Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Northern Lights - KP8 Predicted !!!

18 months ago, whilst on holiday at the Isle Of Wight, I decided to try and photograph the Milky Way. When I say try, it’s because I hadn’t previously attempted this type of photography, known as Astro, so my first objective was to locate the Milky Way and then set about capturing it with my camera. Until this point I had never seen the Milky Way – I had only seen very recent photographs of it during a brief research earlier in the afternoon.  At the time, during the Summer of 2014, the Milky Way stretched across the night sky from South to North, so I decided on a location to head to and set about the task of photographing it. The night in question will always be a one to remember, especially when I first saw the Milky Way for the very first time, in pitch black conditions, which was ideal as it stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. Photographing it was a lot easier than I had imagined. Infact, the hardest part of the whole experience was keeping my nerve, as the location was out in the sticks and under a blanket of pitch darkness, but I got the shot I wanted and that was very satisfying. And that was my introduction to Astro Photography, the night it all started for me and which continues to this day.

Astro Photography has lots of strings to its bow and it can be quite addictive, especially Aurora chasing, which I’ve been doing for a year, since my first sighting on 29 December, 2014. This brings me nicely on to today’s blog entry – another Aurora chase on the Northumberland Coast, almost a year to the day when I first saw the Northern Lights with my own eyes. In the hours prior to our road trip north on the A1(m), my mobile phone received lots of Aurora alerts through an app I have installed on it. A CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) had fallen from the sun two days before and was earth bound, which in turn causes the natural phenomena known as Aurora Borealis (or Northern Lights). The strength of the magnetic storm is measured in KP units and a reading of between 4 and 5 is usually the least you need to be able to view the lights from the North-East coast of England. Other factors need to come into play too, such as BZ, a reading which is created by waves and other disturbances in the solar wind. The further south the BZ reading is, the better chance of a display. Today the Aurora forecast was KP8 and the BZ was as far south on the dial as it could be. I’d never seen a forecast as strong as this so I wasn’t gonna miss an opportunity to get involved.

We arrived at Craster at 6pm and headed across the pastures to Dunstanburgh Castle, an ideal location looking North, in the direction of the Aurora. Clear skies had been predicted on the Met Office app, but by the time we reached the castle a huge cloud bank was heading our way. Not in the plan at all. A green glow could be seen in front of us and it was quite high in the sky – much higher than I’d seen before. It was very windy upon the crag where Lilburn Tower is perched and the winds got worse as the night wore on. A steep drop to my left wasn’t an ideal place to set up shop, but the vantage point was the best I could find considering a few other photographers were in place alongside us at this point. Over the next four hours we waited for the clouds to disperse, which they did to some extent, but as they headed north it was the last place we wanted to see them. Any colour that was on display was clouded out and before long we were closed down altogether. The plan was falling apart and although those mad KP alerts kept on coming through, the clouds made sure we had little or no chance of seeing the display we had earlier expected. Home time.

After the 30 minute walk back to the car, feeling somewhat deflated, I reflected on the one decent shot I managed to pull in (see above). Not a great display be any means, but at least I got something for my efforts. The night wasn’t a complete cloud-out however. We decided to stop off at St. Mary’s Lighthouse, Whitley Bay, on the off chance that the Aurora may still be firing closer to home. It was around midnight when we arrived and a green glow could be seen behind the Lighthouse. The tide was incoming and the late night display had brought plenty of photographers to this location, eager to catch a few shots of the display. A Lunar Rainbow could be seen next to the Lighthouse, which a first for me, so I quickly grabbed the opportunity to photograph it before it faded, which it did in a matter of seconds. We spent a couple of hours at St. Mary’s, hoping to see an upturn in fortunes, but the Aurora never really got out of second gear the whole time we were there. Again, I grabbed what shots I could before calling it a day, or night in this case.

The night had so much expectation riding on it, but looking back now it was a big disappointment. Maybe I expected too much, but then again… when a KP8 forecast comes through, along with a weather forecast of clear skies to the North…well, you can’t help but get drawn in by it all. Experience tells me that most Aurora chases often turn out to be a waste of time and effort. The best ones I’ve been involved in have been very much unexpected, so you learn to simply go with the flow, cross your fingers and hope you hit lucky. You win some and you lose some, it’s all part and parcel of the game. I suppose that’s what half the attraction is. I wouldn’t change it if I could. The expected or unexpected? It is what is. I’ll keep on chasing (wink).

Until the next one…


Monday, 28 December 2015

Durham By Night (Christmas, 2015)

It was the run up to Christmas 2015 and a ten minute drive from home to the historic city of Durham, also known as Land Of The Prince Bishops. Another night out with my new Sony a7s mirrorless camera and further hands on experience in low-light conditions. Up till this point the Sony had only been given a couple of outings - the last one being a notable cloud-out on the Northumberland coast at Dunstanburgh, searching for that elusive Aurora. The other occasion was a lot more nearer to home at the Copt Hill Barrow, Houghton le Spring, when big winds was the major factor in shutting up shop early. The Dunstanburgh outing was a testing affair too, as far as the camera goes. Very low light conditions pushed the Sony to it's limits and focus issues were a major factor, plus the battering winds didn't help matters, so I came away from that experience with the thought of 'keeping at it' as I was yet to see exactly what this camera was capable of.

