Hollie Latham Hucker finds out how much preparation and planning was required to capture the iconic Pyramid Stage under the night sky.

Astrophotographer Josh Dury captured this stunning image of the Orion Constellation above the iconic Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival site earlier this year in January. It was months in the making, with extensive research undertaken, recces and hours of planning.

Capturing this self-portrait has been an aspiration for Josh for quite some time. His passion for the arts makes this legendary location of one of the world’s most well-known music festivals, the ideal backdrop for creating his masterpiece. But to pull it off, he had several elements to consider and careful planning to ensure the stars aligned on the night.

It was during a recce of the site on New Year’s Eve that Josh realised his plans to shoot at his desired location would be far more straightforward than originally anticipated. After stopping to chat to a couple of locals, he eagerly shared his ambitions with them, and they assured him the landowners, Sir Michael and Emily Eavis, encouraged the public to roam freely along the many footpaths across their land. Josh was given the green light. ‘My hopes of being able to capture “Starstruck” were looking more promising.’

Next, Josh had to pinpoint the exact location. ‘I needed to know which direction the “skeleton” of the Pyramid Stage would be in context to the setting of Orion, which is approximately south-west-west. The image had to be timed precisely at the right place and at the right time to capture Orion from this perspective.’

pyramid stage taken at night with stars overhead
Image: Josh Dury

Once Josh was able to visualise the angle of view, he had to tackle his next challenge – the weather and light conditions in the night sky. Unfortunately, the weather throughout January had been abysmal and he had to wait for a clear night with minimal light from the moon. ‘I needed to capture those finer details under as dark as skies as possible. This also needed to be timed with the constellation Orion beginning to set towards the south-west at approximately midnight to 1am.’

When the perfect conditions finally presented themselves, Josh set out with his Sony A7S, Sigma Art 20mm f/1.4 lens, and his Benro Tortoise 24CLV and geared head.

Due to the astronomical nature of the image, the final picture is a composite. The image depicts an area of the night sky known as The Orion Molecular Complex. Josh explains, ‘This region captures faint details that consist of hydrogen-alpha gas emissions that stretch through the Constellation of Orion; including a notable astronomical target, referred to astronomically, as “Barnard’s Loop”.

These details are just about detectable using unmodified cameras. While some astrophotographers decide to remove the infrared-cut filter from their camera sensors to resolve this detail over long exposures, it can render the warranty of your camera void.’ In this instance, Josh decided to capture what was possible with his camera setup without the need for modification. He continues, ‘This image required extensive exposures, 10 second subs over a 30-minute exposure, in relatively dark skies from the same spot and is documented as a composite for that very purpose.’

The hours of preparation paid off and after a successful shoot Josh can now proudly show off his hard work. His self-portrait was deliberately crafted under the frame of the Pyramid Stage to mimic the many names in music who have passed before, from the likes of Bowie and Dolly Parton to Sir Elton John. Josh says, ‘This image brings together the pyramid that is photography, music and astronomy. Capturing the “King of the Stars” – Orion, as he takes centre stage.’

This self-portrait really is a wonderful celebration of the arts and Josh dedicates it to two of his greatest musical influences, Kate Bush and Grace Jones. Josh says, ‘This is my attempt to reach out to them through the stars to give thanks for what their music has lent to me narratively to craft my images. In the hopes that one day, it will be their turn to take their place on centre stage.’

About Josh Dury

Josh Dury is an award-winning professional landscape astrophotographer, presenter, speaker and writer from the Mendip Hills in Somerset. His work is recognised by major publishing and media outlets, including: NASA, BBC, ITV and CNN amongst others. See more of his work at www.joshduryphoto-media.com

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