Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Man On The Moors - A Landscape Dream

Hello again,

A few weeks ago I brought you all a new blog entry that covered a recent recce visit to Castleton Moor, North Yorkshire. The exact location was just outside the tiny rural town of Castleton, a place which, until now, was unknown to me. What caught my imagination was the recent unveiling of a statue, high on the moor, overlooking another tiny village called Westerdale. I wrote about the background to the statue in my recce blog, so no need to revisit the finer details, but simply to bring you the photographs from my second visit. It was a fine summer's day and definitely one for a stroll across the moors once again. This time there was no rain and wind - the heather was in full bloom and it transformed the moors into a carpet of magenta as far as the eye could see. Blue skies and broken cloud were thrown into the mix, making for some fantastic landscape shots along the way. Another climb up the slope from the car to the statue - this time I had my other half keeping me company and she was enjoying the day out every bit as much as myself. We weren't alone however. People came and went, admiring the statue and the panoramic views across the vista that lay in front of us. Barely a breeze filled the air, so to say the experience was one to behold ... well, that was no exaggeration. Not often all things considered come together, but today was one of those rare exceptions when you simply sit there, say nothing and just take it all in. The beauty and splendour was all around us.

It was Saturday afternoon. The working week was behind us and weekends are meant to be exactly like this. A nice drive across the North Pennines, followed by a brisk stroll with some photography thrown in. Then another drive to a nearby pub for a well earned rest, a bar meal and a drink of real ale (That was the wife's tipple ... I was on the Babycham ... lol.) No, actually a pint of your finest John Smith's, please, bar tender. After basking in a beer garden to complete our day out, we were back in the car and heading back to the reality that is home. As far as spontaneous days out are concerned, this was up there with the best. A bit of everything. I would still be in that beer garden now had my wife not dragged me away!

And so to my next visit to the man on the moors. Yes, plans were already afoot to continue my photography of the seated man. The heather shots were now ticked off and all that remained was the small matter of bagging some astro shots. I had milky way and star trails in mind. Looking forward was again an understatement. This place was made for it and I couldn't wait to get back to Castleton Moor, under clear skies. An eye of vigilance was now in place and firmly fixed on those unpredictable weather forecast apps. Let's av it. Waiting ...

And I didn't have to wait very long! Coming next ... those astro shots of the man on the moors ...




Sunday, 24 September 2017

Time Lapse On Tour

Hello again,

It's nice to get stuck into my blog on a regular basis after letting it fall by the wayside in recent months. There simply isn't enough hours in the day to cover everything, including work, family and other commitments. Quite often though, when I sit my arse down on the settee and there's nowt on the telly, I turn to my laptop and conjure up something to pass the time away. If it's photography related then that suits me fine, which includes writing about my outings with the camera and relaying them to Joe Public, via my blog page. Over the last year or so I've taken an interest in time lapse photography, after seeing one or two creations online and thinking to myself  'Hey, I wouldn't mind dabbling in a bit of that.' As visitors to my site may well know by now, it's not just still photography that interests me. I occasionally flirt with video, which is predominantly aerial, from my eye in the sky drone, plus the recent time lapses I've created with my GoPro action cam. It's the GoPro aspect that I'm gonna touch on today, as I bring you an insight with behind the scenes pictures and also direct links to the finished time lapse.

First of all, the tools. Last Christmas my wife bought me a GoPro Hero 5 (black edition), which was a big surprise - I certainly didn't see it coming. Well, it beats the obligatory pair of socks and a box of After Eights !!!  (Only joking Amanda, if you're reading this lol). I quickly got to grips with it and was immediately impressed at how much tech was packed into this tiny waterproof box. Although it's capable of pulling in some stunning 4K video footage, at 30 frames per second, I'm more than happy with the full HD 1920x1080p mp4's it delivers too, especially at 120 fps. The camera can be controlled through the GoPro app on my phone, which is a very handy side line, plus Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for good measure. The rear LCD touchscreen is excellent - a feature that is non-existent on previous incarnations of the GoPro cam. Also featured is a burst function at 30fps, Night Lapse and Time Lapse (photo and video). With advanced wind noise reduction, this piece of kit seems to have it all.

So off I went, with my little shoulder bag, armed with my GoPro, a tripod, and a  Rollei ePano 360 motorized swivel head, The swivel head would enable me to capture some motion time lapse, as it panned across my chosen scene. It's battery powered, with an internal rechargeable cell that would give me at least a couple of hours of shooting from a full charge. Setting up was fairly straightforward and the trickiest part, if there really was one, was levelling off the tripod legs and ball head. Keeping the panning head level as it made a 180 sweep was very important. Failure to level the legs and head correctly would almost certainly produce a poor time lapse with a bad horizon, so I double checked everything before I set the GoPro away. The pano head has a few different settings, including panning 360 degrees, panning 180 degrees from left to right and back again, plus a 90 degree pan with a 30 second pause, before panning again, pausing and panning again. No doubt I'll try all of these eventually, but right now I'm gonna pan from left to right at 180 degrees.

