Saturday, 24 June 2017

Derwentwater By Night - April 2017

Hello again,

As you can see, I'm still alive and kicking, despite my 4 month absence from my blog page. Lots to catch up on, with new images and stories to accompany them, as well as an insight to what lays ahead with all things photography.

Todays blog entry takes me back to Saturday April 22nd, going into the 23rd, 2017. An all-nighter on the shores of Derwentwater and after midnight it would be my birthday, so I was hoping for a productive night with the camera. My brother Chris made the journey with me, across the A66, arriving at approximately 9pm. Earlier in the day I received an aurora alert on my mobile phone, but the north-east was clouded out, so we made the journey west, where clear skies were predicted. I remembered previous Aurora shows, notably on St. Patrick's Day and Mother's Day, so the omen's were looking good for tonight - St. George's Day! We decided that Lodore Jetty, on the edge of Derwentwater, was where we would set up for the night, looking north across the water towards the Skiddaw range. We had the place to ourselves, which was ideal - no-one else shining torches or getting in the way. That'll do nicely.

It was still quite cloudy when I set camera one up, although what was left of the clouds appeared to be moving east, leaving clear skies ahead. Within minutes a purple haze could be seen in the distance, towards Skiddaw and Lake Bassenthwaite. Then purple spikes appeared. Some nice structure, albeit very brief. They moved from left to right, disappearing behind Skiddaw. I was running a time lapse sequence, so I was rather chuffed to have caught the movement on camera. It was a great start to the night. As camera one pulled in the shots I set camera two away, pulling in continuous shots, which I would use for a star trail. Derwentwater was so still and there was no breeze at all. This was an idyllic spot, even at night, with only owls for company. 

I was shortly after midnight by this time and we were both getting hungry. I left Chris at Lodore and headed into Keswick in search of takeaway food. I parked up and headed across the road to a pizza shop, but the guy inside said he was closing for the night, which was great. Starving and craving a kebab when the bloke waves his hand and shakes his head. Cheers mate, I get the message. I had a quick drive around but nowhere else was open, so I headed back to Lodore empty handed. I'm driving along the lakeside, it's obviously pitch black at half past midnight. I've seen it all now - a young girl, probably late teens, walking along the road with headphones in and a small torch in her hand. I was amazed. I mean WTF. She was nowhere near houses or any real safe haven. Instinct told me to check that she was ok, so I slowed down and her if everything was ok. She looked across, said 'Yeah' in a very confident tone, then looked away and continued walking in pitch dark. I said 'Ok then' and drove on. Very odd!

Got back to Lodore Jetty and grabbed what was left of my goody bag - two bags of crisps and a few biscuits. Hardly a kebab, but what can ya do, eh. We spent three more hours waiting for another glimpse of the aurora, but we'd seen the best of it by this point. Before heading home I ran off a quick panoramic sequence of shots, 5 in total, panning from left to right above Lodore Jetty, where the milky way was ideally placed and arching across the night sky. It looked amazing. A fox screeched on the fells, echoing across the lake. This night photography is so addictive, with nature adding those final little touching, as well as Mother Nature chipping in with some aurora too. It certainly was a birthday to remember and a very productive one at that.

Cheers, Ash (one year older) 

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Ludworth Tower - After Midnight

And it's more Astrophotography on a freezing cold, blustery night in County Durham. I finished work at 11.20pm and drove to Spider Towers to pick my brother up. We were heading over to Ludworth Tower - a fifteen minute drive from Gilley Law, Sunderland. The plan - to photograph Ludworth Tower under the stars. Aye it was well chilly, but we were well layered and prepared for a couple of hours out in the sticks. The beauty about this location, especially in sub zero temperature, is the privilege of sitting in the car as the camera works its magic. I dropped anchor at the kissing gate, where access to the tower is at hand. From there it's literally a 10 second walk to the tower. Once in position we set up our camera's and walked back to the car. We sat there for an hour or so, listening to the radio and keeping out of the cold. There's not too many locations where you're afforded that basic luxury when photographing the stars, but this was definitely one of them.

