Saturday, 29 December 2012

Tyne-Tees Television (Parts 44 & 45)

I'm back with another video clip!
Just getting up to speed with my latest Weather photographs that I recently submitted to Tyne-Tees Television. Two more shots, one of which was shown late November and the other on December 22nd. The first was taken along the banks of the River Wear in Durham City Centre. A low-light shot of Durham Cathedral, using a long shutter speed of 50 seconds on the Bulb setting, fired remotely with the aid of Mirror Lock. A nice shot, especially with the nice reflection of Durham Cathedral in the almost still waters. It was pitch black at the time of capture, which is hard to believe when you study the detail in the composition, but those long shutter speeds put paid to any under-exposure, so if you fancy giving it a try, dive in! Lack of light doesn't always scupper the chance of a decent shot, just let your creative juices do the rest and you'll be surprised at what you can achieve. To read more of this outing, click here.

My second Weather shot was captured on Seaham Pier. You may recall a recent blog entry that was dedicated to this particular outing, if here to read about it. I like this shot a lot. A lovely sunrise, around 8.30am, a couple of weeks ago. Well worth getting out of bed for. The details, well, another long exposure of 4 seconds, perched on the tripod, aperture priority at f22, 100 ISO, fired remotely (as per), and shot in RAW format at 18 Mega pixels. The shot is tack sharp from back to front and may well get the print treatment at A2. We'll see...

And that's about it, for now. I'll be back soon with the final book cover of 'High Moon 2' which features one of my Finchale Abbey shots. The book is about to go to print, so more on that, as and when it happens. Again, for anyone who may have missed the finer details of this - click here.

Speak soon, Ash

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Boxing Day Dip 2012 - Seaburn, Sunderland

As mentioned at the end of my last Blog entry, here are some more Seaside shots. Not my usual Seascape offerings, these are 'People shots' taken on the beach at Seaburn, Sunderland, during the annual Boxing Day Dip. I already have a slide show at featuring more of the same from last years event, so feel free to check that one out. I had no plans to attend this years madness, until I received an email from the people at the BBC Tyne and Wear website, who dropped a hint for photo's of the event to add to a regional Boxing Day Dip gallery they were about to create. I charged the battery pack up on Christmas day and made the usual preps, before throwing the Wellies into the car for the task ahead. The Boxing Day weather was very mild, which was a definite plus point, as this was the only thing that would have put me off. I mean, who wants to brave the wind, rain and freezing cold North Sea, when they could easily be sat on their arse eating more turkey leftovers! If I see another piece of that stuff I'll most probably throw up - so off I went, bound for the coast at Sunderland. The event kicked off at 11am, so I made sure I arrived with at least 30 minutes to spare, parked up and ready to go. The crowds were out in force to witness this increasingly popular show of mad Mackem folk, running into the sea with barely a stitch on, all in fancy dress, all shapes and sizes. There were some big 'un's on show alright. I'm sure Greenpeace were in attendance, ready to push one or two of them back into the water! Yeah, some big ones - hairy, covered in tattoo's and looking mean as owt - and they were just the women!

Well done once again to the attendees of this years dip. Thousands of pounds raised for good causes through sponsorship and collections on the day. There are several such dips held around Europe, but the largest is organised by the Lions Club of Sunderland and it attracts one thousand dippers every year. Up to five thousand spectators turn out to witness the dip, including the City’s Mayor and Mayoress. Originating in 1974 the dip is one of the oldest events in the country. The dip of 2011 raised nearly £90,000 for charity, with several teams taking part. Some of the major donators are Ashbourn Guest House, Alexandra Plumbing and Heating, the New Clipper, CR Builders, TWR Window Frames, Ttonic, MTL Scaffolders, Print Centre, Jolly Potters, Jacksons.

11am came around quickly enough - I almost got flattened in the stampede. The lens cloth I brought was a godsend. I grabbed what photo's I could before everyone had their few minutes of fun before retuning to dry land. By this time I was soaked. Wellies were half full of salt water, freezing cold salt water. I did, on more than one occasion, ask myself why I bothered in the first place, but casting aside the obvious disadvantages, our Boxing Day Dip has its merits. Firstly, I was lucky to photograph the event instead of actually taking part, then there was the fun side of it, seeing all the madness unfold right in front of me, and there were some brilliant costumes on display. Finally, the short walk back onto the promenade was a good one, as usual, as the sight and smell of the fish shop was one to behold and I certainly wasn't gonna walk past it. Greedy bastards never do, he he. Sorry for the lingo, folks. Just getting the last few swear words in before yet another failed New Year's Resolution. Oh well. And on that note I shall bid thee farewell, with the promise of one or two more Blog entries before the end of 2011. Make sure you overdo it (wink).