So off to Durham it was. The riverside path near the Framwelgate Bridge was the first port of call, mainly due to the fact that I had parked nearby and it seemed an obvious starting point for tonight's photography trip. The first shot I pulled in can be seen above, at the edge of the River Wear, shooting across towards the lit castle, perched high on the river bank. The water level was as high as I'd ever seen it, threatening to breach the banks altogether, but for now I was safe in the knowledge that the riverside path was dry and accessible - for now! As the river was very high and flowing at a rate of knots, the noise from it was not to underestimated, so I kept a close eye on each step I took, not wanting to fall victim to an aggressive current. In recent times the river in Durham City Centre has mysteriously claimed the life of a handful of people, under darkness and still to this day remaining unexplained. I certainly didn't want to become another statistic, so I kept my wits about me. Setting aside the perils and pitfalls of the river in front of me, the scene was crying out to be photographed.
The almost full moon shone above Durham Castle and the sound of Christmas Carols could be heard nearby. A perfect setting at Christmas, with the ideal music to accompany it - all that was missing was the snow.

From there I made my was along the riverside path towards Durham Cathedral. As I looked across the river to my left my eyes were immediately drawn to the Lunar Halo surrounding the moon. Now, this I just had to photograph. A natural phenomena that I had only seen a handful of times previously, but this time I was fully equipped and ready to capture it with a camera. This would be my second and last shot along the riverside, as the path in front of me was flooded by the river and completely out of bounds. Ah well, not to complain, the night has started well and the Sony was pulling in sharp, colouful shots at ease. The manual focus peaking is a major feature on the a7s and it worked brilliantly, making my job far easier and almost effortless. All that needed to be done was to compose the shot and nailing the exposure, which was fairly straightforward. A walk over Framwelgate Bridge and up the bank took me past the shopping precinct and into the Market Square. It was quite busy, with groups of folk enjoying a pub crawl, as well as the last few shoppers before closing time. I ran off one or two long exposures, missing out the moving figures, so the Market Square actually looks quite desolate on this shot, despite the fact that the place was quite active. Then it was time for Fish & Chips at Bell's restaurant and takeaway. Possibly the best I've tasted, washed down with Coca-Cola. Very nice indeed.

And what better place to finish off than Durham Cathedral. Palace Green was deserted. The obvious viewpoints stood out, like the entrance to Durham Castle and its converging path towards the main gates, plus the main player which was the majestic Durham Cathedral . I turned the tables on my next shot, opting for reverse shooting with my back to the castle and facing the gates, with the Cathedral in the background. The olde worlde lamps gave the shot that extra bit of character and an almost Dickensian feel to the whole composition. This was a shot with a difference and one I hadn't previously 'seen', despite many visits down the years. Just across the way, back out the entrance to Durham Castle, was a small puddle, with a flat calm reflection. Here is the shot, which I like a lot, I must admit. Again, a different perspective on an iconic landmark.

It was an enjoyable photography outing in Durham, at night, at Christmas - a perfect setting.

Cheers, AC  

Friday, 11 December 2015

St. Peter's Church, Sunderland

Earlier in 2015, the grounds of St. Peter's Church (674 AD) in Monkwearmouth, Sunderland were subject to a landscape revamp, a face lift that transformed the Southern section of the site. Following public consultation and discussions with the Durham Diocese, the project was given the green light and works started at the end of October 2014. The landscaping includes informal seating positioned within the Monastery footprint, new footpaths and resurfacing of existing footpaths, a new main gateway, new parking areas, new lighting, improved signage and links to the riverside, plus the planting of semi-mature trees and shrubs, and the creation of wildflower areas. Sunderland City Council has funded the £1million project which is due for completion in spring 2015. Plans are already underway for events and activities to take place to celebrate the site and its heritage next year.

Upon arrival at the site the main gateway marked the introduction to the changes that had been put in place, with large masonry blocks flanking the wrought iron gates, etched with the name of the ancient church and the year in which it was built. Just inside the gates there was car parking bays to the left - a noticeable change from times gone by, and one which had me thinking the cars were better off outside the grounds rather than within. A quick walk down the path towards the church and then off to the right brought me to the area where most of the landscaping had taken place. A job very well done, it has to be said. Last but certainly not least, the lights. I had a brief chat with the vicar, who just happened to be walking his dog in the grounds. He informed me that the new lighting consisted of LED bulbs that are very economical to run and the costs equal a fraction of what the original costs were a few years ago before they were eventually switched off altogether.


Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Let There Be Light!

After a long absence, the lighting system at Penshaw Monument has returned in all it's glory...and more! For many years the Monument was lit up from dusk till dawn and it could be seen from many miles around, as it dominated the skyline and rightly placed itself highly in the ranks of North-East iconic Landmarks. To be fair, Penshaw Monument was always 'Up there' with the best of the rest in our region, but it was the idea of lighting it up that really propelled the icon to another level, showing it in it's best form - even better close up. Industrial strength halogen lights were initially installed and Sunderland Council met the cost, with the help of local tax payers of course (wink). Illuminating Penshaw Monument, a folly built in 1844 on Penshaw Hill between the districts of Washington and Houghton-le-Spring, was exactly what is deserved. Climbing the hill covers a distance in height of 446 feet, and although I've climbed those steps hundreds of times before, I'll probably do it all over again, although each climb seems to get that little bit tougher as the years pass. Although many a nice shot can be had from the foot of the hill, you simply can't visit without taking in the views from the top and inside the columns of the Monument. Although quite windy at times, it's well worth braving the elements to grab the visitor experience in full, so avoiding the climb isn't an option for me. Up I go.

Two years ago the original lighting was replaced with a hi-tech LED lighting system. The Philips Colour Reach lights cost in the region of £46,000 and once again Sunderland Council were dipping into their fully laden pockets to fund the project. No sooner were the lights in place and ready for the big switch on, when they mysteriously vanished. Aye, nimble fingered thieves decided to remove the lights and that was that. Standstill, for many months. A real pity and one that wasn't gonna deter Sunderland Council for too long, although admittedly it seemed to take an age before their contingency plan was up and running. And the plan was...well, a new set of lights of course. Security of the metal housing was beefed up somewhat to avoid a repeat performance, resulting in even more money down the drain, so here we were...ready to go once again. About time too.

The new lights will reduce energy costs by up to 80 per cent and save around £8,000 a year in running costs and will provide a softer white effect allowing the true colour of the monument to be seen. Altogether, 18 floodlights mounted within enclosures at the base of each pillar were installed. The floodlights can also be programmed to display colour changing light effects meaning special anniversaries or events such as football celebrations could be highlighted in colour on the monument.

At the tail end of August 2015, I grabbed my first shots of Penshaw Monument and it's new lighting system. The transformation was a real eye-opener, especially when the landmark had been in complete darkness at night for many months. We had our icon back to its former glories and hopefully this time round it would remain that way. The original switch saw the Monument in it's previous colour, a warm yellow, which was looked prefect on the stonework, but was it wasn't long before the lights would be displayed in a totally different way. Colour cycles were performed at timed intervals, in multi-coloured displays. Sunderland Gay Pride weekend coincided with a rainbow effect display, which is shown here and by far being the most spectacular show to date.

The terrorist attacks in Paris during November 2015 marked a full week of respect by Sunderland Council as the Monument was lit in the colours of the Tricolor (French National Flag) to honour the many innocent lives that were lost. This attracted thousands of visitors to Penshaw Monument as another mark of respect during the week the blue, white and red colours were on display. Again, I made another short visit to the site to pay respect and join in with many others who took photographs.
So, in a nutshell, here is a small selection of shots that I captured during the four months I have briefly covered in this blog entry. More can be seen on my website at ashleycorr.com, so feel free to pop over to take a look. And there's more blog entries to come, as I catch up with a backlog of photographs from the last few months. Stay tuned...


Friday, 27 November 2015

Autumn Waterfalls, 2015 (Part 2)

A continuation of the Autumn Waterfalls theme, following on from my last post a few days ago. Part 1 was by no means a classic as far as waterfalls go. The installment was merely an introduction as to what was about to follow, so without further ado, here is a small selection of picturesque waterfall shots that I enjoyed capturing in a fantastic setting. West Burton is a jewel not to be overlooked. Situated in Upper Wensleydale, which is part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, it is the home of Cauldron Falls, one of the waterfalls drawn by Turner, on his tour of the North of England. 

I parked next to the village green and walked back down to the entrance, basically heading towards the noise of the waterfall. Well, that's one good way of finding it, especially when it's your first ever visit and there's no-one around to ask directions. A narrow opening between the houses leads you into an almost fairy tale scene. With the Olde Worlde village now behind me, it was almost like stepping from one chapter of a book into another, or even onto a period drama film set. The timing of my visit couldn't have been better, as the floor was littered with Autumn leaves of various colours, with many more falling from above as I walked further into the scene. An old stone bridge guards the entrance to the falls and it's about as picturesque as you'll find, with the fast flowing water travelling through its arch an down an incline. A group of photographers stood around the bridge, capturing the dramatic water at speed as I walked past.

