Monday, 26 December 2011

Boxing Day Dip 2011, Sunderland

I was in two minds whether to bother with this one. It's been a while since I updated my Event Coverage section at so that was one good reason to turn out, but the blustery winds were in danger of getting the better of my indecision. I decided to man-up and get myself down to the coast at Seaburn, Sunderland to photograph my second Boxing Day Dip - the first one I covered was 2009 and a brief blog write up of the event can be found here. Cut and pasted from the online Sunderland Echo newspaper - 14th October, 2011 - It's time to get ready for Sunderland’s 2011 Boxing Day Dip. Hundreds of hardy souls with more charity than sense brave the freezing waters of the North Sea at Seaburn every year in Sunderland Lions Club’s event. This will be the 37th Dip and entries are already coming in – so don’t hang about in getting your form in or you might miss out. Lions spokeswoman Anne Fielding “Last year, 875 dippers took the plunge at Seaburn, raising £60,958 for some 69 different charitable organisations. “Just how brilliant is that? We look forward to this year’s dip being equally successful.”
From penguins and superheroes to characters from Star Wars and Alice in Wonderland, fund-raisers donned a range of wacky costumes for last year’s event. Club president Pam Oliver will make history this year when she dons a sexy lion costume to become the first president to enter the water.

I left the house quite early, giving myself ample time travel to Seaburn and get parked without any delays in time for the 11.00am start. I wish all event coverage was as easy as this one - I got in and out with no problems whatsoever, and even got parked on the doorstep, so to speak. After the event I even had time to grab a nice tray of chips from the shop on Seaburn Promenade, which was empty when I walked in! But enough of that - here a a few photographs I took during this cold, windy day. Well worth the effort though, looking back. To view a full slideshow of 26 images from this event click here.

Cheers, Ash

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Lakes Weekender 2 (Last Night At Camp)

And so it was, back to camp to put our feet up round a blazing open fire. We'd collected a fair whack of fire wood on our journey through the woods at Scarness, so once we touched base I prepared the meal while the others went in search for more wood to burn. I fetched a box of 20 Fosters from the car, which was met with approval from Carlos as he returned with a few logs. Massive portions of Pasta Bolognese were put away, in similar fashion to the lager as we sat round the fire to rest those aching muscles. Brian fell asleep at one point - I remember it well. We had a great weekend and once again I can't wait for our next trip, planned for Spring 2012 and an assault on Helvellyn via Striding Edge, check out a video clip of it here. Certainly not for the faint-hearted, and I'm shit scared of heights! Mind you, I got over Sharp Edge in one piece so I should manage this one no bother, ahem! Until then, a few more photo's of our base camp at Scarness in the Lake District. Have a Happy Christmas and a Great New Year!!!


Lakes Weekender 2 (Skiddaw Summit To Ground Level)

Skiddaw summit to ground level...

In this case 'Ground level' is another name for the Ravenstone Hotel, which is where our challenge started, way back at 10am - seems like an age!

After a 10 minute rest on the summit of Skiddaw, we made our way back down the loose slate path that we struggled with earlier. Of course it was much easier going down than up, but still a testing time for the ankles and knees, as well as the ever aching leg muscles that got us up there in the first place. Although there was still much work to do, it was all down hill from here and we headed off with a smile on our faces. Mission accomplished - it was a toughie but you learn to grit your teeth and push yourself. Had I been on my own I doubt I would have reached the summit - I probably would have thrown in the towel half way up Ullock Pike. My first photo (shown here) was taken just as we began our descent of Skiddaw and the time was 12:57pm - we had to get our skates on before the hotel bar closed, so we had a spurt on, alright. Lee led the way - he must have been promised a free pint, he he. I had much more freedom to take photographs now, as I was so much focused on reaching the summit on the way up that I cast aside any thoughts of stopping to photograph the views. That, coupled with mental exhaustion and my inability to lift the camera up to my eye, he he. I did manage to record a few HD movie clips on my phone though, despite the howling wind spoiling the audio accompaniment.

