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Welly Improvements
14th October 2013
A slightly left field entry for a photography blog, but I thought I'd share a new piece of field kit which seems to have made life easier.

I always wear wellies or waders (usually waders) for many secanerios including sandy beaches, wet woodlands and river wading - excellent for keeping sand at bay and getting to those trickey to reach watery locations. The only problem is that water tends to lead to mud and slippery rocks and the lack of grip on wellies has always been a problem. Somewhat dangerous, which is just what you dont need making your way over a slippery rocky foreshore late at night.

So I thought I'd see if I could improve matters and have bought some ice crampons - - so far they have preformed very well in mud and river beds. Feels a lot more secure underfoot.

I'll keep using them and see how they go.
Location Guide - Stanage Edge Area
12th October 2013
There are many popular location for photography in the Peak District but, with my newly discovered Google Map function, I'd thought that it might be a useful if I shared a small guide to some of the easier to access Dark Peak locations which are the favourites of many photographers.

Generally, I think the locations of Stanage Edge, Higger Tor, Over Owler Tor are popular both because of their great views and typical Dark Peak gritstone edge features but also because they are easily accessible from some good parking locations. I've shown both on the map below.

Stanage Edge
Free parking is available in ample lay-bys and a relatively short stroll brings the intrepid photographer to the Edge. Stanage is the largest of the gritstone edges that overlooks Hathersage and is also popular with walkers and rock climbers. I've seen many rock face being tackled and this can make a pleasant photographic subject on warm summer evening. Stanage is also known for its population of abandoned millstones, which again, although a popular subject can make a great photographic composition.

Higger Tor

Higger Tor was probably the first location I photographed when my passion for pictures started to take hold. Again, like Stanage Edge its very easy to access and has good views of the Hathersage Valley. Hope Valley Cement Works can be seen in the distance and the distant layering of the Edale Peaks make nice photographic compositions. I tend to like Higger Tor for sunset shots. Due to its popularity you'll definitely come across more than one fellow photographer adding to your composition. Sunrise is also popular, with the sun rising over Burbage Rocks.

Carhead Rocks
Carhead Rocks never seem to be as busy as Stanage Edge and for Higger Tor, and for that reason I quite like visiting this location. I like the feeling of having the place to myself and being able to enjoy the peace and quiet. The boulder known as the Knuckle Rock makes for a nice sunset composition - well worth a trip.

Over Owler Tor and Millstone Edge
Finally for this section, Over Owler Tor and Millstone Edge. Parking is down at Surprise View car park but this time there is a charge for daytime parking. The parking meter doesn't take coins nowadays so don't forget your debit card. The early riser for those dawn photos enjoys free parking before 10am and, in the summer, you can take advantage of the parking charges finishing at 6pm as well. The walk up to Over Owler Tor is a reasonable uphill step so allow some time to reach there when you are planning your visit.
I prefer to visit Over Owler Tor at dawn and Millstone Edge at sunset.

Slovenia in Autumn - Now with Map!
02nd October 2013
Now its October I'm looking forward to a short break to Slovenia on a Guy Edwardes Workshop to shoot the autumn colours. Lakes, villages and mountains should be on the agenda.

I haven't been to Slovenia before so I thought research was needed -

"Slovenia lies in the heart of Europe, where the Alps meet the Mediterranean and the Pannonian Plain meets the Karst. This small green country measures 20,273 km2 in area, and is home to sincere, hospitable people of great diligence. It has an exceptional number of top athletes, and a wealth of cultural creativity. In Slovenia it is not difficult to compare the value of goods and services, as they are priced in one of the world’s major currencies, the euro."

So, lets check.

1. I like green. Its my favourite colour for grass etc so that's a good start.
2. The people are diligent - that's good, getting served in the bar should be easy
3. It has a number of top athletes. I should blend right in.
4. Cultural and Creative. I watch BBC2 and once made an excuse for late homework, described by my teacher as 'creative'. Again, a perfect fit.
5. The Euro - I've definitely heard of it.

So, all in all, it sounds like my ideal break.

