This photographer has aimed for the stars – and succeeded with aplomb.
Photographer Richard Murray’s ‘hauntingly beautiful’ photograph of the Milky Way rising over the ruins of a Tudor mansion has won the top prize in the South Downs National Park astrophotography competition.
The picture captures the atmospheric night-time scene at Cowdray House in Midhurst, West Sussex.
In September 1793, while it was undergoing repairs and refurbishments for the impending marriage of the 8th Viscount Montague, a devastating fire destroyed most of the property, leaving the ruins that remain.
The competition – which received around 60 entries this year – celebrates the national park’s status as one of only 20 International Dark Sky Reserves in the world, which recognises the region as one of the best places globally to stargaze.
Photographer Richard Murray’s ‘hauntingly beautiful’ photograph of the Milky Way rising over the ruins of Cowdray House in West Sussex has won the top prize in the South Downs National Park astrophotography competition
Named a Dark Sky Reserve in 2016, it enjoys the same status as regions such as Snowdonia, the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales.
South Downs lead ranger Dan Oakley says of the winning image: ‘It’s such a well-framed image and shows what the landscape would have been like a couple of centuries ago.
‘It’s a great little chocolate box photo of the South Downs.’
Hampshire photographer Murray, who wins a £100 prize, reveals: ‘We were blessed with crystal clear skies… it demonstrates that you don’t have to travel too far from town to enjoy the spectacular dark skies the South Downs National Park has to offer.
‘The national park has such a wide variety of beautiful landscapes and buildings to photograph and is truly a special part of the UK, both by day and night.’
Runner-up in the main category – ‘Dark Skyscapes’ – is a mesmerising shot of the moon rising behind Beachy Head lighthouse, near Eastbourne. The picture was snared by London photographer Andrew Parker, who wins a £75 prize.
Parker says: ‘Despite travelling around the country to pursue my hobby of landscape and astrophotography I still go to the South Downs more than most other places.
‘The skies around Birling Gap are fantastic.’
This awe-inspiring picture of Beachy Head Lighthouse by Andrew Parker has claimed the runner-up prize in the ‘Dark Skyscapes’ category
This shot of a toad crossing a road near Cuckmere Haven tops the podium in the ‘Nature at Night’ category. It was captured by Peter Brooks
Taking the top prize in the ‘Nature at Night’ category is a picture of a toad crossing a road near Cuckmere Haven, in East Sussex, captured by Eastbourne-based photographer Peter Brooks.
Reflecting on the strength of the image, Oakley says: ‘I like this image because it’s a bit different. It sums up the theme of “nature at night” and really highlights the fragility of nature.’
Brooks notes: ‘I took this particular image to highlight the dangers toads face when migrating back to their breeding ponds. I headed to the spot where I know a great number of toads cross after it had been raining.’
This stunning picture of the Seven Sisters cliffs by photographer Giles Smith is highly-commended in the ‘Dark Skyscapes’ category
Titled ‘Reach for the Sky’, this striking picture of the South Downs at night by Carl Gough is a runner-up in the ‘Nature at Night’ category
The photographer reveals that he lay on the road to get down to eye level with the toad.
He adds: ‘I then spent some time helping toads across the road safely. This is actually a designated toad patrol area.’
Highly-commended pictures in the contest include a magnificent shot of the Comet Neowise hurtling through the night sky above West Sussex’s Hiorne Tower, an enchanting picture of the Milky Way over St Hubert’s Church in Hampshire and a stunning picture of the Seven Sisters cliffs at night.
A range of images from the awards will be exhibited during the National Park’s Dark Skies Festival, which runs in the South Downs National Park until February 17. The park covers 628 square miles (1,627 square kilometres) across Hampshire, West Sussex and East Sussex.
The Milky Way over St Hubert’s Church in the Hampshire hamlet of Idsworth is the subject of this enchanting picture by Alan Crossland, which is highly commended in the ‘Dark Skyscapes’ category
This magnificent shot shows the Comet Neowise hurtling through the night sky above Hiorne Tower in West Sussex. Captured by Neale Thibaut, it’s highly commended in the ‘Dark Skyscapes’ category