Monday, 3 October 2016

Cornwall Landscape Photography

Lands End
Fading light Lands End

I've not posted in a while because I've been away on holiday and I've had lots of images I wanted to process. I've often thought about taking a laptop with me when I go away to try and keep on top of processing. To date I've resisted the temptation and I'm not sure how well it would go down with the rest of the family, holidays are one good reason to escape computers.

This summer I spent two weeks down in Cornwall with the family. A week down near Sennen and then a week on the Lizard. I've never been to Lizard before so it was a great opportunity to explore somewhere new and add to my Cornish portfolio.

Week 1: Sennen

I already had a long list of familiar locations I wanted to go back to either at a different time of day or different tide. Unfortunately the weather was a little unpredictable and sunrises & sunsets were few and far between. For half the week we had a string of very misty mornings and evenings. By 6pm the mist started to roll in and didn't clear till 9am the next morning. This is not good for avid landscape photographers who are up at the crack of dawn. Perhaps it was one way to force me into relaxing which if you know me is not something I do easily.

Great spots to visit:

Lands End
Lands End -sunset

Sennen Bay
Sennen bay - sunset
Pend Vounder Beach
Pend Vounder Beach - sunrise

Porth Curno
Porth Curno - daytime long exposure

Port Nanven
Porth Nanven - this was sunrise best at sunset weather permitting!

Botallack Mines
Botallack mines - long exposure on a windy day

Week 2: Lizard

Before arriving in Lizard I had done some googling of possible photo locations. Lizard does seem a bit overlooked for some of the more iconic Cornish locations. However, there are some great locations and rugged coastal scenery. Making the most of the light was the biggest challenge.

Great spots to visit:

Lizard point
Lizard - sunset

Lizard point
Lizard - sunrise

Kynance Cove
Kynance Cove - early morning

Kynance - evening light

Lizard coastal path
Coastal path along from Lizard - sunset 
Mullion Cove
Mullion Cove - evening
All in all a great break away and an opportunity to explore a little more of Cornwall.


Cornwall Flickr album - including location info of all shots

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Two men go to Norfolk

Holkham Dunes
Holkham Dunes

It's been a while since my last photo jaunt with folk from Cambridge, "Three men go to Arran" was back in Sept 2014. This latest trip we were down to two, just Phil and I.

A date was set, camp site booked and after a quick planning meeting we had a rough idea of what we would do. Hoping for some decent weather is always a bit of a gamble planning in advance.

Fast forward to the second Friday in May, I picked Phil up at around 6pm and we were off. The forecast was quite good, but not the May temperatures we had been expecting. The previous weekend had been a mini heatwave.

We were booked in for 2 nights at High Sand Creek campsite Stiffkey. Stiffkey is just east of Wells-next-the-Sea and is a great location for exploring the North Norfolk coast.

After pitching our tents we headed out onto the salt marshes naively hoping we might get a sunset. It was not to be and the skies remained grey. We pottered around trying to make the most of some boats, but a bit of a disappointing evening photo wise.

After a quick drink at the Red Lion we headed off to bed for a planned early start. 4.20am and my alarm went off. 10 minutes later Phil was up and we headed off onto the marshes again. With a stiff northerly breeze blowing and some spots of rain mixed in I was glad I had packed my hat and gloves.

This time we walked east towards some of the little footbridges which span creeks on the marshes. Photography conditions were quite challenging, the best views were facing into the wind and rain. Constant filter cleaning resulted in quite a lot of frustration. The light was changing quickly and was quite dramatic, but weather and compositions were proving challenging. Added to that I was starting to feel quite cold and Phil was getting hungry!

Stiffkey footbridge
Stiffkey footbridge

Finally the drizzle eased a little and we were treated to some great early morning light.

Stiffkey sunrise
Stiffkey sunrise

Cold and hungry we returned to the campsite for some welcome breakfast and a hot cup of tea. By 6:30am we were off again, this time in the car. First port of call, Burnham Overy Staithe. The tide was out and boats were scattered across the mud.

Burnham Overy Staithe
Burnham Overy Staithe

Half an hour or so and we moved onto Brancaster Staithe, just over 10 minutes from Burnham, in the car. Brancaster is a working harbour and yacht club. Lots of boats new and old. Just round the corner from the working harbour there are some old abandoned boats which made great subject matter.

