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Staithes Festival of Art & Heritage

The art fairs we do have taken us to some interesting venues over the years, such as Skipton auction mart, but for sheer atmosphere Staithes Festival takes some beating. Taking place in the picturesque fishing village of Staithes, some 120 artists set up over 90 pop up galleries using the rental cottages throughout the village, ready for thousands of visitors to descend on the village over the weekend to view the variety of art work on offer and soak up the atmosphere.

Staithes village from Penny Nab

Staithes village from Penny Nab

Anyone thinking of visiting next year, be warned! Set aside a full day and wear some comfortable walking shoes. It’s a hard day, but there’s plenty of cafes and pop up street food stands to keep everyone fed and watered as well as a couple of good pubs and several restaurants. Along with live music and public art works there’s something to keep everyone entertained._8003618


The atmosphere is great and the whole village really comes alive on the Saturday evening, with light shows on the beach and sea chanties being belted out on the staithe. Make a note in your diary for next year’s festival, it’s a great weekend and you might just find that piece of art you didn’t know you were looking for………


Spurn Point Photowalk With Karl Holtby

Spurn point is one of those places we’ve always loved, but rarely had any luck with the weather when we’ve been down there. It always seems like someone turns the lights out when we arrive and it’s traditionally been as dull as dishwater. We haven’t actually been to Spurn for several years, though we did have a visit planned just before the storms overwhelmed the causeway in early 3013, so seeing that Karl Holtby was organising a photowalk in conjunction with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust was just the excuse I needed.

We arrived at the meeting point on what proved to be a bright, blustery, changeable day and all clambered aboard the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Unimog truck to transport us the 3 miles down to Spurn Head. The tidal surge in early 2013 has completely destroyed the road for about a mile, so it’s a case of walking, or take the truck to get to the end. I was keen to have a chance to take some photos of Spurn, but my main reason for going on this walk, was to assess the practicality of getting to the end of the spit for future visits. Walking over 3 miles on soft sand to shoot a dawn would mean an awfully early start!

800-1-10747-ROnce down to Spurn Head, Karl had organised an office as a nice cosy base, allowing us all to get a coffee and a warm up whilst he gave a short presentation. This was followed by a walk to the newly refurbished lighthouse, where we were allowed to go up to the light room at the top. I can highly recommend anyone trying this trip, as the view is well worth the £4 the Trust charges. The light room gave us some fantastic panoramic views of the spit in what proved to be some lovely light.800-1-10784-R800-1-10762-RBOnce we’d all finished in the lighthouse, we adjourned back to the Trust’s office to have our packed lunches, before venturing out into the wind again. Karl took the bulk of the party off to give them some tuition while the more experienced of us were left to wander off and do our own thing. I wanted to reprise my infra-red image from 2006, but was immediately sand blasted by the wind, so I adjourned into the dunes to seek some shelter.

90-1424-RThe big trouble with locations such as this is you’re like a child in a sweet shop, you’re spoilt for choice of where to go and what to shoot. The other problem with the location is that you are tied by the tides. If you can get in, then inevitably you are going to have a low tide and I had a few images in mind that need some water. By now time was knocking on and the tide was receding ever further out, so I headed for the tide line. Shooting long exposures in a howling gale was never going to be easy, but I set my tripod low and used myself as a windbreak.

800-1-10806-RBpsdWith a couple of shots in the bag and it was time to go walk about again. Time was ticking away and I still had masses of ideas I wanted to try, but the high wind precluded a walk round the headland, so I headed back to the office for a change to the infra-red camera. With the marram grass and big skies, this was infra-red heaven, then all to soon our time was nearly over and I joined the rest of the weary group to wait for the truck for our return ride. I have to say that after several hours up and down the dunes, the thought of walking back 3 miles over soft sand had little appeal!