So, where have I visited? Well, I've ticked off a time lapse at Newcastle Quayside, the new River Wear Crossing, Seaham Pier, Sunderland's East End and Penshaw Monument, amongst others. I've put each time lapse into a compilation video and this, along with a few others, can be found on my YouTube Channel. FEEL FREE TO SUBSCRIBE !!!

This time lapse carry on is addictive and I'll be doing plenty more of them in the near future, so keep an eye out for them. Cheers.


Saturday, 23 September 2017

The Seated Man, North Yorkshire (Recce Visit)

Eyup!!!! ... and we're off to North Yorkshire ...

Yes, it's a trip south, into North Yorkshire for a recce visit to a statue on a hill in the middle of nowhere land. It was a chance sighting of the statue that caught my eye whilst browsing the internet, one rainy Friday morning in August. I was sitting down with a cup of tea, trying to shake off my night shift jet lag, when I first noticed The Seated Man, in situ on Castleton Rigg, overlooking the tiny Yorkshire village of Westerdale. At first I was a little confused as to what the statue actually represented. All I could see was an elderly man sitting on a seat, with a brief case resting on his knee. His facial expression was one of deep thought - definitely a pensive mood going on here, I thought. And it suddenly struck me that he resembled Jeremy Corbyn, without a doubt. Well, well, well ... I need to visit this statue in person and I need to visit it soon. I originally had nightscapes in mind. Star trails, milky way, moon shots ... and this place seemed like the ideal spot, as it was in a dark area away from light polluted urban areas, that would and could have a negative effect. There was a carpet of heather surrounding the statue. I could only imagine how nice it would look during the day, when bathed in sunshine. That's it, my mind was made up - I'm heading down there, first chance I get. It's only an hours drive from home. That'll do nicely. Within 48 hours I was heading down there to check it out, in the flesh, with my brother Chris. The weather was poor, very poor in fact - certainly not a day to be walking on the moors, but what the heck ... this WAS a recce visit after all.

My satnav took me into the village of Castleton, before I headed out and across the moors road towards Castleton Rigg. From this vantage point we got our first glimpse of the statue in the distance. I parked up at the roadside and we headed through the heather and up the hill towards the main man, accidently disturbing a few grouse on the way. That was funny - not for me, for the grouse. I almost shat me'sel a few times over. Once we'd negotiated the incline, and the grouse ha, we were on the flat moor and heading towards the statue, which we could see directly in front of us, approximately 100 metres ahead, with his back to us. Within no time we were standing in front of this amazing statue. Amazement was my first thought as I stood in front and admired the artistry in front of me. This bronze statue stood around 3 metres in height and the detail was outstanding. All I could think about at this point was returning another day to photograph him in better conditions. The heather was in full bloom, although its colour was almost non-existent under this overcast lifeless sky. I wanted sun and lots of it. I wanted blue skies and broken clouds. I wanted perfect conditions. I wasn't asking for much, was I? Should those pieces of the jigsaw fall into place then it was down to me to do some damage with the camera, to complete the puzzle, so to speak. I was up for the challenge - just give me my conditions and I'll try to deliver.

Time to return home. Recce over. I already had the photographs in my head, but they were no good in there - they had to appear on my memory card, ticked off and uploaded to ashleycorr.com. I was glad to get back to the car, to be honest. The rain kicked in as we left the site and the winds didn't help the situation either, but this was a recce after all. Groundwork done. Just a waiting game now. Come on Mother Nature, throw some sun at me and let's see the heather blooming in all its glory. I'M WAITING !


Friday, 22 September 2017

TV Aerial

Hello again and welcome to another blog entry, albeit a short one. I'd like to give you an update on the Aerial section of my website. Over the last week I've been editing lots of HD video footage from the SD card in my drone. Some of the footage was captured at the beginning of 2017, so as you can imagine, it was beginning to form a backlog and I didn't want to fall back any further with it. The upshot is, there's a handful of new video's on my site, all aerial, and there is more in the pipeline. I've got a tick list here and it has several locations on it, all of which I want to visit with the drone, during the next few weeks. I'll not give too much away though - that would be spoiling it, so if you would like to be informed of my latest video's, feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel. You'll receive instant notifications of any new uploads from myself.

I still feel like a complete novice when flying, despite a good ten hours of flying time under my belt over the last year or so. I'm gonna have to become more adventurous with the joysticks and crank up the speed and flight paths of my Phantom 3. Most of the royalty free soundtracks I have preferred to use are fairly low tempo ambient affairs, which I love, so I like to match the tempo of the flights with it, which works well I reckon. As my flights become more intense, so will the music, to match, but that's all in theory of course. The proof is in the pudding. Let's see what I can conjure up during the next couple of flights. So many places to visit, and lots of ideas floating around, as long as I stick to the guidelines.