Peeling paint
Peeling paint - Brancaster Staithe

By mid morning the sun was getting high in the sky and the light was quite harsh. We packed up in Brancaster and headed for Old Hunstanton. I've visited Hunstanton a few times before, but only at high tide. There are some lovely round boulders underneath the cliffs which I was keen to capture on a rising tide. The light was very unforgiving so some long exposure shots were called for.

Hunstanton Boulders
Hunstanton Boulders

Walking along the coast under the cliffs we picked up some shots of the old wreck, the boulders and some of sea defences. By now lunchtime was fast approaching and we stopped off for fish and chips in New Hunstanton at 11:30am! I'm not sure I have ever had my lunch so early, but it already seemed like a long day having been up so early.

After lunch we walked back through town in our wellies and waterproofs to the car. Hunstanton was as far west as we ventured. We now started retracing our steps back east. Holme was the next port of call a few miles back along the coast. We grabbed a few shots in the dunes and some lovely patterns in the drying mud. Because the wind was so strong fine sand had blown over the cracks so they looked a little like the sugar coating on a creme brulee.

Sugar coated cracks - Holme
Sugar coated cracks - Holme

More walking and exploring then back in the car for the short drive to Thornam. There are some ancient wooden posts which would make a great sunrise shot on a spring tide. Although it was now high tide the posts were still high and dry and the early afternoon sunshine was really harsh. I dug out my b&w 3.0 (10 stop) nd filter combining it with a hitech 2 stop hard hd grad. This gave me 80 seconds at f14. Enough to get a bit of movement into the the clouds.

Thornham posts
Thornham posts

It was now 2:30pm and the clouds were giving way to a clear blue sky. Not the best for taking photos so we headed back to the campsite for a mid afternoon snooze. No sooner had we got back in the car Phil had nodded off!

After a bit of R&R back in Stiffkey. We headed out again to Wells for an early tea. I don't even eat this early with my kids. Just after 6pm we left the pub looking for somewhere to park for Holkham beach. The gated access road on the Holkham Estate said it would shut at 9pm. So we headed back towards Wells finding a lay-by to park in. This added an extra mile on each way, but we didn't want to get locked in for the night since sunset was at about 8.50pm

Holkham beach was almost deserted, one or two people dotted along it's entire length. It was a cracking evening and the light was beautiful and golden. It would have been perfect had there been a few clouds in the sky to break up the blue, but in comparison with the previous night, I couldn't complain.

Ripples in the sand - Holkham
Ripples in the sand - Holkham

Sunset was a bit of a non event, a globe like sun disappeared over the sea. A slight orange glow, but nothing spectacular. Just after 9pm we started making our way back along the beach and then the path back to the car. 16 miles walked over the course of the day and such an early start I was looking forward to getting back to my tent.

The weather forecast for Sunday morning was looking disappointing so we decided to have a lie in. 7am we were up having breakfast. 30 minutes later we had packed up and were on the road again heading east this time.

After a brief stop at Cley to look at the windmill from the road we headed onto Blakeney. Blakeney is another lovely coastal village and harbour. Parking up at the west end of the quay we wandered along the front and then off downstream along the River Glaven. Low tide again so lots of mud exposed a few new boats and some old ones which have seen better days.

Old chain - Blakeney

The weather was very overcast so by mid morning we decided to start head back towards Cambridge. Phil suggested we called in at Oxburgh Hall a National Trust moated manor house, just south west of Swaffham. By the time we arrived at Oxburgh Hall the sun was out. After a quick dash round the interior we took a few shots of the exterior and moat.

Oxburgh Hall
Oxburgh Hall

Lunch in the cafe concluded our visit and Norfolk weekend before we hit the road one last time -home bound to Cambridge.

All in all a great weekend away lots of ground covered and a few good shots to add to my Norfolk collection.

Flickr - Norfolk album


Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Lanzarote Landscape Photography

Lanzarote sunset
Lanzarote sunset

I've just returned home from a family holiday to Lanzarote over Easter. I spent a week on the island based on the outskirts of Macher about 25 minutes west of the capital Arrecife. This proved to be an ideal location for exploring the island and getting out for some early morning and evening photo shoots. More on that later.

