Friday, 23 December 2016

Tommy And The Pebble Poppy, Seaham Harbour

Hello again,

Visitors to my Facebook page will be well aware that one of my favourite subjects to photograph is the amazing Tommy statue, at nearby Seaham Harbour. There's something special about this piece of art and you really do get that vibe when standing next to the big man. The craftsmanship that went into this creation is there for all to see, especially on closer inspection when you can judge for yourself. I've photographed Tommy on numerous occasions, during different seasons, day and night, and in all weather conditions. 

For anyone who is unfamiliar with the statue, Tommy sits thoughtfully, head bowed, rifle in hand, as he reflects upon the sheer horror of World War One during the first minute after peace was declared in 1918. This imposing metal sculpture, entitled 1101, owing to the fact the armistice went into effect at 11am on November 11, 1918, stands 9ft 5ins tall and weighs 1.2 tonnes. Built out of special corteen steel, it has been installed on Seaham seafront in Country Durham to mark the centenary of the start of the Great War.
Created by local artist Ray Lonsdale, the sculpture is also intended to represent Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which many of the returning soldiers endured. Mr Lonsdale got his idea for the piece after hearing a story about a soldier from nearby Murton who won a war medal. Tommy was originally on loan for three months to the former colliery town, but local residents instantly took him to their hearts and raised a massive £80,000 to make him a permanent fixture. He certainly put Seaham Harbour back on the map.
In the week running up to Remembrance Day 2016, an eye-catching display was laid out in front of the statue. Hundreds of hand painted pebbles were arranged in the form of a poppy, which is 18ft wide. The artwork is the brainchild of former serviceman Dave McKenna, who wanted to create something to link the statue to the town’s cenotaph. “We have had help from the cadets and Seaham Veterans group,” said Dave. The poppy will remain in place until this Sunday, Remembrance Day.“It is not a permanent, fixture, it’s just there for this week,” said Dave.

Once again my tea light candles made an appearance, and in such a fitting way as a tribute to all those who paid the ultimate price during warfare. Just as well these were battery operated lights, as it was blowing a gale during the ten minute photo session. I could see the waves crashing over Seaham Pier, in the distance. I drove down there to get a closer look, but the car park gates were locked. Maybe just as well - I was soon back in the car and heading home. Another job done ...



Sunday, 18 December 2016

Groverake Mine, Weardale, County Durham

Welcome to another blog entry at

A few months ago I found out about an abandoned mine on the outskirts of County Durham. I asked my friend Wikipedia for a brief insight to Groverake and this is what he came back with ...

The Groverake mine site is pretty much located at the convergence of three major veins, Greencleugh, Groverake and Red. The Burtree Pasture vein also continues to this point.
Mining at Groverake probably started in the 18th century, but it was the Beaumont Company who first developed major mining operations at the site at the end of the 1810's and they continued working the mine until the early 1880's. They drove adits and the two major shafts on the site that reached the Great Limestone. At their time they where mining for lead ore, but this was not that successful in terms of output. When the Weardale Lead Company took over the mine in the mid 1880's they had more success with mining for lead and they also mined for fluorspar. The spar operations had problems in the removal of silica and this limited its success. The mine changed hands a number of times until the 1940's.

It was not until the Second World War when the Blanchland Fluor Mines Ltd took over operations and eventually British Steel Corporation that the production of fluorspar ramped up with improved treatment techniques. These companies took Groverake to being the leading fluorspar producer in the ore field. British Steel drove a new level and extended the existing shafts. The Rake level was re-driven to give access to the upper levels of the veins and the Firestone level driven for access to the lower levels. The Drawing Shaft was sunk further into the Great Limestone to a depth of 91m. The Whimsey Shaft was sunk to the Three Year Limestone to a total depth of 165m.

In the late 1980's the Weardale Minerals and Processing Company acquired the mine, but in 1991 its parent company went into receivership resulting in another change of hands. The mine was then operated by Sherburn Minerals and worked until 1999. At the time of its final closure, Groverake was the last commercial fluorspar mine operating in the North Pennines.

The site is approximately a one hour drive from my home, through the heart of County Durham and into the sticks that is the countryside of Weardale. There is still remnants of our mining heritage scattered around the county today, and the route to Groverake exposed quite a few ruins and reminders of yesteryear, which was fascinating to see. This was my first visit into Weardale with the camera, so I was quite excited to make some pictures of the area, especially Groverake Mine, which was the focal point of this visit. I drove through Stanley, Annfield Plain and Tow Law, before closing in on Frosterley, Eastgate and Rookhope. From here it was only a short drive to the mine, passing the ruins of Wolf Cleugh Farm, along the valley. We parked at the top of the valley that overlooks the site, which is dominated by the remaining winding gear, which was a rusting hulk of structure that had withstood the test of time.