Oh, before I go, here is a link to the BBC Tyne and Wear web page,  featuring a couple of my shots. I sent a few in, but they decided to show two of my 'Weaker' efforts, for some odd reason. Click here (Image numbers 4&5). Also, a short video clip from 'Look North', our regional BBC news bulletin, featuring this event. Plus, a few of my photo's. . .

Back soon, Ash

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The North-East Winds

With Christmas almost upon us I took the opportunity of using a spare hour or so to fit in some photography. December has been a quiet month with the camera, as you may have noticed by the acute lack of updates at This has been due to the usual hectic programme that often accompanies December, but I intend to make amends before the month is over, with a few updates being planned for the final few days of 2012. My last Blog entry brought you a batch of Seascape images, taken at Seaham Harbour last Sunday morning, and I was by the sea again this morning for more of the same. This time I was shooting big waves from the promenade at Seaburn, Sunderland. Although there was bright sunshine this morning, it was typically cold and the strong winds almost had me on my arse on more than one occasion, but I managed to keep my balance against all the odds. My Sigma 70-300mm lens got a rare run out today. It was just what was needed to pull in those telephoto shots - range is everything when shooting from afar, so the long lens was called upon once again, and it never fails to deliver. There was very little colour to play with this morning, so I converted my shots to Mono (Black & White), which is always a good idea with this type of photography. I think it worked quite well, apart from the lack of detail in the sky, but you can only pee with the tail you've got! Some folk add new sky to get round this problem, but we don't want to do that do we - no cheating allowed!

And here they are, three shots, cherry-picked from a batch of ten and shot in RAW format. I was done and dusted, then out of there after a few short minutes. Back into the car and off home to sit down to a nice roast lunch. I'll be back soon with more Seaside shots, so get yer'sel back here in a few days time. Until then, have a nice Christmas and don't overdo the calorie count, eh. You know it makes sense!

Back soon, Ash

Sunday, 16 December 2012

In From The Cold

It's been a while!

Hello again, and an apology to my blog readers for an acute lack of activity on my page. Historically, December is always a busy month for me as I fulfil orders and other commitments during this hectic time of year. Naturally, I have less time to get out and about with my camera until the Christmas holidays, but I managed to change that this morning by getting my arse out of bed to photograph another sunrise. This time I travelled South, which is a rarity, as all of my previous coastal visits have been to the North of Sunderland. Today the destination was Seaham Harbour, a small town in County Durham, situated 6 miles (9.7 km) south of Sunderland and 13 miles (21 km) east of Durham. I made a quick stop to photograph the Christmas display on the promenade before driving the short distance down the gill towards the harbour. This was my first visit to the pier at Seaham. Upon arrival I got chatting to a fisherman who had travelled from Consett. He told me the sea was very rough the previous day and huge waves had battered the pier walls, which was evident 24 hours later by the many pools of sea water that sat along the whole length of the pier. He set up to fish the sea as I went on my way, passing through the pier gates to look for an ideal spot to photograph from. Unlike most piers, this one had no perimeter fence, so I made sure not to go too close to the edge, or that would have been it! 

Here are some of the photographs I captured. Plenty of colour, the sun on show, nice compositions. It was nice to get back into the car and open a flask of hot coffee, whilst warming my backside on heated seat. Overall, it was well the effort this morning - I 'll be back with more before the Christmas holidays. Stay tuned. 

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Hello again and welcome to my new look blog page. I've been toying with the idea of tarting this page up for quite a while now, as the original template wasn't consistant with the theme that I designed at Gone is the brown background with the less than interesting header bar -  'In' with the plain white and mid-grey, along with the ACP logo of Penshaw Monument. Now then, that's better! So there seems like no better time than now to write about my website and the nuts, bolts and many cogs within it. Since the introduction of back in 2006 the site has evolved and developed into much more than it originally started its life as. It's humble beginnings as a modest 20 page web site has grown rapidly during the past six years and now contains a staggering 156 pages and almost 1000 photographs. God only knows how many hours of work has gone into the site down the years, a labour of love that continues to this day and hopefully many more years ahead. I often tinker with the site, as you may have noticed from time to time, as there's always room for improvement here and there, although I always try to avoid making wholesale changes with its overall appearance as I feel that this can distract the visitor and be quite off-putting, especially if it happens regularly. I used to do this in the early days, until I realised quickly that I was chasing my tail. No more.

