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Old Boats & Beach Huts.

July 27, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Slow Decay - 02Slow Decay - 02Peeling paint and wooden planks of an old boat, Skippool, near Fleetwood, Lancashire, England. Near to Fleetwood, Skippool Creek joins the River Wyre. Here, lined up along the bank of the river, a number of rickety jetties lead out across rough grass on soft ground towards the waters edge.

The tide is low, but evidence remains, at high water the path can be covered. Bits of grass and twigs, muddy puddles, left behind, stranded as the water rises and falls in six hourly cycles.

Rolling in Sea of GrassAn abandoned speed boat lies in a sea of tussock.

It appears to be something of a graveyard. Old boats lay abandoned, tied to jetties made up of seemingly random pieces of wood.

They must once have been someones pride and joy. Now they sit,grounded, bilges full of dark water.

A sad mix of fading fibreglass, perspex windows greening and opaque. Others with protective skins of paint blistering and flaking, peeling away to reveal damp timbers, slowly rotting.

Wooden JettiesWooden jetties, Skippool, near Fleetwood.

 

Some boats moored appear seaworthy, even if the raised walkways leading out appear as though they would collapse under the weight of passing feet, missing or rotten planks waiting to catch out the unwary sailor, dangers hidden beneath unkempt grass.

Grass through boardwalkGrass grows through a raised boardwalk leading out to abandoned boats, Skippool, near Fleetwood, Lancashire.

Perhaps there lies the reason perhaps for so many abandoned old boats.............

A little further down stream the Wyre enters the Irish Sea at Fleetwood. The town and the estuary make up the southern side of Morecambe Bay.

Across the water to the north the distant hills of the Lake District rise above the horizon and catch the afternoon sun. A fresh breeze blows in off the sea, the beach is empty save for a couple of fishermen who are packing away their fishing gear as the tide ebbs still lower exposing the expansive sands of the bay. 

The few people about seem to be enjoying the shelter of the tea shops along the sea front, out of the wind. The promenade is quiet.

 

A little further along, a splash of bright colour in the sunlight, wooden beach huts, well kept and painted pastel shades of yellow, pink, and blue line up facing the sea, doors and shutters closed, bright blue skies above.

Colours of SummerColours of SummerColourful beach huts at the seaside, Fleetwood, Lancashire, England. Unlike the boats these are not abandoned, just waiting to be opened by summer visitors. Somewhere to hide from cold wind and stinging sand.

 Oh the joys of the British seaside in summer.

Blue and YellowBlue and YellowYellow beach hut and deep blue sky, Fleetwood, Lancashire, England Slow decay - 03Slow decay - 03Peeling paint on the keel of an old wooden boat, Skippool, near Fleetwood, Lancashire, England. Slow decay - 01Slow decay - 01Old wooden boat, slowly rotting away, Skippool, near Fleetwood, Lancashire.


Twisleton Scar: Wanderings on a Summers Day.

July 05, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Ash Tree & Ingleborough-02Ash Tree & Ingleborough-02A single ash tree grows from the edge of an exposed limestone bed below Twisleton Scars near Ingleton, Yorkshire Dales National Park. Above Ingleton, between the two rivers which form the famous Ingleton Waterfalls Walk, lies an elevated plateau of land. It is in fact the southwestern end of the long ridge that is Whernside, the highest of the Yorkshire Dales Three Peaks.

 

Recently I discovered the origin of its name, which comes from the tongue of land between the joining of the two rivers, otherwise known as a Twisle, hence the name Twisleton.

 

This tongue of land drops steeply down to the rivers confluence leaving exposed beds of limestone escarpments of varying thickness known locally as scars. The area is a favourite with local climbers as well as photographers.

I'm lucky to have it right on the doorstep.

 

After a rather prolonged dreary period of weather, a welcome break finally arrived and it was time to head out with my new camera to revisit some of the locations I had photographed previously. Mainly to see how the new camera performed compared to the old, but also to enjoy a bit of warm summer sun in a great location.

Climbing up from the valley bottom I made my first stop at a lone ash tree, shadows cast by scattered clouds drifted lazily across the fields below. I sat for a moment to take in the surroundings, the sun was warm but the breeze felt cool as the cloud shadows passed over head.