As the site is public access, it was a simple case of undoing the latch on  the gate before walking down the bank and into an olde worlde existence, despite its desolation. You could almost hear a pin drop. I stood for a moment to reflect. I almost felt like I'd been transported back through the decades to a time when this place was thriving. I could almost hear the noise of workers and the smell of industry, the operation in full flow, just as it would have been. Horses and carts, bellowing chimneys on the nearby stone houses. Then I reminded myself for a split second ... of the death that happened in 1989, and my work was not done. It was almost a pilgrimage of sorts, a visit to understand what went on here and why it no longer operates. A sign of the times, let there be no doubt. Time stops for no man.

I explored the site for an hour or so, often sitting down and simply looking at what lay before me. I could here the loose corrugated metal rattling every time the wind got up, which added to the feeling that was quite sad in a way. The workers quarters stood to my left, minus a roof, plus a set of lockers. On closer inspection I noticed reminders of the past, including an old pair of steel capped boots, cigarette boxes, clocking in cards and a bash hat. Rafters above my head threatened to collapse at any given moment - that was obvious. Not wanting to become a victim, I got out of there and continued to explore. This place was going take more than one or even two visits to get around properly, so I took a few shots and made my way back to the car. It was indeed an eye-opener, a fascinating place steeped in mining history. I must return and return soon. Unfinished business!


Saturday, 17 December 2016

Welcome To Aerial Photography!

Hello again,

It's not often I get to introduce a totally different perspective to my photography, until now. This comes in the shape of my new toy - a DJI Phantom 3 Advanced Quadcopter, with an on board camera, which is capable of capturing 12 megapixel stills and amazing HD video footage. I looked at these toys last year, after seeing some amazing aerial photographs, but after quite a lot of research I canned the idea in favour of a new camera purchase. Fast forward another year and I found myself looking at drones once again, this time with more than a vested interest. It was time to take the plunge. I had to get my hands on one of these, not so much for the photography side of it, for video, surprisingly enough. Idea's were coming thick and fast, even before I parted with my money, so it was nice when I arrived home with a P3A and an excitement at what was around the corner, so to speak.

My first test flight was near Penshaw Monument, Sunderland. It was nerve racking, I have to confess. I'd read stories of fly aways and malfunctions, etc, so that thought was always going to creep in now and again, but all went well during my maiden 20 minute flight. I played safe and kept the aircraft within sight at all times, monitoring its position on my mobile phone, which was attached to the remote controller. Live video streaming is a brilliant thing and the DJI GO app was very simple and straightforward to use. I was well impressed with the stability of the aircraft, even at high altitude with a stiff breeze. Everything was in place and the tools were there at my disposal - all that remained was the job of pulling in some nice video and photographs. I got to grips with the intelligent flight mode, which allowed me to program the aircraft to fly in around an object in a perfect circle - auto pilot at its best. The first flight flew over (pun intentional) and it wasn't long before I brought the drone back to its home position, allowing it to hover at around 5 feet from the ground, before catching it with one hand and shutting down the props. Job done. Phew, it was back in one piece!

Here is a few shots of my maiden flight - the first of many ...

Cheers, Ash

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Sunrise - Herrington Country Park, Sunderland

What can I say - I've been AWOL once again and this time it's been longer than ever. My blog page has been put on the back burner over the last few months due to other commitments, but I'm back once again and hopefully it won't be a fleeting visit.

Strangely enough, I'm taking off where I left off, with more Mute Swan images. This time it's a sunrise visit to Herrington Country Park, Sunderland on a mild morning in early December 2016. I had the place to myself, give or take the odd dog walker here and there. The warm colours were beginning to show on the horizon when I arrived at the park, around 7.30am, so I had a feeling this was going to be a productive outing. No filters or long lenses, just a Canon 5D3 and a flash gun, including the chosen lens, a 24-105L.

As anticipated, the sky kicked off with some fine colour just before sunrise, so I set to work knowing it wouldn't last too long. It's a game of patience waiting for the swans to take up the ideal position for the composition I wanted. As there was a pair of swans I waited for a gap between the two before hitting the shutter button. When one bird obscures the other it doesn't make for a good photo and I also try to capture them with a side profile or head on, rather than the back of a head. It's a tricky game, it has to be said. I can easily run off a dozen frames before I finally bag a keeper, but it's all part of the fun and the challenge. The swans are at ease with the flashgun and are more bothered about whether they're gonna get fed or not, which they always do. It's the very least I can do when they're willing to pose for the camera, but throwing food to them always attracts a posse of ducks, which I don't want in my shots as they're nothing but a distraction.

Here is a few shots from this morning's visit. Glad I made the effort to lift my arse out of bed today!

Back soon, Ash

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Good Evening From The Lake District!

