Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Looking For That Cover Shot

Hello again.

Autumn colours were on display once again as 2013 geared up to it's final season that is Winter. I only made one journey out with the camera in search of a nice Autumn shot, and that was a morning visit into the Land Of The Prince Bishops - County Durham. Although Autumn only yielded one set of shots for me, I was more than happy with the results. In fact, one of them is earmarked for a magazine cover next year, so I hope to find a taker for this one, as it's too late to expect anyone to publish an Autumn shot now, especially with the Winter mags hitting the shops in the next couple of weeks. My visit to Durham was one that I had done a little research on in the days leading up to it. I waited for a bright sunny day to capture those colours at their peak, along with a focal point that simply had to be Durham Cathedral. I found myself deep in a wooded area overlooking Durham City Centre, looking for that perfect viewpoint. In the woods I stumbled across a young Australian girl who was sitting admiring the open view in front of her. She said 'Hello' as I was about to walk past, and I stopped briefly to chat about the stunning view (of the landscape, not her). I told her I was hoping to find a nice viewpoint to photograph the Cathedral from, and she told me to keep following the path I was on, until I reached a bench down the hill. She went on to say 'Once you reach the bench you'll see it all in front of you, I'll say no more'. I was well intrigued. I thanked her and swiftly moved on, looking for the bench in question. I found it in sharp time. As for the view, here it is, absolutely spot on...

Here is my quick mock up of a magazine cover. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Urban Graffiti, Sunderland

Hello once again!

Blog entries have been few and far between lately, mainly due to me setting up a Facebook page and dedicating more time to that than this. It's a bit of a juggling act at the moment but normal service will resume fairly soon, so rest assured my blog page will return to its rightful pecking order. To be honest, I'm way behind on all things blog, so I'll have to get my arse in to gear and bring you those Summer shots from around the Med, when I visited places like Majorca, Menorca, Italy, Corsica, and Sardinia, taking in places like Rome, Venice, Naples & Amalfi Coast, Mahon, Palma and Cagliari, amongst others. Then there's the doorstep photographs - Sunderland, Seaham, Durham, etc. There's plenty of photo's queued up and they'll be here shortly. Website overhauls are dominating most of my PC time though - it'll take me many hours to revamp the pages, but I'm whipping through them at a rate of knots, with a third of them completed up to now. Only 30 more pages to go!!!

So, what's been happening lately? I've been making regular visits into Sunderland over the last month or so, as I seem to be neglecting my hometown with the camera. Time to change all that. Twilight visits into the city centre took me along Nile Street, near the East End, where a collection of street art has appeared over a short period of time. Many buildings have been transformed into a colourful montage, as well as stand alone designs like the ones below. Urban Graffiti, or Street Art, may not be everyone's cup of tea, but this lot has captured the imagination of many Sunderland folk, who have given it the 'Thumbs Up' in recent weeks. I think it's the dogs bollocks, to be quite candid. Brilliant works of art, make no mistake. And so off I went, with Chris in tow, to photograph them 'My Way'.
Here they are...

As always, click an image to view an enlarged version of it. If you like what you see and would like to view more, click here for the full 'Urban Graffiti' photo session. Until the next time...

Saturday, 26 October 2013

New Facebook Page

Hello again!

Apologies for the lack of Blog updates recently - I've been spending more time building my new Facebook page, but there will be plenty of updates on Blogger very soon. Please feel free to like my page, if you haven't already. There's a few of my latest photographs on Facebook, as well as older contributions, so drop in and see what's going on. Press that button... LIKE, LIKE, LIKE


Direct link to my Facebook can be found on my

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

New Stock On Display

New stock on display @ Clay's Garden Centre, Washington, including 20x16" frames, 11x9" frames, 14x11" mounted prints, 10x8" mounted prints and postcards. Frames are now available to purchase and are on display in the Coffee Shop. Prints can be found on the main shop floor next to the Greetings Cards and books of local interest. Images include Bamburgh Sunrise, Buttermere Dawn, Winter On Penshaw Hill, Newcastle Quayside and more.

