Saturday, 31 October 2009

Birds and brightness

A 5.50am alarm call saw me up and checking the world outside.
Deciding it wasn't going to amount to much I went back to bed.... for all of 5 minutes, It's always the same,I dither over going out, it's really too dark to be able to properly tell what the day's going to be like so I'm saying 'I will', 'I won't', 'I will', 'no I won't', but this morning the 'I will's' won and I was soon on my way to Steel Rigg car park on Hadrian's Wall.

I was hoping for a nice coloured sky, we'd had one on Wednesday but I wasn't out then.
At this time of the year the sun rises well to the south of Hadrian's Wall so the crags are in deep shadow, but if you stand to the north of  Sycamore Gap there's a chance of colour behind it.

The sun never rises or sets directly behind the Gap but I was hoping for a bit of overspill.
There was some colour but it was a very gentle sunrise, pretty pastel colours and as I stood there I heard the peregrine calling as the sun rose then huge flocks of fieldfare went flying past.

Early in the morning there's not enough light to give a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the movement of the birds which is a shame for what would sunrise be without a dawn chorus?

As I stood to the north of hadrian's Wall I noticed two people actually up on the Wall footpath.
One was a runner, obviously someone very fit to take on the ups and downs here, the other was a photographer I think, someone brave enough to try and capture the early morning views without a tripod - hope their shots came out okay.

I'm never without my tripod, I can't hand hold a camera steady enough to get nice sharp shots these days.
It was too wet to cross over and climb up onto the Wall path so I headed off back to the car I was planning to stop in at Cawfields on the way home to see if there were any wildfowl on the lake there.
As I made the Cawfields turn a couple of cars pulled out of the Cawfields car park so any ducks that had been there overnight would be long gone now.

I stopped to take a photo of the footpath finger post with milecastle 42 in the background.
Then it was home for my slice of toast and honey, my treat after an early start.
Catch you later.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Autumn leaves

I love the colours of autumn, rich reds and golds. The leaves seem to be colouring and falling so quickly this year so when I heard gale force winds were due on Sunday I knew I had to get some shots quickly.

The weather perked up a bit on Saturday afternoon so I headed off to Talkin Tarn, near Brampton.
Lots of other folk obviously had the same idea and the area around the cafe was full of families.
There's a footpath running right around the Tarn, a flat even walk, sometimes the flatness means it's a bit boring (dare I say that) but on Saturday the colours were lovely and there were ducks, geese and swans on the water to add a bit of interest.
Tom was with me so as soon as the footpath cleared I got him to walk through the woods into the light.

Light was coming and going and despite the oxygenating plant that was installed last year the tarn still had that awful smelly blue green algae, it shows up on photographs and looks awful.

On the far side of the tarn there's a building that was once a hotel. It's been bought by a developer but I think there's some dispute about what he will be allowed to do with it.
As we got to this bit of the path the rains came, there's absolutely nowhere to shelter so I wrapped my camera in a plastic bag and kept walking. Fortunately it didn't last long and as we came out of the trees the sun appeared, I turned back and took a photograph. It wasn't until I got the  photo's downloaded to the computer that I noticed the rainbow over the trees!
As well as the geese there seemed to be three seperate groups of mute swans, they were very territorial fluffing their feathers up and steaming across to interloppers. They are such beautiful birds, wish I'd taken some food along.
Took us about an hour to walk around the water, but that was slow because I was stopping to take photographs, I'd have liked to look for fungi in the woods but the day was coming to an end and it was getting dark so we headed off home.
Thanks for dropping in here, I've given up on my Twitter page I just couldn't work out what I was supposed to do and I never saw comments that other people @'d to me, don't know why they didn't show up on my page.
Catch you later.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Walltown with the sheep

Sunsets on the Wall.

At this time of the year the days are short, sometimes it's overcast all day then an hour before the sun is due to set it clears.

So it was the other night and I grabbed my gear for a trip to Walltown.

I got to the parking area at the foot of Walltown Crags just as everyone else was heading home, still a lot of people enjoying days out here in Northumberland.

I wanted to go up to Mucklebank Crag so I walked along the farm track that passes Walltown Farm.
The collies didn't run out to greet me as they normally do so they must have been out working with William the farmer.

Just past the farm I turn left up the watery track and over the stile.

I paused for a moment to enjoy the view to King Arthur's Well, the two trees on top are colouring up nicely and a few wispy clouds in the background had me clicking the shutter button.