Lanzarote is a 4 hour flight from the UK, it's the easternmost of the Canary Islands and measures 37 miles long by 16 wide. Car hire is a must if you want to get out and explore, the roads are fantastic quality and it's easy enough to navigate. I would recommend getting a copy of "Lanzarote tour & trail map" by David Brawn.

As far as landscape photography goes there is a mix of volcanic landscapes (stark and desolate), coastal locations (cliffs, rugged coastline & beaches) and some pretty villages. Some of Lanzarote has been spoilt by holiday development, but it's not difficult to avoid this.

Daytime temperatures ranged from 17-22. The weather on the whole for early April was good. Some sunny days, a few dull days and a rainy morning.

I always try and plan some photo research before going to a new place. Not that I want to take all the same stock photos, but so that I'm aware of the best places to visit at the right times of the day. I had read a photo blog by Rich Clark Imaging which was a really good starting point and had found a number of good photos on Flickr and 500px. All too often these didn't come with great location info. However, getting a decent map and working through shots enabled me to make a mental picture of what to expect and circle some key areas to visit.

One striking feature of Lanzarote is the volcanic landscape especially in the Timanfaya National Park. Unfortunately access to the park is closely controlled. The only options are a coach trip which doesn't allow you to get off (it does stop so you can take photos through the dirty windows), a 20 minute camel ride (up and down a gravel track) and a small number of guided walks at set times of day.  The guided walks need booking well in advance (limited spaces). They are free, however the catch is that no under 16's or over 65's are allowed. This unfortunately ruled out my two kids despite the fact I dragged them up Scafell Pike last year! One of the guided walks was only 3km long with a difficulty rating of minimum.

Not deterred I did a bit of Googeling and came across Blackstone Treks & Tours, they offered a guided walk with no age restriction. We opted for the "Fire Routes - Natural Park of the Volcanoes" 6km low intensity. Although we were walking in the Park of the Volcanoes we were not in fact in Timanfaya National Park. I could have done the same walk on my own, but the knowledge and advice from Jose was well worth the money. He pitched it at just the right level to keep the kids interested and a great refresher for some of the geology I did for my degree.

It took a the first few days on Lanzarote to get my bearings, driving on the right and relaxing into holiday mode. The weather was cracking, lots of sun, but still some interesting clouds. I didn't want to rush around snapping away, but made a mental list of locations and times of day I would come back for that perfect shot. Unfortunately by the time I was geared up for some serious landscape photography I was a little let down by the weather and rather lack of good light. Undeterred I still managed to come away with some good shots.

Top locations Locations I would recommend include:

Famara - Great big sandy beach popular with surfers, really nice small town to the west Caleta de Famara. To the east a medium sized gated resort Urb Famara and in my opinion the best bit of beach with some nice dunes. Walk east and the crowds drop off.

Famara dunes
Famara dunes

El Golfo - Big black beach with a green lagoon at the back. Unfortunately when I visited there were diggers repairing the sand bar protecting the lagoon and access was restricted. However, the beach is great for a sunset and the cliffs glow red.

El Golfo
El Golfo breaking waves

South of El Golfo there is some great coastline easily accessible and great for sunsets.

Playa de la Montana Bermeja
Playa de la Montana Bermeja

Salinas del Janubio - Salt pans which make a great dynamic shot, the viewing point marked on maps isn't the best perspective try from the LZ-701.

Salinas del Janubio
Lanzarote salt pans

Parque Natural Los Volcanes - This area surrounds the Timanfaya National Park and is accessible via paths to the general public. There are some great locations and a very stark volcanic landscape. Early morning sunshine would look great, I only managed it in the harsh mid-day sun.

Parque Natural Los Volcanes
Parque Natural Los Volcanes

Timanfaya National Park - I did both the bus ride in Timanfaya and also the short trip on the camels, both were enjoyable, but it would be great if there was more access to the park for walkers & photographers.

Road to Timanfaya
Road to Timanfaya

Other interesting locations well worth a visit include:

Cesar Manrique foundation, Jardin de Cactus, Mirador del Rio, Los Hervideros (when it's windy for the big waves), Teguise, beaches just south of Orzola.