So stay tuned and I'll be sure to bring you any more developments on my aerial photography.

Chocks away!


Friday, 15 September 2017

RAF Spadeadam & The Galactic Core

Welcome back once again to the final part of my RAF Spadeadam adventure. It was another journey west to the county of Cumbria to take in some more night time photography - this time I had Milky Way in mind, as a backdrop to the Lockheed Shooting Star airframe, on barren wasteland. By this point I had already done the customary recce visit, followed by my first night trip to attempt a star trail or two, so all that was left to tick off was the Milky Way, with its galactic core on show at this time of year. Another Friday night and another trek across the boggy field to the spot that I would spend an hour or so of my time before heading home. Naturally the conditions were favourable and clear skies were overhead once again. The elements were on my side, so it was up to me to finish the job off and get out of there.

On arrival we found 3 parked cars near the access field. I noticed one of them immediately - it belonged to Mike Ridley, fellow Nissan worker and astro photographer, amongst others. It looked like he had arrived before us, unknowingly of course. Once again I was with my brother Chris. I certainly wasn't gonna take this trip on my own. We headed across the field towards the aeroplane and we could clearly see torches wafting about in the distance. A few minutes later we reached the plane and I called out 'Mr Ridley' who replied (in a slightly worried tone) ... 'Who's that'. We were soon shaking hands before chatting and he introduced me to his two mates, Tom Hill and Dave Thompson. Mike said he saw us approaching and thought it was the police, ha!

The Milky Way was prominent, rising behind the aeroplane in an ideal position. Within a few minutes its position had changed quite a lot, so I quickly got to work and started photographing it before it was out of shot altogether. My choice of weapon was the Sony a7s, coupled with a Canon 16-35L f2.8 lens, which was more than capable. At around 1am the International Space Station flew over, but I wasn't shooting continuously so I failed to pull in my first ever shot of it. I managed to grab a 5 second exposure before it vanished. Another job done and ticked off nicely. I was only after one good shot and I got it. Amazing foreground and another enjoyable night out under the stars.

Cheers, Ash

Sunday, 3 September 2017

RAF Spadeadam - Revisited

Welcome back!

Following on from my last blog entry, this is the second part of the RAF Spadeadam trilogy - a night time visit under the stars. I'd been excited about a revisit since our first outing a couple of weeks previously. The thought of getting back into Cumbria to attempt a trail shot kept me ticking over nicely, whilst anticipating the drive west, over the A69 for more astro photography. As you can see by the BBC Weather screenshot from that day, clear skies was the forecast and a three quarter moon phase would help to light up the foreground. A second screenshot, also shown here, gives an indication of where the moon would be around 11pm, the time we planned to arrive on site . The position of the moon was perfect - ideally placed in the south west and directly behind where we planned to shoot from. The elements were on our side tonight. We arrived on time, as expected, then began to shoot our star trails. My brother Chris was alongside once again - there was on way I was heading here on my own. The site was open once again as we headed through the wooded area and parked next to the cattle grid - a ten minute walk to the abandoned Lockheed Shooting Star.

I was running with two camera's - a Canon 5D3 and the amazing Sony a7s mirrorless cam. I wanted to pull in two star trails, one portrait and one landscape, hence the use of two camera's. Lens choices on the night were Canon 16-35 f2.8 and a Samyang 14mm prime, also at f2.8. From memory, we were on site around 90 minutes, during which time it became increasingly colder, even though we could hardly feel it when we arrived. I reckon the task of negotiating the boggy access field warmed us up a tad. I'd opted for walking boots on this occasion, but the field wasn't anywhere near as dry as our first visit, so my got rather soaked and it was no fun standing in wet boots for an hour and a half.

Once we stopped the star trail sequence we ran off a few selfies before heading back home. It was a productive night and an enjoyable one too, despite the brass monkey bollocks I acquired on the night. All part of the fun I suppose, with hindsight. It didn't feel like fun at the time, he he. As well as capturing a star trail or two, I also put together a motion star trail from one of the sets of images I pulled in. The result can be seen on my 'Night Sky Time Lapse Compilation' which I uploaded to my You Tube channel. Click here to view it.

