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)