Fungi are beginning to show, we get lots of brightly coloured waxcaps on Hadrian's Wall and I tried to take photo's on a particularly nice orange specimen using my 17-55mm lens. Couldn't quite get the focus but it made a nice record shot and I'll go out again with a macro lens when we get a good day.

Onward and upward, the stone path that climbs Mucklebank is brilliant, I used to dread the slipping and sliding on my bottom that seemed to accompany every trip up or down before the path went in.

The sun at the moment is directly in line with Hadrians Wall at Walltown and the cloud had disappeared meaning every photograph I took was filled with those little flare circles.

I decided to wait until the sun got further down and a little less bright and wandered away to the other side of Mucklebank Crag.

The views here are lovely, to the east you look towards Cawfield Crags and to the south across the North Pennines ( as shown in the picture with the sheep). One day I'm going up there with a flask of coffee to just sit and enjoy the views, a great way to lift the spirits I imagine.There are always sheep on this crag and I wanted to get a shot with them in the foreground. They played 'lets show the photographer our bottoms' and eventually we both gave up and I wandered back to the setting sun.

Not the blazing sunset I'd have liked but hey, it was just nice to get out in the fresh air and clamber about where not only Roman soldiers walked before, but King Arthur and his knights gathered.

We have sunshine at the moment but metcheck is showing horrible weather for the next week, let's hope they've got it wrong.

Catch you later.


Monday, 12 October 2009

Sometimes you just have to be there

Had a busy day and time slipped by without me getting a breath of fresh air. At about 5.30pm I glanced out of the window and saw a lovely sky with mackeral clouds, the sort that colour up beautifully at sunset.

The sun sets at about 6.30pm at this time of the year, so I'd left things a bit late for anywhere that involved climbing.

I checked the flagpole ( flying the Northumbrian flag of course) in my back garden and saw there was no wind, great for reflections if it stays that way, so I was off to Crag Lough.

Driving along the Military Road I can see that I'm leaving those wonderful clouds to the south but you just never know with weather and I reckoned it was still worth a punt.

Arrived at Crag Lough at the same time as another photographer, he'd seen the same cloud formation that I had. But that wasn't what we were looking at now, the Lough was lovely and still though and the reflections were nice, so it was worth hanging around.

We were rewarded patches of colour appeared and were reflected in the waters, the boats had nice highlights. Then just when you thought this show of light had peaked another wave of colour appeared - shutters were firing twenty to the dozen.

A couple of walkers passed by on the Hadrians Wall Path, although by now it was getting dark they still had a way to go. I wouldn't like to be scrambling over the trail in the dark, and I do hope they got to their destination for the night safely.
It's the Haltwhistle Walking Festival this week so we have lots of walkers around.

I was reluctant to leave the Lough but finally it got so dark that it became impossible for the camera, to focus so I finally gave up and headed back home.

I'd been out less than 2 hours yet I felt so uplifted by the light display, wish you could have been there.

Catch you later.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Fresh air and exercise

Wednesday started clear and fresh.

I was on my way to Cuddys Crag, hoping some mist would rise but in all honesty just happy to be out on a lovely morning.

The air here is top quality, you only have to look at the mosses and lichens growing on Hadrians Wall to know what's going into your lungs is probably amongst the best in the UK.

This thought comforts me as I puff and pant my way uphill, some mornings it's okay, but others I really struggle, don't know why.

Eventually I reach to Rapishaw Gap and cross the ladder stile. At this time of the year these stiles are slippery beggars, the wood is usually wet, so you have to take care going over them.

I got upto the point on Cuddys Crag that looks towards Housesteads, and waited. It does feel like cheating somehow to be standing there at 7.15am waiting for a sunrise, not so long ago it was 4.15am, soon the clocks will be changing and I'll be able to head out after breakfast.

The sky was clear and while it was cold, there wasn't any frost.

Then the sun rose, just a big yellow ball slightly to the right of the Wall now, no clouds to diffuse it and no mist either. On Wednesday morning there didn't seem to be many birds about so even the dawn chorus wasn't much of a twitter - the cockeral was 10 minutes late with his crow, he must have had a lie-in.
Cows made the most noise and I could hear the occasional car on the Military Road, as people headed off to work. Thought again how lucky I am to be retired and able to take advantage of these good mornings, I really do appreciate it.

I stood for a while just enjoying being out there, until eventually the sun rose enough for the light to catch the Wall stones, and put a bit of life into the view, it's amazing how much difference it does make to a scene.
I was back home by 8.15 and blow me, Longbyre was shrouded in mist and Gilsland was white with frost, I suppose all that upping and downing of the land makes for little pockets of microclimate. Pity I can't move it around to where I need it to be.

