Category Archives: Photography

June 26th : Nuda’s Tartan – esoteric bouldering at it’s best…

Having climbed for nearly forty years in the Peak it’s a rare day that I get to visit a new venue. After the two-day monsoon at the back end of last week my gut said, and the word on the tinterweb confirmed it, that the Peak was a wash-out. Choices seemed limited – go indoors or play a wild-card and gamble. We chose the latter which just happened to be a new venue. “It was dry yesterday” Tom offered. That was enough for me; I was persuaded. Nuda’s Tartan it was then…

It’s obvious from the get go that Nuda’s Tartan is small – there’s only a dozen problems – and in truth it certainly isn’t much to look at. Nuda’s is nothing if not steep though; in fact there’s not a single problem that doesn’t involve a roof at some stage so pack your best guns with you if you’re gonna venture down there. It has the strangest rock as well, a bobbly limestone which is pretty darned sharp. Slapping definitely isn’t recommended as you’ll soon be heading home with blood dripping from ripped fingers. There’s plenty of pockets knocking about so it’s not a bad spot to get a bit of pocket-pulling in if you’re off to the Jura. Some of the problems are currently generously graded – read soft – but others aren’t so it makes for an interesting day. There’s even one problem, Slot Machine Font 7a+, that is mainly (or should that be manly?) on jams – a gift at the current grade, assuming you’re a time-served grit git.

Interestingly for such a small and off the beaten track venue, there were a few other teams there at different stages of the day. The vib was that the problems (generally) all climbed pretty well. Nuda’s is classic esoteric venue but (apparently) it’s generally dry and as such it’s well worth adding to the list of possible venues if it’s been dumping. If you’ve not come across it before Nuda’s is covered in the new Peak Bouldering guide. Please read/follow the access info though.

Joe and Tom demo the hanging prow that is the classy Tarantula Font 7c…

 

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Also posted in Bouldering

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…

 

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Also posted in Heritage, Scenic

June 21st : Trip up North Part 2: Heritage stuff…

I’m no expert but if there’s a single central theme that underpins the UK’s tourism business it must be heritage right? Sure as hell, it ain’t the weather! If you spot two Americans tourists together then chances are that you’re on the heritage trail heading towards the next ‘must see’ destination…

I’m proud to say that I’m a (family) member of the National Trust and that I think they do a cracking job on a whole bunch of different levels. Our recent trip up north was something of a dot-to-dot NT fest. Starting with Fountains Abbey then Lindisfarne on the way up-country and then Cragside on the way back down south. Edinburgh, including the Scottish Parliament, was our Scottish heritage tick – and a very interesting one at that.

Fountains Abbey hits the top of the bill as a World Heritage Site. Alongside Studley Lake and St Mary’s Church, Fountains is one heck of a locale. Fountains Abbey dates from the twelfth century and is Britain’s largest monastic ruin. Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 dealt a bitter blow to Fountains after which the fabric of the abbey suffered. Amazingly the same fate didn’t befall The Cellarium whose vaulted roof is stunning. Equally stunning, though much more decorative, is the nearby St Mary’s Church which, dating from 1870, is a mere spring chicken by comparison. Studley Lake and Studley Royal Water Garden are very pleasant too, as is the Seven Bridges (and seven fords) Trail which leads off into the wild yonder beyond Studley Lake. We zipped around the place on our mtb’s (walking only though through the Royal Water Gardens) in 3-4 hours. In truth, we needed much longer though to do it justice.

Next up on our tour was Lindisfarne Castle out on the far Northumberland coast. My association with Northumberland dates back to the late Seventies when I first climbed in The County and to be honest, I love the place. A former Tudor fort, Lindisfarne was an important cog in the defence of the realm back in the day. Having been converted back to a private dwelling at the start of the last century, Lindisfarne is now one of the NT’s iconic buildings and a very powerful magnet for photogs. The mystic of Lindisfarne is boosted further by the tidal causeway that separates it from the mainland. It’s the second time I’ve cycled over to Lindisfarne and I’ll have to go back again for sure – maybe on foot. Hopefully, next time the weather will be a better too. One day, I might even make it along at dawn or dusk and then I could really dig-in photographically.

Northumberland’s other gemstone is Cragside. I’ve never made it to Cragside before – despite numerous climbing trips to the area – and I have to say I was blown away by Lord Armstrong’s former pad. The number of ‘labour-saving, creature comforts’ created by this Victorian inventor which he lovingly designed and built into the stunning Cragside is amazing; the first house to be lit by hydro-electricity, a lift, a water-driven spit-roaster, a stream-room… the list is (almost) endless. The fireplace deep within the house is just incredible too. Outside Cragside continues to stun visitors with gardens and its Euro-funded refurbished iron bridge. An afternoon disappeared in no time at all – especially when I slipped my leash and managed to get some shots of the house down from the stream using tripod and split density filters. Felt a bit like a proper photog rather than just a grab-man…

Whilst most of the images that follow were snapped on the hoof, some have been part processed by an in-camera function, perspective control, which is a neat addition to the camera. Granted, its not the same as shooting with a tilt and shift lens – they’re on the wants list – but it certainly helps and takes out radically diverging verts – thanks Nikon. Dropped the shot of the vaulted roof at Fountains in B&W too, colour was just a distraction… 

 

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Also posted in Heritage

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 Scenic

April 17th : D800 – The First Two Weeks…

Since the start of April I’ve been on walk-about with a new toy; Nikon’s all singing, all dancing box of tricks – a.k.a. the D800. And it’s been an interesting two weeks for sure. It’s hard to deny that getting a new cam is anything other that a buzz, especially these days since the news of intended products gets leaked all over the tinterweb weeks, if not months, prior to the due date.

Nikon threw photogs a curved ball with the D800. A 36mb full frame sensor shooting at a meagre 4 f.p.s. wasn’t what many thought Nikon would replace the D700 with – not that the D700 has been replaced. Early sample images suggested that the D800 would more than give the D3x a run for it’s money – at half the price too! There those that objected to the 36mb sensor and it’s resultant c.45 mb files – “too big” they cried. They’re right; they are big, but too big? Discuss! Early sample images at high ISO suggested that the D800 would give the D4 a good work-out too in the ISO department too. Then came the news that the boffins over at DxOMark scored the D800 at 95 – “The New King of DxOMark” was their verdict, “comparable with medium-format cameras”. It appeared that Nikon had not just scored a home run but knocked the ball out of the park. Whilst web forums went into near meltdown Nikon reacted by wacking a couple of ton to the price of their new must-have – a nice touch and a sales master-stroke!

Paradoxically, since I unpacked my D800 the weather has been pretty rubbish. Consequently, I’ve spent lots of time getting to grips with the D800 in-doors and pushing the ISO up to what were previously pretty insane levels. Without more ado, I’ve added a selection of my first shots below and put more into a gallery here. Incidentally, these are all post processed using Capture NX from ‘low res’ JPEGs…

 

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