What I didn't get to visit:

High on my list of photo locations was Papagayo Beach along the coast from Playa Blanca, but the dirt track road was closed.

A day trip over to the island of La Graciosa, spectacular sandy beaches.

All in all Lanzarote is a great, undervalued photo location not too far from the UK with some striking volcanic landscapes. I only saw one other photographer using a tripod all week!


Lanzarote Flickr album - including location info of all shots
Rich Clark Images Lanzarote photo blog
Blackstone Treks
Lanzarote-Tour-Trail-Super-durable-Map on Amazon

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Cambridge sunrises

There have been some quite striking sunrises the last few weeks in Cambridge, but as always the challenge is to be at the right place at the right time. In the winter a 7:30 to 8am start is positively civilised.

I'm often sitting in my kitchen eating breakfast watching a great sunrise while I tuck into my fruit and fibre. Sometimes I jump up and dash out, down the road and then 50 yards down the farm track to try and grab a shot.

Stapleford frosty sunrise
Stapleford cracking sunrise
Other times I don't quite make it in time, the moment has passed or rather it never really came.

Farm track Stapleford
The farm track disappointing light 

Stapleford sunrise
B&W 6 stop ND filter (long exposure)

In these circumstances I frequently use my B&W 6 stop or 10 stop ND filter. Lengthening the exposure often brings out the colours in the sky. It also seems to reduce the dynamic range a little meaning you are less likely to clip the highlights. Reds are always the first to clip on Canon cameras, so it's good to check the RGB histogram on your cameras rear screen not just the highlights and shadows.

A little further from home requires a bit more effort. 10 Minutes in the car gets me to Grantchester.

Grantchester sunrise
Grantchester dawn

Persistence usually pays off . I always check the weather forecast, favouring times when it looks changeable around sunrise. Two weeks ago I was convinced all was looking good, a frost during the night, clear skies clouding up just around dawn and while driving over to Grantchester in the dark there was a hint of greater things. Alas sunrise came and went without any photo opportunities. I took 3 photos of a frosty puddle then headed home. Last Saturday Phil (a photo friend) had arranged a quick shoot before the Men's Breakfast at Church. We needed to be close to Church which was a little limiting, but what a cracking sunrise.

River Cam sunrise
River Cam sunrise

Despite being early and seeing the colour develop I couldn't decide on a good composition. I tried out a few shots looking across Midsummer Common down to the river, but it just wasn't working. In the end I quickly composed a 2 shot panorama looking down the Cam. Later on, back at home, I decided to go for a square crop to exclude the white minibus on the left bank. I was a little disappointed I hadn't been in a better location, but the breakfast made up for it!

I'm still striving for the perfect Cambridge location for sunrise, a few others I've tried out recently include:

Mullard radio telescopes sunrise
Mullard radio telescopes - just beyond Barton

Clare Bridge sunrise
The Cambridge Backs & Colleges

Ditton Meadows sunrise
Ditton Meadows on a frosty morning
Beyond all else I need to get out more, especially during the winter when sunrise is at a civilised hour. All the times I've stood around in the dull, cold and wet are eclipsed when the sky lights up with a cracking sunrise.


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Wild camping - Pike o' Blisco

Sunrise Pike o' Blisco

I've camped rough many times since I was in my teens mostly when I was cycling. I used to load up my front and rear panniers and set off for a week or so. Scotland the Lake District, Southern Ireland to name but a few. However, my trusty Macpac tent was a little too heavy if you wanted to put it in a rucksack as opposed to on the rear rack of a bike. I found that much out when I took it over to Eigg a few years ago.  Camera bag on my front and rucksack on my back, I certainly wasn't travelling light.

A few months ago I decided to buy a lightweight tent. They are not cheap so I started looking on eBay. My Macpac weighs in at 2.3kg and is luxurious for 1 so I wanted to try and find something as light as possible (around 1kg) but not too small, I didn't fancy sleeping in a coffin! After being pipped to the post in a number of eBay auctions I managed to pick up a Terra Nova Laser competition 2. I had read lots of reviews and being 6 3" wasn't sure I would fit in some of the super lightweight tents. The Terra Nova is actually a 2 man tent, how you can fit two people in is a bit beyond me, you would have to be very friendly indeed. Next purchase was a new sleeping bag, my current Snugpak weighs in at 2kg.  Back to eBay and I bought a new North Face Gold Kazoo (from Spain), rated down to 2 degrees c and just under 1kg. So far I had lopped a massive 2.1kg off my pack weight! A few more bits and bobs bought or haggled and was all set. 