So, more specifics about - currently showing a hit counter of 75,111 visitors as I write this blog entry, the site was set up and designed by myself, with no previous experience of Web Build. Those first few days were an opener, to say the least, when I opened up the Content Management System and wondered what I'd let myself in for. Although the toolbox didn't look too daunting, unlike that of Photoshop CS6 (gulp!), there was a hell of a lot to get to grips with and a brief dabble with the tools left me with no doubt that my delve into website building wasn't going to be an easy one. After dipping my toes in I quickly got to grips with quite a few of the features and found the software was exactly what I'd been looking for, as everything was there 'In the box', so to speak, just waiting to be lifted out. Exhibiting photography couldn't be easier and everything I wanted was here, including slideshows with the facilty to add music, pop-up galleries, image effects and much more. With an 'All you can eat' disc space of 5000 Megabytes there is scope for thousands of image uploads in future, so the sky is the limit in that particular department.

Forthcoming plans for my site - well, unless by some quirk of observation you haven't noticed a complete lack of activity on my Profile page, I can now announce my intention to get my arse into gear and turn that blank canvas into what it's supposed to be, a page about myself with accompanying photographs of yours truly. Hang on a minute, maybe that's not such a good idea at all, he he. For one reason or another I simply haven't got my act together to design the page, although I did have it up and running four years ago, only to 'Pull it' a few days later due to the cheesiness of my profile pic. Oh dear. I need to get out there and get some new photo's of myself, on location, camera in hand, so if you're up to the task then give me a shout. Profile page aside, there are no immediate plans to add anything major to my site, although I'm constantly thinking along the lines of improvisation, so don't be too surprised if I introduce new ideas at some point in the near future. My Canon 7D shoots stunning High Definition Video, which is something I may incorporate once the footage is edited, so keep your eyes peeled for that one. The Store at will be hosting new products shortly, including my new 2013 calendar, as well as A1 and A0 poster prints of my photography. Again, watch this space!

Finally, a big THANK YOU to you, my audience. Without those 75,111 hits my site wouldn't be what it is today. I often wonder who visits my site and where they live, which town, which country, which continent. I'm looking into Google Analytics, to find those answers, which are always interesting. As far as my blog page is concerned, click on the two images above for the latest stats - these relate to my blog page only, not site-wide. To date, my blog page has 10, 733 page views since its introdution on July 18th, 2009. It's all good stuff!

And on that note I shall make myself scarce. Time for a cup of coffee.
Thanks for visiting!
Ashley Corr (Webmaster & Curry Connoisseur)

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Reflections - Durham Cathedral

The blog entries are coming thick and fast, well...for now at least. Last Saturday afternoon I headed across to Durham City Centre and made my way along the riverside path as the light fell quickly. I was surprised to cross paths with a few people along the way, as the riverside has no lighting on its route and it's not the type of place you'd walk alone, unless you're a photographer with intentions of 'Getting the shot' regardless of the conditions. At 4.30pm I was in position next to the boathouse ramp on the north side of the River Wear, opposite Durham Cathedral. Fifteen minutes passed and it was now pitch black where I stood, with no-one else around. A big splash on the water directly in front of me had me thinking I wasn't alone after all. Was someone lurking in the thick woods behind me, throwing rocks and getting a kick out of it - 'Let's scare the shit out of that bloke with the camera.' Well they certainly did that! I was looking through the viewfinder at the time of the splash and I must confess that I nearly shat me'sel when the rock hit the water. Or was it a rock after all? Was it a Salmon jumping, I doubt it, unless it had been on the roids for weeks on end. A mystery to me. I started to ask myself what the hell I was doing here, it pitch darkness, nowhere near assistance if some dodgepot came looking for bother. Time to man up and forget the crap, so I grabbed a few photo's and got out of there. As I left the scene at 5.00pm the Cathedral bells chimed on the hour, adding an even more eerie slant to the whole experience. Walking back along the riverside path to Framwellgate Bridge I passed a goth, on his own, long black trench coat and all the horseshit, looking a bit sheepish as I passed him. God knows where he was heading, and why. Maybe another photographer looking to bag that nice shot, who knows.