Ludworth is a pit village in County Durham, England situated between Durham and Peterlee. It consists of just over 350 houses in three main housing estates (Barnard Avenue, Moor Crescent and Springfield Meadows) and a few smaller streets. Ludworth has one post office, a school, a community centre and a printers. The village used to have two churches and a fish shop, most of which were destroyed in a fire. The public house of Ludworth has been closed for some years.
Ludworth Tower was originally a medieval manor house, founded by the de Ludworth family. In 1422, Thomas Holden added a rectangular pele tower, when he was granted licence to crenellate his manorial complex, by Cardinal Langley. The only surviving remains are the barrel-vaulted basement, the three storey west wall and fragments of a first floor spiral stair in the south wall. The remains can be seen located on the left as you are coming into the village from Shadforth.

As well as running off a start trail sequence I finished off with a single exposure of my brother Chris, standing on the ancient arch next to the tower. Here is both shots from that night ...

Cheers, AC

Friday, 3 February 2017

A Nice Surprise!

Hello again,

Occasionally I send the odd photo to Tyne-Tees Television, in the hope they will show it on the daily weather bulletins. Over the last few years I've had quite a bit of success in this area and I continue to have my work shown on TV today. If you CLICK HERE you will find my archive weather photo collection, which features video clips of my photographs that have been shown on TV.

Yesterday I received an email from Ross Hutchinson, one of the weather presenters on Tyne-Tees Television. He told me he had been contacted by someone who had seen one of my photographs on his weather bulletin and they wanted a copy of it. An elderly couple, currently living in Yorkshire, they had gone to the trouble of hand writing a letter to him as they don't use email, before visiting the post office to send the letter on its way. I was quite touched by this and arranged for a print to be forwarded to them, free of charge, with the help of Ross. Great stuff and nice to see my work being appreciated, even if it sometimes flashes up on the TV for a couple of seconds.

Here is the actual correspondence, including the hand written letter ...

Cheers, Ash

Hello Ashley,

Odd question but I've had a lovely letter from an elderly couple in Yorkshire, attached- they liked this photo so much they wanted a copy!
Their request is for your address or phone number so they can try and organise this (they don't have email for a digital copy). 

I know it's a bit weird but shows how well liked your pics are! If you are happy to give them a copy but would rather not give out your details I'm sure I can arrange for us to get one printed (with your permission)

Completely up to you - but thought I would pass on the kind words/request.

Thanks for all the pictures!


Thursday, 2 February 2017

Let's Have Some Aerial Video

For all fans of aerial video, I've got a few of my own creations to share with you all. It was only a few months ago when I bought my drone - a DJI Phantom 3 Advanced, so I still feel very much a rookie, despite the fact I've got a few flights under my belt since August 2016. My interests in this area lie in the landscape of North-East England, the patch where I practise my still photography from week to week. Check out my youtube channel, where you'll find the story so far.

I've got plenty more footage to get through, so stay tuned for news of that, coming soon to my blog page. In the meantime, here is the link to my youtube channel. Play the video's in HD, with sound. Enjoy ...


Monday, 16 January 2017

FAST CAR - Night Time Drive Lapse Video

Hello again,

A quick one tonight. I was messing about with my awesome little GoPro camera a few days ago and came up with a short time lapse video of my journey to and from work in my trusty Vauxhall Insignia. I propped up my tripod between the front headrests and sat the Hero 5 Black on the tripod plate to ready itself for action. The 30 minute round trip was recorded in 1080p, capturing a photograph every 2 seconds - an approximate total of 800. The time lapse video was assembled in camera, which was great as it meant I had no post processing to do. All I had to do was import the 2 video's and add some opening titles, end credits and a soundtrack. Very impressed with the final result. I think I'm going to have lots of fun with this little camera. Stay tuned for more video's in high definition and maybe the odd 4k production thrown in for good measure.