Also finished printing and framing for Penshaw Tea Rooms & Nursery. The vast majority of their stock is of Penshaw Monument, for obvious reasons, and it includes a variety of frame sizes, mounted prints, canvas prints and postcards. If you're lucky enough to find a spare table in the Coffee Shop, check out the new menu with my 'Penshaw Poppies' shot on the front cover.

Their new on site Farm Shop will be opening soon, stocking fresh produce on a daily basis, so I imagine the place will be even more popular than it already is.

Here is a photo of the new stock at Penshaw Tea Rooms. More will be delivered shortly, including 36x12" panoramic framed prints & 32x10" canvases. OK, back to printing...


Sunday, 6 October 2013

Lake District Weekender

Hello once again.
My first blog entry of October recalls our August Bank Holiday camping trip to the Lake District, where we had three days of constant sunshine and high temperatures, which is quite a rarity in Lakeland. We pitched our tent at Castlerigg Farm, on the outskirts of Keswick, after taking up the very last plot on the site before the 'Site Full' sign was hoisted. Once our tent was pitched and loaded, we were back in the car and exploring Lakeland once again, travelling to such places as Bowness, Ambleside, Buttermere and Castlerigg Stone Circle. The region was packed with tourists, which was inevitable on a Bank Holiday weekend, and especially with the weather being so kind. here are some of the photo's I took during a brilliant weekend, which certainly won't be forgotten in a hurry.

Speak soon, Ash

Buttermere Dawn, winner of 'BBC Look North' August weather photograph 

Sunset, from our base at Castlerigg Farm Camp Site

Rowing boats, early morning at Derwentwater

Keswick Launch, Derwentwater

Derwentwater, shortly after Sunset

The top of Honister Pass, near the Slate Mine (Via Ferrata)

The Peaks at Dusk, from Ambleside

Surprise View over Derwentwater, near Ashness Bridge

Buttermere at Dawn - The sheep arrive and take an early morning drink 

Buttermere Dawn, as the mist rises

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Another Bamburgh Sunrise

It's been almost two years since my first and last visit to Bamburgh, Northumberland, and once again I arrived at the crack of dawn to photograph the sunrise. On that occasion, back in 2011, it was a very cold October morning, and I was fortunate that my 140 mile round trip was rewarded with a nice sunrise. So, after a fairly long absence it was time to make a repeat journey North on the A1(M), but would I be as lucky on my second jaunt? Well, if the truth be told, it was far from a cracker, but I made the most of what was served up. I arrived at the small village of Bamburgh at around 5.15am, after leaving Houghton around 4ish, so I had about 40 minutes play time before the show started. This gave me ample time to assess the location once again, and on this occasion the glow on the horizon suggested the sun was about to rise further north, up the coast, unlike my previous visit when the sun rose directly behind Bamburgh Castle. As most determined photographers are aware, the sun rises and sets at different points on the horizon during the change in seasons, so it was a simple case of adapting by choosing a location to shoot from to get the shots I wanted. I made the decision not to shoot on the sands, as on my previous visit, but to take up position on the rocks at the Embleton end of Bamburgh Beach. I was in company once again, as a small pack of photographers arrived at the roadside as I began to set my gear up. Soon they dispersed and took up positions of their own, with two or three setting up their stall on the same rocks as myself. It was friendly enough, as is always the case when a pack of snappers are chasing the light, with the occasional bit of banter being exchanged as we waited for the sun to make an appearance. And as sunrise was almost upon us, more last minute photographers arrived, scurrying about in a frenzied rush, not wanting to miss a slice of the action. By this time I'd reeled in my first batch of shots and the sun was still to come, so I was up and running and feeling quite pleased with my effort so far.