Hello again,

It's been far too long. I keep slipping into 'Blog Neglect' mode and before I know it, it's been 3 months since my last entry. Oh dear, I really need to have a quiet word with myself. Not good enough, not by far.

Oh well, I'm here now, so let's get on with it. A warm welcome back and a blog entry that should redeem myself and my lack of recent efforts on this page. It comes in the way of a recent visit to Lakeland - the beautiful national park we call the Lake District. It was a kind of last minute decision to head west on a Saturday evening in June, when clear skies and a possible Aurora were predicted, and the fact that the North-East region expected cloud, it was a no brainer to turn my back on the North-East and head over to the Lakes, where conditions were most favourable. It was a fine evening, with no breeze and good temperatures. I headed over the A66 and traffic was quiet, so the journey went very smoothly, until the sat-nav notified me of a closure on a section of the road, which diverted me through Kirby Stephen. Hundreds of gypsy caravans lined the approach road, and when I eventually reached the small town of Kirby Stephen, it was like a scene from a movie. The place was overrun with gypsies, gathering outside the pubs in the main street. Horses were tethered to lamp posts - lots of them. Horse drawn carts were everywhere, randomly parked by Stevie Wonder, or so it would appear. I bit of careful negotiating in the Nissan Juke had me through the other side, which came as some relief. It looked as if the place was ready to go up, as gangs of gypsies eyed the 'locals' drinking over the other side of the street. Apparently it was Appleby Horse Fair weekend - really? I thought it was the Cheltenham Gold Cup, me'sel!!!!

I reached Keswick as the sun disappeared over the distant fells. I drove around the edge of Derwentwater, towards Lodore Jetty, the pre-planned location for tonight's photography. As the Jetty was north facing it lined up perfectly with a possible Northern Lights show, which would hopefully arrive tonight. Before dropping anchor at Lodor, I stopped off at Kettlewell, a small car park hidden behind tree's on the edge of the lake. I had a small bag of duck food in the boot of the car, which came in very handy when I spotted a lone Mute Swan on the water. There was some nice post sunset colour in the sky, which made for a lovely backdrop across the water towards Skiddaw, the second highest of the Lakeland fells. Out came the flash gun (and the food), and away I went. A few kids came over and stood behind me as I took my first shots of the bird. They stood right behind me, which seemed to agitate the Swan for a short while, before I turned around and gave them a look that did the trick. They quickly done one.

I 've got to admit - I've photographed lots of Mute Swan's, but this particular character was by far the tamest of the lot, probably due to the fact that it was accustomed to human presence and the perks that it came with it. It must have been the best fed Swan in Lakeland!!  After ten minutes or so I headed back to the car and made the short journey along the road to Lodore Jetty. It was here I bumped into Alan Cook and his wife. Alan is an amateur photographer like myself, who lives in Seaham. We often bump into each other in the dark. There's nowt going on mind - honest! Of all the places we chose to photograph - we both find ourselves at a little known jetty that we'd never previously visited - it's a small world and that was to become even more surprising as the night wore on. More about that later ...

We photographed the Lodore Jetty as darkness fell, with Alan's wife doing her light painting stuff on a Viking style boat the was moored in front of us. It took a few takes before we got the results we wanted. I gave Alan a few pointers with his Sony A7r2, particularly the focus peaking, which he said he hadn't used before. It's something that I swear by, as it takes the spade work out of the equation. One thing I haven't mentioned up to now is the midgey's. NIGHTMARE! Thousands of the bastards, biting away and not the kind of thing you need when you're planning to stand at the same location all night (potentially). Seriously, this was a big problem. Mauled - that's the best way to describe it. I went twelve rounds with those tw@ts and I was on the canvas a few times... oh aye..they might be tiny but they pack a canny punch. Around 11pm a couple arrived with a camera and tripod. Me and Alan had chat with them as we took photographs. Turns out they were stopping across the way at a nearby hotel. A few minutes in and Alan headed off - he too was floored by the midgey's, while his other half took a nap on a bench nearby. Around midnight the midgey's seemed to disperse. The cooler it got, the less midgey's there was. I like that!

Alas, the Aurora never showed up, I chatted to Mr & Mrs Woodley about the whole Aurora thing and they asked me whether I'd seen it before. I told them I had several previous sightings, notably the last one on Mother's Day, in March of this year. They told me they'd also seen it that night, at Souter Lighthouse, near Sunderland. Well what a coincidence, that was the same spot where I had seen and photographed it! I told them this and we all laughed - it's a very small world, or so it would seem. Simon Woodley went on to say him and his wife had watched a time lapse video of that particular Aurora show in their hotel, shortly before they walked to Lodore Jetty, where we now stood. His wife said it was an amazing video and a nice reminder of a fantastic night. At this point I had a feeling that the video they were raving about was mine. His wife said 'Yeah, it was by someone called Ashley. I can't remember his second name'. I replied 'Was it Ashley Corr'... she said 'Yes, that's right - do you know him'...... I said 'That's me'. They both laughed and found it hard to believe, until I described the video in detail. They both stepped forward to shake my hand. Must admit I felt quite humbled. Simon said 'Well, well... the famous Ashley Corr' which I quickly diffused, he he. Lovely couple and I enjoyed their company in the dark. I wouldn't recognise them if I passed them in the street, Lol.