We continued to have the odd breather on the way down - see my second photo of the group on Carl Side, pausing before our approach to the summit of Ullock Pike. There were very few walkers about at this point, although we did pass a few that were heading in the same direction as us. The sun was quite low, so anyone coming up at this time would have been cutting it fine for a return before sundown. With my supplies of Red Bull and chocolate now spent, it was a case of holding out until we reached the hotel for any kind of refreshment. I'd worked up a decent appetite during this fell walk, so it was music to the ears when Davey announced that Spaghetti Bolognese was on tonights menu, followed by Rice Pudding, cooked on an open camp fire. I'm sure he thought of it gave us an extra gear as we picked up momentum going down the hill.

Again, the views were excellent as we made good time on our journey back to ground level. Probably the best view bar none was that of Bassenthwaite lake from the summit of Ullock Pike. Picture 3 (shown here) is that very view, with the contours of the waters edge turning in and out, showing a series of headlands in the process. The land lay like a patchwork quilt, with its many segregated fields, although I expected much more colour as Autumn was now in full swing. Can't complain though - it's not every day you come across a view like this. And the view stretched far and wide. Visibility was still high and the eye could see as far north as the Solway Firth and its line-up of turbine windmills in the far distance. We still had some distance to cover but this passed quickly with jovial banter accompanying us on the last part of our descent. We could sense that the hotel was just minutes away and joked about it being closed once we reached it, after all we'd battled through earlier. The thought was unbearable, so we changed the subject.

We were almost there. This last photo of us on our walk was taken at 14:17pm, so it had only taken us an hour and a quarter to reach this point from the summit of Skiddaw. As you can see, we almost home and dry - Davy, Carlos and Lee lead the way, with me behind and Brian behind me. Fifteen minutes later we arrived at Ravenstone Hotel, absolutey knackered. Davey went in, looking for signs of life, while the rest of us took the weight off our feet by taking advantage of the spare seats on the hotel drive. Davey popped his head out the door and beckoned us in - we were in luck! We headed through to a small bar at the back of the hotel - we had the place to ourselves, which was ideal. Five pints of San Miguel on draught and that was it - there was a danger of us being there til midnight, but after two more pints we called it a day and headed back across the pastures to base camp. It was a lovely calm, bright evening with no breeze at all
and the 20 minute walk across the fields without standing in cow-shit wasn't as easy as one might think. We were collecting wood on the way, which was destined for another trademark 'Lloydo' camp fire as evening fell. We all got back to camp safely, although knackered by this time, and it was now time for further relaxation, with the aid of food and alcohol.

Here are two more photo's, taken in the Ravenstone Hotel. Good memories!
One last blog entry to follow of our Lakes Weekender 2, coming shortly.
Until then, see ya, Ash

Lakes Weekender 2 (Ullock Pike to Skiddaw Summit)

The final ascent of Skiddaw awaited us. We had the benefit of a 15 minute break to refuel our bodies before the final push and although this was a big help, it never felt like it once we began the final climb. This was a killer and I don't mind admitting it. We were already two hours into our fell walk/climb so there wasn't a great deal left in the tank, so to speak, but we had come this far and there was now little or no option to see the task through. Brian had confessed to Davey that he didn't think he could go any further at this point, but with those wise words of encouragement from Davey "Just get on with it man, what's a matter with ya", Brian was soon on his feet and contemplating the task ahead. Davey never did mince his words, he he. What we had endured since our walk began was nothing less than very testing terrain for even the most experienced fell walker. The majority of it was steep ascent, coupled with the odd scramble or two, but below boot was hard rock and ground, not the stuff we were about to come across. The last thing a fell walker wants at this point is loose slate under foot, and we were about to tackle this on our final steep push to Skiddaw summit. The first two photographs give you an idea of what I'm talking about. As I made my first few steps up this punishing slope the weak slate gave way under my boots, making the whole episode much harder than I first anticipated. I remember stopping and looking towards the summit, inwardly hoping someone could magically beam me up and plonk me at the top, escaping the ordeal that lay before me. As the lads passed me at this point I remember making a sudden surge to reclaim my slot near the front of the pack, not wanting to drift further back and finish the day as a knackered heap at the back of the pack. Looking back now, I often wonder where I generated that last burst of energy to reach the pinnacle - when the going gets tough...