Cheers!   Ash

Click here to see FAST CAR - Night Time Drive Lapse, via YouTube

Friday, 13 January 2017

Tidal Surge Hits Seaham Harbour Once Again

Hello again folks.

Almost a year has passed since my memorable visit to Seaham Harbour, County Durham, on a day when its pier was on the end of a rather nasty hammering by Mother Nature. The huge waves on that day were among the biggest and best I've ever seen, and it was great to have the camera over my shoulder, primed and ready for action. I remember the event as if it was yesterday. The kids running around on the windswept sands. The dog walker stopping in his tracks to watch the drama unfolding, much to the disapproval of his poor hound. The two canoeists, taking their life in their hands and battling against the incoming tide to manoeuvre forwards, between the harbour walls. Madness, to say the least. For the photographer it was one of those 'Box Office' events, as every minute that passed offered many photo opportunities. Capturing the moment unveiled itself many times over, so I couldn't go wrong, to be honest.

Fast forward 12 months and I'm having another crack at it, but this time the pier car park was locked and access was a definite no-go. Safety first - no argument there. I opted for a vantage point on a grassy outcrop, in full view of the Seaham Pier - a first for me, so I looked forward to grabbing a few shots from this angle. Around a dozen other photographers were in position around me within 15 minutes or so, some relying on tripods and others running handheld. I ran with both options, just for good measure. Wave after wave crashed in, all at different heights. You couldn't go wrong. I had an hour to kill, so I was confident of landing some keepers. It comes at a price though - the biting cold was nibbling away at my fingers, my feet, my face, and basically everything else, he he. Been there before though. Grin and bare it, I told myself. Suck that lemon and get on with it.

I had the company of Elliot Gowland, a fellow Nissan line rat and rookie photographer. I was passing on a few tips and he was pulling in some great shots as we went. His Mrs with us for a short while, before retreating to a warm car. One out of three of us has a brain!

Yes, it was a nice way to wake myself up after a week of working the night shift and feeling out of sorts. That North Sea air is one of the biggest wake up calls going. Here's a handful of shots from this afternoon's outing. No doubt I'll be doing it all again very soon, weather permitting.

Stay tuned - more blogging to follow. Take care,



Sunday, 8 January 2017

Twitching On Death Rocks, Northumberland

Hello again,

Welcome to another blog entry form the Roaming Mackem Photographer.

Today I'm gonna cover another outing with my camera - a recent visit to Dunstanburgh Castle, on a stunning stretch of coatline in Northumberland. The location is just over an hours drive from my home in Houghton le Spring, so that would give me time to wake up properly after a 5.15am alarm call after a night on the lager. I didn't have much of a hangover, to be honest, and nowt that a McDonald's breakfast wouldn't fettle. So a wash and a quick cup of coffee was in order, before hoying my gear into the car and heading out. The camera bag was organised and ready the night before, and all batteries fully charged. Nowt left to do but pick my brother up and head north out of God's Country. It was 6.15am and we were on the A1(M) - a straight road to our turn off, one hour up the road.

On arrival we dropped anchor near Dunstanburgh Steads, a small holding with surrounding houses, just south of Embleton. A dirt track reaches a dead end near a golf course, so we dropped anchor and I changed into wellies for the assault across Death Rocks and the outgoing tide. Another car pulled in next to us. A guy got out and we greeted each other with the obligatory 'Good Morning' salute. He saw me with my wellies on and asked if it was muddy where we were heading. I told him it was going to be very wet, hence the footwear, and he just laughed. I asked him if he was here to take photographs, which he was. I then asked if travelled far. He replied 'I'm from MANSFIELD' !!!   'Bloody hell' I replied ... 'You're keen aren't ya'. He then said he hadn't travelled from there, he was staying nearby for a few days. Oh well, that makes more sense, ha ha.