The sound of skylarks in the skies above, mingled with a distant tractor labouring in a field of freshly mown grass in the dale below. Everywhere, looking green and vibrant.

Reaching Out-02Reaching Out-02A small Hawthorn Tree stretches its branches out over Chapel le Dale.

 

A little further up the slope, a small hawthorn stretches out into the valley from a narrow cleft between the limestone rocks. 

Small leaves, upturned, catch the summer sun, harvest this solar power to store it in the multitude of small green berries which will ripen bright red in the autumn. 

Fieldfares, winter migrant birds, which come when the days grow short and cold, will then feast on these same berries and be sustained until the days grow to be warm and long once again and they leave for far distant lands.

But that is still some months away, the summer birds are here now, skylarks, wheatears, to name but a couple. I wish I was better able to identify some of the others. There is moment in the grass, grasshoppers, or crickets maybe.

Insects buzz, birds sing.

 The sound of the tractor has faded, it sits motionless in its field of neatly lined up rows of  cut grass. It must be lunch time.

I decide to climb higher before I allow myself to sit and eat mine

 

 

Limestone & AshLimestone & AshWind sculpted ash tree on the limestone pavements above Twisleton Scar. After a steep climb, the ground levels out in a mixture of rough grassland and limestone pavement. Finding a sheltered spot away from the wind I tuck into my home cooked ham and pickle roll, delicious!

Lunch break gives me time to take in my new location, I've visited here many times before, but the trees and landscape are ever changing, and fine details can be overlooked or forgotten between visits. It is nice to sit and have a rest.

A large ash tree grows from a jumble of limestone block. The trees all take on that wind fashioned shape, long branches one side, short on the other. No guessing which way the prevailing wind blows here.

Closer inspection reveals hollow branches, handy for nesting owls but there are none in residence.  I wonder how many more years before these branches, thinning from within, succumb to the power of the wind and fall to the stones below. Perhaps the owls already know.

 


The Move to Medium Format: First Impressions of the Hasselblad X1D50C

June 30, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Sunset From WinskillThe sun sets behind Ingleborough as viewed from Winskill, near Settle

Blog posts, it appears, have been rather thin on the ground for the past 18 month or more. Sometimes the routine happenings of everyday life seem to take over, leaving little or no time for being creative in any sense.

Not "being able" to be creative then leads to the problem of not "feeling" creative when the opportunity does arise and I'm able to get out with my camera.

Towards the end of last year, I made the decision to get another camera with the thought that it might spark my interest and get me out and photographing more regularly. Rather than rush into buying something similar to what I already had, I started to look at what other types of cameras were available, whether they could do anything differently or better than the Canon 5Dmk3 that I already had.  The choice of cameras available was mind boggling.

It was while visiting DigitalSplash in Liverpool in October last year that I finally got my hands onto something brand new to the photographic world: 

A mirrorless camera.

But not any old mirrorless camera, a medium format mirrorless system. It was different to anything I'd used before, but it felt great to hold in the hand, seemed simple to use, had fantastic image quality. Could this be the way to go?

I wandered around looking at all the other equipment on offer, but I kept being drawn back to this one camera. After much deliberation, not to mention a few phone calls, I decided to take the plunge and place an order.

It took three months to arrive, newly released, a Hasselblad X1D 50C. Three months of reading all the pre-release information on how fantastic it all was going to be, and when it did come I couldn't wait to get out and try it for myself.

After the first few days my impression was, "What on earth have I done"? I felt a bit the same way when I changed from being a Windows PC user to an Apple Mac user.

I seemed to struggle with the live view mode, struggled with the view finder, seemed to struggle with everything. It was so different to anything I had used before. I found it incredibly frustrating, disappointing even. The camera frequently flagged up card errors, or software errors and needed to be switched off and on again.

I felt like I had made one very expensive mistake.

Errors apart, one of the things I found most different, apart from the user interface, was the depth of field. Compared to a full frame SLR the depth of field was much shallower for any given aperture, all to do with the size of the sensor. Things which seemed second nature before seemed no longer to apply to the Hasselblad. I think I was a little 'scared' of it also, if that is the correct term, but I persevered. I deliberately left my other camera behind and just concentrated on trying to get to grips with this new machine.

