Friday, 26 April 2013

Penshaw Monument At Night

I never tire of photographing Penshaw Monument. Whether it's Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter, during Rain, Wind, Snow or Shine, there's every chance I'll be there, looking through the viewfinder. And from dusk til dawn, it's more of the same, as I capture this landmark in a variety of conditions which are rarely the same. Of course, there are many angles to photograph from and it's always a good idea to cover each one at some point, which is something I've never done, strangely enough. The 'Back' of Penshaw Monument, which I will refer to as 'The opposite side of the steps', is an angle I rarely shoot from, although I still have a nice shot from the mid-eighties which was taken from a spot on the A123, near North Hylton, with Cox Green Golf Course in the foreground and a 'Patchwork quilt' of surrounding fields. But above all, the classic view from the bottom of the steps is still my favourite. Photographed to death, I'm sure, but at night this view is even better as the place comes alive with the illuminations. This batch of Penshaw Monument low-light shots is by far the best I've managed to date and I'm chuffed to bits with them. After an early evening visit to the Angel (see previous blog entry) with Billy, he went back home so I headed up Penshaw Hill on my own in search of some nice shots. I was up there in pitch darkness and there was no-one else around. Some of the halogen lights were out and columns were in shade, which wasn't good for making pictures, so done a 180 degree spin and photographed the light trails along the dual carriageway. The street lamp effect was very eye-catching, to say the least. Check it out below (last shot).

I headed round the front, near the steps, and took my first shot of the Monument, before rattling off a few more frames and taking the return journey down the steps. Standing on the roadside next to my car, I turned to look at the Monument and decided to grab a few more shots before buggering off home. It was from here that I pulled in some lovely shots, and with an eye for the killer shot I invited a simple tree to the show, and what a good idea it proved to be (first shot). With the tree almost still, I knew a long exposure was possible, as movement would kill the shot stone dead if the tree moved, causing unwanted blur in the exposure. Some young couple pulled up in a car, asking me if it was OK to park. I replied 'Aye Mate' and he duly dropped anchor. They seemed to sit for a while as I rattled off a few more frames. They were probably waiting for me to shift so they could indulge in some nocturnal frolics. I know that for sure, as I had done the very same thing on that stretch, quite a few moons ago. I left them to it. I got what I came for, so who was I to deny the young lad his slice of the cake! Well I
was gunning for the Kebab shop wasn't I, only cos' the Indian's was closed, he he. And I returned home with exactly that, along with the pre-requisite garlic and chilli sauce.

And so another blog entry comes to light, along with a brief insight to my younger day and the Lovers Lane, he he. Eeeeee, them were the days...


Sunday, 21 April 2013

Angel Of The North - Tutorial 2

Following a recent photography tutorial to a friend, at Gibson's Cave, we were out again with the camera's at another location closer to home. This time it was Gateshead's 'Angel Of The North', for some evening shots and another insight into shutter speed. The Gibson's Cave tutorial focused on slow shutter speeds, as we photographed a waterfall and wanted the desired milky effect of the water as it fell. The results of that visit can be viewed here. So it was shutter speed once again, but this time we were heading further up the scale with faster speeds in very bright sunlight. As the sun sets behind the Angel, our best hope was to grab some silhouette shots, with the setting sun in the background and hopefully a burst of colour after it had set. We fired off a few frames on the plot where the tree's had been felled, which offered us a position which was impossible to imagine just a few weeks ago. I explained to Billy that the inclusion of people in the shot was, in my opinion, quite important, as a sense of scale gives the image an extra dimension. Without people in the frame the image simply doesn't have the same impact, so it was a waiting game as we picked off the best visitors to include in our shots. It was quiet at first, with no-one showing up, so we improvised and added ourselves to each others shots, just to warm up, ready for those unsuspecting folk walking into our shots and not having a clue what was going on behind our lenses. My first shot shows Billy doing a spot of modelling, he he, as he does as he is told by his mentor and gets his arse into the picture. Metering off the brightest part of the sky I was running with a fast shutter speed of 500th of a second, in shutter speed priority. Seven frames per second and the job was done, as Billy walked up the hill towards the Angel. I was lucky to see some colour in the sky too, on the horizon, which made the shot. Abstract worked quite well with this one, as I zoomed in to clip one of the Angel's wings.

My second shot is in Landscape mode, and again I went for scale, using a young girl who was photographing the sculpture from the approach path. This was actually taken before my first shot (above), and before the sun had set. Some nice cloud formation in this one, which was emphasised with a polarising filter - always a handy piece of kit to have tucked away in the bag. I deliberately under-exposed this shot to add that little bit of moody drama to it, and it seemed to work. Composition is all important, as usual, so get this aspect right and you're half way there. Billy took my advice on board and was quickly up and running on his own, pulling in some great shots.