With the job done I was already planning to make a third visit to photograph the airframe under the milky way. This came to fruition a week later. Stay tuned for that - coming next. And on that note I shall vanish once again. Back soon folks. Cheers, Ash

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

RAF Spadeadam - The Recce Visit

The whole attraction of blogging about my photography outings is the opportunity it gives me to document more than just photographs, but the story behind them and the 'Behind the scenes' photo's too. Today's blog entry is a perfect example of an idea I had, which was put into practise beforehand with a recce visit, which would hopefully lead to a revisit at night to photograph the stars and milky way. The whole idea came about after I saw a photograph online of an abandoned aircraft. The location was RAF Spadeadam, a military base on the outskirts of Gilsland in Cumbria, not far from Carlisle. From my home in Houghton le Spring, a round trip is in the region of 140 miles, with an each way duration of around 70 minutes in the car. Not exactly on the doorstep, but it was a location that I just had to visit, so the distance wasn't a problem at all. So, across the A69 I went, with my brother Chris, who was just as keen as I was to see the Lockheed Shooting Star, in situ on a vast wasteland. The site is accessible to the public on non-firing days, so after checking their website it was all systems go on a Bank Holiday Monday. It was indeed ... MAYDAY!!  MAYDAY!!

It was a nice afternoon for it, with blue sky and the odd cloud here and there. We arrived and parked up at the roadside near a field where the airframe was located. We'd heard plenty about the access route to the plane - a rather boggy field with rotten, fallen tree's everywhere. It took around 10-15 minutes to reach the plane and it wasn't without it's drama, as we dodged one pot hole after another, plus the ditches and puddles. All part of the fun though. I was only carrying my small backpack, so it wasn't too much of an effort to slug it across the field. Mind you, the plan included revisiting at night with a fully laden large backpack, so that is bound to be interesting. On arrival the plane looked remarkably sound. I wasn't expecting it to be in such good shape, especially when it had been there for over 30 years. The cockpit was stripped of all instruments. Only wires and framework remained, as well as the odd switch and name plate. Guesswork would tell me the plane was around 10 metres in length. The paintwork was in good condition, although it may well have been repainted during the years it has spent in the field.

Chris climbed into the cockpit for the benefit of a photo memento or two. I set my Go Pro up on a tripod and began to capture a time lapse video of our 40 minute stay at RAF Spadeadam. It was interesting to gather as much info as I could about the site, especially as the plan was to capture as star trail, facing north towards Polaris. The orientation of the plane was perfect for this, offering a great angle of the aircraft when looking northwards. It was all good - just waiting for a clear night to put the plan into practise. I was hoping for a decent moon phase too, which would light the foreground, meaning we wouldn't have to light paint it to suit. It was time return to base and wait for a night with ideal conditions to execute the idea and pull in a nice star trail or two.

Mission accomplished!

A 7 minute video of our visit can be found on YouTube if you click this link. It was shot on my GoPro in High Definition and also includes photographs and a time lapse sequence at the end. Stay tuned for the next instalment - a night time visit to Spade, under the stars! Until then, thanks for reading.


Monday, 28 August 2017

Ready To Return

Hello again, after a rather long absence due to other commitments. One of those commitments was the painstakingly long task of revamping my website following the decision to expand the size of the pages. What should have been a fairly straightforward task became one that took many hours to complete, as the content on every single page had to be realigned to suit. I chipped away here and there, mostly during days when the weather was less than favourable, so being indoors behind the laptop kept me more than busy. Web design can be tricky, depending on what you're wanting to achieve, from the simple to the complicated. I prefer to fall somewhere in between. Since the site inception in February 2008 and a visitor count of over 250,000, I dread to think how many hours I've put into my site. It's most definitely a labour of love, there's no mistaking that and I'm quite proud of my creation considering I had no previous experience in website design. And so to the next chapter ... as ashleycorr.com prepares to go again and I now have extra time to do what I enjoy very much - getting out there with the camera.

By the way, it hasn't all been about the website. I've still been out there now and again, taking photographs. flying my drone and pulling in some nice time lapse footage with the GoPro. Yes, there's plenty of new stuff queued up and ready to unleash once I get the editing done, so stay tuned for that and much more. As the dark winter nights creep ever closer, there should be a nice balance of blog updates (and there's plenty of those in the pipeline) as well as photography outings, which should continue into 2018 and beyond. So much to do and not enough hours in the day.

Anyway, that's all for now. Just a little reminder that I still exist and with the most tedious task now behind me, it's time to go again, with the enjoyable stuff.



Saturday, 24 June 2017

Derwentwater By Night - April 2017

Hello again,

As you can see, I'm still alive and kicking, despite my 4 month absence from my blog page. Lots to catch up on, with new images and stories to accompany them, as well as an insight to what lays ahead with all things photography.