They too headed off, back to their hotel, leaving me alone to fire off a few more shots of the boat and jetty. The eerie mist moved around on the surface of Derwentwater. My last shot shows this (below). And that was that. Back to the car and off home, arriving around 5am. No Aurora shots in the bag, but without doubt my best Mute Swan shots to date were well and truly bagged. A 200 mile round trip that was well worth it in the end. Result!

Cheers, Ash

Monday, 28 March 2016

Tommy, Mission 1101, Seaham Harbour

Hello again,
Another blog entry today - that's four in two days and that's got to be a record for me. My blog page gets neglected every now and again due to other online commitments, such as, Facebook, Twitter and more recently ... Instagram! Still finding my feet with some of those social network platforms, but I'll get there eventually. But yes, my Blog page is getting a bit of much needed TLC in the shape of another entry that brings you some of my recent images of Tommy, the very popular wartime sculpture that lives in Seaham Harbour, County Durham. I often find myself drawn to this statue and I've bagged some great shot of him recently. Visitors to my site may well have seen the page I have dedicated to Tommy. Night time visits is what captures my imagination the most and I quite often have the place to myself, unlike day time when visitors flock to see the big man. I've captured Tommy on camera many times, including the Candlelit Vigil image, which still remains my most popular Facebook upload to date, raking in more than 7,000 likes. Then there was the morning of all mornings when I photographed those amazing 'Mother Of Pearl' clouds, as a backdrop. One or two other shots spring to mind, but this blog entry concentrates on more recent night time grabs.

The shots you can see here were captured with two camera's - the trusty Canon 5D3 and a Sony A7S mirrorless affair, which, as the days and weeks pass, is becoming more of a primary body than the Canon. It's no surprise really, as the Sony is a master at pulling in night time shots with little or no noise, is much lighter and easy to handle, plus the manual focus is a dream to work with. I could go on and on, but less of the camera talk and more of the photographs, eh. The village green, where Tommy lives, has shops and a busy road to one side and the North Sea to the other. A cenotaph is situated a few yards away and one night I arrived to find a young girl spinning LED's to accompanying music. I politely asked if I could take a shot or two and she was more than happy to co-operate. One of the shots is shown here.

The Sony camera was shooting from almost ground level for some of my shots, with the tripod legs splayed and the centre column in a horizontal position. At best the camera was around 5 inches from the ground, which was ideal for grabbing a few shots from angles that I wouldn't normally shoot from. I think it all added to the drama and the subject suited it very well. Cars came and went, which is to be expected as the site is situated right next to a car park. Occasionally one car would pull up and face me with it's lights on. No problem really, until the driver decided to leave them on for a good ten minutes or so, ruining my shots. It was one of those 'Feck right off' moments. I bided my time and it wasn't too long before the car went on it's merry way.

Near the end of the row of shops is a fine chippery establishment. Downey's do a rather damn tasty portion of Fish n' Chips. Oh yes. Moolar handed over and it was down the hatch. Weshed down wi Coca Cola, it was time to head home with a belly full of scran. Ah well, all perks of being a wandering Mackem photographer (wink). For anyone who would like to know the background story of Tommy, here is a newspaper article (cut and pasted) to give you an insight into how the statue came to be ...

