Thursday, 24 December 2009

Seven Sisters - Revisited

After even more snow I decided to revisit the Seven Sisters in Houghton-Le-Spring. This ancient burial ground is situated at one of the highest points in the town and today it overlooks hundreds of snow covered rooftops. As you'd imagine, the cold bites even harder up a height and today was certainly no exception.

There were a few local kids sledging off the burial mound but they left shortly after I arrived. I must remember to use deodorant!

Aye, this time I was well equipped. I had me wooly hat on and me digits were given a slight bit of respite from the cold in the shape of a rather nice pair o' mitts. Without a fully working set of fingers I might struggle to operate my camera settings so I needed to treat them with a bit of care. After all, they'd been put through the rings during the last few days during my regular photo outings.

Well, they certainly kept me fingers warm but they were nee good when pressing little buttons and rotating filters and the like. I got there in the end though.

The sun had set and there was quite a bit of after colour on the horizon. The Seven Sisters were once again threw into silhouette as I quickly got to work. I tried a few different positions (oo er!)
and grabbed a varity of shots, including a 3 frame panorama that I could later stitch with the help of Photoshop . I had experienced many a chill during my recent Christmas photography outings but none compared to this one. I had to sit in the car with the heaters on for a good ten minutes before driving back home. If I'd stayed out any longer I woulda' froze. You do some strange things to get the photo's you want. Some would say it's dedication - some would say I want my head checking.
What do you think?...he he.

Merry Christmas to one and all on this Christmas Eve 2009.

More Christmas Scenes...

Another visit to Gateshead's Angel Of The North - my first visit in the snow. Despite the clear blue skies and an appearance from Mr Sun, it was once again very cold here in the north-east of England. I was accompanied by my 8 year old son Christopher, as we had an afternoon sledging the slopes around the Angel. We had a good laugh, as did the others who were sledging next to us, before I grabbed a few photo's before we headed off home for a bite to eat. The sun came out from behind the low cloud cover at just the right time. The rusty colour of the Angel was now prominent so I done the necessary before it disappeared again. A few minutes later it was gone!

Someone had made a small snowman on a fence post nearby. The little fella wanted to destroy it but I quickly put him in his place...tut tut! It helped give some foreground interest along the pathway to the angel, as you can see in the photograph below.

After packing my camera away my son said 'Ok Dad, NOW can I bash the snowman up'.
I told him to 'Gerra Life' and leave the little fella alone...he he dropped his snowball and we made our way back to the car park (wink). Ee eh, the young 'uns today!

Until the next time, see ya,

St Michael's Church, Houghton-Le-Spring

The snow just wouldn't stop!
I don't ever recall seeing so much snow falling in my home town of Houghton-Le-Spring. The roads were awful, with many cars abandoned at the roadside in such terrible driving conditions. Radio reports confirmed that some of the major in-roads were closed and the very steep Houghton Cut was one of the casualties. I'd just returned by car from Pennywell, a journey which would normally take twenty minutes but actually took seventy! For the most part I was in first gear. Quite unbelievable really, but the roads were so bad that every car was at snails pace. No hurry though, as it was very much a case of safety first.

On my return to Houghton I headed up the road from Longacre to the nearby town centre and St Michael & All Angels Church. Another picturesque Christmas scened awaited and there I was with my kit bag and tripod, in search of those elusive Christmas card shots. On arrival at the church I noticed one or two people standing at a nearby bus stop. Surely they weren't waiting for a bus in these conditions! Long wait, mate! There were no snowball throwing 'Chavs' kicking about so I was quite relieved, now expecting an uninterrupted photo session. Mind you, I was quite in the mood to 'Scrub' a few of the local scruffs so in a small way I was a bit disappointed...he he. Ah well...

The snow was at least six inches thick as I trudged through the church grounds. It was still falling as I took my first shots of the church and my flashgun picked up a few flakes as they fell into the shot.

I was quite pleased with the results. I'll be definately offering them to the vicar in postcard form next Christmas. It's always nice to help out free of charge. I was only inside St Michael's Church a couple of days ago to see my son in his school nativity play and we will probably return in 2010. Who knows, my postcards may well be sitting in the rack alongside the others.

Thanks for reading. Ash

Christmas Scenes - Durham City

Durham City centre is one of those places you just never get sick of visiting. Steeped in history, Durham is also known as the 'Land Of The Prince Bishops' and Christmas time brings the best out of this idyllic picturesque setting, especially when snow has fallen.

I was up bright and early for this one. There was a thick covering of snow and I was looking for one shot in particular. Step back in time to August 2009, when I was in the grounds of Durham Cathedral taking a hatful of photographs. At the rear of the Cathedral, near Priors Hall, stands a large conifer tree. I was looking at the tree and imagining a snow scene with it's branches covered in thick white snow, with the perfect backdrop of Durham Cathedral in the shot. Just then, I realized it was a hot Summers day and that I would hold my idea in the memory bank, 'For future reference' as they say.