Todays blog entry takes me back to Saturday April 22nd, going into the 23rd, 2017. An all-nighter on the shores of Derwentwater and after midnight it would be my birthday, so I was hoping for a productive night with the camera. My brother Chris made the journey with me, across the A66, arriving at approximately 9pm. Earlier in the day I received an aurora alert on my mobile phone, but the north-east was clouded out, so we made the journey west, where clear skies were predicted. I remembered previous Aurora shows, notably on St. Patrick's Day and Mother's Day, so the omen's were looking good for tonight - St. George's Day! We decided that Lodore Jetty, on the edge of Derwentwater, was where we would set up for the night, looking north across the water towards the Skiddaw range. We had the place to ourselves, which was ideal - no-one else shining torches or getting in the way. That'll do nicely.

It was still quite cloudy when I set camera one up, although what was left of the clouds appeared to be moving east, leaving clear skies ahead. Within minutes a purple haze could be seen in the distance, towards Skiddaw and Lake Bassenthwaite. Then purple spikes appeared. Some nice structure, albeit very brief. They moved from left to right, disappearing behind Skiddaw. I was running a time lapse sequence, so I was rather chuffed to have caught the movement on camera. It was a great start to the night. As camera one pulled in the shots I set camera two away, pulling in continuous shots, which I would use for a star trail. Derwentwater was so still and there was no breeze at all. This was an idyllic spot, even at night, with only owls for company. 

I was shortly after midnight by this time and we were both getting hungry. I left Chris at Lodore and headed into Keswick in search of takeaway food. I parked up and headed across the road to a pizza shop, but the guy inside said he was closing for the night, which was great. Starving and craving a kebab when the bloke waves his hand and shakes his head. Cheers mate, I get the message. I had a quick drive around but nowhere else was open, so I headed back to Lodore empty handed. I'm driving along the lakeside, it's obviously pitch black at half past midnight. I've seen it all now - a young girl, probably late teens, walking along the road with headphones in and a small torch in her hand. I was amazed. I mean WTF. She was nowhere near houses or any real safe haven. Instinct told me to check that she was ok, so I slowed down and her if everything was ok. She looked across, said 'Yeah' in a very confident tone, then looked away and continued walking in pitch dark. I said 'Ok then' and drove on. Very odd!

Got back to Lodore Jetty and grabbed what was left of my goody bag - two bags of crisps and a few biscuits. Hardly a kebab, but what can ya do, eh. We spent three more hours waiting for another glimpse of the aurora, but we'd seen the best of it by this point. Before heading home I ran off a quick panoramic sequence of shots, 5 in total, panning from left to right above Lodore Jetty, where the milky way was ideally placed and arching across the night sky. It looked amazing. A fox screeched on the fells, echoing across the lake. This night photography is so addictive, with nature adding those final little touching, as well as Mother Nature chipping in with some aurora too. It certainly was a birthday to remember and a very productive one at that.

Cheers, Ash (one year older) 

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Ludworth Tower - After Midnight

And it's more Astrophotography on a freezing cold, blustery night in County Durham. I finished work at 11.20pm and drove to Spider Towers to pick my brother up. We were heading over to Ludworth Tower - a fifteen minute drive from Gilley Law, Sunderland. The plan - to photograph Ludworth Tower under the stars. Aye it was well chilly, but we were well layered and prepared for a couple of hours out in the sticks. The beauty about this location, especially in sub zero temperature, is the privilege of sitting in the car as the camera works its magic. I dropped anchor at the kissing gate, where access to the tower is at hand. From there it's literally a 10 second walk to the tower. Once in position we set up our camera's and walked back to the car. We sat there for an hour or so, listening to the radio and keeping out of the cold. There's not too many locations where you're afforded that basic luxury when photographing the stars, but this was definitely one of them.

Ludworth is a pit village in County Durham, England situated between Durham and Peterlee. It consists of just over 350 houses in three main housing estates (Barnard Avenue, Moor Crescent and Springfield Meadows) and a few smaller streets. Ludworth has one post office, a school, a community centre and a printers. The village used to have two churches and a fish shop, most of which were destroyed in a fire. The public house of Ludworth has been closed for some years.
Ludworth Tower was originally a medieval manor house, founded by the de Ludworth family. In 1422, Thomas Holden added a rectangular pele tower, when he was granted licence to crenellate his manorial complex, by Cardinal Langley. The only surviving remains are the barrel-vaulted basement, the three storey west wall and fragments of a first floor spiral stair in the south wall. The remains can be seen located on the left as you are coming into the village from Shadforth.

As well as running off a start trail sequence I finished off with a single exposure of my brother Chris, standing on the ancient arch next to the tower. Here is both shots from that night ...

Cheers, AC

Friday, 3 February 2017

A Nice Surprise!

Hello again,

Occasionally I send the odd photo to Tyne-Tees Television, in the hope they will show it on the daily weather bulletins. Over the last few years I've had quite a bit of success in this area and I continue to have my work shown on TV today. If you CLICK HERE you will find my archive weather photo collection, which features video clips of my photographs that have been shown on TV.

