Category Archives: Castle Howard

To Plan Or Not To Plan?

Sometimes it pays to have a plan, others times it proves best to just go with the flow and see what catches your eye on the day, but there’s definitely no substitute for getting out there. It’s no good just sitting at home waiting for those “perfect” conditions, you’ve got to be out there waiting for that elusive piece of light and don’t be afraid of coming home empty handed.

Last Tuesday was just such a day, the forecast promised frost and mist, but clear skies, which was less than ideal, but I decided to get up early and go to Castle Howard anyway. I’ve had an image of mist at sunrise over the mausoleum for a couple years, but come home empty handed on many occasions, so this might just be the opportunity I was looking for.

Winter sunrises occur at remarkably social hours, so I could get myself organised in good time and even arrived well before my planned time of 7.15. As I parked up the conditions looked very promising, so I had a coffee and waited patiently for the light to strengthen, then about 7.20 I had the shot I was looking for!

800-1-14327-rFeeling pleased with my mornings work, I headed back to the Great Lake. The sight that greeted me there was amazing, with literally thousands of waterfowl roosting on the lake, then gradually flying off in large flocks. A wonderful sight and enough on its own to make it worthwhile being there that morning.

800-1-14358-rbBy now I was feeling in need of a warm up, so a bracing walk in Hovingham woods fitted the bill. Hovingham woods is a lovely place, but especially so on the bright, frosty, crisp morning like this. Once back to the car for another coffee, the only thing missing from a perfect morning out was a bacon butty!

800-1-14395-rBut is it better to plan, or go with the flow? Well I think you can do both, the important thing is to find the time and the motivation to get out there.

Castle Howard Sunrise

With the sun rising behind Wray Wood and the promise of a hard frost and possibly mist, the Castle Howard Lake seemed like a good bet last Wednesday. I set the alarm for “early” and woke up to a reasonable covering of ground frost, but as we approached the car park near the lake the frost had faded to almost nothing. The sky was dull and un-inviting at first, so we stayed in the warm of the car for a while, before venturing out. Despite it being mid-week we were surprised to see that several other photographers had had the same idea and the place was almost crowded! As we walked round the lake path, the colour in the sky suddenly appeared, but the light on the castle was dull and un-interesting. The initial burst of colour soon faded leaving us with a very blank sky, so we headed home very disappointed.


The weather forecast for Friday morning looked marginal with the sky clearing around dawn, so we hedged our bets and headed up onto Egton moor in the hope of more altitude meaning colder temperatures, but once again we were disappointed by the lack of any ground frost.

However the forecast for Saturday looked even better with much lower temperatures being predicted, so we set the alarm for early again and headed back to Castle Howard and this time we were greeting by lovely sparkly frosty ground. So game on and what to do? With the sun rising to the left of the castle and no mist, I decided to stay at the bottom of the lake whilst Janet headed back round the side path where she captured this image of the castle plus a nice pastel image of the cow parsley.


800-1-5046-RMy pitch at the end of the lake looked promising, but lacked the reeds I wanted as foreground interest, so I spent some time looking for better vantage points. I’d even gone to the trouble of wearing wellies so I could wallow in amongst the reeds, but all to no avail. I have to admit I was getting frustrated and my camera started playing up as well (it was taking over 30 seconds for each frame to write to the card), so I wasn’t in good humour!

I eventually gave up with the exploring and headed back to my original vantage point just in time to see another photographer vacating it. Once set back up, I had to make some decisions on how to handle the scene. The light was rising rapidly and despite the lack of cloud, the colours in the sky were really gorgeous. By now the light on the lake and behind the castle was very strong, so filtering was going to be a nightmare. I used a 3 stop soft ND grad pulled well down to reduce the glare from the lake, then added a 3 stop reverse ND grad to reduce the brightness of the rising sun on the horizon. I’m usually shy of using this much filtration as it can look very false, but on this occasion it worked a treat, bringing much needed light into the foreground and holding bright sun back nicely and all topped off with a sunburst that I think works well in this image. So all in all I came away happy with my morning’s work.


Castle Howard Dawn

One of the skills you need as a landscape photographer is to become a good amateur weather forecaster. So it was with mounting frustration that I watched the weather forecast predict 90% cloud cover only for me to miss several amazing sunrises and sunsets on days I wasn’t expecting them to happen!

Come Saturday evening the sky looked slightly pink again, but I decided it wouldn’t come to much only for the sky to light up like it was on fire moments later! There is a photographers saying that all the best sunsets are seen from the supermarket car park and I couldn’t agree more. Needles to say I went to bed on Saturday night in poor humour, but tomorrow’s always another day……..

We set the alarm for early and woke up well before dawn on a clear, frosty morning, so headed for Castle Howard. As we walked round the lake, the wild fowl were just waking up and making an amazing row. We were slightly disappointed by the lack of mist and colour in the sky, but still a beautiful frosty bright morning and a joy to out in the landscape.


Once we finished at Castle Howard, we decided to have one last go at shooting stock autumn colour, so headed off via Terrington woods to Hovingham woods. The colours were still vibrant in the woods and the light on the frosty grasses was wonderful, so we were not short of subject matter. By the time we’d got the shots we were looking for, the sky clouded over so we headed home happy knowing we had a few good shots in the bag.