Step forward in time, to the present day - 21st December 2009. Here I am once again in the grounds of Durham Cathedral but there's no short sleeve t-shirt and sun glasses. Oh no, although the sun is shining once again and there's another clear blue sky, it's bitterly cold. But who cares eh, that imaginary snow scene that I picured in my head just a few months ago, well, it's standing right in front of me!

And there it was, just as I had imagined it. The conifer tree was covered alright, and the ground was a carpet of thick white snow. The backdrop of Durham Cathedral dominated the Christmas scene in front of me, and all things considered, this was going to make a lovely photograph. I was soon off and running, firing off at least twenty shots in high-resolution RAW format, each weighing in at a massive 28 megabytes!

With the shots in the bag I then made my way through the Cloisters and into the Cathedral. There is a strict 'No Photography Allowed' policy within the cathedral, which is a pity because I could have done some real 'Damage' in there with my camera. Never mind, you can't have everything. After leaving the Cathedral and entering the nearby Palace Green I was greeted by a Robin eating bread on a nearby seat. A quick pitstop and my short lens was replaced by a 300mm effort, which was more than capable of pulling in some decent wildlife shots. The Robin swiftly ate the bread before flying off and perching itself on a nearby branch. I fired off three quick shots before it flew off into the grounds of Durham Castle.

From Palace Green I headed off down to the banks of the River Wear for some more photography. I was surprised that the area was so quiet. I only recall passing half a dozen walkers on my way back to the car.

Once I was back in the car it was a case of 'Heaters on full throttle' to take the chill off me. I was bloody nithered! But hey, what's a bit of sub-zero temperatures between friends, eh!

Thanks again, Ash

Friday, 18 December 2009

Bitterly Bitterly Cold!

After this mornings visit to Penshaw Hill I thought I'd visit another local landmark in Houghton-Le-Spring. The snow had started to thaw, but as the afternoon light dropped, the cold well and truly set in. Well, the snow might be gone tomorrow so there was no time to sit around. It was around 3.30pm and I drove up to the Copt Hill Barrow, known locally as the Seven Sisters. It is a Neolithical burial ground with a bit of history behind it, as you'd expect.

I found a decent spot near a path that leads to the Seven Sisters, realizing this would give a nice lead-in line to my shots. I mounted my camera on the tripod and fired off a few frames using low shutter speeds. Yeah, they were ok. I waited until the sun had set before grabbing a few more shots, as the colours in the sky changed quite dramatically. The odd dog walker passed by, probably wondering what the hell I was doing up that hill in such cold conditions. He was right!

I started to ask me'sel the same question as I struggled to alter my camera settings when my fingers started to freeze. After half an hour I headed back to the car where I had to sit with the heaters on for a few minutes to ease my numb limbs. Ee eh, the things ya dee for a few photies! A must be rund tha bloody twist!

When I got back home the Mrs had a nice bowl of hot soup waiting for me. Ahh lovely. I tucked in like a starving dog, dippin' me crusty bread in and hoyin' it down me neck like there was nee tomorra. Then I sat on the sofa and showed the little one my latest photo's. He thought they were great! I thought they weren't bad either. Sometimes you've gotta push the limits to get the shots you want. Cold? what cold?

The snow is falling heavily as I type. I'm looking out the window (11.36pm) and there's a big fat covering. I might just be out again tomorrow. The Mrs wants to take me for a lunchtime curry. Can't see me knocking that one back. We'll see what develops, eh.

Thanks for reading, folks!

Snow Is Falling...

Yes, today saw the first snowfall of Winter 09/10 in Houghton-Le-Spring. It was an on-off affair during the early hours and that trend continued through the rest of the day. I was up bright and early for the school run as my annual Christmas holidays started a couple of days early. Once the little fella was safely into school I headed over to Penshaw, which was only a ten minute drive. My intention was to visit Penshaw Monument for the umpteenth time this year, but this time I was after those elusive snow scene shots that I've always managed to miss. Work and other commitments have denied me bagging this type of shot down the years but hopefully that was all about to change.

There was a fair covering of snow, not too deep, but enough to offer a photographer a chance to grab some nice shots. When I reached the monument I immediately parked up next to the gate at the foot of the hill. Just then, a stroke of luck! The sun suddenly lifted above the low cloud cover on the horizon and threw some great light across Penshaw Hill and it's monument. Time to set my idle hands to work. I knew I was onto something good when the backdrop to the monument started to clear and blue sky appeared with its picturesque fluffy white clouds. This was just what I wanted and although the light changed for the worst after only a few minutes, I was confident I'd finally captured my first snow scenes at Penshaw Hill.

I made the short walk through the gate and into the nearby field where cattle were grazing. They were obviously used to people as they seemed more than comfortable in my presence.

Having said that, I was standing literally a few feet away from a bull that was rather scarey with those sharp horns so I didn't hang around for too long. I think it's known in the trade as 'Your arse falling out'. Aye, that was me away and back in the car in no time.

It seemed like an age since I was last out with my camera. Too much work and no play makes AC a dull boy!

Oh well, until the next time...