My final shot of the Angel was taken the next day, from a viewpoint near the 'Angel View' pub, on the roadside towards Wrekenton. I was driving along this route and noticed an angle that I'd never seen before, so quickly pulled over and done the necessary. Something a bit different, with the countryside backdrop offering a different slant on my Angel photo's.

Plenty more photo's to come...
Until then, see ya.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Rainton Meadows - First Visit Of 2013

Hello again. The roaming Mackem Photographer returns with another dose of this highly addictive hobby that is Photography. My addiction has lasted over thirty years and shows no sign of relenting, so be prepared more of the same in 2013, as I bring to you my hobby in picture form. And already the new year is not so new, if you get my drift, as we rapidly head into Spring - It doesn't seem five minutes since it was Christmas. Yes, time does indeed fly, and time can pass you by in an instant, so it's very often a good thing to make the most of some situations which won't happen again. Of course, I'm talking about the hands on, day to day involvement with my family, and in particular my son, who is now 12 years old. When he's not out and about with his friends, or glued to his X-Box, he likes to spend some time with his 'Owld Man', whether it's footy practise up the park, weekend camping, or simply a visit to Rainton Meadows, he's always up for it. And it's Rainton Meadows that is the focus of today's blog entry, following our first visit of the year to the nature reserve. It's literally 'Round the corner', although his lazy Fatha insists on taking the car, he he. It was a fine day, perfect conditions for checking out the latest activity on the waters of Rainton Meadows, although there wasn't a great deal happening when we arrived. We got chatting to a couple of photographers in the main hide that overlooks the largest of the set of ponds. They were happy to see a youngster getting involved in this type of thing, and he was quick to let them know of his intention to hopefully make a career out of it. It was deja vu, in one respect, as I recall a similar thing that evolved around 12 years ago at the same location. I made regular visits to the meadows, and Joe's Pond, with my stepson, who was only 11 years old at the time, and also had an interest in nature, before the other side of life kicked in and slowly grew out of it. He enjoyed his time though, and we spent many a Summer evening watching the wildlife, before he discovered girls, computer games and The Simpsons! Despite this, he was adamant he would go on and make a career caring for animals, and is now studying towards this, with the RSPCA in Edinburgh. Chris is hoping to follow in Johnny's footsteps, and being determined as he is, he'll certainly give it everything.

So, here are a few photographs I took recently at Rainton Meadows, Houghton le Spring. At the bottom of this blog entry you'll see some shots I took a few years ago, when Chris was still in his buggy and Johnny was giving him a crash course on Birdlife! Aye, we went through many a loaf of bread, back then. But hey, priceless moments like this are to be cherished, even long after the event, and it's very satisfying to know that we had those times, and that we still have them today. You really can't put a price on these things. I don't understand parents who shy away from interaction with their own kids, then wonder why those kids want little to do with them once they're up and away. Ah well, you reap what you sow, in many respects. Funnily enough, Johnny and his girlfriend stayed with us for a week over Easter, during which time we caught up on things, and I admit to enjoying his company the most as we watched Newcastle United's demise in the Europa Cup to Benfica. With him being a NUFC die-hard, and his stepdad being a 'Red n White', I took great pleasure in watching him squirm as their Semi-Final hopes were dashed. He shared some bottles of Newcy Brown Ale with me as we watched the game, and believe me, I had to think long and hard before accepting Geordie Ale. A wonder I never choked! But as I write this latest blog entry, Sunderland and Newcastle are about to face each other in the Tyne-Wear Derby at St. James' Park. Oh dear, I don't like watching these games - too tense. Not for the feint-hearted. I predict a 2-1 victory for the Black Cats of Wearside, under the guidance of one Paolo Di Canio.

Back on topic though...
Rainton Meadows will be revisited over the Spring and Summer months, so hopefully I'll be able to bring you a few nice Nature shots. I really should invest in some new glass, possibly a 400mm telephoto affair, but these things don't come cheap. I'll have to sell a few more photo's. Until then...

See ya next time, Ash

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Tyne-Tees Television (Parts 50-54)

Welcome back to my BlogSpot!
I recently hit a milestone of 50 weather photographs of mine that have been shown on Tyne-Tees Television. I often go a while without sending any in, but I put that right recently by making more of an effort by emailing them one photo per week. I was fortunate that they showed every one, so here is my latest offerings below, on the embedded video player. The photographs are as follows...

1. Roker Pier (Lunchtime slot)
2. Seaham Pier (Evening slot, both same day)
3. Gibson's Cave, Teesdale
4. Penshaw Monument At Night

That's 54 to date, with more photo's ready to go. They must be getting rather sick of me, by now, he he. Check out my latest gallery update on 8 new shots of Penshaw Monument at night - new blog entry coming soon!