Eventually, things started to improve, the camera firmware was updated adding some nice features that were lacking on its initial release. I discovered that the SD cards I was using in the camera, some I already had, were not compatible. I found myself spending less time wrestling with the camera and more time concentrating on the photographs. 

Now finally, six months or so on, I'm starting to feel more comfortable with Hasselblad, I'm no longer scared of it, it is just another camera, just different to any camera I have used before, and different in the technical quality of the images it is capable of producing. They are stunning. The optical quality is amazing as is the 14 stops of dynamic range. I have got used to having an electric view finder not an optical one, used to the way the camera controls work, used to getting it set up so I can create the sort of images I'm after. Hasselblad has continued to work on the firmware which has so far managed to alleviate some of the software bugs.

It will never fully replace my Canon DSLR, but is an addition to my photographic arsenal and I look forward to sharing some photos I've taken with it.

 

 


Malhamdale: Autumn Colour, Daredevils, and a Proposal of Marriage.

October 16, 2015  •  1 Comment

Malham CoveMalham CoveMalham Cove, two hundred and sixty feet (80 Metres) of overhanging limestone.

What happened to 2015?

It is autumn already. There is a distinct chill in the fresh easterly breeze curling of the top of the hills which plucks the once green leaves leaving them to flutter slowly downwards towards the dew covered ground. Bolton Abbey through the treesBolton Abbey through the treesThe ruins of Bolton Abbey, through the branches of a tree.

 
 

The vibrant greens of spring and summer are fading fast as nature begins a slow withdraw, ready to sleep through the coming winter.

 

 

I love this time of year, the coolness, the colour, the quiet.

 

 

Photographically, I have been quiet also. Struggling to see through the "random noise" of everyday life, struggling to visualise the photographic potential laid out before me, struggling with that feeling of disappointment and dissatisfaction which insidiously begins to pervade, enveloping everything, anything.

Everyone suffers from time to time, some more than others, some, like me, need assistance at times, assistance to climb out of the hole into which we had fallen.

Sometimes the fall is sudden, as if the ground has opened beneath our feet and swallowed us whole

Sometimes the fall is slow, imperceptible, until that gradual realisation that you are mired in quicksand, sinking down, inch by inch.

 

Photography has always been a lifeline, but over the last twelve months, a lifeline into which I seemed to have become somewhat entangled, further feeding the frustration.

 

The time has come where assistance is needed; a Creative Retreat, to help untangle the bonds and to assist in climbing back up out of 'that' hole.

Three days of calm and tranquility, mindfulness and meditation, with a group of likeminded others looking to re-awaken or enhance the creativeness we all carry within, learning  new skills that I can take away and use when needed.

Skills to help see through that random noise and re-engage with the surround landscape of Yorkshire, and what better time than autumn.

 

A couple favourite locations not too far from home are Bolton Abbey and Malham Cove. The river Wharfe runs through Bolton Abbey Estate. As the valley narrows, the steep banks are covered in mature trees. The leaves are just starting to turn but I'm a little early. The best of the colour is still to come. Evening Sunlight through Strid WoodEvening Sunlight through Strid WoodEarly evening sunlight filters through the leaves in Strid Wood, Wharfedale, North Yorkshire

 

Still, I spend the day slowly walking from the Abbey to the Strid and back again, taking my time to stop, look, listen and absorb everything going on around. The feeling of the wind, the warmth of the sun, shapes colours. Polly the labrador is with me, she is happy to wander about or lie beside my bag in the grass sniffing the air as I contemplate the surroundings.

The sky is clear and blue and the sunlight bright and harsh around midday. Not so good for taking photographs but I allow myself to enjoy it, as Polly does, as I wander. As time passes, the sky becomes more hazy and the light more diffuse. Fires are burning up on the surrounding moors. The local game keepers burn old heather promoting new growth for next year. The billowing smoke filters the sunlight creating a warmer slightly orange light as the afternoon sun begins to lower. 

