Category Archives: Winter

Getting to Know Your Own Patch

Constantly photographing the same place may seem like a waste of time at first, but in reality, the light and the conditions are never the same twice, so it can be an interesting and challenging project. By constantly going back to a location, you get to know the place and learn which times of day work and when the light will be favourable. It also allows you to “work” a location to get the most out of it.

I’m lucky as I live close to two streams. Ten minutes’ walk in either direction and I can be on the river bank and it’s a place that is good for the soul. Life feels as though it slows down, keeping pace with the slow-moving river. I see deer and rabbits, kingfishers and egrets and never tire of the peace and tranquillity and this puts me in a good frame of mind for photography.

I took my first successful image of Costa Beck way back in 2008 and it has always been the benchmark for me as an image I’ve never bettered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the seasons roll by, the vegetation at the side of the beck constantly changes, bringing new challenges, but also offering new images. Summer 2011 brought a wonderful display of rose bay willow herb that gave a colourful display that is such a contrast to the frosty images I regularly take.

The banks of the river are often overgrown, but in 2015 the banks had been mown giving me un-rivalled access to shoot reflections in the water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whereas today the banks are very overgrown, bringing its own challenge and giving me an image that I’m not happy with.

However I’m sure I’ll be back along the banks of Costa beck again one day soon and who knows I might just better the 2008 image!

Keeping An Open Mind

The Making of the Reine Panorama

Following the interest in Janet’s Reine panorama image, I thought a brief account of how this set of images came about might be of interest.

We’d arrived in Reine village on the beautiful Lofoten islands in the early afternoon after a hard day and half’s travelling, but by the time we’d found our accommodation and got settled in, it only left a little time for exploration. We’d done our research on the internet before embarking, so had some ideas about the area, but there’s nothing to compare with local knowledge. We had a meagre meal that evening using the limited cooking facilities in the cabin then turned in early full of excitement and anticipation for the following morning.

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The alarm went off at 5.30am and we bounced out of bed, had a quick coffee and out into the cold winter wonderland. We were just thawing out the car and loading up when Bruce Percy and his party trudged up the street towards us. It was our love of Bruce’s work that first gave us the idea of going to Lofoten, so I bounded up to him and introduced us. He looked pretty taken aback, so we let him and his party move on and we got ready to move off.

Next problem, the sun was coming up quickly, so where do we go to take advantage of it? We had to move quickly, so drove out of the village and parked in the car park overlooking the village. The sky was looking great by now, but the foreground from the carpark was scruffy and all the time the light was strengthening.

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Panic was starting to set in, this was going to be a lovely sunrise, but were we in a position to do it justice? I moved slightly to my left and managed to get a shot of the village without the scruffy undergrowth in the foreground, but it could be better.

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Time to calm down a bit and engage my brain. Check the image on the monitor and consider how it could be improved and also do a recce of the immediate surroundings for a better composition, as well as check the histogram and camera settings.

As I looked around I spotted a steep track out of the carpark that led to a flat area with an uninterrupted view of the village and mount Olstind. This was definitely what I wanted! Once in place and set up, the light was getting fabulous, this was the moment we’d come here to experience and capture! A mixture of the crystal clear arctic light and calm conditions was giving us an opportunity to capture some beautiful images. Note to self, engage brain again and do a good job. By now the light on the mountains was fabulous, so I set up and captured a landscape format image.

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Then set up to take it in portrait format.

Early morning light on Olstind and Reine town

Bingo, a nice image in the bag, then back down to earth as I remembered Janet was still in the carpark. I shot back up the track to help her down the slippery slope to my vantage point, but all the time I was conscious that the sunrise was happening very rapidly infront of us.

Time was marching on and the light was moving from that cold early morning blue and pink to a much warmer orange, but we were in the right position, so concentrate, work the scene and hone our compositions and keep checking that histogram.