Yesterday I received an email from Ross Hutchinson, one of the weather presenters on Tyne-Tees Television. He told me he had been contacted by someone who had seen one of my photographs on his weather bulletin and they wanted a copy of it. An elderly couple, currently living in Yorkshire, they had gone to the trouble of hand writing a letter to him as they don't use email, before visiting the post office to send the letter on its way. I was quite touched by this and arranged for a print to be forwarded to them, free of charge, with the help of Ross. Great stuff and nice to see my work being appreciated, even if it sometimes flashes up on the TV for a couple of seconds.

Here is the actual correspondence, including the hand written letter ...

Cheers, Ash

Hello Ashley,

Odd question but I've had a lovely letter from an elderly couple in Yorkshire, attached- they liked this photo so much they wanted a copy!
Their request is for your address or phone number so they can try and organise this (they don't have email for a digital copy). 

I know it's a bit weird but shows how well liked your pics are! If you are happy to give them a copy but would rather not give out your details I'm sure I can arrange for us to get one printed (with your permission)

Completely up to you - but thought I would pass on the kind words/request.

Thanks for all the pictures!


Thursday, 2 February 2017

Let's Have Some Aerial Video

For all fans of aerial video, I've got a few of my own creations to share with you all. It was only a few months ago when I bought my drone - a DJI Phantom 3 Advanced, so I still feel very much a rookie, despite the fact I've got a few flights under my belt since August 2016. My interests in this area lie in the landscape of North-East England, the patch where I practise my still photography from week to week. Check out my youtube channel, where you'll find the story so far.

I've got plenty more footage to get through, so stay tuned for news of that, coming soon to my blog page. In the meantime, here is the link to my youtube channel. Play the video's in HD, with sound. Enjoy ...


Monday, 16 January 2017

FAST CAR - Night Time Drive Lapse Video

Hello again,

A quick one tonight. I was messing about with my awesome little GoPro camera a few days ago and came up with a short time lapse video of my journey to and from work in my trusty Vauxhall Insignia. I propped up my tripod between the front headrests and sat the Hero 5 Black on the tripod plate to ready itself for action. The 30 minute round trip was recorded in 1080p, capturing a photograph every 2 seconds - an approximate total of 800. The time lapse video was assembled in camera, which was great as it meant I had no post processing to do. All I had to do was import the 2 video's and add some opening titles, end credits and a soundtrack. Very impressed with the final result. I think I'm going to have lots of fun with this little camera. Stay tuned for more video's in high definition and maybe the odd 4k production thrown in for good measure.

Cheers!   Ash

Click here to see FAST CAR - Night Time Drive Lapse, via YouTube

Friday, 13 January 2017

Tidal Surge Hits Seaham Harbour Once Again

Hello again folks.

Almost a year has passed since my memorable visit to Seaham Harbour, County Durham, on a day when its pier was on the end of a rather nasty hammering by Mother Nature. The huge waves on that day were among the biggest and best I've ever seen, and it was great to have the camera over my shoulder, primed and ready for action. I remember the event as if it was yesterday. The kids running around on the windswept sands. The dog walker stopping in his tracks to watch the drama unfolding, much to the disapproval of his poor hound. The two canoeists, taking their life in their hands and battling against the incoming tide to manoeuvre forwards, between the harbour walls. Madness, to say the least. For the photographer it was one of those 'Box Office' events, as every minute that passed offered many photo opportunities. Capturing the moment unveiled itself many times over, so I couldn't go wrong, to be honest.

Fast forward 12 months and I'm having another crack at it, but this time the pier car park was locked and access was a definite no-go. Safety first - no argument there. I opted for a vantage point on a grassy outcrop, in full view of the Seaham Pier - a first for me, so I looked forward to grabbing a few shots from this angle. Around a dozen other photographers were in position around me within 15 minutes or so, some relying on tripods and others running handheld. I ran with both options, just for good measure. Wave after wave crashed in, all at different heights. You couldn't go wrong. I had an hour to kill, so I was confident of landing some keepers. It comes at a price though - the biting cold was nibbling away at my fingers, my feet, my face, and basically everything else, he he. Been there before though. Grin and bare it, I told myself. Suck that lemon and get on with it.

I had the company of Elliot Gowland, a fellow Nissan line rat and rookie photographer. I was passing on a few tips and he was pulling in some great shots as we went. His Mrs with us for a short while, before retreating to a warm car. One out of three of us has a brain!

Yes, it was a nice way to wake myself up after a week of working the night shift and feeling out of sorts. That North Sea air is one of the biggest wake up calls going. Here's a handful of shots from this afternoon's outing. No doubt I'll be doing it all again very soon, weather permitting.

Stay tuned - more blogging to follow. Take care,



Sunday, 8 January 2017

Twitching On Death Rocks, Northumberland

Hello again,

Welcome to another blog entry form the Roaming Mackem Photographer.