So, we headed off near sand dunes towards Death Rocks, laden with camera gear, tripods, drone, etc. Oh aye, the drone was along for the ride too. No show without Punch. We walked along the edge of the golf course towards the castle, which was far easier than negotiating the heavy sand dunes with all that weight on our backs. It was from here that I took a first good look at the dawn sky backdrop of the castle. After all, this is where my camera is going to be pointing towards, and also being the purpose of this morning's trip north. Plan A, to photograph the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle @ Sunrise. Plans are never that straightforward though, are they? We can but try. But this particular plan involved a scramble across a rather tricky boulder field, known as DEATH ROCKS! Without further ado ...

After a ten minute walk across the golf course we headed down towards the sea, which was rolling in quite aggressively. Quite big waves were crashing in, which was a reminder that what was about to unfold was going to be no walk in the walk. This brings me nicely on to the title of this blog entry. Twitching, eh. Oh, he's gone out to look at sea birds through his binoculars, you said. Gulls, cormorants and Shags, you said. Ticking them off on a nerdy tick list with his little pencil, you said. Oh no, not in the slightest. You see folks, when I say 'Twitching' I refer to the actions of my arse. Yes, ya know when you're shitting bricks and sweating profusely at your actions? Well, that's what I'm talking about. This was nee chilled out stroll along the beach, whistling merrily with a smile on my face. It was more akin to walking across slippery rocks like Bambi on ice. Oh yes, I wish I could see myself. Is that really me? In my defence I hasted to add, these rocks aint called DEATH ROCKS for nowt. No doubt I was following in the footsteps of many a tog. I remember a fellow tog called Terry Cavner (from Blyth) being airlifted off the rocks by a rescue chopper, when he fell and broke a leg. Hopefully I wasn't about to do a 'Terry' me'sel!

I was in position on the rocks around 30 minutes before sunrise. As the tide retreated I found myself moving further out with it, as I wanted to catch some water movement when the sun finally showed up. A couple of other togs joined us, pitching nearby and both waiting for some nice colour in the sky. Just then a freak wave crashed in and around us, spilling over my welly tops and giving my feet a nice north sea welcome. The tripod stayed upright ... just! One of the blokes lost his tripod bag. I noticed it floating away with the receding tide. Unlucky eh. I was lucky myself. My camera bag was sat on a nearby rock when that wave came in. I managed to lift it up at the last second to avoid the wave. Now, that would have been messy ... and expensive! Get the bloody bag on your back, I told myself. Can't be dealing with another wave like that. Oh yes, me arse was twitching again. Bloody mad. The things ya do for a decent shot. Well that put paid to me pushing the envelope. I wasn't gonna move out with the tide, I was staying put - water movement or not. Guess I'll just settle for some rocky foreground and hope for some colour in the sky.

A few minutes later a hint of red showed up amongst the clouds behind the castle. That'll do nicely. A few minutes later there were nice red ripples spreading out, offering a great backdrop. Time to start shooting that scene in front of me. I was cold and very wet from the waist down, but what the hell, eh. Par for the course, I told myself, in a consoling way. In a flash the colourful sky had diminished and the sun was up behind Dunstanburgh Castle. By this time I had my shot in the bag, so it was another job done - time to get off those ghastly rocks. Bye bye, see you again soon ...NOT!

The wind had picked up quite a lot, so I decided not to send the done up. Maybe next time. All that was left to do was head back to the car and get those feet warmed up. Heaters on full pelt, off in a flash and back onto the A1(M). Not for lang though, as we stopped off at McDonalds near Alnwick, to refuel, so to speak. Hey that coffee and breakfast wrap was summat else. You better believe it. I felt like laughing when I was drinking that liquid life saving lotion that is hot coffee. Odd behaviour, granted, but when in a state of semi-hysteria, this is what happens to me LOL. Much needed, especially after freezing me balls off on a cold December morning by the north sea. I hope you like the photographic fruits of my labour. I think it was worth it. The sky could have been a lot worse, unlike those rocks and waves, but all part of the fun. A couple of weeks on and I'm glad to report that my arse has finally stopped twitching. It was an experience, to put it mildly. All in a days work of the Roaming Mackem Photographer. Until the next time folks ...

Be good, AC

(thanks to Chris Corr for 3 photo's of me, when the tide had backed off)