An old wooden bench was situated under the trees on the approach to Cauldron Falls. It was here that I took my first shot of the falls, kicking off with a 1 second shutter speed as a test. It was spot on, so I ran with that and an aperture of f11 at 100 ISO for the rest of my exposures during the one hour session. I was tempted to head over the stone bridge to capture a different angle on the falls, but to be perfectly honest, I was more than happy to work from one side of the river as the photo opportunities looked much better, with rocks, water cascades and overhanging autumnal tree's offering everything I was looking for.

Summing up my visit - this really was a one to remember. Up til this point I hadn't taken any Autumn shots in 2015, so there would be no better place to start than Middleton in Teesdale, with an encore at Cauldron Falls, West Burton. It doesn't come any better than this. One place I'll definitely be revisiting in 2016, make no mistake of that.
Back soon...

Monday, 23 November 2015

Autumn Waterfalls, 2015 (Part 1)

Hello again!
Yes, it really is a new blog entry, so don't adjust your screens. Well overdue, it has to be said, and although I continually promise to update my blog on a more regular basis, I really must deliver that promise instead of going AWOL. No excuse, to be honest, but other commitments have taken priority, such as my main website at ashleycorr.com, my Facebook photography page, plus the small matter of fulfilling orders for my work in print. Anyway, less of that and more of this. Welcome back folks - normal service shall now be resumed...

Haway then, let me take you on a wander through Autumn countryside, from Middleton in Teesdale to West Burton - a small quaint hamlet in Wensleydale. The plan was to shoot waterfalls, with a backdrop of Autumn colours to boot. Sounds good, but would the plan come together? It was a fine, sunny day, which wasn't the ideal weather for shooting waterfalls, to be honest. Overcast days are better conditions, but you can only run with what is front of you, so let's see what today brings.

The first port of call was Summerhill Force, in Middleton in Teesdale, also known as Gibson's Cave. As we walked through the wooded area towards the falls, the leaves were falling rapidly and we really did get a sense that Autumn was well and truly in full flow. As the sun shone on the golden leaves, it was a sight to behold. The floor was littered with them, as was the rocks in the stream on the approach to the falls. A couple of photographers were in position along the waters edge, capturing Autumn in its pomp as they pulled in those colourful shots. As we reached Summerhill Force, the focal point of our visit, the sun shone directly through the break in the trees and onto the waterfall. Not ideal, although it did bring the best out of the surrounding tress in all their Autumn colours. The shots featured here are from the approach to the falls. Here they are, followed by Part 2 of 'Autumn Waterfalls' which will be my next blog installment, concentrating on West Burton Falls. Until then...

Cheers, Ash

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Tommy 1101 - Facebook Meltdown!!!

As the dust begins to settle on an amazing few days for Ashley Corr Photography, I'd like to personally thank everyone for their support following my recent photo upload here on Facebook. The photo in question was captured at midnight on Tuesday 25th August, 2015, in Seaham Harbour, County Durham.
The subject was Tommy, a corteen steel statue that was originally on loan to the County Durham town. The statue, by local artist Ray Lonsdale, was so popular that people in Seaham began a campaign to buy it, and after a mammoth effort, £60,000 was raised in a bid to secure permanent residence. The town council agreed to contribute the remainder of the £85,000 price tag before the deadline. The piece, called Mission 1101, known locally as Tommy, was inspired by World War One and is named to reflect the first minute of peace.
My brother Chris and myself headed over to Seaham in the hope of photographing Tommy, despite the rain. I recently had an idea floating around in my head that involved placing candles in front of Tommy, which would be so poignant and fitting that I just had to give it a go. Real candle flames wouldn't have stood a chance in such a breezy open space, coupled with the fact that rain threatened to spoil the party, so I decided to use battery powered tea lights which would give an identical effect to the shot, plus I wouldn't be pulling my hair our lighting one match after another to get them restarted. After a couple of minutes arranging the candles, it was time to let the camera go to work. As I dialed in the camera settings the rain kicked in once again, driving us back into my car that was parked nearby. I wasn't at all bothered about getting wet, but more concerned about keeping the camera and lens dry. Oh, go on then...truth was, I didn't want me mullet getting spoiled, he he.
A few minutes later the rain passed and we set up stall again, only for the rain to fall again, heavier than before. Beat retreat to the car. At this point I considered giving the whole thing a miss, almost deciding it would be best to try again another night. Although the rain was against us, it actually played a massive part in what was to become my most popular photograph to date. The steel statue was sparkling in the rain and at that point I imagined those brave soldiers, like Tommy, who paid the ultimate price fighting for the cause, and how at times they fought in torrential conditions, such as heavy rain. It was at this point I decided I wasn't leaving without the photograph I wanted. It was in my head, exactly what I wanted, so it was up to me to capture it with my camera.
We've all heard the saying 'Third time lucky', well that applied to me as I set up my gear and placed the candles into position once again. The rain subsided and it was GAME ON. Tommy sparkled and the dry spots under his toe caps added a little extra to the shot, giving a strong impression of a very recent rainfall. There was no-one around, just me and Chris along with the odd passing car. As I finally got to trip the shutter, Chris took a photo or two himself, including one of me standing next to my gear. Within a minute or two we were out. Driving back to Houghton le Spring, I was quietly confident I had bagged the shot I wanted.
Without further ado, here it is...Tommy 1101, Candlelit Vigil...
The following day I posted the shot on 'Sunderland In Pictures' during late afternoon. My Facebook mobile phone app went into meltdown!!! As I was working a night shift that same day I went back to bed for a few hours in preparation for the slog ahead. When the alarm clock shifted my backside outa bed I went downstairs and made a coffee. I sat and looked on my mobile phone. To my amazement I learned that my Tommy photo had over 600 likes and many comments. Within another hour (11.10pm) it cranked up to over 900!! Break time at work (1.45am) the like counter had tipped over to 1360 likes. This was beyond anything I had achieved previously and way beyond anything I had expected when the candle concept entered my head. The response to 'Candlelit Vigil' was overwhelming to say the least.
The following day it went onto another level completely. The comments and likes were coming at a rate of ten per minute. The kind words were very touching and this was very satisfying. I was happy that so many people were moved enough to comment and send private messages of thanks. This meant a lot and I knew it meant a lot to others too. There were far too comments to thank everyone individually, so I made a point of thanking everyone on a few occasions in the comments column. Then a comment came in that was the cherry on the icing of the cake. The designer of Tommy, none other than Ray Lonsdale, gave high praise, sharing my photo to his own page 'Two rubber red things/Ray Lonsdale' and saying how it was up there with the very best photo's he'd seen of his creation. Wow, it doesn't come much better than that'.
Within a few hours the photo had over 500 likes on his page.
Skipping the chase, it's now three days since I posted 'candlelit Vigil' to Facebook. On Sunderland In Pictures alone it has over 4,500 likes and almost 400 comments. The 'Picture' has also been shared no less that 4,300 times!! Once again, thanks very much for the response to my photo, which has been very humbling. I take a lot of satisfaction most of all by sharing the photo, which in turn moved many people, not only from the North-East of England, but much further afield. It's a fitting tribute to all those who fought in conflict, especially those who paid the ultimate price. Lest we forget...