When his sculpture reflecting the sheer horror of World War One was lowered onto a seafront just a few miles from his hometown, Ray Lonsdale didn’t expect it to receive the welcome it did. The imposing metal sculpture entitled 1101 - owing to the fact the armistice went into effect at 11am on November 11, 1918 - stands 9ft 5ins tall at Seaham, in County Durham. The statue, built out of special corteen steel, was installed to mark the centenary of the start of the Great War and was only expected to remain in place for three months.
After winning the hearts of hundreds of visitors to the town, it could now be exhibited permanently. Around £72,000 has been raised to keep the 1.2-tonne statue in the town, and fundraisers are only £12,000 from their target. The Journal included it in its list of 100 great things about the North East - alongside more established landmarks like Hadrian’s Wall and the Tyne Bridge - and regular crowds are flocking to Seaham to take in the artwork. In the process, Ray’s work has been catapulted into the public eye and his journey from metal worker to fully fledged artist has been completed. He said: “There was always a big risk with Tommy because there was no sale for it. It was just a case of me biting the bullet and having hope that someone somewhere would buy it. There was no guarantee that it would have sold and it could have ended up sitting around for sometime.
“Finally great things happened and they are just about there with the money now.”
The artwork, which was installed in May has attracted hundreds of visitors to Seaham, many of whom have donated cash to the Save Tommy campaign. A Facebook page called Mission 1101 has attracted more than 4,000 members with many pledging to support to Tommy, which is situated on Terrace Green. “I was surprised by the level of support 1101 got,” said Ray. “I’ve had a positive reaction to a lot of my work but not by as many people as this. The whole town has pulled together to put money in the buckets and raise cash to keep it here. That is a new experience.”
After leaving school Ray, 49, of South Hetton in County Durham, qualified as a maintenance fitter and began working at Coles Cranes in Sunderland, which closed in 1996. Following the factory’s closure Ray set up his own steel fabrication business, where he produced bins, seats and railings for local authorities and private clients. He always had an interest in art and at school he was always encouraged to go onto to art college.
But it wasn’t until 2007 that Ray decided to start his career in art and changed the name of his business to Two Red Rubber Things. The father-of-two said: “In 2002 I got back into art and drawing on an evening and I decided to try and combine my work and interest. That’s when I produced my first piece. I got into a competition at the Biscuit Factory and I won the competition. “That gave me the confidence to try and do a bit more and over the next five years I completed more and more art work. There was a gradual change-over from steel to artistic steel work. “Someone told me that I would never stand a chance making it in the art industry unless I had a degree in art. I started college but I soon realised it wasn’t for me. “I decided to do things off my own back and that’s how I started and finally things were well received. I didn’t feel I had time to do an art degree. It would take seven years and I felt I would be wasting opportunities. I just wanted to push myself. I’m big on having a go and I never wanted to get to a point in my life where I would think ‘I wish I would have tried that. I kept the steel work going alongside the art work and it wasn’t until 2007 when I changed the name of the business and decided to take a chance with the art.”
Ray now has 30 life size statues under his belt and another six large scale pieces. These include The Big Dance at Gretna Green - a 14ft depiction of a couple’s hands - which was put in place in time for Valentine’s Day, a soldier on a bench at North Bay, Scarborough and the Filey Fisherman, in Filey. Ray, who lives with wife Bev, said: “I like to create work that people can take something from it. Public art should be for the public. I don’t agree that it is an artist’s job to educate the public about art but if they like it then it’s been a success. “I like people to look at it and appreciate it and appreciate the work that’s gone into it. I also like them to look deeper into it and find the story behind it. Previously I would make seats, bins and railings. I had to get used to people buying my work for the way it looked rather than for its functional purpose. It felt strange at first. I realised that people were having a positive reaction to my work and that’s something I got used to, which was nice.”
Ray is keeping quite tight-lipped about his next project but he admits he’s been approached by local authorities. He said: “I have completed a lot of drawings since 1101 and I’ve been approached by a couple of authorities with ideas but nothing has been finalised yet.” Leaving his full-time profession to concentrate on his dream to make it as an artist was a risk but Ray has not looked back since, citing his family’s support for helping make the leap. He said: “Bev has been fully supportive. She had a lot of faith in me when I didn’t. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be any of this at all.”
Until we meet again ...

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Another Fine Sunset - Copt Hill Barrow

'Family Trees'

One of my favourite photography locations is Copt Hill Barrow, Houghton le Spring, Tyne & Wear. Also known locally as the Seven Sisters (although there is actually only SIX trees), this Neolithical burial ground has many urban myths attached to it, so what is fact and what is fiction - who knows? One thing is certain though, at least in my humble opinion - this place is one of the most photogenic of locations, especially during the winter months when the trees have shed their leaves and take on an eye-catching silhouette, at the top of a local wasteland in my home town. Facing east at sunset is a 'must see' - especially when you're rewarded with a colourful sunset backdrop. Not much to ask for, you might well be thinking, but surprisingly enough there has been many of them over the 16 or so years that I have been making the short journey up there. Tonight was another of those occasions.

I arrived with plenty time to prepare, which is never a bad thing. At least four other photographers were strategically placed, eager for a slice of the cake, so to speak. I made up the numbers and fancied some of that cake too, so I waited it out and hoped for the best. It didn't disappoint. I grabbed a few shots before and after sunset, by which time everyone else had cleared off and I had the place to myself. A bit of field craft and the use of a filter brought me the best shot of the night. Combine that with the sudden arrival of a family walking over the mound and the magic was about to have its second coming. They seen me from a short distance and after a brief exchange they were soon posing for my
camera. How nice! And here it is, one of my favourite shots of the Copt Hill Barrow @ sunset, with the inclusion of a family to give a nice sense of scale to the shot ...


