The Northern Lights – York, Yorkshire

Light, landscapes are all about light. Ive never photographed under the light of an aurora before and living in Yorkshire wasn’t really holding my breath. However I heard some reports from Scotland that there was a good show this evening so I stood in a field and after my eyes adjusted a little I could make out the faint green glow of what I assumed must be an aurora. To the naked eye it wasn’t really much to write home about but when I pulled out my camera and my 24mm F1.4 and combined that with a 30second exposure the results were really quite special.

Landscape Photography – Highlands & The Isle of Skye, Scotland

Scotland is where I grew my love for landscape. I’ve found nowhere else as enjoyable to photograph than its West Coast. And so with the weather forecast looking promising I took the drive up with just my camera for company and enough pants for 4 days.

 

I drove up to Edinburgh on the Wednesday evening, stayed with my folks and headed off up to Rannoch Moor for sunrise on the Thursday. I wasn’t particularly bothered about being there for sunrise itself so didn’t really leave early enough as I arrived to Lochan N’ah Achlaise around the time the sky was lighting up. My plan was to climb up Bienn a’ Chrùlaiste for some early morning sunlight but I made a quick stop of at Lochan N’ah Achlaise as the colours were too good to miss.
Lochan N'ah Achlaise, Rannoch Moor
50mm | F16 | 1.3s

I then popped on my hiking boots and began my 5 hour climb for this panorama from Bienn a’ Chrùlaiste showing most notably Buachaille Etive Mor and the three sisters of Glencoe.

I’d recce’d Stob Bienn a’ Chrùlaiste a few winters back and discovered I needed the light to be pre 10am from that spot which is at the North side of Bienn a’ Chrùlaiste. I initially headed up the side of the mountain halfway between the main peak and it’s Stob but once there decided I needed more height and kept climbing. This image is made about 20 metres shy of the main summit.

3x shots @ 29mm | F9 | 1/160s

Continuing my drive up to Skye and if you’ve been to the Isle of Skye you’ll know that in almost all cases you have to drive past Eilean Donan Castle. You’ll also know that unless you are a local it’s a criminal offence to drive past it without getting out the camera (okay that might well be a lie, but not many people would be arrested even if that was the case).

Anyhoo, I couldn’t resist stopping myself especially as the night was approaching, and I knew the dusky shot I was after wouldn’t require too long a wait.

50mm | 10s | F6.3 | CPL + 0.6 hard + 0.3 hard

Check into my B&B, get some sleep and then out the door to Sligachan for sunrise. I was rather aching from my hike the previous day so didn’t fancy anything to strenuous which is why I chose here. This is the only light all day as about 20 minutes after the sun rose it started raining and didn’t stop all day with thick grey cloud.

24mm | 0.5s | F8 | CPL | layer mask merge of 3 bracketed exposures

The sun lighting the Cuillins

24mm + 1.4x | 1.3s | F8 | CPL + 0.6 hard + 0.3 hard

 

 

Old Man of Storr:
Alarm for 0530 (isn’t landscape photography easy in the winter!), bite to eat and out the door of the B&B by 0615. A 30mph crawl on roads of sheet ice to park up at 0630. Pile on the layers, hats, gloves and head torch and head up the path to the old man. On the way up query the torch lights at the top of the hill, the only car in the car park had snow on it so these fools had either camped or been up there a while – and it wasn’t exactly the weather for sauntering around on a mountain. Get to the top around 0730 nod at the three photographers already set up (what’s that about remote?) and scramble up the side of the icy cliff face to get to a position where each of the points of the old man were separated from each other.

Nowhere to put my bag, my legs or my tripod so a sort of crevice straddling tripod setup and my legs as a bag holder I managed to get my camera out and attempt to put some filters on (Lee 0.6 Hard) without them blowing away to Mull. Marvel at how windy and blooming cold it was and wait for some clouds to roll into the top of the frame. Brrr!

Conditions in the sky weren’t ideal, a band of clouds on the horizon and very little overhead. Eventually a few clouds came overhead to sit at the top of the frame but by this time I was struggling to move my hands never mind my fingers and I was concerned my next fumble would send my tripod and camera to its death. So I admitted defeat and scrambled down to a slightly more sheltered spot where the Storr merges into 3 peaks. I couldn’t find a sheltered spot I was happy with the view from, I thought the sun looked like it was likely to break through the clouds but there was now no clouds overhead and I couldn’t face climbing back up to my freezing cold spot from earlier. So I headed back to the car watching the rays of sun beaming out the clouds wishing I’d put on a few more layers.

24mm + 1.4x | 0.6s | F8 | 0.6 hard

Crashing waves from Kilt rock viewpoint. Being a windy day the waves were up more than the previous day. I stopped off at the Kilt Rock viewpoint to check out the light but it wasn’t up to much. Looking down however the foreshore was nicely lit and the waves creating a bit of drama. Reckoning that there isn’t very many opportunities to shoot almost straight down from a cliff without attaching yourself to a rope I made a few exposures.