Lee shouted at pointed to his right. On an adjoining path up the scree hill was what I can only describe as a nutcase. Yes, some geezer was riding down from Skiddaw summit on a monutain bike! I could have swore I was hallucinating. Yes, there he was - we marveled at his style as he flew down that hill of weak slate like his life depended on it. He was enjoying the moment, that's for sure. Who'd blame him - he must have nearly killed himself getting that bike all he way up there. And there was little old me thinking 'I' should be the one who needed my head looking at, he he. The final push seemed to last forever and just when I thought I could see the end of the line, there was that little bit extra to go, then more, and a bit more after that. I reached the top of the hill but then there'd be another peak further on, so it was much more of the same punishment that made you laugh with hysteria eventually. When I did finally reach the summit, Lee and Carlos had already been there for ten minutes or so. They were smiling broadly but I wasn't sure whether that was due to the realisation that they'd crossed the finish line or whether it was simply cos' they were supping Carlsberg as their reward. They kept that one quiet - smuggling beer up a northern fell should be outlawed, especially as they didn't carry one for me (the pair of knackers!!!).

Davey soon followed. He'd hung back to encourage Brian, who was just about dead on his feet by this point, but job very well done nevertheless (picture 3). I too was fust about finished by this point and the handicap of carrying a backpack of camera gear had definately hindered my progress up the mountain. I often wondered what posessed me to carry a 'Breeze block' on my back, and now it was time for a return. Out came the camera and I snapped away uncontrollably. The views were stunning, which made up for the freezing cold wind that was now hammering us at the summit. There were maybe 30-40 other fell walkers amongst us, all admiring the views at all sides. This was certainly a moment to savour - all that hard graft was well worth the end result. We sat for a few minutes behind a man made slate wall, sheltering from the wind, before getting to our feet and beginning the arduous task of returning to ground level - another hour and a half of torture for the joints!

The mountain structure of Skiddaw can be described as a network of sloping ridges. The actual summit of Skiddaw itself is a long straight ridge running from north to south with a number of lesser summits along its route. So in addition to the main summit, Skiddaw also has a north top, middle top and south top, some with little difference in height. Wainwright notes that Skiddaw summit "... takes the form of a stony, undulating ridge exceeding 3000 ft throughout its length of almost half a mile and provides a glorious promenade high in the sky where one can enjoy a rare feeling of freedom and escape from a world far below, and, for a time, forgotten "(Wainwright 1962, Skiddaw 22). This main ridge is connected from the south east by Skiddaw Little Man, a shorter ridge with the main summit at 865 meters. From the south west there is the curving ridge that connects Ullock Pike, Longside and Carl Side.

With Skiddaw conquered, plus Ullock Pike and the adjoining Carl Side and Long Side, that was four more peaks ticked off. This walk was my toughest yet, make no mistake. Carlos commented on the experience for him, saying 'It's one of the hardest things I've ever done.' Yet he strolled it, for me. At 48 years, and the oldest of our group, he negotiated the task very well indeed, defying his years. It was therefore ironic that the oldest geezer should reach the summit first and the youngest should show up last. It was 'Well done' to each of us, and I for one am looking forward to the next one. We had a good laugh from Friday to Sunday and for weeks beyond that, come to think of it. What, with disappearing toilet rolls, septic tanks, out of date sandwiches and speed camera's, who knows what awaits us the next time! That's half the fun though - it is what it is.

The final installment of Lakes Weekender 2 will be here shortly, with more scenic photo's taken on our descent, by yours truly, plus a few capsite shots of the lads. Until then, thanks for stopping by.