 

Dry rust coloured beech leaves dot the moss covered rocks beside the Strid, a lovely contrast of orange and green. The river is running low, its surface, smooth and still, reflects the blue sky and the yellowing leaves of the trees further downstream.  

The sun has already set in the deep recesses of the valley. Climbing up away from the river it becomes visible again. Sunlight finds a straight path through the tangle of trees to reach the plants of the woodland floor. The light is fading quickly, the sun will soon descend below the tops of the smouldering moorland hills to the west.

For the first time in while I feel happier about the pictures I've taken. I've felt more connected with the surroundings, it has been a productive day thanks to new skills learned.

Malham CoveMalham CoveMalham Cove, two hundred and sixty feet (80 Metres) of overhanging limestone.

 

Like with all skills, to remain proficient, one needs to continually practice. As we seem to be enjoying a prolonged spell of relatively fine and dry weather it was good opportunity to get out again.

Malham is a little closer to home than Bolton Abbey and there are a variety of walks. Throw in a variety of scenery, open farmland, wild moorland, limestone, woodland, land both horizontal, and vertical, it is an ideal place for a photographic ramble. 

Polly, happy to be out again on another expedition, walks alongside stopping every few yards to examine some new smell. 

The leaves are more colourful this week. Stopping just inside the gate, a line of trees lies in front of the famous Malham Cove. Autumn coloured leaves contrast nicely with the pale blue grey of the limestone cliff.  A 200mm lens compresses this distance between the trees and the cove. This restricts the field of view some I take multiple images to stitch together later into one all encompassing photograph. (top image)

 

The path drops down to the river, Polly wants to go in for a paddle and a drink. I sit and listen to the sound of the running water and the rustle of the leaves in the trees. People have inhabited this landscape for thousands of years, what must it have been like then? What must it have been like at the end of the last ice age when a colossal waterfall flowed over the edge to drop 80 meters to the valley floor below?

What will the landscape be like 10,000 years from now?

Closer to the cove I see lines spanning across the face high above.

Unusual?

The next thing I see is even more startling. A person, walking slowly, arms waving as if sending a semaphore message, walks out onto one of the lines. Slowly, slowly, sometimes steady, other times wobbling with arms flailing for balance.

Suddenly, a slip! They hang motionless briefly, held by a leg and a hand and a safety tether. Then in a well practiced manoeuvre they swing themselves back upright, sitting astride the line. Then, after carefully regaining their feet, they continue on their with their perilous walk.

Time to climb up for a closer look. 

In contrast to their poise and balance, I skilfully trip up on the very bottom step of the climb up the side of the cove dropping both camera and bag in a semi controlled fashion to the ground. No damage done fortunately, apart from a couple of minor grazes, and a bruised ego. Hopefully, everyones eyes will have been looking upwards towards the action above. The camera is packed away and I begin the climb again pretending nothing happened. Polly is sitting waiting at the bottom gate with a disapproving look as if to say, "What took you so long?"

Four hundred steps, and puffing hard, we reach the top and find a good position to watch the tightrope walkers in action.

Polly, obviously based on my earlier falling about, gets decidedly agitated every time a head towards the cliff edge. Not even finding an old bone helps her to settle. Finally, a safe position well back but with a good view is chosen. She's happier here so throws her bone up in the air then proceeds to roll on it for five minutes, legs in the air tail wagging. One of the tightrope walkers is heading across, a grab a couple of pictures. He sees me and stops, balancing on what is actually a piece of tape about an inch wide. He must be at least 80 metres above the valley floor. Casually he walks up towards the edge then sits on the rope while we have a chat.

"Quite safe" he says, "We're tethered to the line and there's nothing to hit when you're up high". I didn't ask what happens if the line breaks.

"There are 11 different ways of standing up on a tightrope" he tells one young onlooker. He skilfully demonstrates one method and proceeds to walk back across the abyss towards his friends on the other side, stopping part way to set the line swinging from side to side and bouncing up and down before falling off and climbing back on again.  View to Pendle HillView to Pendle HillThe view from the top of Balham Cove towards Pendle Hill

Polly is fed up with her bone now so we carry on towards Gordale Scar. It is quieter there. We sit together by the catering van in the lay-by and share a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich. Polly likes tea, and bacon sandwiches.

