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

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...