Lakes Weekender 2 (Climbing Ullock Pike)

Before the journey starts it might be a good time to announce the players this time around. It was four plus one for our Lakes Weekender 2. The original four consisted of myself, Lee, Davey and Brian, and the latest recruit, Carlos - oldest member of the squad at 48. This was to be Carlos' first fell walk, so he didn't have a great deal of catching up to do - this was only Brian's second, my fourth, with Lee and Davey ahead of that tally. The five of us sat round a big camp fire the night before, on the edge of Lake Bassenthwaite. As it was October, darkness fell around six-ish, so there was little to do other than congregate round the fire, chat, and drink lots of beer. A full cool box of Foster's Gold bit the dust, washing down our late meal of barbecued Steak, beans and potatoes, which went down a treat. The wind got up towards the end of the night, by which time we were a bit worse for wear and headed back to the three tents nearby. The night was over and a good sleep was needed before our task ahead the next day. This was put in danger when I staggered back to my tent - my inflatable airbed was doing a grand impression of a knackered one! Aye, the b*stard was as flat as a pancake. I certainly wasn't gonna attempt a puncture repair at this hour, not that I was capable of it anyway after a belly full of beer, he he. The next morning I was a bit worse for wear. I got a few hours sleep but that was broken. It didn't help due to the fact that I'd spent the whole night lying on a hard floor that was the farmers field. My whole body was aching and my head felt like it had been whacked with the business end of a shovel! Not nice, and I can almost hear those nagging motherly words of 'Well, ya stupid bugger, it your own daft fault.' I fried a pan full of sausages for the troops as Davey made us a brew. Everyone looked like shit, as expected. He he, this fell walk is gonna be a laugh! What was it again?...3,054 feet of ascent !!!!!!! With breakfast over we got our gear together and began our trek across the fields near Scarness towards the main road (A591), reaching the Ravenstone Hotel, some 20 minutes later. Ullock Pike was now right in front of us, towering over us infact, so we kicked off a days walking in fine weather, for October at least.

The stats - Start: Ravenstone Hotel, A591 .....Start (OS ref): NY235296..... Finish: Ravenstone Hotel..... Map (1:25,000): OL4 The English Lakes North Western area Distance: 6.6 miles (10.7 km).....Time: 4 - 5 hours..... Difficulty: Hard..... Climbing: 977 metres (3,054 feet)..... Hazards: Steep climbs and descents.

Well, Davey (Scout Leader) doesn't entertain Tourist Routes, so were greeted with a steep incline to begin our fell walk onto Ullock Pike - Cheers Davey! It woke me up from my morning lethargy immediately as I was climbing steeply from the first step and eventually through Dyke Nook. I pushed myself up the incline for the weather was promised fair and I wanted to get into the open and take in the first views from the mountain. Soon we reached a gate which took us onto the open fell. We had done 200 metres and climbed 80, resting briefly at the gate to catch our breath. As we did so I could see signs of a great day ahead, the weather was sound for October. We made our way through the gate and followed the Allerdale Ramble route toward Ling How. I was jiggered by this point and so were the others, although now was said, he he. This walking lark doesn't get any easier but the rewards inevitably push you on and it wasn't long before we caught our first sight of Ullock Pike. It was still a distance away, and with lots of steep incline to get past, but it there for all to see. Spectacular views unfolded before us - not just in front of us, but breathtaking 360 degree panoramic vista's. Although we were feeling the strain we offered words of encouragement to keep us going. As we approached the Carl Side/Long Side ridge we were greeted with the highest point, the grand slate laden summit of Skiddaw. Immediately Ullock Pike was the draw which appeared as a majestic rounded dome from our route to it. We had now conquered the first part of our gruelling fell walk - 2,270 feet of ascent, with only 784 feet remaining!

Again we paused for breath, taking in the brilliant views, especially towards Bassenthwaite lake and Broadness Farm, where we had set up camp (see picture). Again, it has to be said that the weather was very kind to us - we weren't expecting much during the run-up to our visit, as the weather in this part of the country is very unpredictable at the best of times, not least in October. Visibility was excellent, making the whole experience another one to remember. The usual banter was exchanged between us as we pressed on across the Carl Side/Long Side ridge, with a noticable lift in spirits as Skiddaw Summit was now in reach. We'd been on the move for a couple of hours now and the old legs were taking a bit of a hammering. To paint a picture, Carl Side is a flattish domed hill covered in grass. From Carl Side the final ascent of Skiddaw is grassless, a grey black mound of weak slate that crumbles under the impact of feet. Ahead of us were groups of walkers struggling up the incline from Carl Side to the top plateau. I could see they were working hard, not just to make the ascent but also to keep their feet. Before the final ascent we decided to take lunch - probably a wise move because we'd never really had a decent rest since the walk began, almost two hours ago. We had a few two-minute stops en route, but it was now 'Time out' for a bite to eat and a drink to re-hydrate that weary body. I had a large bottle of Red Bull, a Mars Bar and a bag of peanuts - see, I told you I ate rubbish! The others were tucking into similar goodies as Brian unveiled a pack of Chicken sandwiches - but the least said about them the better! Well, we were almost there. One last push and the summit was ours. Here are a few more photographs to be going on with. The final part of the journey comes next - Skiddaw Summit.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Group Shot (L-R) Lee, Brian, Ash, Carlos, Davey

