Category Archives: Scenic

A Decimal Dozen from 2018

So, as a climbing photog I shoot mainly outdoor subjects right. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t shoot other subjects as well as I’ve always figured that shooting different subjects is a good challenge which ultimately drives creativity. Likewise a year-end review one’s own work offers a good opportunity to see what you did in the year which you like in retrospect and/or what you’d do different if your kit, like The Dr’s, included a Tardis.

Climbing and photography have both been good to me – and both float my boat. Yet it remains very difficult, read next to impossible IMO, to do both in the same time continuum; you need to concentrate on one or the other to get the best out of either. A trip to Spain in January/February, as a climbing boot-camp, has become something of a ‘must-do’ activity. I go with the firm intention to climbing lots and lots and lots but take the camera along as well – just in case.

Paul cranking up the excellent Oceano (F7b) at Wildside

Photo opps on a ‘climbing’ trip are typically minimal but a day at Wildside towards the end of my trip in February offered a fleeting opportunity to get high up and so get a suitable angle. A single opportunity in a whole week isn’t much but you have to grab what you can when you can on these trips.

 

A boarder cruising one of the slalom’s at Risoul

I came to skiing late in life; however, if it wasn’t for climbing I could become a ski-bum for sure! Last year we rocked up in Risoul in early April; thankfully there was plenty of snow about despite it being the end of the season. As with climbing photography, ski shots need to be planned; very occasionally something does pop-up that worth nabbing. Shooting from a lift isn’t the norm but it can give an interesting alternative with luck.

 

Mina on the top roof of Totally Free II, Malham

By May we were well into the Malham season and in May last year Mina was taking a bit of time out from her long-term project to get a bit of mileage done. Totally Free II is one of the longest single-pitch routes at Malham as well as in the country and it’s a stonker. Catching Mina on the top roof had entailed a hell-for-leather run up the plethora of steps on the left of The Cove; it was worth it though even if I had to hang over the edge without a rope to get an angle that I wanted to show the totally out-there feel that pulling over the top roof can only entail!


That candid moment after the wedding ceremony when you’re alone – apart from the photog – and crack out the big smiles!

Also in May I shoot a wedding! My Dad used to shoot weddings and yet it was a gazillion miles what I ever wanted to do. However, when you’re asked by very good friends what the heck can you say but yes!! I argued with myself that shooting digitally at least I’d be able to review the shots as the day progressed – what could go wrong?! It was still a stressful business though; definitely can’t go for a re-shoot afterwards!! Will I do more then? Hmmm, maybe, maybe not – pleasure though to capture Graham and Helen’s big day though…

 

Abersoch Harbour at dusk

Fast forward to August and a surfing trip to Abersoch in North Wales. I’d been threatening to take my girls surfing for a couple of years – going ‘public’ meant that it would be harder to bottle and duck-out. Like many photogs, I’d dabbled with surfing shots – albeit from the safety that the shoreline offers! I’d love to have a go catching surfing from actually in the water but I suspect that will be one item that remains on my bucket list for some time. Arriving at Abersoch late on the Friday we were treated to a storming sunset. Fortunately, I made the effort to get down to the harbour and rattle a few shots off as dusk fell; just as well given the two days of solid rain that followed!!


Katherine Choong pulling down in the Hallshalleran Cave

Flatanger, Norway has gotten under many peoples’ skin; certainly it’s firmly embedded under mine! My second trip last September was the usual mixture of amazing conditions; amazing good and amazingly bad! It’s one heck of a locale is Flatanger – not only a stunning venue with some amazing scenery but its (obvs) got a stack of stunning climbing too.

 

The sunsets are often spectacular; maybe not literally to die for but pretty darned good!

It’s a tough gig though; don’t even consider it if your into apres climb and can’t handle day after day of rain and wind. I’ll be writing a piece for Climber Magazine later this year to if you’re interested keep an eye out for that!

 

Airbnb is definitely a thing these days and images for accommodation listings are an integral part of that process

Come September I had a request to shoot a flat for an Airbnb listings; something different again so off I went! It’s an interesting exercise in balancing perspective and lighting.

 

Chelsea Park in the autumn

Brincliffe Woods and Chelsea Park are literally right on my doorstep; it seems wrong not to capture autumn which is a fantastic time of the year. Again, it’s about selecting a subject, then a viewpoint then having the lighting to tell the story. I spotted these tucked away in a corner of the park so got down low and included a brightly coloured distant tree to contrast the foreground.