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Sunderland Echo - Part 2

And just to finish off my earlier blog - here, as promised, are the other 4 images that were published in the Sunderland Echo in 2009. Thanks! Catch ya later, Ash

My Work In The Sunderland Echo

Hello again folks!
Well, as 2009 comes to and end I thought I'd add a few more images to my blog. I've been very busy lately due to a demand for my framed images in the run-up to Christmas, so I haven't had the opportunity to get out with my camera. So, maybe this is the best time to take a retrospective peep at some of my 2009 images that I've had published in my local newspaper, the Sunderland Echo.

Every now and then they run an article called 'Picture Perfect' which displays photographs that have been submitted by readers of the newspaper. I've submitted eight of my own over the last few months and it was nice to see them all published. Some of them (shown below) were also published on the daily 'Letters Page' and I will be submitting more of my work during 2010.

I also intend to target one or two other local publications such as 'North-East Life' and my local 'Houghton Community Times' brochure. We'll see what happens about that in the next few weeks and I'll post any developments here on my blog.
Here is half of the images I submitted, with the other four to follow very shortly. Each one is featured on my website so feel free to pop over and view them in better quality. Cheers, Ash

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Simple Minds - Live At Sheffield Arena

When the house lights went down it was a swift move from Row 4 to the front - what a great view! The venue was packed and it was time for the headline act - Simple Minds. A huge cheer greeted the band as they made their way on to the stage, one by one. As expected, it was frontman Jim Kerr who was last to make his entry, as the opening song 'Sanctify Yourself' kicked off a great show. Simple Minds, who are Jim Kerr (lead vocals), Charlie Burchill (lead guitar), Eddie Duffy (bass) and Mel Gaynor (drums) were accompanied by Andy Gillespie (keyboards) and Sarah Brown (backing vocals).

It was hard to believe that we were standing in such a great position next to the stage, with the band performing just a few feet away. Every now and then Charlie Burchill and Eddie Duffy would swap places on stage so we got a close-up of each guitarist throughout the show. This was great for me, standing there with me little Fuji compact, waiting for those photo opportunities. There were plenty of them too. At times the light was low and this threw up the odd challenge here and there as I tinkered with the camera settings to get some good shots. There was an official snapper in the pit, just in front of me, and I couldn't help wishing I was in his shoes with my DSLR. I reckon I could have done some damage with me trusty old Nikon!

Once again it was a case of 'Do the best you can, with what you've got'. When I looked behind me I realised how lucky I was to be standing at the front. There were thousands of people and even the folks 'In the gods' looked like they were making the most of it. As the night wore on Simple Minds got better and better, churning out a string of well known hits with a sprinkling of new material in between. Highlights for me were I Travel, Moscow Underground, New Gold Dream, Waterfront & Someone Somewhere In Summertime, amongst others. The band played on and on.
I wasn't too sure what to expect before the gig. I'm not a big Minds fan to be honest, as I lost interest after the 1982 album 'New Gold Dream', which is still an all-time favourite of mine. Although I'd seen the band put on a great show in 2006, during the Black And White' tour, I wasn't overly excited about tonight's gig. However, on reflection it has to be said that this was one of the best concerts I've attended. I wish I'd bought a recording of show, which was available on memory stick in the foyer afterwards. Twenty quid they wanted. Kept me money for a kebab on the way home though. Aye, nowt gets in the way of me hungry belly, eh folks!

OMD - Live At Sheffield Arena

Orchestral Manoevres In The Dark, better known as OMD, were the support band for Simple Minds during their 2009 arena tour. Here at Sheffied Arena the venue was only half full when OMD began their 60 minute set, but they quickly got into their stride by belting out hits from their back catalogue. The band comprises of Andy McCluskey (vocals, bass & keyboards), Paul Humpreys (keyboards), Martin Cooper (keyboards) and Malcolm Holmes (drums).

The first couple of rows were taken up by die-hard OMD fans who managed to secure the best seats when their pre-sales tickets went on sale a day before the Simple Minds pre-sale link went live. Never mind, we were in row 4, dead centre, which could have been a lot worse considering the size of the venue. The overall sound was excellent and OMD played a great set, including Enola Gay, Forever Live And Die, Souvenir & Sailing On The Seven Seas. It was during 'Seven Seas' that the legendary 'Shirlo' (friend and long time Simple Minds fan) donned her dancing shoes and put in a bit of light entertainment nearby. Aye, a right laugh. Nice one Shirlo!

OMD returned to the stage later in the evening, joining Simple Minds to perform a version of Kraftwerk's Neon Lights, which was warmly received by the crowd. The support slot was a great warm-up for the headline act and OMD were every bit as good as the last time I saw them in Newcastle as part of the 30th Anniversary Tour. Andy McCluskey was showered with ladies underwear during the 60 minute set. I hope me missus doesn't go berserk when she realizes half of her knicker drawer has gone missing...he he (wink)!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Joe Cornish Exhibition - Newcastle

This one was by invite. The venue was Digitalab in Ouseburn, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
The weather today has been awful so I was quite glad to sit this one out and let my friend take on the driving duties in treacherous conditions, it has to be said. Mind you, travelling in a Nissan Murano along the A1(M) seems like a safe bet in even the worst of conditions, but when you're not paying attention to the Sat-Nav, you're asking for bother. Yak yak yak.