When the sun finally appeared the shutters were tripping all around me, which was expected. We were all in full flow by this time and making the very most of the conditions in front of us. It was a good 'un, once again. As the sun lifted further, and the light increased dramatically, one by one the like-minded folk on the rocks packed up and headed back to their cars. I decided a walk along the beach was a good idea, so off I went, lugging my rather heavy backpack as I trudged slowly over wet sand. Their were some good lead-in lines along the sand, with nice texture, so I made a couple of brief stops to capture the scene, as you can see below, including the Castle reflection.
In the distance, along the sands, dog walkers and others were taking advantage of the situation. There was a clear blue sky above, with little or no breeze and a calm outgoing tide to boot, which was ideal. I photographed a family, walking in the distance, with a nice sandy lead-in, which you can also see below. Well, it looks like I struck lucky once again. Two out of two at Bamburgh, and I was well chuffed with the pictures I had made.

And as I depart once again, I'll stop the prattle, always preferring to let my pictures 'Do the talking',
so here they are. I hope you like them.
Until my next excursion...

(Click an image to reveal enlarged version)

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Website Overhaul

Hello once again!

I'd like to inform the visitors to that my website is in the early stages of an overhaul. I've decided to ditch the slide shows in favour of a more practical and presentable look, which will include a thumbnail pop-up gallery which displays larger images. At present the slide show window displays images at 600 pixels (long edge), and instead of trawling through a slide show to find a specific image, you can now view a selection of thumbnails as soon as you reach the page. By clicking a thumbnail image it will now reveal an enlarged image of 800 pixels (long edge), which is a big improvement and obviously more beneficial as far as detail is concerned. The musical accompaniment remains, and this will play from the moment you reach the page, until you leave it. As you can imagine, this project will take many hours to complete, and I'm hoping to chip away gradually over the colder months to finish each and every page. I've already completed 6 pages to date and hope to tick a few more off this week, as well as maintaining regular updates with new images. And if I've still got time to spare after work and family commitments, I might be lucky to get back out with the camera, he he. Oh well, plenty to keep me busy, eh.

We recently returned from a fantastic break in Venice, so look out for my new 'Night time' shots, coming soon. Our last visit, in 2011, was a one day visit as we were staying on the Italian mainland for a week, but this time we actually stayed in Venice for four days, seeing the place at night for the first time. Venice under the lights is something else, and we had our best holiday, even if it was a mini-break in Mid-September!

Plenty more photo updates to come...

Friday, 20 September 2013

Out And About In The Sun

As Summer comes to a close and we head towards Autumn, this seems like a good time to show you a few of my recent photographs that were taken in the sun. I was out and about with the camera on a number of days, mainly on the doorstep, and occasionally off the beaten track. I found myself visiting places that I used to tread many years ago, when I lived at South Hylton, during the 80's and early 90's. Places like Cox Green, Hastings Hill and Offerton were regular haunts back then, so it was nice to take a stroll down Memory Lane, after a long absence. As well as these local haunts I also visited a couple of places in County Durham, on the way back from a camping trip in the Lake District (more of that coming soon). Egglestone Abbey and Bowes Museum are located near Barnard Castle, and a quick stop off provided a chance to grab some nice postcard type shots, so I made the most of that. Another stop off, after an early morning drive to Bamburgh, had me calling in at Blyth Beach to see the colourful huts along the promenade. Clear blue skies were on show, offering an ideal backdrop for a quick shot or two, so I didn't hang about. And finally, moving slightly further down the coast, I found myself at St. Mary's Lighthouse. Not much else to say, other than here are the photo's...

Until the very next time...

Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham

Egglestone Abbey, County Durham

Foxcover Lane, Nr Hastings Hill, Sunderland

Beach Huts, Blyth, Northumberland

River Wear @ Cox Green

St. Mary's Lighthouse, Whitley Bay

Saturday, 14 September 2013

BBC Look North - Winning Weather Shot

Hello again.
Earlier this week my 'Buttermere Dawn' shot won the August weather competition on BBC Look North. It will now feature on the 2014 'Children In Need' Calendar, which I'm chuffed to bits about. The calendar, which sells in thousands each year, is due to go on sale in November, as its release coincides with 'Children' In Need day. It was first time lucky for me, as I'd never previously submitted one of my photo's to BBC TV for one reason or another, so it was a big surprise to win the competition in August, even though my photo had been shown earlier on two consecutive nights. It seems quite a while ago that I was stood at the waters edge at Buttermere, yet it was only three weeks since that day, and one that I won't forget in a hurry. Many thanks go to the judge who picked out my shot, Alison Leddy, and even better that she is a landscape photographer herself, so she obviously knows what makes a great shot. It must have been a difficult choice for her to make though, as I was up against some big competition, judging by the batch of shots that were shown in the run up to announcing the overall winner. You'll see them all in the video clip below. So, without further ado, here it is...

