Saturday, 30 March 2013

Gibson's Cave, Middleton-In-Teesdale

A Tutorial.

A day without colour, a day without sky, and a day to forget in photography terms. Well, not quite. A miserable day with very a flat overcast sky killed any opportunity of some decent landscape photography, but these conditions are favourable when shooting waterfalls, so why not have a bash. I had an accomplice today, Mr Billy Short, latest member of the Canon Club, who was after an introductory crash course on his new hobby. So off we went, into the heart of Teesdale to a location known as Bowes Lees, home of the picturesque Gibson's Cave. On the road for just under an hour, before reaching our destination, we were greeted with a fair amount of snow, which was absent at home, but we were well prepared for the accompanying chill and wrapped up accordingly. Off we tootled, through the wooded area where we eventually found our first waterfall. Nothing special, in all honesty, but this offered a first opportunity to show Billy the ropes, so he set his gear up and I walked him through the necessary settings to achieve the shots he wanted. It was the classic 'Milky effect' waterfall that we were after, so as a starting point we set a shutter speed of 1/10th of a second, working slightly either side and cherry picking the best shot so we could determine which shutter speed we were going to run with for the rest of the session. We covered the broad range of camera settings, dialing in a preferred choice throughout, before composing and eventually tripping the slow shutter. Billy was more than happy with the results on his Canon 1100d, which was also pleasing from my point of view, so the first tutorial went carefully to plan. Mr Short was even happier when he saw his mentor fall flat on his arse in the slippery snow. I was up on my feet in no time, especially as his camera was primed and pointing squarely in my direction - we'll have no Facebook exposure here, Mr Bootleg (Long story). 

Gibson's Cave was adorned with icicles, many of which were at least 3 metres long. The waterfall, Summerhill Force,  took centre stage as usual, and who would deny its glory. As the sun shone briefly I was almost hit by icicles, melting and falling from the rocks above me. You got a real sense of danger when these things hit the floor nearby with a very noticeable racket, so I wasn't gonna 'Hang around' for long (pun intentional). We crossed the water to the other side of the cave, hoping to grab more shots from another angle, which we did. Billy was off an running by this time, getting to grips with his new toy and firing away as if he'd been at it for years. He pulled in some nice close-ups of the ice formations too. As the sun shone brightly it hampered our task somewhat, throwing far too much light into the camera, so we tinkered with a cheap set of ND filters (Screw on) to block some of that light out, which gave us our required shutter speed back. Thank you.
We photographed Gibson's Cave for a good 45 minutes or so before heading back to the car, stopping briefly so I could pull a falling icicle from my skull (shown here). And that was it, lesson over. Until the next one...


Thursday, 28 March 2013

Waves Of Discontent

Welcome back!
Seascapes come in various forms, from the calm to the stormy, the peaceful to the dramatic. And it's drama all the way in my latest batch of photographs which were captured locally, at Seaham Harbour in the County of Durham. Last Sunday was a right old windy affair, along with overcast skies and lack of colour all round. That combined was enough to leave with with little option other than to make it down to the coast in the hope of striking lucky with some big waves. JACKPOT !!!
Good decision - I'd never witnessed a sea like this one, as one massive wave after another rolled in, battering the sea walls and showing next to no mercy. Seaham Pier was up against it too, which is what I focused on for today's shoot, beginning my task from the top of a hill which overlooked Seaham Harbour. The steps to the summit were out of bounds, cordoned off with a barrier, which was less than imposing, so over I went, climbing the dozen or so steps until my vantage point was right in front of me. Naturally, in weather like this you get an accompaniment of chill, and boy was it cold. I was layered up, doing my prep work to a tee, well...not quite. Before leaving home I doubled up on fleeces, adding a body warmer for good measure. How about a wooly 'Bin Man' hat - yes, I'll have one of those too, plus warm hiking boots and 3 tog socks. Sorted? No way! I forget the gloves and paid a heavy price. Me little fingers were like icicles and I was in so much pain, I wasn't far off tears. Friggin' nightmare. But what to do, eh, other than grin and bare it. I wasn't gonna walk away from an opportunity like this.