90-1423-R90-1421-RAs we drove back along the sand, loads of great photo locations came into view and the light was getting really lovely by the time we got back to the car park. I’d really like to thank Karl Holtby and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust for organising this photowalk, as it was a great day out. This is a wonderful location, with lots of photo opportunities, so Janet and I will definitely be back again very soon. For anyone considering going to Spurn, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust runs the truck 3 times a day on selected days throughout the season, so have a look on their website for dates and times. You’ll not be disappointed and I’m sure they’ll be glad of your custom. 800-1-10829-R

Photographers For The Cumbrian Flood Appeal

Last weekend saw us heading for the Lake District to take part in an event devised by Mark Littlejohn and Doug Chinnery to raise money towards the fund to help the victims of the recent devastating floods in Cumbria.

Rather than head directly across the A66 to Penrith, we used the opportunity to travel via the A59 and drop in to see the Three Peaks Gallery in Settle, now the gallery has moved to new premises. Heavy rain persisted throughout the day and served as a reminder of why we were in the area, so rather that do a recce, we detoured to the Rheged centre in Penrith to see Ian Lawson’s “From the Land Comes the Cloth” exhibition. Ian takes some wonderful images and it was great to see them printed large like this, so we spent a happy couple of hours browsing. We can highly recommend this exhibition and it’s on until 15th May.

We haven’t been to the Lake District for many years and never been to Ullswater, so this was always going to be a voyage of discovery for us. We checked in at the Inn on the Lake, then went exploring. It was amazing to see the remains of the devastation left by the floods and brings it home to you just how much power the waters have.

The following morning, I got up early and out for dawn on what proved to be a drizzly, overcast morning, but still offered some interesting photo opportunities. I know it’s not original, but I couldn’t resist taking the Ullswater jetty shot, then went exploring around the lake side. I have to say with 70-80 other photographers in the area, I was very surprised I didn’t see another soul while I was wandering around the lake.810-1-2286-R

Ullswater from the jetty at the Inn on the Lake, Glenridding


There had been some doubt as to whether the walks would be on, but after a leisurely breakfast, I checked with Mark Littlejohn and he confirm that we were on. After all, we couldn’t come to a floods appeal and be put off by a little rain could we?

We all met up on the pier in moderate rain and wind and took a steamer ride to Aire Force, where Joe Cornish’s party headed up the valley to Aire Force, whilst those of us in the Lizzie Shepherd, Doug Chinnery, Valda Bailey party headed along a lake side path. I headed off with Lizzie’s so called “serious” photographers party, while Janet joined Doug for the “ICM” photographers group. Those of you who are familiar with our work will know that any more than 3 well separated trees and an indistinct background and we’re flummoxed, so part of my rationale was go and try to understand how other photographers view more complex woodlands.


The rain meant keeping the lens dry was an issue, but it did prove to be an interesting and very social morning.

90-1293-JWe all headed back to the café for around 12 o’clock for a coffee and a warm up and I was delighted to see that Janet had enjoyed herself so much she was positively glowing, having introduced Doug to the delights of infra-red photography and discovered IRCM. Infra-red camera motion!





Trees in the woods at Aire Force


Trees in the woods at Aire Force

Once back at the hotel, we all headed straight to the buffet, then gathered for the picture auction, where we were treated to the spectacle of some lovely images fetching some very reasonable prices. Several images stood out for me. I particularly liked Lizzie’s “Zig zag” and loved Paul Mitchell’s pin hole image, but the star of the show for me was Mark Littlejohn’s Ullswater image which made over £500.

After the auction we had a raffle with some excellent prizes being generously donated by several companies and individuals. This was followed by fascinating and diverse talks by Mark Littlejohn, Paul Mitchell and Joe Cornish, then all too soon it was all over.

All in all, a really good event and a very worthy cause. Huge credit must go to Mark and Doug for organising it and big thanks to the many other individuals who contributed which all made it possible. With a grand total of over £20k raised it certainly was a great

Tilt/Shift vs Focus Stacking

An early mentor of ours had a saying “If your photos aren’t interesting enough, you aren’t close enough” and I tend to agree.