We got there in the end though. Digitalab is situated on Stepney Bank, Ouseburn. They specialise in the production and finishing of highest quality photographic printing. On the premises is a small gallery, which is where the stunning landscape photography of Joe Cornish was being displayed today.

Joe Cornish Biography :
Joe was born in Exeter in 1958. He studied art at Reading University, where he first came under the spell of photography. After graduating in 1980, two years assisting in Washington DC and two years assisting studio and car photographers in London prepared him for a career in mainstream commercial photography.
It never happened. His passion for the outdoors encouraged him first to pursue travel work. A meeting with Charlie Waite in 1986 helped provide both an important and ongoing source of inspiration, friendship and mutual cooperation. From 1986 to 1995 Joe was responsible for either all or the majority of the photography in more than thirty travel books. An assignment with Raleigh International in 1991 was to inspire an abiding love of wild places and wilderness, and ultimately to alter the direction of his work. Around the same time he began a working relationship with the National Trust photolibrary that continues to this day, and this experience has convinced him of the vital role photography plays in inspiring environmental conservation.

Joe knew that his first photographic hero, Ansel Adams, had built his reputation as a landscape photographer by working in Yosemite Valley as a warden for eight years. If London had been a necessary phase in his photographic apprenticeship, it was never going to provide the backdrop for practising the skills needed for landscape. Moving to North Yorkshire in 1993 was a vital first step to fulfilling this goal. Towards the end of 1995, after a frustrating assignment doing travel photography in Greece he made the decision to devote his photography to landscape in general, and wild places in particular. He began this process shooting on the Horseman SW 612 wide-angle camera, but after a year switched completely to 5x4 inch. He has been using various versions of the 5x4 Ebony field camera ever since.

The North York Moors and coast are Joe's personal Yosemite, and other outstanding landscapes of northern England have been a further source of inspiration not too far away. He also has a deep affinity for Scotland's magnificent coast and mountains, and has travelled widely throughout the UK for the National Trust, specialising in particular on the coastline. He believes he must have seen as much of the British coast from the land, as anyone else alive.

Joe has continued to be involved in books, having contributed heavily to many National Trust publications, especially Coast and Countryside, published in 1996. His first book as an author was First Light, a Landscape Photographers Art, 2002, now in its fifth printing. More recently he wrote and photographed Scotland's Coast, a Photographer's Journey, and shot the pictures for Urbino, (a hill town in central Italy) a rare departure into architectural photography.

He writes regularly for Outdoor Photography and Amateur Photographer magazines, and his work has been featured in (American) Outdoor Photographer magazine. In January 2006 Amateur Photographer honoured him with their annual Power of Photography award.

In 1999 Joe started Joegraphic, with designers Joni and Joe Essex, a business devoted to producing a range of cards and calendars. This has since grown and is now developing into Joe Cornish Galleries as a trademark. It includes the production of limited edition prints, two galleries, and embraces a publishing programme that also features the work of other fine photographers.

Joe has given lectures on landscape photography throughout the UK and as far afield as New Zealand. He is an experienced workshop leader, having led tours for Charlie Waite's company, Light and Land for a decade, and also for Inversnaid photography workshops. Photographic companies who work with Joe include Lee Filters, Fujifilm UK, Gitzo and Lowepro.

Todays exhibition was a preview for the main event, 'An Evening With Joe Cornish' which takes place on Tuesday 1st December. Work commitments scuppered any chance of me attending the event and meeting Joe in person, so today's preview was the nearest I was going to get to see the man's work up close for the first time. There wasn't a great deal of exhibits, but what was on display was of the highest quality in every photographic sense. Each image was mounted and framed before being signed by the artist and then promptly priced between £400-£500.00 each! Quite steep you may suggest, but anyone who knows their photographic onions would agree that imagery of such a high standard as this deserves to command such a fee.

Each image had been printed 'In house' using the latest high-end large format printing equipment. As the images were of local interest I could relate to them quite easily, as I'd often walked these locations before, unknowingly re-tracing the steps of Joe Cornish. There were images of Holy Island, Budle Bay, Dunstanburgh Castle and St Mary's Lighthouse. At a quick turn there were postcards of Newcastle Quayside, Angel Of The North and Roseberry Topping. Each one was breathtaking and the bar was most definately set for any photographer wishing to reach the standard Joe Cornish has set.

My friend introduced me to Jill Roe, exhibitions manager at Digitalab. The three of us had a chat about Joe's work and she said how excited she was about the forthcoming event where visitors could meet Joe in person. I told Jill of my own interest in photography and printing techniques before she gave us a tour of the printing studio upstairs. This was a very modern 'State of the art' set-up. I have a large A3+ inkjet myself, but some of these big boys made mine look like an Oxo cube in comparison. Then again, when you're shelling out £175,000 for a printer you obviously mean business. We were shown a large collection of top quality prints in finest detail on a variety of media, including photo papers, canvas wraps and fujiflex.