Astro Exploration - Hadrian's Wall Country

Hello again,
Another short blog entry for you today, as I catch up with a backlog of images from recent outings with the camera(s). My latest installment is another first for me - a visit to Cawfields, in Hadrian's Wall Country. With clear skies predicted we headed out and arrived around 7pm, parking at the edge of the water, with a fine rocky backdrop and a partially clear sky. The Milky Way could easily be identified as it arched above us and off into the distance. The place was deserted, which was no surprise. A nearby toilet block cast the only available light around us, which was ideal on a night like this. It really was supposed to be cold, yet I hardly felt a nip in the air. It probably was cold, as it should be on a mid February evening, yet it wasn't noticable once the camera came out to play. I think you switch off to these things once the cam is switched on! The stars shone very brightly indeed and many could be seen reflecting in the water in front of me. The Plough was easily identifiable, as was Orion's Belt and the Andromeda Galaxy, amongst others. Still water offered an ideal opportunity to grab a lovely reflection shot, with a nice cloud formation adding to the composition.

This is another place that I will most definitely revisit, for more of the same. It was a nice experience, treading where Roman's once did. An historic place in every sense.


Sunrise - Trow Rocks, South Shields

A rare sunrise outing for me in 2016. The location - Trow Rocks, a small cove near Graham Sands, South Shields. Another first, despite a previous visit to this location during an afternoon last Spring, this was to be my first attempt at capturing the sun rising to the west. It was a very mild morning and as soon as I walked out of my front door at 5.10am, I knew it wasn't gonna be one of those biting cold mornings that I usually associate with sunrise outings. Almost half an hour later I was on location at Trow Rocks and ready to capture another sunrise. The sky looked promising and as time slowly ebbed away I could sense this was going to be a productive morning. Not a great deal of cloud to the west, but just enough to breath some colour into a partially clear sky. The waiting game was on!

An elderly couple joined me as sunrise approached. I was more than happy to have what appeared to be prime spot in front of the jagged rock formation, so I quickly got to work and ran off a few test shots. The tide was high and it coincided with sunrise - a single factor that brought me to this spot today. Standing with my back up against the rock face, I was shooting as wide as possible without vignetting, due to the stack of filters I was using to balance exposure and capture the tide with a slow shutter speed. It worked well and it was another sunrise location ticked off. Here is two shots - one before, and one after sunrise. Only one task was left to complete - a visit to McDonald's for a breakfast wrap and a nice caramel latte. Needless to say, this was another box ticked and I then it was a simple case of driving home. Short, but very sweet.


Saturday, 12 March 2016

Mother Of Pearl Clouds - Part Two

And so to the second and concluding part of 'Mother Of Pearl Clouds'. If you read the first part of my blog you'll be aware of how amazed I was to see this rare natural phenomenon, let alone photograph it. Even now, a few weeks later, I still look back in amazement at something I will probably never see again in my lifetime, so I feel priveleged to have witnessed it on my doorstep, so to speak. I apologise for not giving my readers an insight into how these clouds form, and why. So, without further ado here is a bit of cut and paste magic, courtesy of those trusty people at Wikipedia ...

Polar stratospheric clouds or PSCs, also known as nacreous clouds, or mother of pearl, due to its iridescence), are clouds in the winter polar stratosphere at altitudes of 15,000–25,000 meters (49,000–82,000 ft). They are best observed during civil twilight when the sun is between 1 and 6 degrees below the horizon. They are implicated in the formation of ozone holes. The effects on ozone depletion arise because they support chemical reactions that produce active chlorine which catalyzes ozone destruction, and also because they remove gaseous nitric acid, perturbing nitrogen and chlorine cycles in a way which increases ozone destruction.  The stratosphere is very dry; unlike the troposphere, it rarely allows clouds to form. In the extreme cold of the polar winter, however, stratospheric clouds of different types may form, which are classified according to their physical state and chemical composition. Due to their high altitude and the curvature of the surface of the Earth, these clouds will receive sunlight from below the horizon and reflect it to the ground, shining brightly well before dawn or after dusk.

After a quick stop off at High Sharpley Wind Farm, I was back in the car and driving towards Seaham Harbour, a coastal town in the county of Durham. Within a little under ten minutes I was parked up at The Green, home of Tommy 1101, the corteen steel sculpture of a soldier, commemorating the first minute of armistice. Indeed another fine subject to use as a silhouette in front of the Nacreous Clouds. I had the place to myself, which was a surprise, so I set about the task of grabbing what would prove to be my last batch of photo's before the cloud show ended. The sun rose directly ahead of me, so I used Tommy to obscure it from view as I took my first shots. The last colours of the clouds diminished quickly as the sun rose next to them. The game was almost up. The blinding bright sun killed them off within two or three minutes, but by this time it was job done. I was more than happy to grab an hour's worth of shots, so it was time to find a petrol station, and quickly. The fuel gauge was well and truly in the red zone and me arse was twitching somewhat. Didn't fancy konking out and having to walk to the nearest station, especially as I had no idea where the nearest one was located.