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire

May is for bluebells and a bad back, or so the story goes...

Another trip south on the A19 and an exit at the Whitby turn off for another bash at the bluebell carpet in Newton Wood, near the iconic landmark that is Roseberry Topping. Almost a year to the day I visited this picturesque location for a dose of landscape photography but I was more that happy to tread the terrain once more in the search for some improved bluebell shots, with Roseberry Topping as a backdrop. Sounds great, plus the weather was on my side and upon arrival I had the place to myself. My mobile phone is loaded with some ideal information in the shape of 'Photographers Ephemeris' which predicted the sun would be ideally placed around 3am for the shots I wanted. All went as planned and I was back at ground level within an hour and a half. It wasn't until the next day at work that niggling back pains kicked in and gradually worsened as the day progressed. By the following day I was in a lot of discomfort. Felt like I'd been booted by a horse. Down my right side the was excruciating and it affected my leg too, especially when driving. Not nice. I had to lift my leg up and out of the car before standing up, not to mention what I must have looked like trying getting out the car. Oh dear. Out of action for a while by the look of things. I reckon I must have brought this on by carting that ridiculously heavy camera bag up the hill to photograph the bluebells. Must be bloody mad. Oh well, as I write this blog entry a few weeks later, I'm glad to announce that I'm back to full fitness (whatever that may be) and the back pain has done one. I'll not be making that mistake again, says he. Oh well, I wouldn't say it was worth it. No photograph is worth going through that agony, but just for the record, here is the photographs from the outing. More blogging to follow.
Thanks, Ash

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Northern Lights, Bamburgh - April 2015

Hello again and welcome to another blog entry. I've been looking forward to writing about my recent sighting of the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. After a brief showing back in December 2014, I was hopeful of catching a better light show before the end of the Aurora season, which is normally in late March. There had been a handful of decent Aurora activity since December, notably the big one on St. Patrick's Day, but sods law kicked in and I missed them, mainly due to work commitments, and not for the first time either. So, when a predicted forecast of Aurora activity was on the cards in late April, I decided to push the envelope and get myself up the coast to photograph it. As it happened I was working until 11.20pm on April 20th but that wasn't going to stop me making the 130 mile round trip, even though I was quite knackered at the end of my shift. The opportunity was too good to pass, especially as the aurora prediction also coincided with clear skies and no moon, which are ideal for this kind of photography. So, with everything in place, it was all systems go!