The shot above is my favourite from the outing, a nice reflection, captured shortly before 5.00pm. I emailed it to Tyne-Tees Television the following morning and it was shown on their weather charts a few hours later. Result! Worth the effort after all. Where will I take my camera next, I wonder. You'll find out soon enough. Thanks for visiting.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Today's Sunrise

After working through the night and hurrying home to catch the sunrise I managed to get to my chosen location just in time to catch the colours. It was well windy at the top of Copt Hill Barrow, where the Seven Sisters Neolithic Burial Ground is situated, on the edge of Houghton le Spring. Before leaving for work the night before, I had my camera bag at the ready, knowing I would be heading home shortly before sunrise at 7.44am, but the Mrs stuck her beak in and said 'You're wasting your time, the weather forecast isn't good for tomorrow morning.' I mean, she's a cracking wife and all that, but I tend to ignore her advice when it comes to photography, but on this occasion I gave in and put my gear back where it belongs. Bad move! It was a dramatic sunrise, to say the least. The wind was up and it was freezing cold, but nevertheless I was at Copt Hill Barrow, armed with a mobile phone (yeah, p*ss poor, I know). I took a couple of shots and grabbed an HD movie clip to go with it.
Here they are...

And next time I'll tell the Mrs to keep her advice to her'sel (he he).
Back soon!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Another Book Cover!

Following recent news regarding my photography appearing on my first ever book cover, I have been approached by Graeme Reynolds, a novelist who specialises in Horror and who currently has publications for sale via Amazon, so a second book featuring my work is now in the pipeline. The book in question is a sequel to 'High Moor', which was published exactly one year ago today, and although a working title is not yet available, the scene is set in Finchale Abbey, County Durham, a location I have visited and photographed on several occasions. The book goes to print in early 2103 and a proof of the cover will be uploaded on my blog just as soon as I get my hands on it. Here is the photograph that was requested (above), which will be used as a background on the front cover. The book illustrator, Stu Smith, of Graviton Creations, sent me this email following agreement of Image Licensing terms between myself and Graeme...

Hey Ashley,

Just to fill you in on a few details, I'm the bloke that is illustrating Graeme Reynolds second book (I did the first one too) and it was me that was searching for great images of the Priory because I'm unfamiliar with it (I live in Cleethorpes!). I did an advanced Google image search as I recall and your picture stood out.

I suggested to Graeme that instead of sending him out there to take a picture we might simply just ask you if we can reproduce it under license for the cover! Good job we did because it makes my life so much easier if I can have some quality reference images.

So, I just thought I'd personally send you a thank you from me as well. I'll send you a copy of the full resolution cover when I get it done (but that's a few moons away!)


Graeme sent me a copy of the first book, High Moor, which I started reading a few days ago, so by the time the sequel arrives I'll be 'In the picture' and ready to pick up from where I previously left off. I'm staying away from the curry though, as it's not a wise idea to eat that stuff then read a horror novel afterwards - don't want any accidents, and I've had a few close shaves in the past, I'll tell ya!

And on that note I shall scurry off with embarrassment, he he. I shall return soon, folks.
Cheers, Ash

Tyne-Tees Television (Parts 40-43)

Hello again!
It's been a few months since I last posted any video clips on my blog, February in fact, so it's time to update my TV credits with four more snippets. I haven't been as active with the Weather Photo's this year, the four clips below take this years total to just 8, which isn't as many as previous years, so I'll try and make more of an effort to submit more to Tyne-Tees Television before the end of 2012. The latest four photographs are -

1. Penshaw Monument (Venus/Jupiter Conjunction)
2. Washington Old Hall
3. Autumn, River Aln, Alnwick
4. Littlehaven Sunrise (Part of a compilation)

Clip number 1 shows Penshaw Monument, Sunderland, taken back in March 2012, during the Venus/Jupiter conjunction. To read more of this phenomenon click here, and if you like what you find then click here for more, there's two blog entries devoted to it. As for the other video clips - you'll find recent blog entries referring to each photograph, so go looking and you'll find them.

There's no more Pip (Philippa Thomson) on Tyne-Tees TV, she's jumped ship and is now sailing with Sky, who offered her an extra £1.50 an hour for her services. Ah well, she has my best wishes. She was behind many of my photo appearances on Tyne-Tees and even posted in my Guest Book many moons ago.

I've been out with the camera tonight, along Durham riverside, capturing low-light shots, so there's a chance I may have another photo on Tyne-Tees TV very soon. To all blog readers in our region - keep your eyes peeled!