This was definately well worth a look out. Very much a case of 'Food For Thought.'
In the meantime, why not take a look at the work of Joe Cornish - a genius in his field.
Finally, a link to Digitalab.

Thanks, Ash

Gary Numan - Live At Sunderland Campus

What a nice surprise - Gary Numan playing a live show in Sunderland instead of Newcastle. The venue was the Campus Academy, and this was the north-east leg of the 'Pleasure Principle' tour. Gary had already successfully toured his 1980 album 'Telekon' so it seemed a natural choice to get back on the road and play the 'PP' album in a similar fashion. It's been 30 years since the release of that album so I was interested in how it would be performed after all this time. Would it be played live as it was back in the day, or would Gary opt for a contemporary 'Beefed Up' rendition?

On arrival at the venue we were met by a very long queue at the door. I wasn't expecting that! Still 15 minutes before the doors open too. My compact camera was tucked away but the likelihood of getting a good spot near the front looked...well...unlikely.

It wasn't long before we were out of the cold and indoors, and I must say the concert room was bigger than I had first anticipated. The walls were covered with American style memorabilia and although the stage looked a bit cramped with all that gear, I was still expecting a great show once the music kicked in.

The support act 'Dirty Harry' were quite good. Loud, proud and very much live. A quick changeover and the main event started around 9pm. Numan's band quickly got into their stride, kicking off with the 'Pleasure Principle album and a couple of extra songs from that period. I'm not sure why there were 4 keyboard players though, one of which was Gary himself.

The music was excellent, just as I had hoped it would be. The synths were as powerful as always and on reflection it was quite hard to believe that these songs were actually written 30 years ago!

Well, I managed to grab a few shots, but being a few rows back hindered my chances of pulling in some big ones, plus the lighting was quite poor for 'Point And Shoot' photography. After Gary and the band had played the 'PP' album in its entireity the mood quickly changed as the more recent darker songs were introduced. Not really my cuppa tea to be honest folks, but quite a few of the punters were well into it. Towrds the end of the show we got 'Down In The Park', 'Are Friends Electric' and 'We Are So Fragile' before the final track 'A Prayer For The Unborn'. A great way to finish the night. This was probably the best Numan gig I'd been to and it was great to hear the live versions of an album which was the first one I ever bought back in '79. Showing me age now, eh!
Ah...the days of vinyl records...

Later, Ash

Monday, 23 November 2009

Edinburgh Stop Over

It's was back up the A1 motorway again and my fourth visit to Edinburgh of 2009. This time it was a one night stopover on the way to Livingston, a town approximately thirteen and a half miles south-west of Edinburgh. The rain scuppered any chance of me grabbing some early evening low-light shots of the illuminated castle, which was top of my photography wish-list during our brief stopover. Infact, I didn't manage any photography at all on Sunday night and it wasn't too long before we were back in our hotel on the City's High Street.

The following morning I awoke early and headed up the Royal Mile towards Edinburgh Castle. The sun had just risen and it quickly disappeared behind the low cloud cover on the horizon. At this time I was in the castle car park overlooking the rooftops towards the west. It's a spectacular view alright, with the hills in the distance and some of the finest architecture in the foreground. It was very chilly, which was to be expected at this time of year, and particularly at such a high vantage point. But no visit to Edinburgh would be complete without a visit to the castle so the customary 'Showing of the face' happened once again. It was a pity that the weather last night got in the way of what was potentially a perfect opportunity to get the shots I was after. Oh well, maybe next time.

At mid-day we headed out of the City and back onto the A1, homeward bound. With the belly rumbling once again it was a case of a quick detour into Eyemouth to sample another helping of delicious haggis & chips. This was the third haggis I'd pouched in the space of 24 hours! Dear me, I must go sit in the corner and have a quiet word with ones self (wink).

All in all, an enjoyable visit to both Edinburgh and Livingston.
Cheers, Ash

Friday, 20 November 2009

Lumiere - Durham Light Show 2009

Following my attendance at last years light show in the centre of Durham City, I was looking forward to another spectacular in the shape of 'Lumiere'. It was at the same point in 2008 that 'Enlightenment' had taken place so it was time to see whether the 2009 offerings would eclipse that one.

(Copied and pasted from the 'Lumiere' website)
LUMIERE is a four-day festival that will brighten the historic city of Durham, bringing a sprinkle of winter magic to the North East. More than 50 artists will create a breathtaking series of installations, illuminations and performances using light. Lumiere will turn the city into a winter wonderland, transforming its stunning buildings, streets and riverbanks, with a nocturnal winter festival that will amaze residents and visitors alike. Prepare to be dazzled…
As in 2008, the event wasn't advertised very well and I only found out about it through a work colleague. Nevertheless, it was almost here and the batteries were fully charged as I had every intention of attending each of the four nights. Well, that didn't go to plan, as the strong winds and rain on the very first night kept me indoors. Never mind, there's always tomorrow.