 

Mark stretched out on one of NW’s classic Font 7a – Elephantitus

I’m always pretty keen to get away to North Wales bouldering so when a decent dry spell popped-up in the forecast it was an easy decision to pack and go. We had three days of cracking weather and came back utterly spent. I (finally) got to go to an number of areas that I’d been meaning to check-out for some time including Sheep Pen and The Elephantitus  Cave. Sheep Pen is utterly brilliant and the setting leaves absolutely nothing to be desired. Defo a venue to check-out if you’re not been and yeah, there’s plenty – like tons – to go at! The Elephantitus Cave couldn’t be different to be honest; a small, lake-side venue but the blocs again are brilliant – especially Elephantitus itself.

 

The eagerly anticipated Statement of Youth didn’t disappoint the KMF audience

Finally then, Kendal Mountain Festival. This is another ‘thing’ which is very much on many climbers’ annual calendar. Last year, the weather was absolutely cracking and I, like many, simply couldn’t resist getting out onto the rocks for a bit. KMF is, of course, all about films and literature and last year they were some pretty stout films and books knocking about. I’m biased, having lived in Sheffield at the time the Hunter House Road houses were the place to hang, but Statement of Youth was a splendid trip down memory lane. Any other year and New Dawn, the film about Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s battle royal with The Dawn Wall, might have scooped all but last year it was up against Free Solo which centred on Alex Honnold’s utter audacious solo of Freerider on El Cap; that was captivating.

So that was a decimal dozen of subjects from 2018; no not a dozen, or a Baker’s Dozen but a decimal dozen! Yeah sure there’s 11 pixs – value for money egh!! More this year!!

Also posted in Adventure, Bouldering, Climbing, General, Photography, Skiing, Travel

Snowdon Calling

Sprinkled with a tantalising dusting of snow Snowdon was calling this weekend; at least it seemed so as the Pen-y-Pass car park was rammed at 6:30 am on Saturday!

Nant Grwyd, Pen-y-Grwyd and a hint of Snowdon

Nant Gwryd, Pen-y-Grwyd and a hint of Snowdon

Driving along the North Wales coast road we could see the white-topped Snowdon standing out in the distance. Remarkably, given the high ambient temps, the dusting of snow seemed to be persisting.

Snowdon and Crib Goch from the east

Snowdon and Crib Goch from the east

Tempting as it was, I didn’t get set foot onto Snowdon though that didn’t stop me getting a few snaps in the can first thing Saturday morning…

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Also posted in Photography, Walking

April 9th, 2015: Twenty Four Hours in Beddgelert…

Having driven through Beddgelert more times that I can remember, a stop-over was long overdue. Bank Holiday Monday wasn’t, at least on paper, the ideal time to explore but we pulled over just Beddgelert_DSC_0074_captureto the north of Beddgelert to explore the National Trust property and gardens. What we saw there was really quite a shock…

The weather was absolutely stunning; blue skies and very little cloud – definitely not the usual Welsh fare so very gratefully received. We figured that starting a 6+ hour walk at 14:00 won’t be especially smart so a wee walk in the hills around Beddgelert got the vote. In fact there’s three walks signed by the NT behind the car park at Craflwyn; we opted for the ‘Green’ walk and rather nice it was too – short, but well-worthwhile. It never gets especially high but the views above Beddgelert are decent enough and there’s the odd disused mine building and a few much-loved seats to keep you interested as you poodle round. The final section as you drop back in to the woods currently has an extremely splendid wooden bench carved by Captain Chainsaw – well worth checking out.

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An easy going afternoon slipped into an easy going evening and the temps soon dropped in the clear skies as dusk came. The new day that followed brought an overnight frost and a crystal clear morning; time to investigate Llyn Dinas a few miles north of Beddgelert. I don’t often make the effort to catch the early morning surmise’s but it was a beauty. The lake surface was as still as a mill pond – although some early morning flights had left jet trails across the skies. A convenient placed footbridge give access to the south eastern side of the lake from which the view was cracking.