I made my first few pictures from up top, before driving the car a short distance to the entrance of Seaham Pier, where I got the distinct impression I was getting a little bit too close to the action. The high North Sea to my left was frighteningly close to breaching the sea wall, it was that lively. The car was rocking to and fro, the winds doing their very best to intimidate. To my right, where I was now parked up, the Pier and lighthouse were both taking a battering from the incoming waves. This wasn't a happy sea and it wasn't taking prisoners in its state of discontent. Cars came and went, with occupants taking in the drama before heading off to safer ground. It was now time to take more shots, so I got out the car and almost got knocked off my feet with the full force of the wind that greeted me. I noticed the owld couple nearby, in the Morris Minor rust bucket, pointing towards me and laughing, but it was alright for them, they were safe and warm, they could laugh. I had a little chuckle to myself, ah well, I gave them summat to smile about. For a few minutes I stayed out there, opting to take the bad weather firmly on the chin, as the strong winds whipped up sand, straight into my eyes and mouth - not a pretty experience, to say the least. I imagined the owld folk behind me, laughing again, as I gave them better entertainment than 'Sunday At The Palladium' he he. As I
almost fell to my feet once again I turned my back on the wind and the seascape in front of me. From the corner of my eye I noticed owld Ernest & Elsie laughing their tits off at me, as I wrestled the elements, scoring nothing during the first three rounds. But hey, points were scored 'In camera' so I was consoled with that thought and fired off more frames to balance the boat, as it were. I was fighting my way back into the bout!

By this time my face and hands were in severe pain, chilled to a state of almost complete numbness, which I couldn't tolerate any longer, so I jumped back into my car. A safe haven, albeit temporarily, and with the added luxury of heaters. We take these things for granted usually, but what a godsend they were today, as they pumped out some much needed heat, making me look human once again. After recovering enough feeling in my hands I continued making pictures from inside the car, with a window lowered just enough to stick my lens out of. But with that came another snag - sand, sand and bloody more sand was thrown into the car through the five inch window drop, but I wasn't gonna miss capturing the scene in front of me, so I was more than happy for the interior to take one for the team. The Mrs can always hoover it up at a later date, he he. She'll kill me if she reads this. After ten minute or so there was, erm... quite a covering of sand along the dashboard, and the seats, and the floor. What a mess! Time to leave. Job done - I'd pulled in quite a bit of drama, a good slice of angry sea, all recorded on memory card, so off I drove. I made the decision there and then to get my freezing cold arse along the coast and into Gods Country, Sunderland, home of the devoted Mackem. It was destination Roker, for more big waves and the last drops of action before the tide turned. I parked up near Roker Hotel, up a height, along the seafront, shooting down towards the pier. The waves weren't as dramatic here, but enough to grab a couple of half-decent shots.

Enough was enough, as I waved (no pun intended) the white towel and made my way to Macdonalds, where hot coffee awaited. The 'mender' was well appreciated, and well needed, well deserved too. Soon I was back home, reviewing my 'Catch of the day' and being well pleased with the results. It may be some time before I witness another sea like this one. Until then, I think I'll play safe and stay at home, feet up in front of the fire. It's a much better place, trust me...


Photo's 1-5 > Seaham
6&7 > Roker

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Another Visit To York

Last month Mr & Mrs C had another weekend away in York, which is one of our favourite places to visit and it's only a 90 minute car journey at a steady pace. Mind you, although we visit York at least twice a year we never seem to hit on good weather, for some odd reason, and our latest visit was no different. That said, it was February, so it was no surprise that the North of England was once again under a dull overcast sky, with accompanying cold winds and the odd bout of snow and sleet. What to do eh, other than grit thee teeth and get on with it - this weather is not for the soft lad. Or maybe it was, as I headed into warmer territory that is York Minster, while the Mrs went for a spot of retail therapy, which is not my cup of tea whatsoever, so a canny compromise was made to pass an hour or so before meeting up. I kept my entrance ticket from my previous visit, which guaranteed free entry to the Minster for a full year, so there was no crossing palms with silvers on this occasion, as I went on my way, into The Nave. It's £9 a go these days, but there were plenty of takers, especially foreign folk, eager to see what was on show in this ancient building. There was one noticeable absentee however, my tripod, which was given the day off,  as I wanted to see what the 5D Mk2 was capable of in a handheld situation with high ISO settings. Every shot inside York Minster was captured this way and the results were stunning, especially the ceiling shot in the Chapter House (Shot 2, below). As you can imagine, there was very little available light to play with inside the Minster, so the Auto ISO setting was necessary to give me a fast enough shutter speed in low light, even though it cranked itself right up to 3200 in the dimmest areas to get a fast enough shutter. Reviewing the images, I couldn't help but notice how pin sharp they were when magnified on the monitor, so off I went, in search of more. I covered all of York Minster, apart from The Quire, which was out of bounds due to an ongoing hymn practise. Handheld delivered some great shots, if I say so myself. Oh, and there's a rare shot of me too, capturing a mirrored reflection in the South Transept.