Cheers, Ash


Friday, 5 April 2013

Easter In The Lake District

Welcome back to my blog page, brought to you by the roaming Mackem Photographer!
The Easter weather in the North-East of England has been a bit of 'Hit and miss', with bright sunshine and broken cloud one day, followed by overcast skies and light showers the next. Then again, this is the North-East, where unpredictable weather is almost the norm, so we take what comes our way and duly plod on. I don't take a lot of notice of weather forecasts these days, even though I'm a regular viewer of the Tyne-Tees TV weather bulletins, to which I often contribute my own photo's. Although the forecasts are quite accurate they can also be inaccurate, even one day in advance, so I tend to go with the flow and adapt my photography to the changing weather conditions. In most cases you have to suck the proverbial lemon and make the most of what you've got, sun, rain, wind or snow. A typical example of this confronted me last Sunday, when I made the trip west to the Lake District National Park, during what was billed as 'Mostly sunny and occasional cloudy weather.' Well it was cloudy alright, make no mistake of that, but as for 'Mostly sunny', someone was surely having a laugh! The sun did show for a few minutes during the whole day, but that was all we got, so it was quite disappointing in that respect. Plan B has a timely habit of kicking in under circumstances like this, when a lack of colour has me eyeing up those potential moody shots, and what better place to be than the Lake District. Today's photo offerings are almost Black & White, give or take the odd carpet of green grass here and there. My first shot is by far the most colourful of the bunch - a classic Lake District scene, captured at the Keswick Launch, on the shoreline of Derwentwater. Taken shortly before lunch time, I was lucky the cold weather didn't attract tourists who fancied an open boat trip across the lake, so all of the rowing boats sat exactly where I had hoped, tethered to each other, ready to be photographed. Anyone that did take to the water was ferried across by a sheltered tourist boat, which can also be seen in my first shot, as it pulls in alongside the jetty. The backdrop of High Spy & Catbells, to the left, plus Causey Pike & Barrow to the right finish the shot off quite well. These are fells of the North-Western Region, topped by a sprinkling of snow, and definitely on my list of fells to climb in the Summer.

After my brief stop at Keswick Launch I headed to Buttermere, part of the Western Fell Region. It was still overcast when I arrived, some minutes later. I parked up near the Fish Inn and started my walk down to the Buttermere shoreline, and cold it certainly was. There was quite a few like-minded folk on the public footpath, braving the chill, en route to the waters edge and the view that greeted all. I could only imagine how much better this view would have been on a hot Summer's day, blue sky, broken cloud and all that comes with it. But once again, it was here and now so there was no time to dwell on what wasn't in the glass, but to be thankful for what was in it. Onward I went, round the lake from the Northern end and back again, in a mere two hours, which wasn't bad considering the amount of photo stops I chalked off. At the Southern End of Buttermere I reached one of the most popular photographic locations in the UK, the Sentinels, which are a row of tree's at the waters edge, sitting in front of two dominating fells, Haystacks & Green Gable. Another location that has to be top of my list for the Summer, but I will need to be awake early for this one as the sun comes up directly behind these two massive fells. To view a Google based image of exactly what I'm describing, 'Click here.' Ten minutes or so into my walk around the lake, I was immune to the cold, climatising quickly to the conditions that I was presented with, although I admit to being wrapped up well from head to toe (Be prepared). As Alfred Wainwright once said 'There is no such thing as bad waether in the Lake District, just unsuitable clothing.'

On my return to the Fish Inn, I popped in for a quick glass of Coke, to wet the owld whistle, before sitting my arse down in the car for a well deserved breather. I tucked into a bag of crisps to fill a hole, before leaving Buttermere and driving up Honister Pass to Keswick, then back onto the A66, homeward bound. Of course, the roaming Mackem Photographer needs his body fuel, so a pit-stop at Penrith saw me handing over £5.20 for a big portion of the finest Fish & Chips, washed down with Diet Coke. Now that was worth the wait. I had me little heart set on a Kebab, with hot chilli and garlic sauce, but I found a chip shop and got myself in. Just about to pull away with the goodies when I noticed a young couple walking out of a shop a few doors up the bank where I was parked. They had a carrier bag with those white polystyrene boxes in it, ya know, the ones you get KEBABS in.
As I drove away I looked towards the shop front and the sign above the front window said 'Turkish Kebab House' !!!!  Typical eh. These Fish & Chips better be good or else I'll not be a happy bunny. Ah well, I shoulda looked around first instead of jumping the gun. Anyway, the Fish Supper was very, very good, so it worked out well in the end. I've gone off Kebab's anyway (wink).

And that is all once again. Hope you like the latest batch of photo's. It was a good trip and despite the dull weather, the Lake District always has something to offer - it's photogenic all the way, rain, wind, snow or sun. It's there for the taking...
To view more photo's of my Buttermere visit, look out for a site update at