Monday, 12 November 2012

Bamburgh Dunes, Northumberland

The Northumberland Coastal Route has a stretch of coastline that is up there with the best, at least in the UK. A few weeks ago I found myself driving these roads again and one thing is sure, you never seem to tire of them, no matter how often you cover them. Of course the weather plays a big part, as it does no matter where you travel, and this day in particular was fine, with almost clear sky despite the obvious chill in the air. After taking in Amble, Druridge Bay and Craster, I found myself at Bamburgh, just as the sun was preparing to set. I arrived at Bamburgh and headed along the Windings to a secluded car park next to the sand dunes. Bamburgh Castle sat at the top of a massive outcrop, dominating the skyline in front of me. I managed to get my gear set up as the sun threw a massive shaft of light through across the castle. I was alone in the dunes, give or take the odd person or two passing through, although the beach behind me was busy with dog walkers and the like, at low tide. As the sun was ready to set the deep orange hue threw the walls of Bamburgh Castle into fine colour, as was the grasses in front of me, although I had hoped for more movement which I never got due to the lack of wind and breeze. Never mind, the conditions were still ideal so I grabbed a few shots before the sun made its bow. It had been a great day for photography - stops at Warkworth & Alnwick proved more than worthwhile, as you may have seen the results in my recent blog entries. If you want coastline then get yourself to Northumberland, there's more than enough that catches the eye, plus there's even more further north in the shape of Holy Island & Lindisfarne, just take notice of the tides and the safe crossing times over the causeway!

Back soon,

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Guardian Angel - The Book Cover (Pt.2)

I'm back on the blog trail with news of my work shortly going to print as a book cover. Regular readers of my blog page will be aware that I was recently approached by Dr Laura Mazzoli Smith of Warwick University, regarding the possibility of reproducing one of my images on a book project that she had undertaken with Professor Jim Campbell (see original blog reference here). Together they had written case studies in the construction of high achievement - Families, Education & Giftedness. My 'Guardian Angel' image was one that had caught their attention and immediately fitted the profile of what they wanted on the front cover of their book. Of course I was very happy to help, so we agreed terms and I forwarded the image for reproduction. This was in turn forwarded to their chosen publisher, Sense, who this week completed the proofs and emailed them to me before going to print. Once published I will receive a hard copy of the book, which will contain a credit of the photographer. A couple of hours after receiving the proofs via email (PDF) I received another Image Licence enquiry from an author of horror novels - more news on that one very soon!

Meantime, here is a screen shot of the 'Guardian Angel' cover - click to enlarge.
Back soon, Ash

Saturday, 27 October 2012

It's Autumn Once Again

Last year I brought you a selection of Autumn shots in two parts - the first instalment was here and the follow Twelve months later and there's more of the same, following last weekends all day outing which took me to Penshaw Monument, Lumley Castle near Chester le Street, followed by a journey north into Northumberland, where I visited Warkworth, Alnwick and Bamburgh. It was a bright, sunny day throughout, so it was up to me to find those Autumn scenes and to capture them on memory card, so after a diesel top-up I was off and running. Historically, mid-October often throws up the best colours, although there's still plenty on display near the end of the month and even into the first few days of November. I'll say no more. Here are the results...

1. River Aln, Alnwick, Northumberland,
2. Lion Bridge & River Aln, Alnwick, Northumberland
3. Penshaw Monument, Houghton le Spring
4. Lion Bridge & River Aln, Alnwick, Northumberland
5. Lion Bridge & River Aln, Alnwick, Northumberland
6. Lumley Castle, Chester le Street

Back soon. Cheers!


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Red Sky At Night

Hello again!

Last Friday, around 5.00pm I noticed 'Layers' of white clouds above, which got me thinking there was a dramatic Sunset on the way. Being an amateur photographer who occasionally gets it right, but more often wrong, I grabbed my camera gear and headed to Rainton Meadows in the hope that I'd made a good decision, as my last two attempts were a complete waste of time. As is normal, I left with plenty of time to spare, even though the Meadows are only five minutes away by car. As the site gates are locked at 4.30pm in October I had to park the car on a back road near Chilton, which is a ten minute walk from car to water. Upon arrival it was the usual case of 'Spot the Swans' on the first pond (there are four separate ponds in total). There was a pair of Mute Swans on the water but there was little choice of ideal location at the waters edge because of the massive reeds around it. A simple break in the reeds, with the sun in front of me would have been perfect, but sadly, not on this occasion. So I walked to the next pond, a much bigger one and by far the biggest of all four. As well as the usual crowd of Ducks, Grebe's and Geese there was a family of Mute Swans - both parents and seven Cygnets. I photographed the Cygnets on the very first day they left the nest, back in early June 2012, flanked by the Cobb and Hen and they made there way across the field from Pond 3 (Nesting site) to Pond 2, where they've lived ever since. Four months later the Cygnets are almost as big as their parents and I was glad to see all seven on the water. Historically one or two will 'Go missing' during those first few weeks of life, but all seven were present. The Swans were at the top end of the pond when I arrived and the sun was about to set so I waited a few minutes before luring them towards my camera with the ever trusty slices of bread.