Lakes Weekender 2 (Ullock Pike & Skiddaw)

"There'll be a lot more walking this time, so 'Be prepared', as the Scouts would say" (Davey Lloyd - one week before departure).

After an enjoyable time in the Lake District back in June 2011, on our first 'Lakes Weekender' (Blencathra), we quickly put together a plan for our next trip across the A66, which came to fruition in October. It was business as usual as we camped at the same location for two nights - Friday to Sunday, and after successfully negotiating Blencathra and its rather intimidating 'Sharp Edge', we obviously wanted a new challenge, and this came in the shape of a double-barrelled assault on Ullock Pike and Skiddaw. For a bunch of Forty-Something's, these fell walks - climbs - scrambles, whatever you want to call them, are no picnic, yet if you're physically fit, make regular visits to the gym, and eat all the right things, then you should find this kind of experience quite a doddle. Unfortunately I don't do any of those things - I don't profess to be fit, I don't know what the inside of a gym looks like, and as for eating healthy food...he he, I'll not even bother going there! My only advantage was the fact that I already had Blencathra in the bag, yes, Sharp Edge too (albeit an arse-twitching experience of the highest order, he he), so I knew the workload and was capable of crossing the finish line. However, as the opening line of this blog entry suggests, this weekends task was going to push the limits, as Ullock Pike & Skiddaw was to prove a tougher proposition than Blencathra, although you have to be thankful for small mercy's - there was no ridge scramble on this trip (Phew!!!). So, in essence, the plan was to reach Skiddaw Summit from our starting point at the Ravenstone Hotel, on the A591, rattling off Ullock Pike, Long Side and Carl Side on the way.

A little bit of background info...

Ullock Pike is a fell situated in northern part of the English Lake Distict. It is located seven kilometres north west of Keswick and achieves a height of 692 metres (2270 feet). The fell sits on Skiddaw’s south western ridge along with two other fells (Long Side and Carl Side), this ridge is regarded as the finest way to ascend Skiddaw, with Alfred Wainwright commenting:
“There is no doubt in my mind that by far the best approach to the top of Skiddaw is by way of its north-west ridge. This offers a fine expedition along a narrow crest in exciting surroundings and provides excellent views throughout … for the collector of summits here are three waiting to be picked off in addition to Skiddaw”. (photo 1 - Ullock Pike & Little Dodd, from Scarness, Lake Bassenthwaite).

Skiddaw is a mountain in the Lake District National Park in England. With a summit at 931 m (3,054 ft) above sea level it is the fourth highest mountain in England. It lies just north of the town of Keswick, Cumbria, and dominates the skyline in this part of the northern lakes. It is the simplest of the Lake District mountains of this height to ascend (as there is a well-trodden tourist track from a car park to the north-east of Keswick, near the summit of Latrigg) and, as such, many walking guides recommend it to the occasional walker wishing to climb a mountain.
The mountain lends its name to the surrounding areas of "Skiddaw Forest", and "Back o' Skidda'" and to the isolated "Skiddaw House", situated to the east, formerly a shooting lodge and subsequently a youth hostel. It also provides the name for the slate derived from that region: Skiddaw Slate. Tuned percussion musical instruments or lithophones exist which are made from the slate, such as the Musical Stones of Skiddaw held at Keswick Museum and Art Gallery
. (photo 2 - Skiddaw Summit)

Now that you're aquainted with Ullock Pike & Skiddaw, and what lay ahead of us, it's now time for the story and pictures.