Here’s a few shots from the stop-over – hope you enjoy…

Looking south west towards BeddgelertRuined Mining buildingLocking north east towards Llyn DinasCaptain Chainsaw's handy workSunrise over the southern outlet of Llyn DinasSunrise over Llyn Dinas

Also posted in Photography

Dec 30th: Surprise last shots of 2014

With 2014 fast running out I managed to grab an hour out to the Peak late this afternoon to try and capture the something of the snow we’ve had dumped in our lap over the weekend…

I’d heard main roads were fine but side roads and those off the beaten track were iffy to impassable so I kept it simple and headed out to the Surprise View. I knew driving out that I’d left it late but figured that something would grab my attention so I parked the car and headed off towards the Surprise View itself. Last time I’d been there I shot a tree above Lawrencefield Quarry so thought that might be a good starting point. However, walking up I spotted a lone tree in the middle of nowhere so I doubled back rather jump the fence. Responsible for once!

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As they say, “Beggars can’t be choosers” and given that the sun was on the verge of disappearing I set-up PDQ and got a few shots off.  In next to no time the sun had gone so I figured I’d walk over to the Surprise View and then back to the carpark. The Surprise View is one of the wonders of the Peak District; so well-named. However, the view down the valley wasn’t inspiring – it was pretty dusk by then – but perfect for car-trails though as the cars zipped round the bend itself. It was too cold to mess about with ND filters so I dialled in the lowest ISO I could and under-exposed by a couple of stops and grabbed a few light-trails looking both into the Hope Valley and back towards Sheffield.

It definitely wasn’t the most meticulously planned and executed photo-shoot ever, but hey-ho. Here’s a selection of what will – in all probability – be my last shots from 2014…

Lone Tree by Surprise ViewSurprise Light TreeSurprise Car-trail#01Surprise Car-trail#02

 

 

Also posted in Photography

June 8th: Northumberland Coast – Not your typical Coastline…

Plagues and lotus were about the only things missing off the agenda according to the weather forecast for the recent bank holiday so we had zero expectations when we set off. The vague plan was to have a few days R&R on the Northumberland Coast; walk a few miles, cycle a few more, run a few as well and maybe, just maybe pull down on some problems…

DSC_6823_000_lo resI’ve been a fan of Northumberland ever since my first visit back in the late 70’s. The climbing is tough but super satisfying. I find the scenery stunning and the coast just something else completely. So many times I’ve been up there when the bad weather that was hammering the rest of the country never seemed to make it that far. The beaches knock the much lauded southern counterparts into the proverbial cocked-hat! I’m talking visually and water quality wise although as anyone who has been up there will tell you, there’s often a breeze that keeps temperatures a tad suppressed. If only…!!

Officially designated an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), the section of coast north of Amble and Alnmouth right the way up to Berwick Upon Tweed on the Scottish border is the amazing. Dunstanburgh Castle is the southern beauty; then Bamburgh and then Holy Island (Lindisfarne) in the north are the three stand-out locations that most folks have seen/heard about. We didn’t have a plan as such but having ‘done’ Holy Island and Bamburgh relatively recently we naturally gravitated towards Dunstan. Following the monsoon on the Saturday we had two incredible bluebird days – back-to-back sunny days that couldn’t have been much better.

Photographically, the area is a peach – although being a bank holiday we certainly weren’t alone, far from it in fact! Any photographic skills text-book will tell you that sun-rise and sun-set are the two golden hours in the day; but when you’ve a family with you, you have to take the opportunities when you can. I took the easy option and opted for sun-set rather than the totally unpalatable 4-5:00 am starts that hunting sun-rise shots would have meant. As I say, both days were stunning although strangely both evenings failed to live up to expectation.

I’ll upload two galleries from the trip; firstly a collection of colour shots and secondly some black and white conversions.  I’d never photographed at Dunstanburgh Castle before but it’s on the list now as a ‘must re-visit’ venue. I was utterly taken by the Castle and the surrounding area and I’m confident that you’ll get different conditions on every visit. The beaches are amazing  – not least the boulder-field just north of Dunstanburgh Castle. Don’t forget to drop-in to Craster too – another amazing ‘must visit’ spot.

In case you’re wondering, the bouldering mat and boots never saw the light of day as the weather nose-dived on our last day. Still, it gave us an excuse to get the slackline out – although that’s no easier when it’s lashing it down!