In the meantime I took a shot of the pond (see above) and once the sun was down the colours I had earlier anticipated were beginning to show in the sky. Maybe I had got it right this time! I was now into the last fifteen minutes of the Golden Hour (known to photographers as '30 minutes before Sunrise and 30 minutes after Sunset). By now I had tempted the Mute Swans over with the bread and the pink sky was turning red - everything was firmly in place. Red turned to deeper red as I fired off my first few frames. A very quick review of the shots put a big smile on my face so I wasted no time in taking more as the birds practically ate from my hand. The occasional hiss kept me on my toes and I was extra vigilant as one the parents came closer, leaving the water behind and stepping onto land. The Cygnets were pre-occupied on the water, feeding from the bed and not being at all concerned about the goodies on offer nearby. The red sky was at its most colourful at this stage and shortly it would be gone, so I made the most of my opportunity. No-one around but me and nature, which was ideal and just the ticket, no excuse for poor shots. Sparingly I passed over the bread until it was gone, making sure my last slice was used once the red sky had burnt out. It's all about timing. I had approximately a dozen shots in the bag by this time so my work was done, and I hadn't been clouted off the parents - sounds like a result, to me. Off I went as the light fell dramatically. On the way back to the car I was tempted to review the full set of photographs I'd just taken, but opted against it. I'm a bit sad in this respect as I always wait until I return home, put my feet up and then review them, with a cup of coffee for company. I must refrain from this and get myself a life, he he. Small pleasures, eh!

Bird photography isn't easy and requires much patience, but if you have that to your game you're half way there. The rest is what you'll learn as you go, but don't be put off with disappointing shots as I started off with plenty of them, albeit many years ago. It's trial and error and you'll see the results improve over time. You'll definitaly need an edge of 'Fearless Photography' as these birds can be quite unpredictable, even out of the breeding season, so be aware. You get a good idea of their tolerance levels after being in their company for a few minutes and obviously each one is different in this respect. You don't wanna beak in your eye, eh. Aye well, that's about it for now, folks. Hope you like the new shots. The following day was a good one - an 'All day' shoot along the 'Northumberland Coastal Route'. Some nice Autumn shots coming your way in the next few days, including visits to Warkworth, Alnwick and Bamburgh. As always...

watch this space! See ya soon.


Thursday, 18 October 2012

Dawn Breaks At Marsden

Just 24 hours after my early morning visit to Littlehaven, South Shields, I was photographing another breaking Dawn at Souter Lighthouse, just a mile or so up the road. This coastal location lies within the small town of Marsden and is a National Trust site and I have cut and pasted a brief description of it here...
Souter is a special place all year round and was the first lighthouse in the world designed and built to be powered by electricity. Opened in 1871, decommissioned in 1988, the National Trust acquired it and opened it to the public in 1990. Souter remains an iconic beacon, hooped in red and white and standing proud on the coastline midway between the Tyne and the Wear. The Leas is a two and a half mile stretch of magnesian limestone cliffs, wave-cut foreshore and coastal grassland. The cliffs and rock stacks of Marsden Bay are home to nesting Kittiwakes, Fulmar, Cormorants, Shags and Guillemots.

As is normal, I arrived at Souter with plenty of time to kill before sunrise as there's plenty of colour on show at least an hour before the sun shows, which gives the photographer ample opportunity to grab a few shots from different angles and various positions at the site. I dropped anchor in the empty car park adjacent to Souter Lighthouse and noticed how chilly it was as soon as I got out into the fresh air. I'm no stranger to these conditions though, after many Winter sunrise outings down the years, but I dare say October throws up the'Mildest' weather in comparison to that during the months of November, December and also January and Feb. Again it was double fleece all the way with a body warmer for good measure, plus a pair of Wellies, even though I was above sea level. The Wellies come in handy if Plan B gets the go-ahead, but luckily today my original plan fell into place so I left the Wellies on regardless. I always prepare the night before, making plans around the weather conditions, sunrise times, tide table etc, so should I not gain access to Souter for one reason or another, my Plan B would have taken me to sea level at Marsden Bay, just another short drive up the road. As it was, everything fell into place so my original plan went ahead. As I grabbed my gear from the car I couldn't help but notice the colours on the horizon, which were worthy of a photograph even though there was little or no focal point in the scene, other than a puddle of water and a gate (see photo 1, above). The moon added a little something to the shot, shining quite brightly in the crystal clear sky above. I was off and running.