I was speaking to one of the Rangers the other day and he thought I should look for 'different' angles on the Wall, something that hasn't been done before. History is against me on that one, there have been so many Hadrians Wall photographers before me, that every concievable angle has been covered. Not sure that people really want arty photographs of a historic monument anyway.
My excuse is that I rely on Mother Nature to add that unique factor for me.
Nature has the X factor

Have a good weekend, catch you later,


Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Picnics under the tree

Another sunny Sunday and people (including me) were out making the most of it. There's a magazine competition for a cloud picture and I thought the Sycamore Tree would make a good foreground. Clouds were pretty and the sun was shining, all the right ingredients.

I parked up at Steel Rigg and headed along the middle path (there are three) to Sycamore Gap.

The clouds were building nicely and I was thinking I had the shot in the bag. Well don't count your chickens should have passed through my mind as a family of six came into view. I'd seen the little boy carrying a picnic blanket when I was getting my things out of the car and sure enough they settled down under the Sycamore Tree.

I had actually said on one of my website photographs that it was a nice spot for a picnic but I had in mind a nice hot August day not a chilly October afternoon.
They did seem to be enjoying themselves and with the wonders of digital I knew I could clone them out afterwards.

Lots of groups of folk walking, I'm guessing some groups of Ramblers as they seemed well prepared and organised with the 'correct' sort of gear.

I headed up towards Castle Gap, I love the view from the start of Peel Crag, over Castle Gap towards Highshields Crag, the clouds in that scene were quite different.

The photograph does show that it was a really nice day and it might be a contender for next years October page of the calendar. I like to use at least one or two shots taken during the day even though it's rare I'm out then with the camera.
No autumn colours yet, I thought the sycamore leaves might have had a tinge of yellow but no, the bracken is starting to turn colour and we had our first frost this morning so it won't be long.
Got back to the car park, plenty of spaces but people were parking on the grass verges rather than pay. I've noticed this alot in the last month. The NNPA have a one price policy, it's £3 and it does put people off. If the price was staggered they'd probably end up with more than £3 for an all day stay and someone just popping in for an hour would happily pay £1. Perhaps a rethink is needed.
Catch you later.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Could that be sunshine

October arrives in a blaze of sunshine. I'd looked at the long range forecast and the sunshine was going to be a one day wonder so off I went.
The morning had been foggy, if I'd had transport I would have been out for sunrise - seems funny calling 7.15am sunrise but that's when it rises at this time of the year.
I was wondering if the sycamore tree in Sycamore Gap was showing any autumnal colour yet and thought with a lovely fluffy sky today might be the day to find out.
I called into Walltown Quarry to drop off some of my calendars for Allison in the shop, and bumped into a couple of the Rangers, then I saw fellow photographer, Barry Turnbull and stopped for a chat so by the time I was ready to go I'd left myself short of time.
(Took a photograph of the crag face and lake at Walltown, the tree in the centre of the picture, on top of the crags is the one featured in the black and white photograph from last weeks blog.)
A change of plan then, I'd go to Cawfields. By now the clouds were building and the crags at Cawfields were dappled in light bands, quite beautiful.
I pulled into the car park, nice reflections of clouds in the water so I took a couple of photographs before heading west up past Burnhead B and B and on towards Great Chesters Farm.

Still lots of walkers around, not so many from overseas now but lots of folk from this country taking an Autumn break, everyone's welcome.

The rowan trees and briar rose are covered in shining red berries ( or hips in the case of the rose) it's a bright colour and I guess once it gets coder the berries will soon be eaten by the birds.

I took the footpath that joins the access track to the farm,(NY707668) I like the view just to the north of the great ditch here.

Sheep were grazing and I stood watching them while waiting for the light to move around.

As usual once I was ready the sun went in behind a cloud, but I had some time and hanging around in our beautiful Hadrian's Wall countryside isn't an onerous task.

Eventually the sun came around and caught the crags at Cawfields.

I moved around, noticing the tups are back in with the ewe's again so the cycle begins once more.

Texel tups have to be the ugliest critters and there's one at Great Chesters farm that's even uglier than usual. I took a photograph but once I got the pictures on the screen here I noticed the poor creature had a real 'snotty' nose and didn't look too well. Didn't want to put you off your dinner.

I noticed a walker up on the crags, I always think having a person, or sheep, in the shot gives it a sense of scale, todays picture has both. When the photograph is large you can see the whole length of Hadrian's Wall, as it climbs up the crags to Winshields, is full of walkers enjoying the fine day. Hope they made the most of it because gale force winds are due tonight!

Catch you later,