Monday, 25 August 2014

Luss, Loch Lomond

After a nice week away on the Isle Of Wight, it was nice to make the most of my second week off work by paying a visit to Scotland. The main reason for our drive across the Anglo-Scottish border was to visit family in Livingston, not too far from Edinburgh, in a westerly direction. From Livingston we made the 64 miles trip to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, stopping off at Luss. The weather was fine, which is quite a rarity in Scotland, even in Summer. Our visit to Luss was a fairly short one and merely an exercise to get out and stretch our legs around the shores of Loch Lomond, taking in some fine views in the process. There were many tourists, like ourselves, and the coaches came and went every few minutes - Luss was obviously a popular place to tick off the list, judging by the sheer volume of people that were entering this small town. Apart from photographing the landscape around Loch Lomond, mainly from the pier, plus a quick walk around the nearby streets, I saw little else. That wasn't a disappointment though, as what I did see was more than enough and a taster of what else lay ahead. It was from Luss that we made a further journey North, up the West Coast towards Glencoe, adding another 60 miles on the clock. An hour and twenty minutes later, after being stuck in traffic on a very narrow road, we arrived at a very sunny Glencoe. Just what we wanted. Stay tuned for that and more, soon...
Cheers, AC

Friday, 15 August 2014

Planet Farnes, Northumberland

Our annual pilgrimage to the Farne Islands took place in mid-July, 2014. Once again it was an all day affair, courtesy of Billy Shiels boat trips, out of the harbour at Seahouses, Northumberland. Boarding the boat at 9.45am meant an early departure from Gods Country, at 7.20am, to be precise. We hit Seahouses just before 9 o' clock and headed straight to the local bakers shop, where we had breakfast, in the shape of a bacon and egg stottie. Just what the doctor ordered. Then it was a simple case of paying for our pre-booked tickets at the kiosk, although there's nowt simple about parting with £48 in the blink of an eye. That's the entry ticket for one plus one, and seeing that this whole affair comes around once a year, what the hell, let's get over to the Farnes and take it all in. And what a hive of activity it was, as expected, thousands of breeding birds in full flow, it was noisy and it was certainly smelly, and that was just my arse after scranning the bacon butty!!!!

And so we set off, heading towards the Farne Islands on a boat packed with people from all over the world. Again, it was camera equipment overload and there was a nation of it, worth thousands upon thousands of pound notes (or Euro, whatever the case may be). We were packed on board the Glad Tidings vessel like sardines in a tin, which came as no surprise really, it's like that every year we attend. Our tour of the islands was accompanied by the very informative captain, who's knowledge of the area and the breeding seabirds is well established. Then we hit the business end of the trip, our first landing, on Staple Island. From the boat we were led up the steep steps where the National Trust Rangers were waiting, taking payment from those who weren't holding a valid membership card. £6.80 for me and £3.75 for Chris! Ouch, and we had to do it all again on our second landing, at Inner Farne. Good job I was holding a pocket full of shekels!

Numbers of breeding birds were thriving, such as Puffin, Guillemot, Shag, Cormorant, Razorbill, Terns & Gulls. We saw a nesting Fulmar too, quite a rare sight on the Farnes. Our landing on Inner Farne had the customary welcome - the attack of the Arctic Terns, dozens of them! Well prepared for this as usual, with the baseball cap to take the sting out of those sharp pecking bills. If you stood still for more than a few seconds the Terns would have no hesitation in standing on your head, which was respite from their usual behaviour on the stretch of path leading to the Visitor Centre. And it was this area where activity was frantic, between the Centre and the toilets, where me n' Chris were dive bombed on countless occasions.

From here we headed off and over to the lighthouse, where dozens of Shags were nesting on the cliff face. I pulled in some decent shots here, including Puffins in flight. This was the last part of our visit as it was almost 3pm by this time. The day has flown by (no pun intended). I've added a few of my favourite shots of the day, all shot on a Canon 5D3, with 100-400mm L and a 24-105mm for close up shots. Hope you like them .Until the next time, catch ya later...

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Light Painting (War Of The Worlds)

Hello again.
Two blog entries in one day - what's that all about?
Well, I said I would write more regularly than usual, which at best is three or four times a month, so here I am again with my latest ramblings. Today's offering comes in the shape of another experiment as a novice in light painting. My recent Astro Photography got off to a good start when I pulled in some impressive shots of the Milky Way, as well as Star Trails. I appear to have picked that up fairly quickly and I expect to carry on in a similar vein during future midnight outings into the dark. But now, it's onwards and upwards into the world of light painting, another area of photography that until recently was as alien as Astro (no pun intended). With many years of experience in photography, this has springboarded me half way up the ladder in areas of photography that is new to me, as general knowledge of exposure settings and all round familiarity of the camera gives you that head overall start. You're already up and running, so it's then a case of acquainting yourself with the surroundings, lighting conditions and one or other minor factors that give you the main ingredients to throw into the mix. Trial and error plays a part too, as even the most accomplished photographer (not me, by the way) rarely gets it bang on first time. Nothing wrong with that, as we learn from our mistakes as we go along.