Early morning light on Olstind and Reine town

Once set up Janet captured the warming light on Olstind, then it was time to work the scene further. As the light grew stronger, it became ever warmer and Janet was able to capture the panorama that was to become one of the highlights of the shoot.

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All this happened in the space of just under an hour, so elated with what we’d witnessed, we returned to our cabin for breakfast and time to review what we’d captured. It was at this point I was mortified to see that I’d chopped the reflection off the Olstind image.

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I’d been so wrapped up in capturing the sky I’d failed to follow my own rule of check and double check the composition. Everything happens so quickly in these situations, it’s hard to keep your mind fully open, but it has to be done and only comes with practice. Looking back on the positive side, this image I’m so disappointed with has just sold twice to magazines, so that I guess isa  small consolation. As it turned this was by far the best morning of the trip, as the weather gradually closed in on us. Once home we were soon planning a return trip for the following year. Lessons had been learned, set out earlier, stay focussed and keep an open and active mind and above all check, check and check again. Our second trip was very good and allowed us to produce a strong set of images, but the conditions never compared with the morning I chopped the reflection off mount Olstind. It’s these little details that matter and I’ll never forgive myself for this silly error.

 

 

A Baa-rilliant Day On The Moors

Tuesday was due to be snowy, so I set the alarm for early and headed down the lane near home to a location I’d had in mind for a while. As the light came up it all looked promising, but just before sunrise, a snow squall blew in and obscured the colour in the sky, so I headed home for a coffee and a warm up, then loaded the car for a day out on the moors.

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Despite all the dire warnings on the news, the Whitby moor road proved to be clear apart from a little slush, so we pressed on towards Goathland in the hope of getting onto Egton moor. As it turned out the council had done a great job ploughing the back roads and we made it up to the crossroads above Grosmont without any problems. Understandably the Egton moor road hadn’t been ploughed, so I was faced with walking the last half mile to the famous lone tree. It was fascinating to see such a large area of pristine snow untouched by human, but absolutely covered in bird and animal tracks. As I reached the tree, the snow wasn’t quite deep enough to fully cover the heather, so I wasn’t able to produce the pure white image I had in mind. Two disappointments before 9 o’clock, this was proving to be a difficult day!

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After Egton moor, we backtracked towards Goathland and suddenly spotted some sheep on a bank near Two Howes moor. Janet had the camera on her lap ready to go and as we jumped out of the car the heavens opened and a blizzard started to fall horizontally. At first only a few sheep came to see us, then more, then loads more, until we must have had nearly a hundred. I crouched in the lee of the car to shelter as the sheep lined up on the bank, whilst Janet headed into the group like the pied piper of Goathland. As she walked away they all followed, then she turned back towards the car and they all followed her back again, what an amazing sight! They were obviously hoping she would feed them. We left this scene smiling and hopeful we’d some good shots in the bag, but with all the milling about by the sheep, who knows what we might have got. As it turned out, we’ve come away with a set of good images.

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After Goathland, we headed for Egton Bridge in the hope of getting to Danby, but met some ice on a sheltered hill so failed to get up the slope towards Limber Hill. A quick detour back to Egton Bridge and we stopped for a nice lunch at the Blacksmith’s Arms in Egton Bridge, where a cheery landlord served us a huge beef sandwich, lovely!

Suitably refreshed we headed for Lealholm on dry roads and little snow! A quick look up Fryupdale, soon showed we wouldn’t be going up on to Danby Rigg as that hill hadn’t been ploughed, so we backtracked again and ended up at Fat Betty to marvel at the wind sculpted snow drifts.

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Then on down to Bell End where the light on Hill Plantation was great so we stopped for another shoot only for the sky to cloud over with another squall just on sunset.

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A grand day out with mixed results, but now we’ve had a chance to review our images it certainly looks like having been a productive one with a whole flock of sheep images that we are really pleased with and quite a bit stock as well.

Light, Camera, Passion

This say photography is all about light, composition and passion, but to my mind it’s light that is right up there at the top of the list.