After walking up to the base of the waterfalls I sit for a while to take in this new location, marvelling at the immense powers that created such a spectacular chasm. It has clouded over now, but the sky is still bright compared with the deep shadows here below surrounded by the high overhanging rock faces.

I want to get closer to the upper waterfall which flows through a natural hole in the rock. Again I need a longer lens, so again I need to take multiple shots with which to piece together the picture I imagine. The longer lens also helps me exclude the bright, but now featureless sky. 

Waterfalls, Gordale ScarWaterfalls, Gordale ScarGordale Beck tumbles over fallen limestone blocks, Gordale Scar, Yorkshire Dales.

Focussing carefully I check the depth of field in the foreground and background by swinging the camera back and forth, up and down. F16 seems to do the trick, and gives and exposure time of about 6 seconds which will nicely blur the water into a milky white.

 

I start a number of sweeps, leaving about a third to a half a frame over lap. The longer lens compresses the distance between the lower and upper falls. The shadows are deep and dark where the rocks overhang but they outline the natural hole the upper fall plunges through.

 

Polly's bark echoes off the surrounding cliffs, a group of 4 people are approaching so I stop for a while and chat with the older couple while the younger two continue up to the base of the  lower waterfall.

 

As we chat we notice the young man drop down onto one knee while holding young woman's hand. The lady next to me suddenly says "I think he's proposing!!"

I quickly swing the camera around on the tripod, refocus, adjust the exposure, and fire off a number of quick shots. Well, witnessing a proposal is not what you expect to come across everyday, especially in such a dramatic location. 

I give them my email and tell them to drop me a line and I'll send them some copies of the photos.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
After such excitement, I settle back down and take another set of pictures before heading back through the campsite towards the road. Hand in hand the newly engaged couple, and their party, are heading up across the fields back towards Malham Cove and whatever their new life together might bring.
 
Polly and I, meanwhile, return to Malham by way of Gordale Beck and Janet's Foss. It is now late afternoon and the light is fading fast.
 
We stop and Polly goes in for a swim at the base of the falls while I set up for a few more photos. She sits there quietly dripping until I've finished.
 
It's time for home. We slowly make our way back to the car and a flask of warm milky coffee, stopping occasionally enroute while either Polly has another smell to investigate, or I spot something else to photograph. It's getting late and we're both getting tired. After all we've had rather an exciting day.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Woodland, Janets Foss.Woodland, Janets Foss.A woodland walk along Gordale Beck between Gordale Scar and Malham,
Woodland, Janets Foss.Woodland, Janets Foss.A woodland walk along Gordale Beck between Gordale Scar and Malham, Woodland, Janets Foss.Woodland, Janets Foss.A woodland walk along Gordale Beck between Gordale Scar and Malham,
 
 
 

Scotland & Borneo

June 29, 2015  •  1 Comment

Is it summer already?

Green leaves Against Blue SkyGreen leaves Against Blue SkyGreen leaves on the upper branches of a large sycamore tree catch the sunlight on a day with a clear blue sky.

 

Where has the time gone since I last made a post? I must admit to have been struggling with my photography a bit over the past few months. Where was I going with it, down the professional route to join an ever increasing number of others trying to break into the same market? I've never been one to blow my own trumpet, to push myself to the front of the crowd, to shout louder than everyone else to get myself noticed, as it seems you need to do in this cut throat business climate. 

After a bit of thinking I came to the conclusion that it wasn't really what I felt comfortable doing, just not 'me'. Combined with the fact that anything I made from my photography just got ploughed into paying all the expenses of having a business presence I decided to call it a day.

Not from photography, just being paid to take photographs for someone else. Trying to run a business was quite literally just sucking the enjoyment out taking photos. 

Rainbow BeachRainbow Beach

It was time to try and get some enjoyment back into taking photographs, the kind of photographs that I like to take without having to satisfy someone elses requirement.