As the colour diminished it was apparent that Sunrise was drawing nearer. A small bank of cloud sat on the horizon, just behind the Lighthouse, which was where the brightest part of the horizon was - the position where the sun was about to rise. It was obvious to me that I'd have to wait longer to see the sun as it would rise behind the cloud cover, but that wasn't such a bad thing. I had the pace to myself, which is always a good thing, no distractions from other photographers or dog walkers wanting to stop and chat about the current price of bacon. As you may have gathered...I don't like interruptions and prefer to work on my own - it's also known as being a fussy b*stard where photography is concerned, but I'm nice with it, just ask my missus! And so it was time to turn my attention to Souter Lighthouse, just before Sunrise. The sky was a deep coral blue, an ideal backdrop and exactly the colour I wait for in low-light conditions. Too light and it's lost - too dark and it's muddy. Running with similar camera settings I used at Littlehaven, I was shooting once again, with heavy emphasis on the ND Grads once again, which were a 'Must have' in these conditions. Highlights and shadows were evident once more, so the filters got another run out to balance exposure to suit. These bits of kit are priceless - what did I do before I bought them? At one point the highlights in the sky were so burnt out I had to stack (times 3) to retain detail. A full set of soft grads, 0.3, 0.6 and 0.9 done the job nicely. They're worth every penny.

My third shot (above) is possibly my favourite one of the batch. A brilliant sky and sun drenched walls of whitewash, adding to the overall shot - a typical picture postcard scene. The sun did eventually show once it cleared the low clouds, but due to its position I never included it in my shots as it was over to my right and out of frame. I pulled in lots of good shots of Souter Lighthouse from different positions, most of which can be viewed here, on a dedicated page on my website - Souter Lighthouse. My final shot shows my car, which contained a hot flask of coffee, so off I went, warming those freezing toes in the process. Heaters on full throttle. Job done.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Dawn Breaks At Littlehaven

At the beginning and end of each year I dedicate quite a lot of 'Spare' mornings to one of my favourite areas of photography, low-light sunrises. As each year passes I gain more experience at this particular skill and I've pulled in some great shots, so the expectation level rises each year as I make further attempts to deliver the goods. You have to be quite dedicated when you have a choice to either lie in bed, or get out of it to basically freeze your balls off on some remote beach, waiting for the sun, that might not show. Some would say it's a no-brainer, but if you want those dramatic sunrise shots in your portfolio then you're left with little choice but to get off your arse and go hunting for them. The early starts don't bother me - I can always go back for a kip in the afternoon, he he. Of course, the whole experience is what you make it, so I always add a few perks to make the outing that little bit more appealing, like a flask of coffee upon arrival, to the ritualistic visit to the McDonalds drive-thru on the way home. Both are pre-requisites and all part of the experience, although I often 'Forget' to tell the missus about the McDonalds bit, which she often susses out when I refuse a bacon sandwich when I return home, he he. So off I went, leaving home at 6.00am, with plenty of time to spare before sunrise at 7.30am. Wearing two fleeces and a body warmer (and jeans, of course) I fully expected brass monkey weather. This is October and the beginning of a five month stretch of low-light photography, so the excitement builds as I make my first outing to Littlehaven Beach, South Shields, Tyne & Wear. Here I go...

The Groyne Lighthouse becomes the focal point once again, perched on the pier at Littlehaven, as the sun rises behind it. Here are four shots that include one before sunrise, one during and two shortly afterwards. All shots were captured on my trusty Canon 7D, with 18-135mm lens, Lee ND Grads 0.3, 0.6 (stacked), shot in RAW format using an ISO of 100, Manfrotto legs with ball head grip, fired remotely. Nuff said -

Until the next time, which hopefully won't be too long.