It seemed an ideal opportunity while on holiday in the lakes to spend a night away on a fell camping wild with the purpose of trying to get some decent sunset and sunrise photos. After studying the OS maps I decided on Pike o' Blisco. I could park at the top of the Wrynose Pass and it was only an hour or so walk to the top, if all went horribly wrong it wasn't too far to retrace my steps to the car. All I needed was some decent weather. Here lies the problem in the Lake District, even in the summer! I decided on a day, but then cancelled, perhaps it would be better tomorrow? but then it was worse. I was running out of week, thankfully on the last day it looked like it would be just perfect. Not quite the cloudless blue skies and sun forecast, but a decent amount of cloud, light winds and great lighting conditions.

Finally I was on the road at 4.30pm, only to be stuck behind slow moving cars and loads of traffic. An hour later I was parking the car at the Three Shires Stone (top of the Wrynose Pass) grabbed my rucksack and I was off. Despite my lightweight kit my bag was still rather heavy, camping kit, camera, 2 litres of water, tea & breakfast, jumper, waterproof... it all adds up. As far as camera kit goes I decided to take just one lens on my 5D mk2 a Tamron 28-75mm, nd filters, cable release & tripod that was the bare minimum. 

Heading up the path my intention was to climb up to Crinkle Crags for sunset then head on down to Pike o'Blisco and find somewhere to pitch up. The top of Crinkle Crags were shrouded in thick cloud, so there was no chance of a sunset. However, I was hoping that I might get a decent view below cloud level from the flanks of Crinkle Crags down into Eskdale with Sca Fell beyond. Just beyond Red Tarn I passed two walkers on their way down, the last people I would see till my return the following morning. It's a great feeling being the only one for miles, peace and tranquillity. Continuing up the path I soon disappeared into the cloud. No photo opportunities here so I started traversing to the South dropping a little in altitude. Every so often there would be a glimmer of light shining through the mist, but within a flash it had gone. I decided it was time for tea so I set my camera up on tripod and pointed it in vaguely the right direction.

Waiting for the cloud to clear

If the mist were to clear I might get a shot or two. No sooner had I sat down there was a break in the clouds and I was rewarded with a view of Eskdale. 

Rays of light Eskdale

The clouds then descended again which at least allowed me less interruptions while I was eating. After sitting still for a few minutes I noticed the temperature drop and was glad I had brought some extra layers. Tea finished and a very slightly lighter bag I packed up to head down towards Red Tarn and then climb up Pike o' Blisco. Sunset didn't amount to anything which was a little disappointing just a very faint glimmer in the sky. Now I was focused on finding a suitable spot for camping close to the summit of Pike o' Blisco so I didn't have far to go for sunrise. The further I climbed the less suitable the terrain became. Towards the top it was much more rocky and any flatter grassy spots were completely sodden. I didn't want to wake up in a puddle! By the time I found somewhere the light was starting to fade, it was a little more exposed than I would have liked and not at all smooth, but it would do the job. The groundsheet in the Terra Nova is paper thin so I was a little worried it would stand up to all the tussocks I was trying to flatten, but it did the job. By the time I was pitched, bag unpacked, matt inflated and general faffing it was dark! The sky was now quite overcast so unfortunately there was no opportunity for star gazing. Alarm set for 4:45am it was time for lights out. I managed a few hours sleep once the wind died down, but it wasn't the most comfortable of nights.

Wild Camping Lake District
Room with a view
Next morning I parted the flysheet to be greeted by a thin orange strip on the horizon (always a good sign). I got dressed, grabbed my camera and in less than 5 minutes I was set up checking out possible compositions. Only having one lens (28-75mm) did limit me a little, but sometimes you just have to work a little more imaginatively to get the shot. Panoramic shots were certainly going to capture the best of the cracking view. 