Coming next...


Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Roker Pier - Open At Last!

Continuing the Lighthouse theme for one more day, I was glad to see that Roker Pier was reopened recently, after months of closure whilst repairs were administered to the weather beaten concrete structure. It was purely by chance that I noticed the pier was open. I had earlier visited a stretch of coastline at Seaham Harbour, hoping for some good sunrise shots, but alas there was very little colour in the sky shortly before sunrise, so I headed towards Sunderland. I stopped off at Hendon beach, another place that I had never previously visited, but again there was little or no promise in what lay in front of me so I got back in the car and headed for Roker. This place has become something of a comfort zone for me down the years, a place that I'm very familiar with and there's always a decent photo or three to be had here. I was driving along the coastal road past Roker Hotel when I glanced across towards Roker Pier, surprised that there was actually people walking along it. The pier had been closed for months because of damage to the structure, and many a time I'd gone down there hoping to photograph the lighthouse at sunrise, but the gates were locked. That was it - I drove down, parked up, then passed through the gates and approached Roker Lighthouse with camera at the ready.

I passed a few fisherman en route. God knows how long they'd been fishing - probably an all-nighter by their haggered appearance. The sun was now shining brightly in an almost cloudless blue sky. Cold it certainly was, so I had little intention of prolonging my visit, despite the fact I'd waited months on end for it. The North Sea didn't look that rough, but the occasional crashing wave smacked against the pier wall and soaked its deck every now and again, so I was rather vigilant of the fact in the hope of avoiding an almighty soaking. The blinding sun hit the stone cobbles of the pier in front of me. A strong shadow of the perimeter fencing was cast across the floor, letting me know immediately that a potential photo was right in front of me. I waited until one of fisherman cast out his line firing the shutter at the right moment. A sense of action added something extra to the shot, as opposed to static figures with little or no purpose to the scene. I think it worked quite well. If there's people in a shot it's best to get them working for you as best you can - just wait for the precise moment to present itself! My first shot (above) demonstrates the 'Moment' - a fisherman that looks like a fisherman.

I walked the length of Roker Pier, circling the Lighthouse at the end, before a brief stop to photograph another fisherman who was reeling in a raking bite. He landed a canny size cod, which brought a wide smile before it was tapped on its head and thrown into a box nearby. No doubt his frying pan was was the eventual destination of his fresh catch! Who would deny the fella a nice fish supper eh - the poor bugger had probably been fishing all night for it.

Well, whadda ya know - Roker Pier open for business once again. Looks like I'll be back soon. Thanks for stopping by,


Friday, 16 December 2011

St Mary's Island, Whitley Bay

At this time of year my low-light shots always seem to take precedence over any other photography I have planned, mainly due to the short days and convenient times when the light is low. I recently turned out at St Mary's Island, on the Northumberland Coast near Whitley Bay. Another early rise and a 25 minute journey via the Tyne Tunnel to this coastal haunt that has become more of a regular thing for me during recent weeks. Today was one of those disappointing days when the sunrise wasn't a sunrise and drizzle was most definately drizzle - a wipe out in photography terms and certainly not what I was hoping for. I'm sure those people at the Met Office have inside information of when I'm planning a trip up the coast as they always say the right things but the weather on the actual day is quite often a far cry from their earlier prediction. Maybe these weather apps for mobile phones aren't what they're cracked up to be, eh. Ah well, with a 'No Show' from Mr Sun it was a simple case of taking a few photo's for the sheer sake of it, so here are a couple of efforts from last Sunday's visit. I wasn't aware that St Mary's Lighthouse was lit up during the night and this was the first time I'd actually seen it in artificial colour. The tide was very low so the causeway was accessible, although I only photographed from the first half of it and went no further. This is the point where small pools of sea water offer reflection and this lends some content to the shot, rather than a messy foreground, which would have definately been the case with a clutter of rocks without the water. I was the only mug on site today! The last few times I've been here there's been at least 3 other people following suit, but not today folks - just the one 'Muggins' flogging a dead horse, he he. Aye, just wait til the next time though - I'll show ya how it's done (wink). The best part of my 30 minute stay was getting back into the car and opening a flask of coffee. The accompanying Mini Roll made the experience even better, so I sat there and indulged - this was as good as it got, unfortunately. Thank god for Mini-Rolls and allowing myself to be very easily pleased.

