The Isle of Man is the only entire nation to boast UNESCO Biosphere status, reflecting it is a special place for people and nature. In our regular feature, authors from different walks of Manx life offer a personal perspective on #MyBiosphere. This month, Brook Wassall, a photographer, whose images have featured on Space.com and in the International Dark Sky Association calendar, writes:
The stars have always fascinated me.
As a group, my friends and I would often sit on the quiet roads of Foxdale and stare at the night sky for hours.
I often wonder where my imagination might have gone if we weren’t fortunate enough to have that view from the very streets we grew up on.
Ten years ago, I took my camera and left it on the garden patio of a friend’s house taking a picture looking upwards.
My jaw dropped at the sight of how many stars I could capture from what was essentially next to my own home.
This experience led me deep into photography, a journey that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
I have very fond memories of walking out of my front door and capturing some of my favourite images within half a mile of my home in Foxdale.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have their street lights go out at midnight but I was, and I waited with eager anticipation on every clear night we had just to see and capture the stars.
I began to venture out further, sometimes walking for over an hour at unsociable hours in complete darkness with camera gear almost heavier than I was. I’d spend up to five hours under the stars capturing them, while listening to my favourite music and staring at the night sky.
This experience became very therapeutic for me: an experience that’s hard to put into words.
I can look at old images taken years ago and recall the entire night.
It fills me with a kind of nostalgia I can’t describe. Even now, after 10 years of chasing night skies, I still crave those crystal clear skies to be able to witness and capture the Milky Way in all its beauty.
I did once try my hand at living overseas, thinking that the Island didn’t have much more to offer me in terms of original landscapes to capture, but, while the Island may not vary much in terms of its green hills, it quickly became apparent that the dark skies I craved so badly were not so easily achieved.
For the first time I felt truly homesick and, while the interest of stargazing here in the Isle of Man is constantly growing, to this day I can still find a place all to myself on any given night, far from most light pollution.
As a naturally quiet person, I crave that kind of escapism: the freedom to wander a landscape and try to picture it the way I see it. The Isle of Man has become my playground, and the beauty of the night sky is my backdrop.
Over time, I’ve come to understand that the preservation of our dark skies here on the Island are incredibly important. Not only to stand out among our neighbours and shout it proudly, but to be able to witness it for ourselves and look up every once in a while.
Let’s just make sure it stays that way.