Today I'm gonna cover another outing with my camera - a recent visit to Dunstanburgh Castle, on a stunning stretch of coatline in Northumberland. The location is just over an hours drive from my home in Houghton le Spring, so that would give me time to wake up properly after a 5.15am alarm call after a night on the lager. I didn't have much of a hangover, to be honest, and nowt that a McDonald's breakfast wouldn't fettle. So a wash and a quick cup of coffee was in order, before hoying my gear into the car and heading out. The camera bag was organised and ready the night before, and all batteries fully charged. Nowt left to do but pick my brother up and head north out of God's Country. It was 6.15am and we were on the A1(M) - a straight road to our turn off, one hour up the road.

On arrival we dropped anchor near Dunstanburgh Steads, a small holding with surrounding houses, just south of Embleton. A dirt track reaches a dead end near a golf course, so we dropped anchor and I changed into wellies for the assault across Death Rocks and the outgoing tide. Another car pulled in next to us. A guy got out and we greeted each other with the obligatory 'Good Morning' salute. He saw me with my wellies on and asked if it was muddy where we were heading. I told him it was going to be very wet, hence the footwear, and he just laughed. I asked him if he was here to take photographs, which he was. I then asked if travelled far. He replied 'I'm from MANSFIELD' !!!   'Bloody hell' I replied ... 'You're keen aren't ya'. He then said he hadn't travelled from there, he was staying nearby for a few days. Oh well, that makes more sense, ha ha.

So, we headed off near sand dunes towards Death Rocks, laden with camera gear, tripods, drone, etc. Oh aye, the drone was along for the ride too. No show without Punch. We walked along the edge of the golf course towards the castle, which was far easier than negotiating the heavy sand dunes with all that weight on our backs. It was from here that I took a first good look at the dawn sky backdrop of the castle. After all, this is where my camera is going to be pointing towards, and also being the purpose of this morning's trip north. Plan A, to photograph the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle @ Sunrise. Plans are never that straightforward though, are they? We can but try. But this particular plan involved a scramble across a rather tricky boulder field, known as DEATH ROCKS! Without further ado ...

After a ten minute walk across the golf course we headed down towards the sea, which was rolling in quite aggressively. Quite big waves were crashing in, which was a reminder that what was about to unfold was going to be no walk in the walk. This brings me nicely on to the title of this blog entry. Twitching, eh. Oh, he's gone out to look at sea birds through his binoculars, you said. Gulls, cormorants and Shags, you said. Ticking them off on a nerdy tick list with his little pencil, you said. Oh no, not in the slightest. You see folks, when I say 'Twitching' I refer to the actions of my arse. Yes, ya know when you're shitting bricks and sweating profusely at your actions? Well, that's what I'm talking about. This was nee chilled out stroll along the beach, whistling merrily with a smile on my face. It was more akin to walking across slippery rocks like Bambi on ice. Oh yes, I wish I could see myself. Is that really me? In my defence I hasted to add, these rocks aint called DEATH ROCKS for nowt. No doubt I was following in the footsteps of many a tog. I remember a fellow tog called Terry Cavner (from Blyth) being airlifted off the rocks by a rescue chopper, when he fell and broke a leg. Hopefully I wasn't about to do a 'Terry' me'sel!

I was in position on the rocks around 30 minutes before sunrise. As the tide retreated I found myself moving further out with it, as I wanted to catch some water movement when the sun finally showed up. A couple of other togs joined us, pitching nearby and both waiting for some nice colour in the sky. Just then a freak wave crashed in and around us, spilling over my welly tops and giving my feet a nice north sea welcome. The tripod stayed upright ... just! One of the blokes lost his tripod bag. I noticed it floating away with the receding tide. Unlucky eh. I was lucky myself. My camera bag was sat on a nearby rock when that wave came in. I managed to lift it up at the last second to avoid the wave. Now, that would have been messy ... and expensive! Get the bloody bag on your back, I told myself. Can't be dealing with another wave like that. Oh yes, me arse was twitching again. Bloody mad. The things ya do for a decent shot. Well that put paid to me pushing the envelope. I wasn't gonna move out with the tide, I was staying put - water movement or not. Guess I'll just settle for some rocky foreground and hope for some colour in the sky.

A few minutes later a hint of red showed up amongst the clouds behind the castle. That'll do nicely. A few minutes later there were nice red ripples spreading out, offering a great backdrop. Time to start shooting that scene in front of me. I was cold and very wet from the waist down, but what the hell, eh. Par for the course, I told myself, in a consoling way. In a flash the colourful sky had diminished and the sun was up behind Dunstanburgh Castle. By this time I had my shot in the bag, so it was another job done - time to get off those ghastly rocks. Bye bye, see you again soon ...NOT!