I'm hoping the weather is on my side but of course there's no guarantees.

View Larger Map
Return from the Sutherland Coast
18th September 2013
Well I'm back from a workshop in the far north, Sutherland in fact on the North West Scottish coastline.

The company was Aspect2i and the leader for the week was Paul Gallagher who was a great guide and photographer. Always free with his tips and advice it was a very agreeable break away from work.

We were based in Kinlochbervie, a thriving metropolis of more than about 120,000 homes. Oh no, hang on - sorry, about 12 homes (got the decimal point wrong). The peace and quiet was very refreshing and it was a good base from which to explore the area.

Sticking mainly to the coastline, locations included Oldshoremore, Durness, Droman Bay, Scourie and Pollin Bay. I can honestly say that these were some of the most pristine beaches and clear seas I have come across and I'm sure there are many more similar spots along this wonderful coastline.

The weather was as varied as you might imagine with our fair share of rain, drizzle interspersed with the occasional clear spell. My preferences for photographic conditions still remains with the appearances made by Sun but dull conditions did make good conditions for coastal long exposures. There are no bright spots in the breaking white peaks of the waves to burn out which is definitely a benefit.

I'm still not by inclination a black and white photographer but I can see the potential and its something that I can work on.

As usual, there were casualties. We mark the passing of:
Hoya Pro 1 Circular Polariser (2011-2013) - sadly missed
77mm lens cap (2012-2013) - died from injuries received trying to protect Hoya Pro 1

We pay homage to the following who still feel the effects of their time in action:
Canon 24-105mm lens - recovering from wounds
Gitzo 3542 tripod - bravely soldiering on despite suffering damage to leg joints

My wish list (as always) has grown and having experimented with a 24mm Tilt/Shift lens I can see the benefit of this for landscape photography.

I will post shots as and when so keep checking back in the latest work. So cheers and I'll have another pint of Heavy.

Summer Heather
24th August 2013
I've been conscious that the Peak District heather is looking very nice as it reaches full bloom and that I ought to try and capture it when I can at the moment.

The combination of late working and mother nature giving us rain and clouds (it is a British summer after all) has meant there haven't been to many chances to venture out. Of course, its a Bank Holiday weekend as well, so that more or less guarantees a wash out but I'll hopefully have a few trips out still to come.

I'll be posting shots in Latest Work
North to Sutherland
09th August 2013
I've decided a trip and a break from work is in order so I've booked on a trip to Sutherland. This is north of Inverness and it looks like wild landscapes and coastlines.

Lets hope the weather is kind and the views are great.

After considering the itinerary I've decided to catch the train to Inverness which starts off as exactly the same train I catch to Leeds in the morning. I was hoping to avoid work but at least I'll be 'holiday' Steve and not 'commuter' Steve. It’s a late finish at the end of the week so I’ve plumped for an extra night in Inverness. A hotel and some whiskey to round off the week will be nice.
A Very Dirty Story
06th August 2013 the shopkeeper replies "Ping-pong balls? I thought you said 'King Kong's balls!'"

Anyway, not that kind of story.

Looks like my attempts at blowing out (so to speak) the inside of my camera have resulted in an absolute field of dust and grime ending up on the sensor. Maybe it's the mirror lubricant (what going on here!) that's got sprayed around.

I hope it comes across on the picture below.

Looks like I'm going to have to invest in some sensor swaps and have a go at sensor cleaning. Until then, I'm pretty stuck as there is no way I can clone out that amount of spots. Wish me luck.

Update: I bought Sensor Swab and Eclipse Fluid which was a tad expensive for 12 cleaning swabs. They're a bit like small paddles. After using 5 of them I was pretty happy with the result so I can confirm that the DIY route worked OK for me.
ICE Local Cover Photo
30th July 2013
The local branch of the Institution of Civil Engineers used my photo of the Humber Bridge for the cover of the July Edition of Yorkshire and Humber ICE Local newsletter (I'm a Highways Engineer by day, daredevil crime fighter by night).
Gitzo Grumble - Updated (Again!)
16th July 2013
Up until recently I've been pleased with my Gitzo tripod but I have to say I'm somewhat disgruntled now.