I managed to reach Morrisons at Doxford Park, filled up and got myself home. Quick cup of tea then off to bed. Well... that was the plan, but plans rarely come to fruition, and that is exactly what happened. I t was after mid-day before I eventually hit the fart sack. A press guy messaged me via Facebook, wanting to use my images on the Daily Mail website, which was a first for me, so some quick editing took place and off the images went. It was great to one of my Seven Sisters shots appear on their web page later the same day. And that was that. It was all over and well worth reflecting on. Here is a small selection of the clouds at Seaham Harbour on that memorable morning in early February, 2016. My shots went down very well on Facebook, as you can see in the screenshot here. It's always an added bonus to be able to share my work and receive nice feedback in the process.

So, until the next time....AC

Friday, 4 March 2016

Mother Of Pearl Clouds - Part One

Photography is all about capturing the moment and I've been lucky enough to capture many special moments over the years. My recent interest in Aurora chasing has given me some very memorable experiences when photographing the sky, especially so near to home, which was something I never imagined possible. However, my recent sighting of rare Nacreous Clouds, also known as 'Mother Of Pearl', was something that eclipsed all of my Aurora sightings, without a doubt, so to capture it on camera was extra special and I'd like to share my experience with you, on my blog page. This rare event lasted a couple of hours at the most, but that was more than enough time to visit three locations close to home on a cold February morning in 2016. Luck was definitely on my side as the clouds appeared before and after sunrise, just as I was finishing a gruelling night shift at the Nissan Car Plant in Washington. I'd pre-planned a sunrise stop off before returning home, so my camera bag was already in the car as I left Nissan at 7.10am - good planning that gave me those precious extra minutes to grab some shots before the clouds disappeared.

As I drove out of the Nissan works car park I could see the commotion above, with a scattering of Nacreous Clouds sitting very high in the sky. I can only describe it as an oil spill in the sky, as rainbow coloured clouds presented themselves and this was a once in a lifetime experience for me and probably for everyone else I passed on the journey out of Washington. I saw many random passers by pointing towards the clouds in amazement, who, like myself, were in awe of the spectacle in the sky. As I exited the slip road from the A1231 I headed east, towards Shiney Row. The sky was particulary light for this time of morning, which was a surprise as the morning before was very dark, even 45 minutes before sunrise. Maybe the Nacreous Clouds were to blame. As I approached the roundabout at Shiney Row I was in two minds whether to turn left and head along to Herrington Country Park, or drive straight on and make my way towards the Seven Sisters in Houghton le Spring. I was aware that it was a massive decision and one that I had to get right. The hastily arranged plan was capture the clouds with foreground interest and I wasn't confident that the Country Park would offer what was needed, so as I drove onto the roundabout I made the instant decision to drive straight on. My choice had been made and there was no turning back!!!

As I drove through Herrington Burn, the sight above was quite surreal. More people could be seen standing at bus stops, facing the opposite way of oncoming traffic to marvel at the rainbow clouds above. Many others drove by, seemingly oblivious to what was going on, and probably not even bothered in the slightest had someone pointed it out to them. I was soon entering God's Country (Houghton le Spring) and preparing myself for my first opportunity to photograph the Mother Of Pearl Clouds. As the clock ticked down I was mindful that the spectacle could die off at any given moment. I mean, just how long would these clouds last before disappearing? I hadn't a clue, after all, I knew absolutely nothing about them, apart from the fact that they looked immense and this was a first for me and probably a last. Time to unleash the camera. I was now parked up at the Copt Hill watering hole, in my own back yard. What a place to photograph the phenomenon above, in my own home town! I legged it across the busy road and into the field, almost gannin' arse owa tit on the muddy path. And here I was, after a long hard night shift on a high speed production line, stuck in the middle of a pasture seeing the unbelievable with my own eyes. I'd gone from one extreme to another. When I was building cars at 6.45am and blowing out of my arse on the last bit of energy I could muster, I never imagined what I 'd be experiencing just one hour later!!! That's what I love about my hobby - expect the unexpected.

Bingo! I had made it - now on location at the Seven Sisters (Copt Hill Barrow), a Neolithical burial ground and an ideal focal point to throw into silhouette with an amazing backdrop of colour. It really doesn't come much better than this, and if it does, then I haven't been there yet. Surprisingly I had the place to myself, clicking away like the proverbial happy snapper. I was happy alright, make no mistake on that score. The wind was up and I had to press down on my tripod as I took my first batch of shots. I was shooting on relatively high shutter speeds and didn't really need the legs, but I was so engrossed in the moment that I simply carried on regardless and bagged shot after shot. I thought about jumping into the scene myself and firing off a selfie, but the winds would have surely blown the tripod over, so I back heeled the idea.

