Wednesday, 28 May 2014

St. Mary's Lighthouse, Whitley Bay

It's time to unveil my latest sunrise photographs, taken at St. Mary's Lighthouse, near Whitley Bay. I know I've mentioned this once or twice previously, and I'll make this one the last - it was at this location that my Canon 5D2 bit the dust on the rocks after a gust of wind. The tripod blew over as my back was turned and the rocks did the rest. I was out of action for 5 weeks, during which time my camera was away for repair and it never returned, deemed 'Beyond economical repair'. My insurance company replaced the camera with a brand new 5D3, much to my disappointment... NOT!  I was chuffed to bits. Everyone loves a happy ending. And so the new chapter begins. The 5D2 was my dream camera, so when I finally got my hands on one I was a very happy bunny. 5D3 was always a pipe dream, until now. Getting my hands on this spec was more than I ever imagined and it's fair to say I have now reached the top of the tree, camera wise. It's now up to me to get the very best from it's capabilities. It's gonna be a challenge and I don't feel as if I'm punching above my weight, not at all. Let's just see what's round the corner...

As I get to grips with all my new camera has to offer, it seemed a good idea to return to the fateful location that is St. Mary's Lighthouse. A kind of unfinished business, shall we say. A summer sunrise and a 3.30am alarm call. Now that was a first. I had only had two hours sleep after a late Saturday night, so I was rather knackered as I drove out of Houghton toward the A19 and Tyne Tunnel. Arriving at St. Mary's at 4.40am in time for a 5.00am sunrise, there was already colour showing in the sky and I was hopeful of even more as shooting time approached. There was one other guy on site, already set up and pulling in shots. He warned me that the tide was rapidly incoming, so I kept out of wet reach and opted for safe haven on the causeway steps as the sun was about to rise. I dotted about, not wanting to bag a whole set of shots from one viewpoint. And here is a small selection of them. A stunning light show and what a way to return to a location which holds bad memories of my last visit, now banished and well forgotten, judging by the shots shown here.

Cheers, Ash

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Saltwick Bay, North Yorkshire Coast

Following on from my recent Whitby blog entry, here is the latest instalment featuring Saltwick Bay. The Bay is a north east-facing bay situated 1 mile south of Whitby. Above the bay is Whitby Holiday Park, where we stayed over the course of a weekend in May, with the Cleveland Way cliff top path running through it. Access to the beach is via a footpath just beyond the park's gate. The path has suffered from some erosion and in places can be quite steep and also very slippery when wet. The path leads down to the sandy beach which gives way to rock and slate scar at either end. To the left is Saltwick Nab and to the right is Black Nab. If fishing from either end, be aware of the tide, as it travels quickly across the scar. The beach and rocks reveal much of Saltwick's alum mining past, and it is also a great venue for finding fossils. Saltwick Bay has many photographic opportunities due to its North-East facing coastline. This means that at the height of summer the sun sets over the sea when looking North-West as well as rising over the sea when looking North-East. In this respect, this small part of the Yorkshire coastline is unique in the whole of Northern England. The Bay also has a sandy beach either side of which is a flat, shale shelf (the Southern and Northern Shelves). These shale shelves are littered with texture-filled (and possibly fossil-filled) shale rocks. On the southern shelf is the local icon “Black Nab” and the remains of the wreck of the 'Admiral Von Tromp'. On the Northern Shelf is the other local Icon 'Saltwick Nab', which from a distance makes the outline of a whale.

I was out of bed bright and early to catch a sunrise on our second full day at the Holiday Park. It was a bit of a wash out to be honest, with very little colour on offer as the sun rose and quickly disappeared behind the low bank of cloud cover on the horizon. The tide was advancing at a fast rate so I kept this in mind as I photographed from a position at the cliff foot (see top photo). Because of the lack of sunrise I was back up the steep cliff path and back to the caravan within an hour of leaving it behind. Infact, no sooner was I back in the caravan and my head was down once again. Can't beat an already warm comfy bed. The Mrs was none the wiser! On the way back to the caravan I was already planning a return visit to the bay later that day, when the tide had retreated. The mission was to find the wreck of The Admiral which I had read about on the internet earlier in the week. I knew it was located somewhere in a hole on the Southern Shelf, so plans were made and later put into action. On our return the tide was way back, leaving the path clear to explore the bay in greater detail. Firstly I took a few black and white shots, one of which you can see in this paragraph. 