I've had the legs about 18 months - but in the last three weeks, 2 of the metal castings where the carbon fibre leg section meets with the tripod head have cracked. I'm not exactly using the legs as a hammer or anything so this is a major annoyance given the price of the legs in the first place.

So at a cost of £130 I have replaced one leg section (not the whole leg - this is the most expensive section but there are 4 sections to a leg!). Given it's likely that the third leg will also break thats a total of £390 in repairs.

I'm really going to have to look at options for tripods and I'm not sure Gitzo will be at the top of my list anymore.

Buy a good tripod they say - it'll last longer than any camera upgrades. Not with Gitzo it appears.

Update: After pondering the options I've decided that there isnt really an alternative tripod I'm happy with. Really Right Stuff are recommended but even more expensive.
I plumped for an updated model, the 3542XLS. Interesting, Gltzo seemed to have beefed up the magnesium collars where the legs join the head, which was the part that broke (twice) on my old tripod.

I should get round to sending my old tripod back to Gitzo for them to look at.

Update 2: 19/9/13

Having had my new 3542XLS for 4 weeks, I finally had a requirement in Scotland to extend the last lower leg section, only to find the quick release twist lock was completely 'welded' tight. No amount of cursing and turning would see the thing budge at all. I can only summerise that the joint has been overtightended at the factory. Very frustrating. Back to the shop for me.

Update 23/9/13

Harrisons Cameras in Sheffield were very good in replacing the leg for me so thank you for that guys.

Update 30/9/10

Another trip out to the coast and shooting on a sandy beach which has been fine before with my old Gitzo tripod. Guess what, the leg almost refused to open afterwards for a second time. I think there is a design flaw that makes the leg joint really suseptable to sand grains getting stuck in the threads - maybe the tolerances are too fine. I would advise therefore opening the bottom leg and making sure that the joint is kept well clear of the sand - dont shove the joint down into the sand. Wash the sand off straight away.
Struggling With Summer
08th July 2013
If I have a favourite time of year for photography then I think Summer is low down on my list. Ok, to be honest it's at the bottom of my list. Sorry Summer.

I think that there are several factors in my lowly ranking of summer photography. I guess these include the very early sunrise times, the dry conditions giving rise to fewer clouds and mists plus the uniformity of the green landscapes.

In my top four of seasons I would say the first place goes to Autumn, then Winter, Spring and Summer.

At the moment we have a mini heatwave and I seem to have turned into Homer Simpson with his habit of sitting on the sofa in his underpants with the fridge door open to cool down. Which is also not a great sight for photography.
Bank Holiday Weekend in The Lakes
27th May 2013
A had a last minute weekend trip to the Lake District which I didn't necessarily appreciate coincided with the kids being off on holiday as well.

An interesting weekend and here are my top thoughts.

1. Don't get a hotel room with the fire door and fire escape route right through the middle of your room (thank you Queens Hotel, Keswick). This makes for very a interesting experience at 2am when the fire alarm goes off.

2. The morning sun lights up the trees at Buttermere at 7am this time of year - don't arrive at 4.45am.

3. Don't ever, ever drive up and down Hardknott pass. Worst 'road' ever. Bank holiday traffic makes it twice the fun*

*I believe this road was actually formed by the Devil himself farting a thin strip of tarmac from his rear end and declaring 'There Mortals! I have created a road which I condemn you to use - behold my Wrath and suffer my Hell on Earth!'

4. Don't expect to park anywhere in the Lakes on Bank Holiday weekend. Except maybe in the Lake.

5. Don't expect the God of Sunrises to appear just because you took the trouble to get up early. This Gods activities are spectacular but sadly, a rare thing. Like a Sheffield United home win.

Post Blog Update: The Fire Brigade inspected the Queens Hotel and advised them it was inappropriate to combine the fire escape with a bedroom (you don't say) and the room is no longer in use.
New Look
25th May 2013
My favourite web site, Flickr, has undergone a revamp which I'm not sure about.