The heaters were on and I left the scene. Ah well, with this one behind me I have a feeling I'll hit the bullseye next time. Rough with the smooth, and all that jazz...

Until then, AC

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Roker Sunrise, Sunderland

Last weekend I set the alarm clock for an early rise and headed off towards Roker, on the North-East coast of England, for another crack at some sunrise photography. As expected, it was brass monkey weather and I asked myself once again 'What the hell am I doing', as I swapped a warm comfy bed for a freezing cold walk along the beach at Roker in search of a decent viewpoint before the sun showed up. As said many times before on the owld Blog, you have to do this kinda thing to get sunrise shots and Winter time is the softer option as the sun rises at a sensible time. A few layers kept the chill at bay for the most part, but you can never escape the cold altogether so you learn to suck the preverbial lemon and simply get on with the task in hand. The real pisser (pardon the french) is when you make the effort at the crack of dawn and the sun doesn't show up - or if it does it heads straight behind a low bank of cloud on the horizon just as soon as it has risen. Been there a few times - not nice - balls like prunes and icicles forming on the end of one's nose - never again! A flask of coffee comes in handy when you eventually return to the car, but unscrewing the lid is an ordeal and a half when your hands have seized up during a sub-zero temperature. Yes folks, photography has a knack of drawing you in and spitting you out like a spent force, but who gives a hoot when you've bagged a batch of good un's on the owld memory card, he he.

Hey, enough of the prattle, here is a small selection of shots that I pulled in during my recent visit to 'The Beach'. The first shot is a panoramic stitch of two exposures, shot from the sands of Roker Beach near its iconic pier and lighthouse. The incoming tide forms the foreground to this shot and the angle of the pier sweeps across the frame in a snake like fashion until it reaches the lighthouse. The dawn sky probably makes the picture what it is - without it the result would be quite bland, IMHO, but we all love a nice colourful sky, eh. The sun was about to rise when I panned across between the two shots, but the low cloud cover had its say and the drama was lessened by the orange ball's absence. Ah well, still a decent shot. My second was taken after I left the beach and headed back onto dry land. In front of me stood what I can only describe as a marble effect 'Viewfinder' that was positioned in such a way that the viewer (me) could look straight across towards Roker Pier. The opposite side of the 'Viewfinder' appeared to look like the aperture blades of a conventonal camera lens, so I was obviously barking up the right tree in this case. Standing there almost numb to the bone by this time, I grabbed a single shot and returned rather gingerly to my car which was parked nearby. Heaters on full blast to blow some life back into the old dog then it was off up the hill and into the car park of Roker Hotel. Now warmed through and returned to slight sense of normality, I was back into the fresh air and taking my last few shots from the main road that overlooked Roker Beach. A decent viewpoint, it has to be said, with a highter viewpoint and a good angle to photograph the pier from. And this is it (shot 3), after sunrise but still no sun in the shot as the clouds were also calling 'The Shots'. And that was enough for me - done!

Still planning that jaunt up the Northumberland Coast for more sunrise shots, so I'll keep you up to speed with that one. Bamburgh Castle - now that should be worth looking forward to. Prunes and Custard, anyone?

Later, Ash

Tyne-Tees Television (Parts 29-34)

Hello again!
It's been a while since I posted any video clips on my Blog page, so without further ado...
To be honest, I haven't submitted many photographs to Tyne-Tees Television in 2011 for one reason or another so I'll have to get my arse back into gear and do the necessary. Here are my most recent efforts, which have been sitting on my hard drive for weeks now. I've uploaded three weather photographs to each video player below and they are as featured...

29. Seven Sisters, Copt Hill, Houghton le Spring
30. Catbells, Northern Fells, English Lake District
31. Bassenthwaite & Ullock Pike, Lake District

32. Angel Of The North, Gateshead
33. Angel Of The North, Gateshead
34. Seven Sisters, Copt Hill, Houghton le Spring

Until the next time...