Dunstanburgh Caste sure stands well on the coast north of CrasterSo good here's a portrait shot of Dunstanburgh Castle as wellAnd another with the sea rolling inEmbleton Bay, north of Dunstanburgh Castle, has golden sands as far as you can seeDunstanburgh Castle from the beachDunstanburgh Golf Course. I don't play golf, but if I did this is one venue I'd go forDunstan floraLobster pots in Craster harbour. Lying in the lea of the castle, Craster is a cracking little venueDusk falls over Dunstanburgh CastleThe late setting suns blasts Dunstanburgh Castle and the bouldersDunstanburgh boulders await the incoming tideNight falls over Dunstanburgh CastleDunstanburgh Castle doing an impression of The Mittens in Monument ValleyNight falls over Craster harbour as late-evening 'crabber' hang inLow tide renders Craster harbour silentDusk and Craster HarbourAnd a landscape version of Craster Harbour too

Also posted in Photography, Travel

May 16th: Stanage Sunset – the finest there is?…

Sunsets don’t come with a guarantee – you just have to be out there at the right time and in the right place. Tonight was exactly that – grey and un-inspiring one minute and the awesome the next. I got some shots off tonight out at Stanage – did you?

 

Sunset out west from StanageSunset out west from Stanage - wideSunset over Stanage #1Sunset over Stanage #2Sunset over Stanage #3

Also posted in Photography

Jan 10th: A New Year (game plan)…

With 2014 well and truly established I’ve been reflecting a little on 2013, the images I captured as well as the photographic process. I often find that sifting through and filing recent images I drift off into a reflective mode. Instinctively I ask myself questions. What worked well and why? What didn’t work and why? What will I look to develop? What will I do different in the future?

It’s easy to opt for BAU (business as usual). However, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got! And whilst that might be the correct game plan for some circumstances it almost certainly won’t be good for others. The trick is knowing when and where to switch into a new way of working and so produce something different. Although I’m still (metaphorically) crunching the numbers on this, I feel that I’ve got the basis for my shooting sorted out. Meanwhile…

The good weather and my free time hasn’t coincide much yet this year and I’ve yet to capture any climbing action. However, I’ve been shooting some non-climbing action and that’s been insightful in its own way. Thus far, I’ve snatched three separate shoots of three disparate subjects:

Shoot#1 – An hour or so snatched in the early morning in the Peak getting shots of a ‘lone tree’ and of an inversion over the Hope Valley.

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Shoot#2 – Less than an hour grabbed as the sun rose on the sea front at New Brighton, Cheshire.

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Shoot#3 – A (chilly) hour or so poised for some northern lights action above Stanage – sadly, they didn’t show up though!

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It would have been very easy to ignore the opportunity to get out on every one of these occasions. I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t. As well as a few nice images, I’ve come away with a single common thought; no matter what the outcome might be – just do it! Here’s a gallery

Also posted in Photography

Dec 1st: Winter Photography…

There’s something about photography in the winter months that is pretty special I think. It’s the quality of the light and the clarity of the atmosphere I think that makes shooting in the winter really rewarding…

Sure, we get the grey days, the rainy days and then with snowy days – but we also get the crisp days and the long winter nights and these give really great photo opportunities – providing you take the opportunities when they arise. Invariably its cold but you can grab sunrise shots on the drive to work, sunset shots on the way back as well as some cracking midday shots if you’re lucky enough to get out when the sun is shining.

Daytime shooting is pretty much the same as usual albeit you need to be aware that contrasts can be massive across images that contain both sunlight and shade. Typically, you’ll need to dig-out the tripod for night shooting – although you might be lucky and find a convenient wall or tree to brace yourself against. I can’t help but feel – and that’s all it is – that the colours are more intense.

Here’s some random day/night stuff that I’ve snapped in and around Sheffield over the last month to check-out…

Nocturnal scene at Sheffield Rail StationNight Bouldering at Burbage BridgeChatsworth House

Also posted in Photography

June 23rd : Trip up North Part 3: Edinburgh and Beyond…

For a trip that was supposed to be all about getting north of the border we didn’t do very well to be honest. Southerners – myself included – tend to forget just how much of Scotland there is and how long it takes to get up there when driving. The game plan was Edinburgh first and then keep going. The weather though had other ideas as it transpired…

We arrived in Edinburgh at the same time as the rain – hmmm. Edinburgh, of course, is famous for a whole number of reasons including the annual Edinburgh Festival, the Scottish Parliament and the Palace of Holyroodhouse (the Queen’s official residence in Scotland) and infamous perhaps for the hostelries and eateries. We had a day – and a thoroughly wet day at that – to cram as much in as possible.