After 15 minutes or so I made the short drive along the road to a quarry entrance on the approach to High Sharpley Wind Farm. It was from this view point I could see right across to the horizon and the full show of Nacreous Clouds. This was the best yet - what a view to behold. I captured more silhouettes in the shape of the wind turbines, plus a man walking a dog along a bridleway. Good job I'd packed the long lens - a godsend! I hope you like the pictures as much I liked making them. They are shown here as Part One of my Nacreous Clouds blog entry, with the sequel coming next, featuring more shots that I captured at Seaham Harbour, home to Tommy, Mission 1101, which you know I have an affinity with through my photography. Stay tuned for that one. Coming very soon!

Thanks for visiting my blog page...


Saturday, 16 January 2016

Temporarily Out Of Action!

Aye, the roaming Mackem is on the sick list at the moment after a recent fall down the stairs at home. Been in a lot of discomfort for over a week now and the pain shows no signs of easing off. Still managing at work (just), with the help of pain killers, so after ten days of feeling like shite I think it's high time I was back to normal. Typically, I got an invite to travel to Glencoe for yesterday's sunrise, with Alan Cook and Mike Ridley. It was to be a start from the north-east, travelling through the night and climbing a mountain to photograph the sun rising. I can't seem to sit in a car for more than five minutes, never mind climb a mountain, so I had to turn down that opportunity. Impeccable timing, as per. Oh well, no time to sit and mope around - I 've done enough of that over the last few days. It's time to look forward to getting my back back, if that sounds right??? Jeez, these pain killers av got me heed spinning!

As for the accident - my heel slipped forward off the top stair. That's right folks, the TOP stair. I went down like the proverbial bag of shite and took a right old whack to the upper back, before sliding down on my arse with my head braying up and down off every stair. After what seeme like an eternity I reached the bottom, in a pathetic heap, buckled and almost in tears. I was winded and in shock. I even told the wife to stop laughing. Best part was...she wasn't even there, she was out shopping!!!  Maybe I said it because I'd done the same thing ten years previously as she stood over me laughing her titties off. Aye, there's nee sympathy for the Roaming Mackem, not a jot.

And on that note I shall leave you with a smile on your face. Me? In the words of Gloria Gaynor...I will survive.
At least for now.
Back soon, says he...


Friday, 15 January 2016

Facebook Photography Page Banners x2

A quick post on the subject of Facebook photography pages and their header banners. The photography pages I regularly visit often rotate their banner images every couple of weeks, usually with images captured by its members. Often the banner image is chosen as the winner of a competition on a chosen subject or theme. I've never had an interest in submitting my work in the past, nor do I feel inclined to do it in future. I'm more than happy to visit pages to browse the content, add my own and more often than not, leave my own comments. I was surprised recently when two of my images appeared on separate Facebook pages as banners. Obviously they were chosen randomly, as my shots caught the eye of the page admins, which is nice to know. Ah well, never a bad thing. That's all really - just a feeble excuse to update my blog once again as I'm trying to restore it to former glories by hitting the '70 posts per year' mark once again. That's one more ticked off (wink).


Surfed Up A Treat (Part 2)

Welcome back to the Ashley Corr Photography blog page - a roaming Mackem in the North-East of England. Today's offering comes in the shape of 'Surfed Up a Treat (Part 2), the sequel to my recent blog entry which brought you all the action from Seaham Harbour, County Durham. The first instalment covered all the action on the day, so all that remains is for me to deliver the public reaction on social media to the set of photographs that I uploaded to Facebook. I actually thought twice before uploading any photographs at all, to be honest, as I didn't think the photographs were any better than my previous efforts on the coast in similar conditions. As 2016 was only a few days old I decided to post the photo's regardless, as it would have been my first post of the new year. As well as posting them on my own Facebook page, I also posted them to 'Seaham Have Your Say' and 'Let's Talk Photography North-East'. The reaction was quite overwhelming, with over 1,000 likes and many positive comments, so the decision to post them was in fact a wise one.
In addition to this, one of my shots was used as the banner image on 'Let's Talk Photography North-East', which came as a surprise and a nice one at that. The icing on the cake was the appearance of the same shot on Tyne-Tees Television the following day - not bad for one hours work on the coast. I'd like to thank everyone again for the great support on social media, which is building as each day passes. THANK YOU!

Two weeks later and I'm still receiving orders for photo prints and canvas, all featuring the Seaham Waves. It's all good stuff! Right now I'm suffering from a bad back after a recent fall down stairs at home. Haway...don't laugh! It feels like I've been kicked all owa off a horse. Oh aye, can barely move at times. Can't be on with this. Had an invite for a night trip to Glencoe, Scotland today, which I've had to back heel because of my gammy back. Typical eh. Oh well, no time to cry over spilled milk. Onwards and upwards. Hopefully it won't be too long before I'm brushing the cobwebs off my camera. Now, there's a first!