See ya all later,

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

TV Weather shots (Parts 63-66)

Hello again.
Here is my latest batch of Weather Shots that were shown on local TV recently. As usual, each shot is presented as a short video clip, taken directly from TV and converted for use in the blog video player (below). Today marks a slight change from the norm as I bring you my first ever BBC Weather shot!
Up to now all of my previous weather shots were shown on Tyne-Tees Television, all 62 of them, but I decided to try my luck with BBC and it worked out well. A recent camping trip on August Bank Holiday weekend gave me an opportunity to do my first ever sunrise shoot in the Lake District, which I grabbed with both hands. I captured what I consider to be one of my finest landscape shots I have ever taken, at Buttermere. A full blog entry of my camping trip will appear here soon.

Weather shots in the video player below are -
63. Roseberry Topping, Great Ayton
64. St Mary's Lighthouse, Whitley Bay
65. South Shields Sunrise
66. Buttermere, Lake District


Friday, 6 September 2013

Riverside Stadium, Middlesborough

Not sure why, but I've been making a few photography visits to Teesside recently. I had no previous interest in this part of the world, especially when there's plenty to offer 'up' the coast, rather than down. Although the Northumberland coast is far more photogenic, there are still a few gems to be had on the North Yorkshire coast, such as Staithes, Whitby & Robin Hood's Bay, but I opted not to travel that far south, and visited Guisborough and Roseberry Topping instead. On my way back to God's Country I asked the SatNav to guide me to the Riverside Stadium, home of Middlesborough FC, as I hadn't been there before and wanted to see whether there was anything worth photographing. The sun shone brightly upon arrival, yet there was a storm brewing, judging by the almost black clouds above. The contrast made for a nice shot, so off I went. As with many modern football stadia, there are iconic sculptures in and around the main entrance, and MFC was no different. I took a couple of shots near the Wilf Mannion sculpture, towards the reception. Under foot were the etched block paving, bought by fans and displaying their names, rather like perimeter walls at the Stadium Of Light, Sunderland. We always lead - others follow! 'Red n' White Armyyyy'.

Not much else to say, folks. So here are some of my shots, taken on two different days.
Cheers, Ash

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Lens Review - Canon 100mm Macro, 2.8 USM

Welcome back!

Over the years I've taken a few Macro shots on a variety of compact camera's, mainly due to the fact the built-in Macro facility was readily available as an add-on feature. 'Might as well have a try', was the attitude behind it, without really having an interest in this area of photography, it was interesting to see exactly what type of shots each camera would pull in. In most cases each model would deliver more than decent shots, until I downloaded them onto my hard drive and opened each one up to view them on a much larger scale. Although these Macro shots looked very tidy on a two inch screen, the truth was out on a PC monitor - not that impressive. Depth of field was always going to be a stumbling block, especially on a camera that wasn't specifically designed for 'True' Macro, so when the opportunity arose to test out a dedicated Canon 100mm affair, I was more than happy to put it through its paces. Then again, I had no previous experience of using a Macro lens on a DSLR, so maybe it was ME that would be put through its paces! I loaned the lens for a weekend, hoping to get try it out on the coast of Sunderland, among the rock pools and sand at Seaburn and Roker. As the weekend progressed, and other commitments narrowed down my 'Play time' with this lens, I eventually had time to fit in a session, although the tide table wasn't on my side, so I turned to Plan B. I made a visit to Butterfly World, Stockton On Tees, to grab some close-ups of plants and... you've guessed it...Butterfly's!