Anyway, enough of that. Here's my take on light painting with a simple torch. I tried it once at Hadrian's Wall, which again was quite challenging as it was completely new territory for me, but it came up trumps at Sycamore Gap. This time the location was a lot closer to home, at South Shields. The Groyne Lighthouse would be the location for this experiment, overlooking the mouth of the River Tyne, with the Groyne Lighthouse as the focal point. My first shot (above) has a slight Apocalyptic feel to it, reminiscent of a scene from 'War Of The Worlds', with the pod on legs and a dramatic sky as a backdrop. Well, maybe not quite in that mould, but that was what sprung to mind when I reviewed the processed images. So, without further ado...

Back soon, AC

Monday, 11 August 2014

My First Bash At The Milky Way

The Milky Way. What exactly is it, I hear you say. Well, good question, as I never knew the answer myself until very recently. Chocolate bar isn't the answer, by the way. Copied and pasted from the ever trusty Wikipedia -

The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains our Solar System. Its name “milky” is derived from its appearance as a dim glowing band arching across the night sky in which the naked eye cannot distinguish individual stars. The term “Milky Way” is a translation of the Latin via lactea, from the Greek (galaxías kýklos, "milky circle"). From the Earth, the Milky Way appears as a band because its disk-shaped structure is viewed from within the Galaxy. Galileo Galilei first resolved the band of light into individual stars with his telescope in 1610. Up until the early 1920s, most astronomers thought that all of the stars in the universe were contained inside of the Milky Way. Observations definitively showed that the Milky Way is just one of many billions of galaxies.

I had seen one or two outstanding photographs of it on social media, which awakened a side to my photography that I never existed until that moment. Intrigue got the better of me, so I done some digging via the internet and decided I wanted to have a go at photographing the Milky Way. I hadn't even seen it before, let alone photograph it, but I knew that if I ever did catch sight of it with the naked eye, then there was every chance I could record it as a photograph. A perfect chance presented itself ten days ago, during a family holiday on the Isle Of Wight. A perfect Summer day ended with a clear sky, which is an ideal backdrop for Astro Photography, as cloud cover can ruin any attempt at photography. The Moon had set too, which was another major factor, as any light source (Pollution) can also detract from the shot. With everything on my side it was now a case of hunting for the Milky Way, which began with a midnight car journey along the Western edge of the island. There wasn't another car on the road, which wasn't a big surprise, as I drove further into the darkness. I decided to pull over and step out of the car, hoping to get my first sighting of the Milky Way. I switched the car headlamps off and it this point I was surrounded by pitch darkness. I looked across to my right, over the sea and across the horizon...and there it was, stretching high and arching across the sky and into the distance over the Chale landscape. It was a kind of Eureka moment, seeing the glowing band for the very first time, and it this point I realised it was 'Game On'.

I was back into the car in a flash and driving once again. It didn't take long to arrive at Blackgang Chine, an adventure park built into the hillside, overlooking the sea. I was here just a few hours earlier, mingling with hundreds of other families as the park went into full swing. In stark contrast the place was now desolate. I was stood at the entrance to the now closed park, where the statue of a giant towered over me. What a picture that would make, I thought to myself, with the giant in the foreground and the Milky Way as a backdrop. Adventure Land, it certainly was. I switched the car engine off, plus the headlamps, again rendering the area in pitch darkness, apart from the window light from the foyer, which offered at least some illumination. Out came the big torch, leading the way and proving a godsend in poor light. Paranoia kicked in once or twice as trees rustled, owls screeched and even a fox walked by at one point. Being alone in a strange place, in the early hours, in pitch darkness isn't for the faint hearted. But when you're presented with a sight like I was, you just kick into gear and get on with the task in hand. And that was the story for the next half hour, as I ran off a few frames, using my torch to help me focus the 17-40mm lens, which at first failed to lock on to anything due to poor light.

I was crapping myself to be honest. I was sure someone was lurking in the trees behind me. It's a wonder I never knocked me neck out judging by the amount of times I quickly turned my head to see what was making the noises behind me. The mind boggles as to what it was. Best not go there, eh. And not before long I packed my gear up and headed to the relative safety of my car, locking the doors as soon as I was sat on my arse. Job done. Great experience, despite the fear factor, which in hindsight, was all part of the fun. It was certainly a sight to behold though, and one I'd like to see again in the not too distant future. I do believe an addiction to Astro Photography has kicked in!
Looking forward to the next chapter already...

Back soon, Ash