Wednesday morning I woke up to a heavy frost and a bit of mist. Perfect conditions for photography, so despite being full of a Christmas cold, I dragged myself down the Costa Beck for a walk to see what I could find. The conditions should have been perfect, but nothing captured my imagination as it all looked a bit dull and flat to me. At the time I thought it was my lack of enthusiasm through feeling ill that was the problem.

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So fast forward to Sunday and I woke later than intended after a bad night’s sleep and equally lacking in enthusiasm to Wednesday morning. This time the frost on the ground was even heavier and the sun was just coming up over the trees as I walked down the river, but this time the land was alive with splashes of gorgeous warm winter light. All of a sudden the enthusiasm, nay the passion was there; I could see compositions and the scenes ignited my imagination!

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As I walked further down the river I saw deer in the distance, then they walked closer illuminated by this golden light, oh for a lens longer than the 24-70 I had on the camera! As I walked further back up the river, I met other people who were filled with enthusiasm about what they had seen and all was well in our little part of the world.

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I love the fact that despite living in a town, I only have to walk a mile to get scenes like these and as I reflected on a good morning out, I realised that without that light there is no composition and the passion came from my reaction to what I saw before me.

Lofoten Islands

For anyone looking for a photo adventure, the Lofoten islands off arctic Norway might just be the place for you. It’s more compact than Iceland and still relatively unknown, though it is gaining popularity very rapidly, so now is the time to go while it’s still un-developed. It’s a fairly expensive place to get to from the UK, requiring 3 flights to get there, but good deals on the flights can be obtained if you book well in advance.

Last year we only saw a few tourists/photographers, but this year it had increased 10 fold and I spoke to people from a very diverse selection of countries, from Latvia, Canada, Germany, Switzerland and many more. So I guess it’s easier to get to from mainland Europe.

Sakrisoy Roruber

Sakrisoy Roruber

Virtually the only accommodation available is in the Rorbu’s, (Fishermen’s huts that have been converted into holiday lets, dotted all around the coast). Accommodation was hard to come by last year, but that has all changed now with the Rorbu owners realising there’s money to be made by opening up in winter, instead of just the short summer season. The Rorbu’s make ideal bases and tend to be warm and cosy, but don’t come cheap and have adequate, but limited facilities inside compared with a UK holiday let. Budget for £100/night for a basic Rorbu, though the one we had this year was spacious and could easily accommodate six people with space to spare.

Buying food (All packaged in Norwegian of course!) can be a bit of an adventure at first, but the Co-op in Reine is very good and all the staff are very friendly and helpful, as are all the locals. If you like fish as we do, then you’ll eat well at reasonable prices, but things like frozen chicken fillets are also readily available. If you fancy a Sunday roast, then take out a second mortgage or sell a kidney. Price wise it’s not as bad as you might imagine; think Outer Hebrides prices and budget accordingly. We managed to buy beer at £2/can, so we even got a drink! Interestingly, we planned to push the boat out and celebrate the return of the snow with some wine, but there was no sign of any at all in the Co-op. There’s a nice coffee shop in Reine village, but precious few places to get a coffee or anything to eat apart from the Co-op, though there is an extensive Shopping Mall in Ramberg where you can buy everything from groceries to a fishing line or a washing machine.
Car hire came in at £560 for 10 days for a Toyota Avensis estate, so split between four of us, that wasn’t too bad. Petrol prices are also very comparable with the UK; we used £65 worth of Diesel in 10 days. I’ve done plenty of driving in snowy conditions, but having a hire car fitted with studs was a novel experience, though I still nearly managed to dump it in a fjord last year! On the plus side, a base in the Reine/Hamnoy area puts you within easy reach of all the best photo sites, so you don’t have to do big mileages if you don’t want to. We found being based in Sakrisoy meant we could cover most of what we wanted on foot and only used the car for the more outlying places like Ramburg, Ytresand and Flakstad. One regret is that we didn’t manage to get to Utaclieve in the north which has huge photographic potential, but weather didn’t permit a trip out there this time. More on the weather later, though a plus side of having a car is its good place to hide from the weather when it closes in!