However, one of the feedback comments was that the black backgrounds which they introduced weren't easy on the eye for some people.

I guess you don't see many art galleries with black walls so I've had a think and changed my page colours.

I'll see how it feels - if anyone's got any thoughts, please drop me a line Contact
Trip to Brighton. Not that one.
19th May 2013
A had some time after work and the local weather forecast wasn't great so I headed off to New Brighton on the Wirral, Merseyside to have a look again at Perch Rock lighthouse. The tide tables said it would be low tide which reveals some rock and sand formations which can be used as foreground interest.

When I arrived there wasn't a cloud in the sky and the haze meant the sky wasn't even a deep blue colour. Thanks to my lack of interest in all things TV related these days (I'm a Celebrity Cooking on Ice - no thanks) I decided to hang around to see if anything developed.

Glad I did because the setting sun lit up the sky and I had a mad dash along the beach as the colours changed from blues, to oranges, to reds/lilac and finally deep blue after dark.

Located in Photographs of the Coast
Same Place - Different Times
28th April 2013
I thought it might be interesting to show the affect of time after sunset on lighting, colours, exposure etc. Sunset here was around 2015hrs and I love taking shots round this time. There is a lot of natural colours (the so called 'blue hour') and a lot of scope for creativity with the long exposures. The challenge is not over exposing the brighter lights against the darker backgrounds.

Top Left: 2005hrs (10 minutes before sunset)
Top Right: 2050hrs
Bottom Left: 2105hrs
Bottom Right: 2115hrs (one hour after sunset).

New Panoramic Head
08th April 2013
I've ordered a new panoramic head to add to my kit bag.

Its a Benro PCO Panoramic Head from who provide a good range of camera equipment.

I'm hoping the head will prove less time consuming to set up as I won't have to laboriously level the tripod itself using the legs, which can prove hard work on steep slopes. There should also be less 'distortion' of the overlapping set of images which get stitched together in post processing, so hopefully I'll capture all of the scene and not cut off any of the important foreground elements.

We'll see how it performs when it arrives and I get a chance to field test it.
Updated: Changed 'About' Photograph
10th March 2013
I've swopped by About page photograph for one my Dad took a few weeks ago on Carhead Rocks in the Peak District with his Nikon D3100.

See my About page for larger version

Update: New photo taken in Slovenia October 2013 - many thanks to Keith, who was on the same workshop.

Devon Knows I Need a Holiday
07th March 2013
I'm researching photographic locations at the moment for a week in Devon.

Its the early stages of planning so I've got 'Dartmoor', 'Exmoor' and 'The Coast' on my at the moment.

I can't help but think that I ought to narrow the field down at bit.

Still, the break will be a very welcome one.

Post holiday update - the unseasonable cold snap at the end of March gave me very grey skies for the whole week which meant they were very few photo opportunities :-(
Blue Hour winter blues
10th February 2013
Since a very productive period in early January the winter weather has been very varies and hasn't played its part in landscape photography.

I've been struck that, apart from periods of heavy snow, the weather has been very mild.

I would have expected cold, white, frosty mornings with ice for some great landscape interest but my weekends have been somewhat damp and dull for a few weeks.

To change the subject to shoot the weather, I've been out to photograph after sunset, when the dullness and clouds of the day can actually help with the 'blue hour' compositions after dark.

This is the period of twilight just before dawn and after sunset where the light has a very special quality and looks very photogenic.

Timing is important as the is only a relativity small time period where the artificial lighting is balanced by the ambient natural light which brings out all the details in all areas. Leave it to late and the long exposure 'burns' out all the highlights and sky becomes to dark to retain any interesting cloud features and colouring.
Interview in Hope Valley Online
04th February 2013
Esther at Hope Valley Online has been kind enough to feature me for an interview on the Hope Valley web site - link below:

I've added to my links page, please feel free to drop by and check out their page.
First Stock Photo Sales
19th January 2013
I sold my first stock photographs yesterday, which I'm pleased about.

At this rate I shall be able to retire in 375 years. I wonder if we'll have hover cars by then.