The Scottish Parliament was really quite spectacular, a (thoroughly contemporary) beacon of modernity. I was forced to make a mental note to myself to get a better understanding of the way it works and the way it connects to Westminster. The architecture is really quite different – strikingly so. Parliament was sitting so it was strictly no talking and no photos in the public galleries overlooking the Chamber. It was interesting to see the place working if a little frustrated to be forced to holster my camera. We didn’t check into Holyrood but it looked impressive too. Instead we headed for the Dynamic Earth exhibition and had a really engaging indoor – a.k.a. dry – afternoon.

As we headed out for the evening we happened across Bene’s on Cannongate. It turned out that Bene’s makes one of the best pizza take-out we’ve had for ages if not the best since the pizza van in Cavaillon in the south of France a decade back. Result! Although the post rush-hour streets were virtually disserted they offered plenty of interest.

Leaving Edinburgh we drove north into what is billed as the ‘Landof Giants’ – a.k.a. the Lock Lommond and The Trossachs National Park. This is still very definitely south Scotlandbut it is Scotland nevertheless and rather pretty. We pulled over for the night just north of Callander on the banks of Loch Lubnaig. It was an overcast evening but the location was serine. The midges were out enjoying the evening too so we watched dusk fall from inside the van. The midges had gone in the morning but a wee stroll up the Lochside left me gutted – the shore was strewn with rubbish and litter. An hour or so helping the Ranger fill black bin bags and the place was a lot closer to how nature intended. Sadly, that was the second occasion over the bank holiday weekend that the Ranger had visited to pick litter. Apparently, it’s such a problem that the Park authority is considering closing roadside pull-overs. Not good, but (perhaps) understandable if folks can’t pack-out what they pack-in…

Lochearnhead and Killin just north was as far as we got – beaten by the weather. I guess we’ll have to try harder next time. Still I did get some waterfall shots. I would have gonnen some more mbt bike shots too – had I remembered to take my battery out of the charger! Another invaluable lesson I guess…

 

The stairway to (Scottish) democracyScottish Parliament - apparently a tactile experienceBene's - best take-out pizza north of CavillonStreets of EdinburghNo grey there then...Robert Ferguson I presume?Peace and tranquilityTrees everywhereComing into land

Also posted in Heritage, Photography

June 19th : Trip up North – Part 1: Water(falls)…

So its official; the first week of June was the week that finally broke the now infamous wettest drought in history! It shouldn’t have been a great surprise in all honesty with the Jubilee celebrations and a bank holiday in there, it was odds-on that it was gonna be a wet one. The forecast up north though was better than most, sufficient to tempt us into head (slowly) up-country. And in the end, it wasn’t a bad decision as it didn’t rain every day – quite…

 It wasn’t a climbing trip but I did pack a camera bag and was pretty psyched to experiment with some different subjects and try out some more of the new whistle and bells on the D800. Getting off-topic as a photog every once in a while is not only a bit of fun but is generally considered by most snappers as an essential ‘must-do’ activity. By the end of the week, I’d mooched around Edinburgh and the Scottish Parliament, bagged a load of heritage shots at National Trust sites and captured a few waterfalls as well as picking a bag of litter off a Scottish lockside! I’ll give you the low down on the Scottish Parliament and the litter in subsequent posts but I thought I’d start with the waterfall images. I’m not talking about thundering monster waterfalls either; much more the cascade type where the water is tumbling down channels, around massive boulders and over small drops.

In many ways I think that small waterfalls and cascades are more interesting photographically than monster falls as there’s a number of elements to balance within an image. Upstream flow, the falls/cascades themselves and then the downstream pool, plus the adjacent banks, all need to be included – or excluded – in the final construct. Access is often difficult, and dangerous, and needs to be carefully considered alongside lens selection, framing and composition. It not a case of getting it right or wrong but generally what seems right for an image is often the right way to go. Here’s a few that caught my eye. Remember that it had been throwing it down for a week or more hence the colour of the water…

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Also posted in Photography