Much as I’m a fan of “negative space” foregrounds, I’m also keen on the impact of a JCB (Joe Cornish boulder) foreground, but that then gives me a problem with depth of field, if you have a subject very close to the camera. Even when using a wide angle lens at f22, you still struggle to get front to back sharpness.


Looking at the example of the frosty morning at Costa beck, the image has considerable compositional merit, but is technically flawed owing to using an aperture as small as f22 giving me the problem of “diffraction softening”. So how do we get around it?

Winter Morning, Costa Beck

Focussing at the hyperfocal distance helps, but you will still struggle to get the image pin sharp from front to back, particularly if you have detail very close to the lens. Standing back a bit, then cropping the image later also helps, but there has to be a better way. Fortunately there are alternatives such as a tilt/shift lens which can be used to great effect to give you front to back sharpness. I have to admit that I have been tempted, but as with most good ideas it also has some negatives, not least the cost as it’s expensive at around £1500.00. They are also heavy and I’m loathe to add yet more weight to my backpack plus I’m also not keen on continually changing lenses in the field for fear of getting dust on the sensor.

So what other alternatives are there? Well one that seems to be gaining popularity is “focus stacking”. Essentially taking multiple shots with varying focus points and blending them. Sounds good to me and avoids all the cost etc. associated with the tilt shift lens.

I started doing some test shots and read an article in a photo magazine as well also doing some research on the internet. The article was written by a photographer I much admire, but the explanation was as clear as mud and ended just before it got interesting. I also spent a long and tedious evening reading articles on the internet and found plenty of technical guff, but very few gave any layman’s quick guides to how to do it in the field. However I did manage to glean enough information to make it possible to shoot the type of shots I’m after. Basically you are trying to get enough depth of field overlap to ensure that all of your final image is in focus.

In my first test on the daffodils, I took one frame focussed on the foreground and another focussing on the temple in the background, but once blended I got areas in the middle that are falling out of focus, so the whole image looks odd.


In reality you need to take more shots to overlap the in focus areas. So how do you do it in practise? You could make some complex calculations, but it would probably be raining by the time I’d done them! You can even get an app for your I-phone that calculates the overlap for you, but it is still quite a laborious task and I’m one of the few people in the world that don’t have an I-phone. What I’m looking for is a laymen’s rule of thumb I can quickly apply in the field.

Reading between the lines on the internet and using daffodil shot as an example.

  • Frame 1, focus on the nearest object ie the first bunch of dafodils.
  • Frame 2, focus at the hyperfocal point
  • Frame 3, focus on the dafs in the mid ground
  • Frame 4, focus on the temple.

Using the poppy shot as another example, similar steps to the above but you are looking for distinct areas that need to be kept in focus, so you may need to add frames to get sharpness throughout.


Some of this is conjecture and only time will tell if this approach will be successful, but it does look promising so far.

Spot the lost PINK sheep – over 150 prizes to BE won!


pink sheep - mobile



You may spot the odd real sheep with a pink fleece but most of them are man-made!

They range in size from tiny ear-rings (in a jewellery shop window) to soft toy versions, felted works of art, carved wood and almost life size models made by school children. You’ll know you’ve spotted one when you see their distinctive pink jersey! Report your sightings here: you could win one of over 150 prizes!

Where can you spot the Lost Sheep in Pink Jerseys? 
There are over 200 sheep to spot. They’re scattered in and around the North York Moors National Park, in the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, around Pickering, Helmsley, Malton and along the North York Moors coast from Scarborough to Staithes.  Spot them in gardens, on window sills, on walls, in shops, cafes…

How can you win prizes? 
It’s simple! All you need to do is to spot 3 Lost Sheep in Pink Jerseys, tell us where you spotted them, and then you’ll be entered in the prize draw. There are over 150 prizes to win, and you can enter as often as you like, so the more sheep you spot, the more chance you have of winning!

The sheep will be on show from 20th June. Enter here any time between 20th June – 20th September 2014. All prize winners will be notified by email by 28th September. We’re very grateful to our sponsors for their support to run this.