A ten minute walk along the Southern Shelf was all it took to get our first glimpse of the ship wreck. The mangled metal, twisted and eroded stuck out like a sore thumb and it was no time at all before we were on site of the mysterious remains.  The Admiral Von Tromp was a fishing vessel from Scarborough which came aground during a storm in 1976 with the loss of 2 lives. Not much of it remained, although the curved bow was instantly recognisable as it sat slumped to one side in the hole. Remnants of the engine sat nearby, covered in limpets, offering a reminder of its sorry state. Black Nab sits in the background of my third shot (shown here). At high tide the nab resembles that of a submarine floating near the sea surface. I walked out to the Nab to take my final shot (below). The colourful flat rock formation is quite an eye catcher as you walk along the ridge to the Nab, which rises approximately 18 feet to its tip.

The kids were more than happy to scan the rock pools as I photographed nearby. After landing a few crab they had to be persuaded to leave the beach! Even the lure of Fish n' Chips wasn't enough to get them walking instantly - they would've stayed there all day if I had let them. It was a nice way to kill a couple of hours, that's for sure. I'd like to return to Saltwick Bay for another crack at sunrise photography. I imagine this place would look the part with a good sunrise, especially at low tide when I can get the shipwreck in the foreground. But that's one for another day. Until then I'll keep this place on my list of places to revisit. It's certainly worth that...

Until next time, Ash

Friday, 23 May 2014

Whitby, North Yorkshire

Hello again!
Whitby is one of those places you never get sick of visiting. This North-Yorkshire fishing town is approximately 65 miles driving distance from our home, which isn't too bad for a day out when you don't wanna be in the car too long. We were booked into a caravan park not far down the coast from Whitby, on the cliff tops at Saltwick Bay. The weather was fine with lots of sun to be had - just what you want on a May Bank Holiday weekend. The backpack was stuffed and I was more than ready to put in some photography, which was what I did around the family thing. The new camera was getting another run out and I hoped to pull in some good shots on land and coast, with one or two dawn shots on the wish list. The photo's here are a bit of a mixed bag. Everything from low-light evening shots to first light long exposures, with a bit of picturesque in between. Without further ado...

My first shot (above) was taken on one of the piers in Whitby Harbour, around 7am. I had the place to myself, give or take the odd dog walker or two. This is a 40 second long exposure using a Lee Big Stopper to smooth out the wet stuff and a 0.9 Graduated ND filter to hold back the detail in the sky. Some nice lead in lines from the wooden boards guides the eye into the frame from foreground to background and nice cool tone of blue finishes the shot off quite nicely. I took another shot, closer to the lifebuoy on the right, then converted it to mono, but left the lifebuoy as red with a little colour splash technique. My first attempt at this and I wasn't sure whether I liked it or not, but it upped the keeper rate so it avoided the recycle bin. My second shot was taken on the West side of Whitby Harbour, on the promenade opposite the Magpie Restaurant. Looking across the water towards Sandgate, this shot shows the houses and rooftops which nestle in front of the cliffs. The tour operating Pirate Boat returns to berth against the harbour walls below where I was shooting from.

No visit to Whitby would be complete without visiting the Abbey. My visit was a little different from the norm though. I took one or two shots from outside the walls of the Abbey but distance didn't really do them justice. Of course the Abbey was closed to the public as it was around 10pm by this time. I thought 'Frig this' and hopped over the wall as a naughty boy would do and then made my way over to the Abbey in almost pitch darkness. I grabbed a few shots and got my arse back over the wall. Job done. Who dares wins. A bit of fearless photography never hurt anyone, he he. This shot shows yours truly on his covert operation, hiding in the shadows and capturing the Abbey on memory card, before the Gissy's showed up and hoyd me in the back of the meat van. Of course, that never happened as I was in and out like a flash (no pun intended).

And finally, another dusk shot of the boats moored in Whitby Marina. The last shot of the night and not a bad way to finish before heading back to the caravan to put my feet up. Grabbed some Fish n' Chips en route and it wasn't long before my arse was sat down and me belly was full. Watched the end of 'War Of The Worlds' with the little fella's, then had a flick through todays shots on the camera. A few hours kip then it's another early start at Saltwick Bay, a place I haven't previously visited, and only five minutes walk down the bank from our caravan. Very nice. Back soon with photo's from The Bay. Catch ya later...