Friday came around quick enough and I headed for Durham City straight from a days work on the busy production line at Nissan. I arrived at Durham Cathedral around 3.50pm and the area, including Palace Green, was very quiet. A few of the event staff were making final preparations in the build-up to the second night of the light show, with large projection equipment getting a final inspection before play time. I waited for the deep blue hue in the sky before taking my first shots of the night, in the grounds of Durham Cathedral. This particular light show, CROWN OF LIGHT, was quite spectacular, especially the images that were projected onto the Cathedral itself. They were almost surreal, but eerie at the same time. As the images were projected, the Cathedral bells chimed, with a few seconds between each chime. Yes, it had the desired effect. Quite spooky!

After spending most of my first night in the vacinity of the cathedral I decided to cover different parts of the 'Lumiere' trail on my second night, Saturday 14th November. This time I was down on the banks of the River Wear and what a lovely view it was. From a vantage point on the riverside, opposite Durham Cathedral, I was greeted by an array of colours that were being projected across the water by strong laser beams. At this point the lights which were illuminating the cathedral itself had been switched off, making photography a big ask when struggling to focus on the focal point itself. The light across the water was very bright, yet across the top of the frame, where I wanted it most, it was almost non-existant. Auto focus wasn't playing so it was manual all the way to get what I wanted. I got there eventually!

After bagging a few more shots I headed back along the riverside towards the nearby Prebends Bridge. It was here that I set up stall, on some steps at the waters edge. This location is where you get a great view of the Cathedral and it's often the position many photographers take up to grab those picture postcard images. I spent a good 20 minutes here, pulling in some nice shots as the pinky-purple colours were at their most prominent in the sky.
Time was pushing on so I quickly made my way across Prebends Bridge and up the incline towards the Cathedral and Palace Green. A quick detour took me through the Cathedral grounds, passing NINE MEN DRAWING along the way. Next stop was the Cloisters, one of my favourite parts of Durham Cathedral. It was here that the 'Lumiere' trail presented visitors with DUNE, an eerie interactive work that whispers and lights up as you walk through it. My last port of call tonight was WINTER GARDEN, a collection of tropical flowers which bloom in winter from beneath Elvet Bridge. Well, not flowers as such, but long flourescent tubes in a variety of colours - quite eye-catching too. Mind you, I nearly didn't make it. After leaving the Cloisters and making my way through Durham Cathedral I was met by the sight of thousands of people at the front, watching the light show from Palace Green. The queue to gain access to the Cathedral was unreal. Some folk obviously don't mind waiting, and waiting, and waiting! The wait was all down to CHORUS, huge pendulums that mesmerise the viewer with light and sound. Well, that was second night on the 'Lumiere' trail had reached its end. Time to head home and put the owld feet up, whilst guzzling a lager or two.

The following night, Sunday 15th November, was the last night of 'Lumiere'. Although I hadn't visited all of the artworks, there was only one or two of the main players that I hadn't recorded and it was time to put that right. My weekend parking ticket got me started once again on the banks of the River Wear, this time at Framwellgate Bridge where I photographed STARRY NIGHTS and FLUX after a brief visit to the Market Place. It was here where a living portrait of the city was projected onto its buildings. This diplay was known as A PLACE FOR FOR THE PEOPLE.
Moving on once again...the view along the waters edge near Framwellgate Bridge was one of the best of the whole trail, taking in Durham Castle, Durham Cathedral and the bustling Framwellgate Bridge in the foreground. A huge inflatable star was perched high on the castle parapet, which finished off my shots with that little something extra. Mind you, I set my kit up next to the 'InShanghai' chinese buffet and I was beginning to wish I hadn't. Oh dear, the smell was making me very hungry. A quick peep in the window didn't help. Seeing the huge selection of food with steam rising from it only added to my hunger. I was beginning to get sidetracked folks! Aye, me belly was telling me to pack me gear up and get me'sel in there but I held off, against all the odds. I fired off a dozen or so frames as the light show started on Framwellgate Bridge. Glancing over to my right I noticed a rather portly chap tucking into a large plate of barbeque spare ribs in the restaurant. I remember thinking to myself 'The lucky beggar', as I chewed on my Wrigley's Extra that had as much taste as a bloody ice cube! I felt like walking over to the window where he ate to press my face against it...he he he...but thought against it in the end. My thoughts of envy, as he tucked into another fat rib, quickly turned to frustration as I thought to myself... 'Ere pal, I hope you choke on the bloody thing' !!!! (Only jokin' folks...ahem...).
Well, that was the end of 'Lumiere' for me. Back to the car and off home. It was nice to get more event coverage under my belt in the form of low-light photography. The conditions are always a challenge but the results can quite often be very spectacular!
Until the next time,

Thursday, 5 November 2009

It's that time of year again

Yes, it's that time of year again. Autumn is almost over and Winter will soon be upon us. It's usually this time of year that my time 'In the field' with my trusty Nikon is at a minimum as I fulfill orders for framed prints in the run-up to Christmas. Although many hours are put in when printing and framing my images, with the rewards being very welcome, I still get most enjoyment when I'm out there, doing the easy bit - capturing those rather nice digital images. Now that the early dark nights are here, plus those sensible 'Alarm Clock' mornings for sunset shots, I'll still be putting time aside for more low-light work. This is an area of photography that I've always had a big interest in and my website will testify to this. Of course, it's all pot-luck isn't it. There's been many a time I've turned up at 5.00am onwards but the sun hasn't. But, as they say, if you don't buy a raffle ticket...