Arriving with little under an hour before closing time, I quickly got to work with the lens attached to my trusty Canon 5D MKII. It was apparent from the outset that this task was going to be a tricky one. Using a Monopod, and running with a pre-determined batch of camera settings, I was firing away in no time, but on reviewing my work when magnified on the LCD it was clear to me that achieving pin sharp images wasn't going to be straightforward. Again, even with a dedicated Macro lens, depth of field was a real issue here, but patience and a touch of perseverance usually results in improvement, as I know first hand from experience, so that was the route I went down in the short time I had to make my pictures. Butterfly World was busy, even during the last hour of play, with kids running amok and making every effort to grab a butterfly and take it home - those Smoggies have no shame. A swift elbow here and there got the message across, as I wasn't gonna let some snotty nose kid ruin my shots, he he. Do one!!!

And so, down to the nuts and bolts of this lens...
If you want to jump into macro photography making compromise in image quality, this lens is the perfect choice, and here is why:

1) Fast Focusing - Utilizing the USM (Ultrasonic Motor), the Canon 100mm internally focuses very fast, quietly and very accurately.
2) Non-Extending or Rotating - When focusing at 1x subject distances, the lens does not extend, and the front element does not rotate.
3) Crisp and Sharp Images - the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro Lens is sharp wide open. The tiniest details in your tiniest subjects will come to life with this lens.
4) Excellent Optical Performance - Flare is very well controlled. Colour and contrast are excellent, although vignetting is apparent at f/2.8, but quickly disappears when the lens is stopped down.
5) Optimum Minimum Working Distance (MWD) - There are three macro lenses in Canon's range of USM lenses. The 60mm lens has a very short MWD of only 60mm, and insects may tend to scare and fly away prematurely. Also, the 180mm lens has a MWD of 240mm, and at this distance insects are not really close enough. The EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro Lens, on the other hand, has a MWD of 150mm, which is ideal for butterfly and insect photography.

6) Very good image quality, L rated.
7) Nice build quality.
8) Large focusing ring, very easy to use.
9) Pretty good for portrait too, or so I've been told.

The Canon 100mm Macro is well worth buying if you want to get into this area of photography. Although I enjoyed testing it out, I reckon I'll stick with Landscape photography. That's where it's at for me. And on that note I shall scurry away, to return another day...
Until then, Ash

Friday, 30 August 2013

More TV Exposure! (Parts 60-62)

Last weekend, Bank Holiday, was spent in the Lake District as part of a two night camping trip. The weather was brilliant throughout, with not a single drop of rainfall, which is quite a rarity in Cumbria, even in Summer. We pitched our tent at Castlerigg Farm, Keswick, which was our fourth visit to the site over the last two years and certainly one site we'll be revisiting in 2014. On Monday morning I was up early and heading out in pitch darkness for a sunrise at Buttermere. A 5am alarm call started the show, before the 40 minute car journey through Seatoller, then the climb onto Honister Pass, before descending through the valley and into Buttermere. Upon arrival visibility was very poor. I stuck around though, being a patient and persevering type of photographer (he he), and was duly rewarded with one of the best scenes I've ever witnessed - it really was something else. The Buttermere pines, reputed to be the most photographed set of trees in the UK, along with a still lake, giving a glass like reflection that was screaming out to be photographed. The mountainous backdrop added to the picture, so there was no time to stand on ceremony as the scene in front of me only lasted a short while before the water began to ripple and the reflection disappeared. By the time that eventually happened the shots were in the bag. I'm looking forward to opening the folder with the other shots in, to see if there are more gems to work with. Here is one that I sent in to regional TV, as a weather shot. My photograph, which is titled 'First Light, Buttermere', was shown on ITV Border at 6.30pm on Wednesday 28th August, then again on BBC Look North 30 minutes later! 48 hours later it resurfaced on BBC once again during another weather forecast. Here are the screenshots, along with the original, converted from RAW to JPEG and downsized for the web use.

A full blog entry of my Lake District camping trip will appear here shortly. Until then...take care