Ancient Stars over an Ancient Tower

Last Friday I had the pleasure of leading a group of local photographers to an excursion in search of some great sunset and night shots. The location we decided upon is called Cala Domestica and is situated a short but breathtaking drive south of the town of Buggerru in Sardinia. The two beaches of Cala Domestica are situated at the end of an inlet (Cala, in Italian) and are connected by a perilous walk passing through a short natural cave at about half-point. Since the sun was still high, we took advantage of the light to take HDR photos of the emerald colored water while grabbing some details from inside the cave. The walk to the cave is short, but it is not a smooth path so good gripping shoes are strongly recommended, and some small leaps necessary. To ascend to the promontory were the tower is located we took another uneasy path. The hike is only about 15  minutes long but steep and a good balance is necessary, particularly when carrying equipment as we did (cameras, tripods, flashlights, etc.) nonetheless it can be done by nearly anyone, children included. As a matter of fact I was 7 or 8 years old when I hiked this path for the first time. Construction of the current tower started in 1765 and was completed by 1780 although part of it collapsed due to the poor quality of the work and the tower was finally finished in 1785.

The sun was still a little high when we arrived at the top, just as I had planned. We took some shots of the tower in daylight and then turned our interest toward the sun as it started its descent toward the horizon to then sink into the sea revealing a burning orange glow. Comparing photos taken with a zoom we discovered that the air was so clear we could see spots near the equator of the Sun: Sun Spots! Our luck extended to the whole night as not a single cloud showed up. Not one minute after sunset we started setting up for our night shot, knowing that light was limited and darkness would have fallen soon, while at the same time taking some photos of the tower in the afterglow when the top of the sky has that nice purple color while the bottom is still reddish. The biggest challenge was placing nearly 130 tea candles kindly provided by my friend Barbara, with whom I had discussed and decided the shot a few days earlier. A pleasant breeze coming from the sea picked up and therefore we set each candle inside a plastic cup for protection. That apparently wasn’t enough as it took us nearly 5 minutes just to light up the first one, but after a bit of dismay and more perseverance we proceeded speedily toward our goal and managed to light up most of the candles.
The first shots were a test: 4 cameras were set on their tripod with remote controls ready to go and I took a photo on my Canon 7D set to a 1600 ISO and a minute of exposure helping it by light painting the tower for 2 seconds. Once happy with the results and now that the sky was nearly black (pitch black never really happened even without the moon as we had some glow from far-away towns beyond the hills) we proceeded to the realization of our main shot: a one hour or so exposure featuring the tower and possibly the North Star. The results were great, within the limits of each one’s equipment and forgetting for a moment that we were under the relentless attacks of the local mosquitoes as they attempted to protect the tower from a Saracen invasion. A good part of the fun was being in company of enthusiastic people whose love for photography and for learning new techniques keeps them smiling and facing environmental challenges with optimism. My thanks go to Barbara, Fabio, Patrizio and Giorgio.

More photos are located in the album Scenes of Sardinia on my Facebook page.

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