So, although October was a busy time for updates at, November could well be lighter in the way of new offerings. I have quite a lot of orders to fulfill, including framed images, calendars, postcards and mounts, but all work and no play might see me miss out on some nice new shots. The batteries are charged and the Lowepro bag is fully equipped...stay tuned...

Thank ya kindly, AC

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Autumn Leaves

Well, it's that time again. Autumn is upon us and it's a nice time of year to grab those colourful shots. For one reason or another I don't have a great deal of Autumn photographs in my library, although I try to rectify this every year and fail miserably. Again, in Autumn 2009, the weather has been poor on my days off so I haven't managed a great deal as far as decent shots are concerned. Of course, as I write, there's still a couple of weeks to go before the leaves have all fallen so all is not lost - fingers crossed for a lovely sunny day or two.

Last Sunday I popped out for an hour before lunch. I headed over to Durham Cathedral and the nearby Palace Green, where, on a previous visit, I noticed a nice potential Autumn shot as the leaves on a house were starting to turn red. I grabbed a couple of shots and headed out of the City Centre in search of more shots. As you can see in the photograph, the colours are lovely, but maybe a week or so later I would have captured more red leaves and less green. Nevertheless, a nice shot.

Then there was a quick stop-off at the Angel Of The North. Just one tree was showing any kind of decent colour so I took up position to include it in the shot. Here it is.
Til the next time...Ash

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Bowes Museum, County Durham

Every Saturday, except when I'm working, my wife and I jump into the car and find a nice quiet pub for a drink and a spot of lunch. We've found some great pubs on our travels over the last few months and it's just nice to get away from it all for an hour or two. If the weather is nice we normally go for a stroll to brush off the owld cobwebs - knar wot a mean?
Barnard Castle was where we ended up this time. We parked up near the Castle and headed off in search of a pub with grub. An hour later, after being fed and watered we had a walk along the riverside and then back up the hill for a quick look around the shops. Just before we left for home we stopped off at Bowes Museum and it's lovely gardens. Aye, a nice afternoon all round.

Who knows where we'll end up next time...
Cheers, Ash (and Amanda)

Friday, 16 October 2009

Holy Island & Lindisfarne

The day was Saturday September 12th 2009. My original plan was to head north up the A1 and grab some panoramic landscape shots of Alnwick Castle. It was 11.00am and after realizing that the sun had risen around 5.30am, I had a feeling that by the time I arrived at the castle the sun would have been shining on the wrong side of its walls. Well, I got there to find exactly that. My intended vantage point for photography was now out of the question as the walls were in shade and from where I was standing...well, not much point in flogging a deed horse! So, that was that - it was now time for Plan B.

Plan B was a hastily arranged trip to Holy Island & Lindisfarne, which was a few miles further north. I say 'Hastily' as it was decided in a matter of seconds without any prior knowledge of the day's tide tables. Anyone who knows Holy Island will be well aware that the causeway is flooded at high tide, preventing motorists from making the crossing. I got lucky.

I arrived at the causeway at approximately 11.30am. It was safe to cross and I had until 7.15pm before leaving the island at high tide. So, plenty time to kill and the weather was perfect, a lovely warm day with no breeze and barely a cloud in the sky. After parking on the Island I made my way down to The Heughs, a rugged peice of terrain behind Lindisfarne Priory. It is here that visitors can enjoy great panoramic views of the island, including the Priory ruins as well as the Castle, Marina and even Bamburgh Castle in the distance. A couple of sailing boats were anchored just off the heughs. On one boat was a man playing the violin. You could hear a pin drop on this calm beautiful day as the vioilinist played 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow.'

I took a few shots of the priory ruins before taking a short break on the sand banks nearby. I was planning to photograph the Marina after taking in the tranquil setting for a few minutes. The Marina area is quite photogenic, with old upturned cobles here and there, plus a scattering of lobster pots and anchors.

Before heading off for a spot of lunch at Seahouses, in the shape of Haggis n' Chips, I took a few shots within the grounds of St Ann's Church, including a lovely panorama of Lindisfarne Priory which can be viewed at

Job done! A great day...these Plan B's come in handy from time to time...