Friday, 12 October 2012

Ultravox - Sage Gateshead (8th Oct 2012)

This was the fourteenth and final concert of the 'Brilliant' UK Tour, which started mid-September. The venue was the trendy Sage Music Hall, Gateshead, just over the water from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. We were late arriving at the venue due to other commitments, and after parking the Juke we headed across the way to the main entrance. I took a quick look at the Millennium Bridge to my right and couldn't help noticing how still the River Tyne was. The reflections were like nothing I'd seen before, but with no time to waste we entered the Sage and made our way to the concert hall. This was my first ever visit for a live show and I was looking forward to the acoustics that I'd heard so much about - apparently the sound is amazing. With literally five minutes to showtime we took our seats. In no time the band were on stage and belting out the opener, the title track of the new 'Brilliant' album, which sounded exactly that. The band looked a little nervous and full of concentration, which was evident during the first few songs, but as the gig wore on they seemed to get more 'Into' the occasion. The concert was split into two parts, with a twenty minute intermission in between, which was new to me but it seemed to work well considering the amount of songs Ultravox got through on the night. As well as tracks from the new album we were treated to many more songs from their extensive back catalogue, including many of the chart hits that they achieved during their heyday. The light show was eye-catching, with occasional visuals projected on the rear curtain. There were the usual sound issues here and there, but overall the band were tight and played an excellent gig throughout. Midge Ure's vocals were excellent on the night, as was the uber cool vocals from drummer Warren Cann on 'Mr X' and his backing vocals on 'Rage In Eden'. Billy Currie's antics behind the keyboards were very reminiscent of his early day and quite odd at times, like his crouching forward, arm swinging display was like that of an OAP at the local carpet bowls club. He was greeted with deserved applause each time he came forward to play Viola, especially during 'Astradyne' and the classic 'Vienna', amongst others. Chris Cross, on keyboards and bass, was stood very close to our seats in the front row, and seemed to enjoy the dancing queen in the row behind us. The least said about him the better, he he.
A great show from start to finish.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Haworth, West Yorkshire - Bronte Country

Two weeks ago I was in the county of West Yorkshire, visiting a town called Haworth, a rural village in the City of Bradford and located amongst the Pennines, 3 miles southwest of Keighley and 10 miles west of Bradford. Haworth is a tourist attraction, best known for its association with the Brontë sisters. Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte were writers whose novels have become classics, a body of work that was inspired by their surroundings, a region that still holds its charm today. Haworth's main street was the focal point of interest for me - a bank of original cobbled stone, flanked by many  tea rooms, souvenir and antiquarian bookshops, restaurants, pubs and hotels (including the "Black Bull" - where Branwell Bronte's demise into alcoholism and opium addiction allegedly began). The character of this place makes it a 'Must see' for any photographer who is in the area, no matter what the weather is doing. And it wasn't doing much when I was there. I never even had my camera gear with me, just a pocket camera (Fuji 'Point & Shoot' job), which done the job ok. I have converted three of my shots to HDR, which are shown here, and the effect worked quite well, which it usually does on old stonework/facades. It's not often you come across places like this, so I'll be making every effort to get back down there soon, hopefully with better weather adding to better shots.

Back soon with more pix,

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Guardian Angel - The Book Cover

It's always nice to see my photographs printed in publications, such as magazines, brochures and leaflets, so it was a nice suprise to be approached recently by someone who enquired about using my 'Guardian Angel' photograph on a book cover...

Dear Ashley Corr,
I'm an academic living in Durham, just about to publish a book based on interviews with families in the North-East around education and social mobility, with the publisher Sense. I've been searching for a relevant photo for the cover and came across your beautiful photo, called 'Guardian Angel' on the BBC Tyne website - under Northumbrian icons. Is there copyright on this photo? Will I be able to use it as a book cover? I preferred your image of the Angel of the North to any of the ones on the free photo databases because of the family in shot. It also captures the Angel at a great angle. Since my book is about family narratives of education in the north-east it will work really well I think.I'm happy to send you further details if you'd like and a mock-up of the cover when it's produced. I can also talk to the publisher about mentioning you as the photographer.

Let me know what you think.
Many thanks, Laura

Dr Laura Mazzoli Smith
Visiting Fellow
Institute of Education
University of Warwick
After further correspondance with Laura, I then sent her my 'Guardian Angel' photograph, which was in turn forwarded to the publisher (Sense), who are now in the process of putting the whole project together. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy, soon!
I'll keep you posted on any developments.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Weekend Photographs

A mixed bag of photographs that were taken this weekend. I had a bit of spare time and took the opportunity to get out locally and visit some of my favourite locations. The first shot (shown below) was taken on Friday evening at Rainton Meadows, Houghton-le-Spring, and features a pair of Mute Swans at Sunset. The weather on Saturday afternoon was ideal so I paid a visit to Penshaw Monument, followed by Lumley Castle near Chester-le-Street. Then, just before Sunset I visited the Angel Of The North, where I managed to catch the last colours in the sky as the light began to fall.

Here are the results - click to enlarge.
Back soon,