Red & GreenRed & Green

Birch & Stac Pollaidh -2Birch & Stac Pollaidh -2

 

 

It started with a trip to North West Scotland and a holiday cottage in Strathcanaird just to the north of Ullapool. A week of exploring the Inverpolly & Coigach regions in a mixture of all weathers. From calm, warm, blue sky and spring sunshine, to hurricane force winds with sleet rain hail and snow and a bit of everything else in between.

 

There are few places like the Northwest of Scotland that are not only wild and remote, but at the same time easily accessible. We had great week exploring the area. Coastlines and beaches to wild moorland and mountains, and what's more, we saw barely a soul. It was like we had the whole place almost all to ourselves.

 

Six weeks later, we were off again, this time to another wild and remote place. A complete opposite to the treeless expanses of Scotland, but possibly the epitome of what we consider wild and remote, the Island of Borneo. 

 

Borneo ranks as the third largest island in the world and is made up of three countries, Indonesia, Brunei, and Malaysia. On our visit we stayed exclusively within the two states, Sarawak & Sabah, that make up the Malaysian part of Borneo. Starting in Kuching, we travelled for 10 days taking in the culture and landscape finishing with a few days rest and relaxation on the beach close to Kota Kinabalu. 

What an amazing place. A mixture of cultures, indigenous islanders, Malays, Chinese, Indian, to name but a few. Rugged landscape containing high mountains, spectacular caves, rivers, lowland and mountain rainforest 140 million years in the making. Then, of course, the wildlife including the endangered man of the forest - the orang utan.

In fact the orang utan was the main reason for our visit. Marian has always wanted to see orang utans in the wild and as this year coincided with a 'special birthday' it was the obvious time to go. We visited two sanctuaries and saw a number of orang utans at close quarters, plus we were lucky enough to spot one in the wild. 

The unfortunate thing is, as is the case in most most of the worlds wildlife, the orang utans plight is entirely man made, hence the sanctuaries. That rainforest, so many millions of years in the making, is being destroyed at an alarming rate. Besides the orang utans, countless other varieties of plants and wildlife are being destroyed by monoculture on a vast scale - palm oil.

 

As we travelled it was staggering the size and number of vast plantations of palms, contoured around the hillsides, and in regimental rows across the flat, they seemed to stretch on forever.  Palm oil trees only grow in equatorial regions but are not native Asia, having been imported into Indonesia in the 1800's and what is now Malaysia, in the early 1900's.

 

So, why palm oil?

It is relatively cheap and easy to grow and it yields more oil per hectare than any other oil producing crop. It's used in processed foods the world over, toiletries, industry, and bio fuels. I've read that our demand for it will continue to rise world population grows. By our I mean the human race, particularly us here in the so called 'developed world. 

But at what cost?

As with all things there are two side to the argument, cheap foods, employment and economic prosperity for some local people with the benefits that brings against, damage to the environment, with associated species loss and climate, displacement of indigenous people.

The internet is full of claim and counter claim, too many to list here. You need to read the facts from those who have studied the subject in detail and avoid the hysterical hype all too easily found on the internet and make your own informed choice.

 

But who are we to claim the moral high ground. In many temperate 'developed' countries around the world vast forests have also disappeared. In England and Scotland deforestation began in the neolithic times to make way for farm land, building materials and fuel. Scotland was the western most outpost of the great European arboreal forest. There are now only tiny fragments lefts, as is common in the rest of the UK and Europe. Most of the wildlife from those forests is long since extinct. The practice still goes on and the forests of the world are getting ever smaller. Coigach PanoramaCoigach Panorama

For me, I'll try and avoid those products with palm oil additives in future where I possibly can, I'm lucky, I'm able to make that choice.

I would rather support the local people of such places like Borneo with my tourist dollars, and be able to see the wildlife in its natural environment, stand in the rainforest at dusk and be deafened by the sounds of the jungle. I'm glad there are people who dedicate themselves to the welfare of the orang utans and other wildlife and was happy to spend my money in those sanctuaries to support their efforts.

http://www.orangutan-appeal.org.uk

The jungles of Borneo, and else in the world, need to be seen as a commodity more valuable left standing than cut down, but I fear human greed will ensure that this will never be the case.

I just hope we don't realise this before it is too late.

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