Flakstad beach

Flakstad beach

We sat at Flakstad beach for hours waiting for the wind to die down and nearly lost the tailgate when I went to get our lunch!

For anyone considering going to Lofoten, plan on an absolute minimum stay of a week, preferably longer. It’s a relatively expensive place to get to and the weather can be very un-predictable, so bare in mind that you may be spending several days stuck inside riding out the weather. There’s no point in spending all that money getting there, only to be stuck in a cabin waiting for the rain to stop, then going home with no photos.

Olstind Sunrise

Olstind Sunrise

Last year day one for us was great, then the weather went dull and finally warmed up giving rain for several days which washed all the snow away and completely transformed the look of the place. This year we arrived with snow on the ground, but had 3 days intermittent rain, followed by a day of horizontal rain, which once again completely washed away all the snow. Fortunately the snow returned overnight and it was game on at last! If the conditions do come, then work hard even if it means going hungry as the weather may close in again.

Northern Lights

Northern Lights

It’s a similar story with the Northern lights. Last year we arrived after several nights of great sightings, but we were only given a tantalising glimpse on the first night, then had to wait another 4 nights before we got a moderate, if slightly cloudy show later in the week. Similar story this year; a few days before we arrived there had been clear skies and fantastic light shows (See http://www.codyduncan.com ) , but we had overcast night skies all the time we were there, so never got a glimpse this year. I read a quote from David Clapp saying “See the northern lights, it will change your life” and I tend to agree.

Access to most of the photo opportunities is dead easy as most can be got to with a short walk from the road (So no need to hire 4WD), but bare in mind it can be very icy; all of our party had several falls this year, fortunately with no injury except to the pride. I did the splits at one point and just as I recovered Kevin managed to fall flat on his face; I laughed so much I ended up flat on my back, so I gave up all plans to go to that particular jetty!

For the more adventurous there are the mountain trails and less accessible areas available, so there really is huge photographic potential and the variable weather produces some great conditions.

Rope Drift

Rope Drift

My favourite image from this year’s trip was captured in gale force winds and horizontal snow, so be prepared to work with the conditions. One of the great things about Lofoten, is that it looks much colder than it is? It has the benefit of being in the Gulf Stream, so temperatures in February/March tend to be in the -5/+5 degree region. I know where I’d rather go to photograph the northern lights compared with Sweden at -20! Though do remember to gear up for cold conditions as you will be standing about for long periods and it can get very wet and windy. I took lined walking trousers with a choice of thin and fleece base layers and only wore the fleece ones when out at dawn, the thin ones proving perfectly adequate most of the time. We also recommend good gloves with removable fingers <a href=”http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00368BKDO/ref=oh_details_o03_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&amp;psc=1″>http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00368BKDO/ref=oh_details_o03_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&amp;psc=1</a> as the wind can freeze the fingers, but you will often need bare fingers to handle filters, cold runny noses etc.

Twilight Glow

Twilight Glow

Apart from being a truly beautiful place, the big plus with the arctic is the quality and clarity of light! Even on an overcast day, there is often still enough good light bouncing around to make photographing possible and if like me you are fan of photographing in the twilight, then you have opportunities galore. Added to that the low winter sun means weather permitting you can often photograph for most of the day and the relatively short days mean you even get a reasonable amount of sleep. We tended to be out for an hour or two around dawn, back for breakfast, then out again before returning for some lunch and a rest around 11. The low sun meant you could go back out again around 2 o’clock and photograph right through until sunset at 5 o’clock and beyond. Sunsets there can be wonderful, though the overcast evenings meant we didn’t manage to get a good sunset either this year or last, but boy am I pleased with my Olstind sunrise.