After a 30 minute sesh in the Minster I had just enough time to head over to the popular Shambles area of York City Centre. The Olde Worlde character of this place is tailor made for photography, although my shots don't show its popularity on this occasion as the place was almost deserted when I got there. It was almost 4pm and Sunday shopping was near its end, so the majority of folk had cleared off by this time, which wasn't a bad thing as the camera got to see what it wanted, with no crowds obstructing its view. Shambles (or The Shambles as it is often referred to) is a street in the city centre of York with a long and interesting past. Today it features great shops, cafes, restaurants and tourist attractions. A fine place to stroll on a day in York or visit to take in some shopping, history and culture - also this year's winner of Google's Most Picturesque Street in Britain. As the snow started to fall I packed the camera away and headed off to the pre-arranged meeting place, where my other half was already waiting, laden with shopping bags. Oh aye...what's the damage? She had a big smile on her face when I arrived, but I still don't know whether it was due to the bargain she'd bagged, or the state of my hair, which was looking very sorry for itself by this time. Ah well, time to sit down for a beer and a bar meal. It's not all trudging around in the cold, this York malarky.

As usual, click on an image to enlarge. And on that note I shall disappear once more, only to return with more photographs, made in the North-East of England. Until then, stay safe.



Saturday, 16 March 2013

Tyne-Tees Television (Part 49)

As quick as the last batch of video clips were uploaded I've got another one to share (bottom of this blog entry), taken last Sunday (10th March) and shown on Tyne-Tees Television the following day. Another snow scene, captured at nearby Herrington Country Park during a blast of snowfall. From the main road I could see across the park to my right, noticing a group of blokes flying kites, so I made an instant decision that they would add to a good photo, with Penshaw Monument as a backdrop. I parked up soon after and headed across the far corner of the park to find a position to compose my shot, passing the kite flyer's as I went. The snowfall was full on in my face and visibility was very poor. I asked myself yet again what the hell I was up to in these mad conditions, but I've lost count of the times I've questioned my sanity and went on to grab 'The Shot', so onward I travelled. Reaching a good spot in the deserted park, I dropped my bag on the floor and unzipped it, removing the Star Of The Show, ready to get to work. I turned round to eye up what was on offer and their was a big fat nowt - visibility was no better than when I arrived and the Monument simply wasn't there. The snow had been off and on for the last hour, so I stood there like the classic tin of milk, waiting for the next lull. During this time I was numb with cold and covered in Snar from head to foot, which must have been a funny sight for any passers by, but today I lucky, there weren't any. Not hard to guess why. Atrocious conditions!

Within a few minutes the snowfall eased off and visibility improved massively. Hello Penshaw Monument, where were you? Time to get busy. The kite flyer's were having no more and packed their plastic away, so I grabbed my first shot as they headed back in single file to their nearby cars. Forget the kites, I still managed to make a decent picture. As I walked back to my car I fired off a few extra frames, catching some decent foreground in the shape of a crossroads (see photo 2). There was no colour to be had today, so black & white conversion was the way forward with this batch, and it worked quite well. Again, patience, perseverance and the odd 'Screw Loose' ruled the day. I was friggin 'Brass Monkey' but it was worth it. Shot one (top) was pulled in with a 70-300mm telephoto lens and the others with the L Series 24-105mm zoom, all attached to the Canon 5D Mk2 body, which is one hell of a piece of kit. Below is the video clip that was aired live on regional TV this week, plus you can can view it on the Tyne-Tees Weather site in High Definition if you wish, just scroll down to 'Monday 11 Mar 2013' - click here to view. Just below the video clip is the stand-alone photo, posted in the 'Sunday 10 Mar 2013' section. I have other Weather Photo's on the same site but you'll need to search for them in the archives.

And that's for now. I've got more new galleries opening up at very soon, including... 'Historic York' and 'Black & White 2' so look out for them. Late March will see me heading across the A66 to the Lake District, where I hope to bring back some top notch shots of the National Park. I'll be up on the fells once again, although I'm not sure which one yet. Spring and Summer will test me and the new camera out, so I'm looking forward to the challenge, plus there will be a big updates in my 'On Location' section as foreign travel is booked and I can't wait for that one. No clues as to what Country (or rather, Countries) - but I expect to bring back some great shots, so once again, stay tuned.

I'll be back soon with more photography. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Tyne-Tees Television (Parts 46, 47 & 48)

Hello again.
Almost two weeks have passed since my last blog update - I must get my act together!
As promised, a short video clip featuring a selection of my photographs that appeared on TV recently, and they are as follows...
1. Sunset, Transporter Bridge, Middlesborough (Jan 2012)
2. Sunrise, Seaham Pier, County Durham (Feb 2012)
3. Snowfall, Angel Of The North, Gateshead (Feb 2012)

Rapidly approaching the 50 mark, which I hope to reach in the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out all you people within reach of the Pontop Pike transmitter. I should be out and about with the 5D over the next few days, although nowhere in particular as a plan, but wherever it is, I'll be bringing home the shots. And that's all for now. Cheers.