren’t so happy! Getting lost on the path on the way back down to the car was a bit hairy (the caldera was 20 ft to my right) but a bit of judicious Maps usage on my phone (most of the island provides at least 3G) enabled me to figure out that the all but invisible path I needed was just a few feet back from where I was…

Finally, all else aside, I can’t overstate what having dark skies does. I live in a dark part of Devon and am grateful for that but the skies there were obscenely dark. The little villa we were staying in near Puntagorda on the north west of the island - you could walk literally straight out of the lit kitchen onto a patio and bang, there was the Milky Way, better than we even see it here, visible clearly in completely un dark adapted eyes… five minutes later and it’s enough to make you think… I could work from here you know, no need to go back to the UK….

I’ve started blethering again. Here’s the timelapse, I hope you enjoy it!

 

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Spectacular!

An excellent production. I particularly like the sunset view of Tenerife/Teide. Some very clear air above that pesky marine layer.

 

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Thank you both for your comments :) I always find it interesting what part of a time lapse people actually like.

It shouldn’t be a surprise I guess but I was surprised just how big Tenerife looks from La Palma...

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Outstanding work there James, I like all of it...alot! Put's my time-lapses to shame :grin: What camera do you use? I use the Pany G80's in camera timelapse feature. 

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1 hour ago, PeterCPC said:

Wonderful - I really enjoyed it.

Peter

 

1 hour ago, bluegoatwoods said:

Very nice work!

Thank you both :)

17 minutes ago, Lockie said:

Outstanding work there James, I like all of it...alot! Put's my time-lapses to shame :grin: What camera do you use? I use the Pany G80's in camera timelapse feature. 

The majority was done using a Canon 6D. Usually 25 second exposures, ISO3200 through a Sigma 14mm f/1.8 lens (which I hired for the holiday).

5 minutes ago, carastro said:

I enjoyed all of it including the accompanying music.

Carole 

Thank you Carole :) 

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Congratulation James, that is a fabulous film / time lapse.

You have obviously put an awful amount of work into this project and it has certainly paid dividends.

Well done again, I really enjoyed it!

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5 hours ago, James said:

Thank you both for your comments :) I always find it interesting what part of a time lapse people actually like.

It shouldn’t be a surprise I guess but I was surprised just how big Tenerife looks from La Palma...

I'm a Tenerife fan so I liked you shots of it. I've seen the view the other way round but only from sea level in Playa de las Americas. It's unusual for it to be clear enough. That haze and cloud layer is present more often than not (as you pointed out). I also spotted El Hierro at the same time. 

As it happens, we're off to Tenerife next weekend for 10 nights :)

Never done it yet, but we might do a stargazing excursion this time....honest :)  My problem is the attractive property of gin. The attraction is usually overpowering after a hard day on the beach :)

Edited by Paul M
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33 minutes ago, Paul M said:

......

As it happens, we're off to Tenerife next weekend for 10 nights :)

Never done it yet, but we might do a stargazing excursion this time....honest :)  My problem is the attractive property of gin. The attraction is usually overpowering after a hard day on the beach :)

Enjoy!! I understand the temptations - it took a fair bit of willpower sometimes to pack up the car again with lots of water and biscuits and the kit! In hindsight I should have spent one or two more evenings just drinking by the pool!  

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A wonderful timelapse montage James - I was totally spellbound! I loved the boiling ocean of clouds in the night and the stars reflected in the mirrors of the large scopes. The drive up made me dizzy, boy you can drive fast! ? I have often thought about holidaying there, but now convinced I should, will wait a few years though until my 4 year old boy can fully appreciate it. ?

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1 minute ago, RobertI said:

A wonderful timelapse montage James - I was totally spellbound! I loved the boiling ocean of clouds in the night and the stars reflected in the mirrors of the large scopes. The drive up made me dizzy, boy you can drive fast! ? I have often thought about holidaying there, but now convinced I should, will wait a few years though until my 4 year old boy can fully appreciate it. ?

Thank you :) My boy was seven the first time, 10 this time. He's sensible and pretty tough so this time he did a couple of long nights with me :) We stayed in a small villa with a pool - they'll appreciate that at any age. Driving anywhere does involve a lot of corners/switchbacks so if he's prone to being car sick maybe leave it a time :)

The fast driving comment has made me laugh :) Our hire car was dismally underpowered and it was quite a struggle to get up the road, on the worst switchbacks it was a case of dropping into first, ramming the pedal to the floor and crossing fingers! You'd never know from the video..

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Obviously a heck of work went into that ! And it was truly worth it , thanks for sharing with us. Really beautifully done . My favourite bit was the whole thing ?

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Stunning video James, I recognise the journey very well....  I took that road every day while I was there in May....what a wonderful place.

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2 hours ago, James said:

Thank you :) My boy was seven the first time, 10 this time. He's sensible and pretty tough so this time he did a couple of long nights with me :) We stayed in a small villa with a pool - they'll appreciate that at any age. Driving anywhere does involve a lot of corners/switchbacks so if he's prone to being car sick maybe leave it a time :)

The fast driving comment has made me laugh :) Our hire car was dismally underpowered and it was quite a struggle to get up the road, on the worst switchbacks it was a case of dropping into first, ramming the pedal to the floor and crossing fingers! You'd never know from the video..

Perhaps I won't have too long to wait until my boy can tag along after all. :)

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That was fantastic, particularly the reflections of the stars in the radio discs. What a place and only a short flight away, my C9.25 would love it there!

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Excellent images James!  Thank you!

SO many memories.  Worth investing a few more £ in a beefier hire car?

April/May are much less prone to Calimas.

Cheers Paul

 

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14 hours ago, peter shah said:

Stunning video James, I recognise the journey very well....  I took that road every day while I was there in May....what a wonderful place.

 

4 hours ago, clarkpm4242 said:

Excellent images James!  Thank you!

SO many memories.  Worth investing a few more £ in a beefier hire car?

April/May are much less prone to Calimas.

Cheers Paul

 

I thought you and @peter shahwould recognise most, if not all of it :)

Re the hire car.. next time :) If I get to go again it probably will be without family in part so that I can go outside school holidays, but I'm not really sure of the odds of that happening!!

4 hours ago, Pete Presland said:

That was fantastic, particularly the reflections of the stars in the radio discs. What a place and only a short flight away, my C9.25 would love it there!

Thats a lot of scope to take over  - I couldn't work out any realistic form of shipping that would enable me to get a scope over and not waste lots of time dealing with customs etc..

If you do go over and you plan well ahead try these guys:  http://athos.org  Don't be put off by the German/Spanish only website. They speak good English too! I left it to the last minute so was more limited in what I could hire from them.

Also, I wouldn't want to hazard a guess as to what 'mathematical' difference the dark skies make but I was using a 6" Evolution and it was comfortably outperforming my 10" Newt at home in terms of light grasp..

James

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I thought you and @peter shahwould recognise most, if not all of it :)

Re the hire car.. next time :) If I get to go again it probably will be without family in part so that I can go outside school holidays, but I'm not really sure of the odds of that happening!!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

I suppose I could volunteer to chaperone you if that would make Kate feel any better. Selfless I am :)

James. That's a wonderful next level time-lapse. Obviously there are one or two people making great videos but you've produced a story as well. The map section is a revelation and even the stills sit well with the action. I now feel like I've been without all the hassle of flying ! :)

The Kielder time-lapse was good but this is exquisite,

Dave.

 

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