The wind had picked up quite a lot, so I decided not to send the done up. Maybe next time. All that was left to do was head back to the car and get those feet warmed up. Heaters on full pelt, off in a flash and back onto the A1(M). Not for lang though, as we stopped off at McDonalds near Alnwick, to refuel, so to speak. Hey that coffee and breakfast wrap was summat else. You better believe it. I felt like laughing when I was drinking that liquid life saving lotion that is hot coffee. Odd behaviour, granted, but when in a state of semi-hysteria, this is what happens to me LOL. Much needed, especially after freezing me balls off on a cold December morning by the north sea. I hope you like the photographic fruits of my labour. I think it was worth it. The sky could have been a lot worse, unlike those rocks and waves, but all part of the fun. A couple of weeks on and I'm glad to report that my arse has finally stopped twitching. It was an experience, to put it mildly. All in a days work of the Roaming Mackem Photographer. Until the next time folks ...

Be good, AC

(thanks to Chris Corr for 3 photo's of me, when the tide had backed off)

Saturday, 7 January 2017

A Night With The Stars - Terris Novalis

Hello again!

Sitting here on the sofa, telly off, can on, and another blog entry to pass the time away. Just as well I'm currently chilling out indoors as tonight's night sky is offering nothing to the amateur photographer, but not to complain eh - I've had my fair share of clear skies during the recent Xmas break. And on the subject of clear skies, it brings me nicely to the subject of tonight's blog write-up, my first night time visit to the Terris Novalis artwork, located in Consett, County Durham, a 25 minute drive from my base. In customary style, I've harvested a few words from my trusty old friend Mrs Google, which you'll find below in the form of a brief insight of Terris Novalis, cheers Mrs G ...

Terris Novalis in Consett was sculpted by Tony Cragg and won the Turner Prize. The sculpture is 20 foot (6 metres) high and is made entirely of stainless steel; it is 20 times the size of the actual surveying instruments. The sculpture symbolises the economic regeneration of the Consett area. It can be found on the Coast to Coast cycle route.

Late December 2016, a combined visit to Weardale, ending with a stop off at Consett to photograph the starry sky above Terris Novalis, which is situated just outside the town centre. As you'd probably gather, dark night skies and built up areas aren't a good combo, especially when you're relying on as little light pollution as possible to make those little sparkly things look as prominent as poss. On this occasion I made the most of what was in front of me, which is all you can do as a photographer, so the final position of the camera was vital in pulling in some acceptable results. The actual sculptures are positioned perfectly for astro photography, it has to be said. The most photogenic angle has street lighting to my back and fields in front, without surrounding light. Perfecto!

Running alongside the sculptures is the coast 2 coast cycle path, so visitors could show up at any moment, despite it being very dark and very cold. Oh aye, me clackers were feeling the pinch alright, make no mistake of that. Hopefully no-one would interrupt tonight's star trail with guiding lights. We'll see eh, sods law and all that jazz. And away the camera went - click, click, click ...

Nowt to do but stand around getting colder. I had my brother Chris along with me, doing pretty much the same thing, so company was at hand, which is a godsend when you're standing there twiddling the owld thumbs. Ten minutes in and two young girls, no older than 15, came waltzing by, supping blue WKD. They plonked there arses on one of the sculptures and sat there for a good hour. Typical eh. Then their mobile phones came out and they were waving them about in front of the camera, giggling their arses off. Looks like I 'll have to stop the camera, eh!!!!! One of them asked if I was taking photo's - I felt like replying "Why Like, are you taking the piss" 

Anyway, when they buggered off and we regained our territory, the camera had been running for an hour or so. Time to switch off and head to Consett main street for a bit of scran. Tonights supper - Kebab meat and chips, with garlic sauce and EXTRA CHILLI. Now, this gear warmed the cockles alright. Oh yes, this was hot stuff and I just knew instantly that me jaxey would resemble the Japanese flag the next morning. But hey, the scran was rather damn tasty to say the least, so let's forget about tomorrow morning's nuclear 'Fall out' eh. Just savour the flavour. Delicious!!! These road trips with the camera always involve a takeaway at some point, and why not, it's a nice way to round the night off before heading home to put the feet up and pour a glass of cold lager down me Gregory Peck. There is every need to over indulge, and why not - it is Christmas after all!

It wasn't long before I was dropping Chris off at his place then heading back along the A690 to AC Towers. That tin of lager was calling out my name and it time to put it out its misery. Tonight was a good one, very productive in more ways than one. It won't be too long before I'm back to work, so best enjoy what's left of the Christmas break by planning some more nights out with Mr Canon. The show aint over yet. January can wait, for the time being at least.

Thanks for reading my prattle. There's plenty more where this came from. Cheers, Ash