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Washington Old Hall

Having bought a National Trust membership and not used it in months, I thought it was high time I got my act together and got my money's worth. It was a lovely warm day and I didn't fancy a big drive, opting to stay local and pay a visit to Washington Old Hall. I grabbed a few photo's inside the hall during my last visit in 2008, so this time I hoped to grab a few in the grounds. The Jacobean Gardens are very photogenic and depending on what time of year you visit, there's a variety of colour in the many plants within the grounds. The adjacent Nuttery didn't have a great deal to offer although it was the ideal 'Secret Garden' to get away from it all.
I was lucky enough to photograph the intricate topiary near the site entrance, shortly after a fresh cut from the resident gardener. The photograph was very similar to the one I shot last year which was used on the St Benedict's 2009 calendar that I contributed to. Well worth a visit.


Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Great North Run 2009

It's that time again. It doesn't seem five minutes since the 2008 Great North Run. In many ways today, the day of the 2009 run, is very similar to last years event. I find myself on the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle and the area is packed with spectators on another sunny day in September. The drummers have turned up again, adding to the carnival atmosphere that has made this event a big hit since it started back in 1981.

Last year I photographed the runners at four different locations on the GNR route, beginning on the Tyne Bridge. This year I decided against 'Trashing it' and settled on photographing
from one location only. Naturally, many of the roads were closed to allow the run to take place, so driving from location to location on the route had it's problems and car parking was a nightmare too. So, the Tyne Bridge was an ideal backdrop for todays photographs and I was armed with a set of fresh batteries and an empty memory card - it was time to roll.

At around 10.30am the first disabled runners came through, follwed a few minutes later by the Elite Woman. Next it was the turn of the Elite Men, followed by the baggage coaches, and there were plenty of them!

Soon enough the main race started and thousands of runners were heading towards me on the Tyne Bridge. Many were in fancy dress and I kept my eyes peeled for the odd celebrity or two, which isn't easy when there's so many people running towards you. I fired off dozens of frames in sports mode, often catching runers with a series of staggered shots. The old stick standing next to me kept telling her grandchildren that she's seen this one and that one from Emmerdale - I never saw them, and even if I did I wouldn't admit it...he he. Then I heard her shout 'Hello Mr Ramsey'...bloody hell, the swearing chef had just ran past me!

I did manage to catch a couple of celebs on camera though. Jerome Flynn, half of the Robson & Jerome double act, and someone from Emmerdale...oh no, did I just say Emmerdale! Oh, go on then.

I stayed until the last runners had gone past, and followed shortly after by the 'Sweep Vehicle' that was clearing the road so that the bridge could resume normal service. Well, by this time it was almost mid-day so I made the short journey back to my car in Gateshead and then off home where a lovely big fat lamb roast was about to be served up. The Mrs, she's a little she is!


Monday, 28 September 2009

HMS Ocean

2009 has so far been a good year for me regarding sales of my work. It's always interesting to find out who has bought my images, whether they are mounted, mounted and framed, or simply prints on their own. Now and again I find that my work has been sent on to people around the country, who may have once lived here in the North-East and want a little something to remind them of the region.

I regularly exhibit my work in the Sunderland Tourist Information Centre. I have had quite a lot of success since my first framed photograph was sold there back in November 2008 and my latest sale has a bit of a story behind it. The photograph above, which is Penshaw Monument At Dusk, was mounted and framed on request before being displayed in the Sunderland Tourist Information Centre and has achieved sales of 10 in the last few months alone. Sat in a 40 inch panoramic frame, the image is quite dramatic and shows Sunderland's most prominent landmark at it's best. The last unit on display was bought as a presentation gift and has found itself a new home - onboard HMS Ocean, the giant Royal Navy helicopter carrier that made a recent visit to Sunderland. The 22,500 tonne amphibious assault vessel docked at Corporation Quay in Hendon and spent a total of four days there. The warship is a sea-going commando base, capable of rapid deployment anywhere in the world.

It's nice to know that my work is now being displayed on water as well as land, which is something I never envisaged a short while ago. HMS Ocean must have clocked up thousands of miles since it left Sunderland recently - again, a nice thought that my work is reaching territories that I never imagined. And long may it continue!

To view a short article on HMS Ocean's recent visit to Sunderland just click the link below.

Thanks again, Ash

Sunday, 6 September 2009

A Flock Of Seagulls - Newcastle Academy

My first 'Live Music' blog entry. It was time to use my compact Fuji camera again - a permanent fixture when it comes to live music concerts. The battery (and spare) had been charged during the day plus I had the luxury of an empty 4gb memory card.
Tonight it was 'A Flock Of Seagulls', who started life in the 1980's as part of the New Romantic/ Electronic scene. The venue was the O2 Academy in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Quite a few people showed up for this one, although it was by no means a packed house. I went to the Academy with my gig mate 'Billy Bootleg' and got a reality slap at the bar when the young lass charged me £7.20 for two pints of lager!!! Mind you, them Geordies have always been a set of robbing buggers, eh (wink).

The gig itself was great. Fifteen songs in total. At £13 a ticket it was a steal. The support act, Billy Blood-Axe, was a bit of a joke though. Never mind, at least he had the balls to get up on that stage...unlike me. He he.