I made the journey north with work colleague and friend Ryan Pearce, who like myself has only been doing Astrophotography for a few months. We were both excited as to what the night had in store for us and we weren't disappointed. After an hour or so on the road we were soon in position with our cameras at Stag Rock Lighthouse, Bamburgh, on the Northumberland coast. This was the same location as my first and only sighting of the Northern Lights, so we were more than hopeful of a good light show to reward us for our efforts. Pointing our cameras in a northerly direction we fired off our first test shots to see if we could pick up any activity. Bingo! A magenta cloud was fairly prominent on the horizon and what a start to the night that was. Soon we could see small spires and they shifted fairly quickly to the right, along the horizon. The spires got bigger and more appeared as the minutes passed. To the naked eye they appeared as a grey hue, but the long exposures that the camera pulled in showed them as bright green and magenta. I ran off a time lapse sequence whilst watching the dancing lights, which consisted of around 80 x 20 second exposures.

The Milky Way was very prominent and stretched across the sky between the Aurora and Bamburgh Castle. I was hopeful of bagging a shot of the full vista in front of me, although the vast expanse would only be achieved by taking several shots and stitching them together in Photoshop. The photo at the top is the result of taking 14 exposures and letting Photoshop do the rest. Once stitched I edited the image, which took around 15 minutes to complete. I would say it's one of my best shots to date. This time last year I didn't even know what the Milky Way and Aurora looked like, so to grab myself a shot like this meant a lot. A rare phenomenon!

The lights danced on the horizon for two and a half hours before an orange glow began to appear. Yes, the sun was on its way. We left Bamburgh at around 4.15am and headed home. Job done. This was a memorable night, to say the very least. I have compiled a time lapse video of what we saw on this eventful night and it can be found on my website. Visit ashleycorr.com and head off to the TV page where you will find the 2 and a half minute footage. Alteratively, if you have access to a Smart TV, go to the YouTube app and search for 'Bamburgh Aurora'. The search results will show the thumbnail image with my name next to it. The video has been produced in High Definition and I'm sure you'll enjoy it. It's only my first attempt at this kind of thing, but I think I done ok. And that's about it. Hope you enjoyed this blog entry. Cheers, Ash  


Saturday, 9 May 2015

Fully Stocked Once Again...

Apologies for the long delay in updating my blog page. It's been almost a full calendar month since my 'Back 2 Nature' blog entry, so I'll have to get back up to speed on here...soon.

Anyway, It has been a busy month to be fair - decorating the house, improving the garden, boarding out the loft and suchlike. There's also been the time consuming task of creating new framed prints following another successful batch of sales at Penshaw Tea Rooms and Clay's Garden Centre. A couple of weeks ago I replenished the stocks, filling the wall space and also the display boxes, which is always nice. It often crosses my mind about banging on more doors to sell my work, but to be quite honest, my two longest serving outlets keep me busy enough as it is, which is all good. Obviously there are times of year when sales slow down and then ramp up again, especially during the Spring and around Christmas time. The quiet spells are fine, as it gives me that extra time out in the field with the camera. The busy spells however can be very hectic and there have been times when I've been at it from early morning until late at night, but as long as there is a dmand for my work then that suits me fine. Happy days!

And so to the latest batch from ashleycorr.com. Following the sales of all of my 32x22 inch canvas prints at Penshaw Tea Room, another 6 are now on display, as well as a dozen framed prints and 30 mounted prints of various sizes. Clay's Garden Centre is now showing a fresh line up of both canvas and frames within the very popular in house Coffee Shop. In addition to this there is a display box on the shop floor containing 25 medium mounted prints (14x11 inches) and 15 small mounted prints (10x8 inches). Accompanying them is a selection of my postcards that I had left over from my Tourist Board commission a couple of years ago. The set of postcards depict local landscape scenes in the North-East of England. Prices are as follows, which have no increase since 2013...

32x22 inch gallery wrap canvas print, on 32mm box frame - £60.00 each
20x16 inch framed prints - £45.00 each
36x12 inch panoramic framed prints - £60.00 each
14x11 inch framed prints - £30.00 each
14x11 inch mounted prints - £15.00 each
10x8 inch mounted prints - £10.00 each
A5 postcards (spot gloss finish) - 30p each

Here is a small selection of the new stock, including some made to order items for other customers. I never got a chance to photograph any of the new canvases as they went straight out of the door after they were framed. Also shown is my new business card which I designed last week, matching the new fonts on my revamped website.  More recent photo's to follow...honest Guv!

Thanks again for visiting my blog page


Monday, 13 April 2015

Back 2 Nature

Hello again!

A change of direction with my latest blog entry - it's a return to some nature photography, after an absence of a few months. It's generally Springtime when I kick start my nature photography and this year is no different as the breeding season kicks in once again. And what better location to reacquaint myself with nature photography, it has to be Rainton Meadows Nature Reserve on the door step that is Houghton le Spring. It's always a challenge to capture those eye catching shots of Mute Swans at sunset, especially at this time of year when these territorial birds let you know in no uncertain terms who is boss. Get too close and you'll know about it, let there be no doubt about that. A little bit of field craft comes into play in these situations and that has developed of the years with experience in similar situations. I've got to know the tolerance levels of Mute Swans, mainly due to many visits to this locations and also by monitoring their habits and behaviour close up. I've gained a lot of knowledge after photographing these birds and have learned not to push the limits. Let them rule their habitat at all times. Do the job and then get out.