18 shot panorama: 6 portrait images wide (-2, 0, +2ev) blended in TuFuse then stitched in Microsoft ICE
An hour or so after sunrise, a leisurely breakfast (2 eccles cakes and half a pint of milk!) I was all packed up. Heading down towards the car I noticed two or three other cars parked up at the top of the Wrynose. Maybe other people had also spent the night wild camping? 

Was it worth the effort? Yes I think so, I certainly had spectacular views and it was really nice to get away from it all, the peace and tranquillity was priceless. I'm looking forward to my next wild camp I just need to do some location planning.

Camping equipment:
Tent: Terra Nova Laser Competition 2 - 1.25kg
Sleeping bag: North Face Gold Kazoo - 938g
Sleeping mat: Karrimor X Lite Inflatable Air Mattress - 330g
Pack: Karrimor Hot Earth (40 litre)
Cooking kit: None, I did miss a cup of tea in the morning, but I was travelling light

Friday, 21 August 2015

Northumberland Landscape Photography

I have just spent a week up in Northumberland on a family holiday. It's been two years since I was last there and that was only a fleeting visit en-route to Scotland so it was good to be back for a longer stint. I stayed in the same holiday cottage in Embleton from six years ago. It hasn't changed much just new sofas! it's ideally placed for early morning sunrise shots of Dunstanburgh Castle which means that even with early summer sunrises I didn't have far to go. 

Embleton bay
Embleton bay 4.25am - an early start

First morning of the holiday (Sunday) I was up at 4am and down on Embleton beach it was a beautiful morning. Not much cloud so sunrise was a little non eventful and with the clear skies it was quite chilly almost needed my hat & gloves in July! I wandered along the deserted beach and then over to the castle picking up a few shots. By 6.30am I was back in bed to catch another hours sleep before the family were up for the day. Later in the day we all enjoyed a visit to Alnwick Castle gardens, but by mid afternoon the skies turned grey and the sun didn't make another appearance until Wednesday. 

Dunstanburgh boulders long exposure
Dunstanburgh boulders - making the most of the grey skies 

Frequently checking the BBC weather app meant I didn't even bother setting my alarm until Thursday. This time I decided to try and get a sunrise shot from the south side of Dunstsnburgh Castle (Craster end). It was quite breezy with quite a bit of spray so I decided not to venture too far from the castle due to reduced visibility. I was rewarded with a reasonable sunrise nothing spectacular, but worth getting up for. 

Dunstanburgh Castle sunrise
Dunstanburgh Castle sunrise from the south.

Later that day I spent an hour or two taking shots on Lindsfarne in the old harbour while Julia and the kids did some sketching. It's certainly my favourite part of Holy Island and generally doesn't get too busy. We had hoped to get across earlier in the week when the tides would have prevented crossing just after 10am, but the weather wasn't up to it. As a result the causeway was open till gone noon and by that time Holy Island was getting quite busy.

Holy Island harbour boats
Holy Island harbour boats

Thursday I set the alarm again, but instead of uncannily waking up ten minutes beforehand I was dead to the world at 4.12am. I poked my head behind the curtains and there was already a thin orange strip bound by dark clouds. 45 minutes before sunrise! I pulled my clothes on and jumped in the car and headed north to Bamburgh. The orange strip started fading so I stopped off briefly at Beadnell Bay. 

Fading orange strip - Beadnell Bay

Would I make it to Bamburgh or not for sunrise or was that it? I jumped back in the car and tried my best not to glance to my right. Head down and forge onwards. Thankfully it's less than a minutes walk to the beach and I made it just in time as the bottom of the clouds were starting to light up. 

Bamburgh Castle sunrise
Good morning Bamburgh - 4 portrait images stitched with PTAssembler

A nice sunrise over the Farne Islands and not a soul out to enjoy it. Three surfers and a lone dog walker did make it down onto the beach at 6am, 45 mins after the sun first popped up. 

Friday night I ventured over to Low Newton and managed a bit of a sunset (tricky on the east coast ) and then a fabulous moon rise over Embleton bay. 

Moonrise Low Newton
Moonrise from Low Newton

Alarm set again for Saturday morning, third time in a row, but after parting the curtains at 4am to be greeted with grey skies I returned to bed for a much needed lie in!

All in all a great week I was a little disappointed at the start of the week with the weather, but as ever persistence paid off.