So here is my latest set of images, caught shortly after sunset on a mild March evening. The water was still and only a solitary swan on show, which was all I needed. When the sun had gone it was a brief waiting game as I prepared to take my shots with a nice colourful backdrop. And so it came and went, lasting a mere ten minutes. Only a short window to bag the shots, but it was enough. I was only a few feet away from the Cobb (male swan) as it posed for me on one of the many ponds at Rainton Meadows. It seemed more than at ease with my presence and sat contently on the water as the colour appeared in the sky behind it. I appeased the bird with the occasional food pellet, which it welcomed. Without the grub I may have been out of luck. As it was, luck was well and truly on my side on this occasion. I was chuffed with the shots. Here is 3 efforts from a batch of a dozen keepers. Hope you like them. Until the next time, stay tuned...


Saturday, 4 April 2015

Star Trails @ Souter Lighthouse, Marsden


Another blog entry heading your way. I'm gonna try and keep on top of my blog page as I know just how easily I can be distracted by my ACP Facebook page. Around 18 months ago I finally joined Facebook after steering away from it for so long. It was the commitment to that which was mainly to blame for me taking a back seat with my blog, so I'm gonna try not to let that happen again. It's a bit of a juggling act to say the least, but hopefully I'll get it right this time. I enjoy updating the blog, although sometimes I struggle with the task of not repeating myself. Ah well, I'll plod on and continue with the adventures of a roaming Mackem. Today's update comes in the shape of some recent Astrophotography. What the frig is Astrophotography, I hear you say. Well, let me enlighten you...(cut and pasted from the ver trusty Wikipedia)... 

Astrophotography is a specialized type of photography for recording images of astronomical objects and large areas of the night sky. The first photograph of an astronomical object (the Moon) was taken in 1840, but it was not until the late 19th century that advances in technology allowed for detailed stellar photography. Besides being able to record the details of extended objects such as the Moon, Sun, and planets, astrophotography has the ability to image objects invisible to the human eye such as dim stars, nebulae, and galaxies.

Now we've got that little issue out of the way I'd like to tell you about my recent trip to Souter Lighthouse, near Marsden, which lies along our coastal route between Whitburn and South Shields. I decided on this location to do a star trail sequence as it is an ideal spot with not too much light pollution if you're facing Polaris (the North Star). On this occasion though, I wanted to give Polaris a night off and instead capture the sequence in a westerly facing direction. I was pretty much dictated by the shot I had in mind and the particular direction I would need to face to achieve this. So, I took up position with my back to the North Sea, which included a nice lead in line which was a set of steps. Obviously the lighthouse was to be my focal point and the star trail would finish the shot off. Well, these things always seem to work in theory, but it was now time to put in all into practise. As you can imagine, it was dark by the time I set my gear up and there was no-one else around. I wish I had a quid for every time I looked behind me. Paranoia tends to kick in during situations like this, but you just have to grow a pair and get on with it.

I don't remember off hand how long I ran the sequence for. I remember 30 second continuous exposures clicking away for quite a while, or so it seemed. Looking at the finished shot I was guess I stood there for around twenty minutes or so. More than happy with the result. I've included a colour splash version for good measure.

I still feel very much a novice in this area, although I've done half a dozen star trail sequences during the past year. It's all about how long you can wait it out. The longer the sequence, the better the trails. Hope you like it..

Back soon... Ash

Friday, 3 April 2015

Bamburgh Sunrise

Hello again.
Miserable weather today, which is no surprise on a weekend after you've been grafting your arse off on the days leading up to it. Ah well, the camera stays in the bag and out comes the laptop. It's update time once again at ashleycorr.com.

By contrast, this blog entry features some recent sunrise shots that have plenty of colour in them, unlike today's flat sky that I see out of the living room window. This Winter sunrise outing that had me travelling north up the A1 on a very cold January morning. It was a 5am alarm call that started the day. I was hopeful of a good sunrise, as I was about to begin the round trip of 130 miles. I've only done a couple of sunrises at this location and I was luck both times in the past, so three in a row would do very nicely. Sooner or later I would fall victim of the false dawn, so I had my fingers crossed that it wouldn't be on this occasion. A long way to go for a big fat nowt! One hour and fifteen minutes up the road and I was soon dropping anchor at Stag Rock, next to Bamburgh Beach. The sky looked promising, as I looked south down the beach towards Bamburgh Castle and noticed the first warm hue on the horizon. From the parked car it was literally a short walk down the sandy bank onto the beach, eventually settling for a spot near the rocks. Foreground interest was the first thing on my mind and I also observed the incoming tide so that no unnecessary soakings took place. I've had a few of them in the past and didn't wanna go back down that route, even though I was decked out in me new £12 wellies from B&Q. I don't get too bothered about getting soaked, to be honest, I'm more concerned about the camera keeping dry, especially after the kicking my old 5D2 got on the rocks at St. Mary's Lighthouse. Once bitten, and all that.

The tide offered plenty to the shots as I fired off my first few frames. The cascading water had to be the main player in the foreground. Not much point of doing a seascape with little or no water action going on. The tide did breach me wellies on more than one occasion. It was only then that I really started to feel the cold. Toes were like ice. A few of the fellow Tog brigade were positioned ahead of me but they never really got in the way, so the clone tool in Photoshop wasn't called upon for the selection of shots you see here. In fact, all three efforts are pretty much straight of camera, with only a very minor levels adjustment on each. After 15 minutes of shooting, the tide had dropped back noticeably, so with it I went, repositioning myself to include the blurred motion of the North Sea. The sun was up in no time but was obscured by the low cloud cover. After a few more minutes the magic had gone. By this time I'd already bagged the shots and was quite chuffed that it was another successful long journey. I couldn't help but notice the heart shape bubbles that drifted past on the surface of the water (shot 3). Maybe this shot should be entitled 'Love on the rocks.'

From here it was back up to the car and time for a coffee and a few chocolate biscuits. Off with the wellies and on with the heaters. Time for the journey south - job done.

Until the next time...


Monday, 30 March 2015

Website reopened!

Hello again. It's been far too long...

I'm glad to announce the reopening of ashleycorr.com after its temporary closure in mid January. I decided to strip the site back to its bare bones and rebuild it using HTML5, which supported web viewing on iPad & tablet, which the previous version did not. It was a laborious task to say the least, but the graft is now behind me and as of last night the site has no been declared open. In fact, since I reopened its doors just a few hours ago, the visitor counter has notched up an extra 70 hits, so I'm very pleased with that.

As for the new look website, I'm more than happy to reopen it as it is, even though there are a few half built pages that are currently hidden. Hopefully those will be completed and open during the next couple of weeks. They include new galleries such as Black & White, Seascapes 3, Astro Photography 2 and Published Work. I also have plans to add new video to the TV Channel, plus a free download page where visitors can help themselves to Wallpaper/Screensavers that features a selection of my work.

I would like to ad more pictures of myself to the profile (AC) page too. I had a handful of shots to choose from but wasn't too keen on them so I binned them off and settled for the one that is currently showing, even though you can't see much of my face. Maybe that's the better option, lol.

I'm looking forward to updating the site during the next few days and beyond. It's been a long time coming. Until then, keep watching this space. Cheers!


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Old Hartley, Whitley Bay (Part 1)

The Christmas holiday period presented opportunities for me to capture sunrises on the North-East coast, so I ventured out to new territory to do exactly that, and as a result it proved a very wise move. St Mary's Lighthouse, just north of Whitley Bay, has been a fairly regular haunt of mine of the last few years, particularly at sunrise, and although I've had my fair share of false dawns during this time, I've been lucky to capture one or two cracking red skies before the sun rose over the North Sea. It's pot luck, to be honest, but you've got to be in it to win it, as someone once said. The law of averages would give a firm impression that from six visits you are likely to see between one and two good sunrises, and by this I'm expecting good colour and cloud formation, as well as seeing the sun as it rises on the horizon. Low cloud cover often scuppers this.

And so, to my first ever visit to Old Hartley, a small bay between St Mary's Island and Seaton Sluice. A short walk from the small car park on the cliff top led me towards the steep concrete steps where I gained access to the beach. Not a great deal of sand to be had, as rock formation covered the majority of the bay. And if it's good rock formation you're after for detailed foreground interest, it doesn't come much better than this. By the time I arrived the tide was on its way back in and around half way. Because of this I was able to get out and explore the flat table of rocks to my left, which stretched out quite far and despite the incoming tide there it was safe enough to spend some time out there without being cut off. A couple of photographers appeared shortly after I had set my gear up. There was also one or two silhouetted figures on the cliff tops, crouched behind tripods and waiting for the sun to show up.

A warm yellow glow on the horizon behind the lighthouse was enough to get my firing off my first shots. At this point I could tell it was going to be a productive morning and the best was yet to come. As sunrise drew ever closer the colours in the sky were continually changing, especially 5-10 minutes before sun up when a nice pink/red hue took over the clouds. And it wasn't long before the sun made its appearance. At this point I headed out onto the flat rocks to get a better view of it. I was mindful of the incoming tide and made a decision to keep things brief. I'd been at Old Hartley for a good 90 minutes and pulled in some nice shots, especially the first half dozen efforts of the morning. I imagine this place will be a regular haunt in future and I look forward to photographing the same location later in the year when the sun rises further north. I'll keep you posted on any developments.
Hope you like these shots...
Cheers, Ash