85mm | 0.4s | F9 | 0.9 ND + CPL

Headed back down to the Glen Brittle where I had a hairy moment on a frozen bend of the road. Made the walk up to the fairy pools for this.

24mm | 1.6s | F9 | CPL + 0.3 hard

Was hoping to catch a good sunset at Neist point as in the winter it sets out at the end of the peninsula. Unfortunately the band of cloud on the horizon had other ideas so I hunkered down as best as I could on the cliff edge and waited for the light level to drop enough to make out the light from the lighthouse. Could have done with waiting another 20 minutes really but I wasn’t too happy with the clouds which were staying on the horizon but about to go from just above there and the wind was rather unpleasant. So I took this and called it a night.

50mm | 15s | F8 | CPL + 0.9 hard

“The Hairy Loch”, Loch Cill Chroisd, Isle of Skye

One thing Skye has a little less of than the rest of the mainland West coast, are Loch’s. And I love a good Loch. Find one on a calm morning and nothing compares, flat as a mirror and often
laced with patches of mist. Magical places indeed. Fortunately for me Skye does still have a number of smaller inland Loch’s and this is where I found myself on Sunday morning with a nine hour drive home in front of me. The light wasn’t to disappoint, with a fresh dusting of snow on the mountain tops and dappled high cloud (I think Altocumulus Stratiformis cloudlets), conditions were looking ripe for some special light.

The sun was due to come up behind my left shoulder meaning a good amount of light already on the mountains Bla Bhienn and Chlach Glas from the bright cloudless horizon. As the sun rose closer to the horizon it began to light up the high level clouds above the mountains contrasting beautifully with their white snow-capped peaks.
This is 2 vertically taken shots @ 50mm merged to give a 4×5 image. Lee 0.6Hard grad over Sky and reversed 0.6Soft over the water.

2@ 50mm | 0.3s | F8 | 0.6 hard + 0.6 soft

 

The light on the mainland was lovely on my way back down on Sunday. I couldn’t resist stopping off at Eilean Donan castle again on my way past.

70mm | 1/20s | F8 | CPL

Lake District Landscape Photography – Part 2

If you missed part 1 it’s here

This begins as the sun goes down on the first full day. We’d spent the day having a wander around the shores and consulting maps to find a spot for sunset and ended up on the South East corner of Derwentwater with view across the lake and up the valley’s at both ends.

The cliffs fell off very sharply at this point, I was ultra careful with all my gear as a nudge in the wrong direction would have sent it on quite a tumble

Looking to the North as the last of the sun’s rays light up the few clouds left

Twilight at Ashness bridge.
I almost always prefer moving water in the soft light of a cloudy day or in pre-dawn/post sunset glow. Combined with a longish exposure (this being 8 seconds) it turns the water into something that we wouldn’t normally see it as through our eyes. Again, the sky is a little too cloudless for my liking but you’ve got to work with what you’ve got.

On a near cloudless, windless evening after the sun has long gone leaving only twilight the hills and the lakes become moody and foreboding. Jet black hills, mirror lake surface yet eerily calm at the same time.

Pre-dawn at the pier. The Lake District is defined by its relationship with the water and these piers enhance the connection between the two. Piers are one of the few man made aspects that I think can really enhance a view.

A black and white version of an image I posted just after I got back. It’s here if you missed it.

Soft Light
As the sun continued to rise burning off the mist on the surface of the lake and lighting the distant hills I searched for a peaceful, minimal composition to show the light off to its best. You don’t get much more minimal than a single rock carefully composed to accentuate the repeating rhythms of the hills.

Lake District Landscape Photography – Part 1

Further to my earlier blog entry here is part one of my weekend in the English Lake District.

My first stop on the way over was at White Scar in the Yorkshire Dales. I had planned to get here as the sun was getting low in the sky but was running a little later than I would have liked. By the time I’d made the twenty-minute or so climb up onto the scar the sun had disappeared below the horizon and the clouds were in the wrong place for any exciting colours. I couldn’t turn round and walk back down the hill without having a little explore though and made this in the after light. I might not have got the photograph I wanted but a useful scouting mission for a location to revisit.

The Milky Way.

After checking in at the lovely B&B where the warm welcome made up for the chilly temperatures we headed out to what I hoped would be a dark spot near Keswick to make some exposures of the sky. Just after this was taken and the camera firmly back in the back I spotted a bright glow in the sky quite low to the Easterly horizon. At first I thought it was a plane but as it got closer passing about 60degrees above the horizon t
o the South of us we realised it was breaking up and could surely only be a meteorite. I’ve seen numerous shooting stars but this was nothing like them – it felt so close and was extremely bright. Of course it would have nice to have caught it on camera but sometimes it’s just nice to have the full experience of watching something incredible without the distraction of looking at it through the viewfinder.

For the camera buffs amongst you this photo is taken at 24mm, F1.4 and ISO 1600 with a shutter speed of 30 seconds. That is a LOT of light (or very little light depending on how you look at it!)

The next morning it was up at 0530 and in the car to drive round to the far side of Dewentwater. I had planned a pier that was nicely lined up with he direction of sunrise but the closer we got in sight of the lake there was a thick layer of mist covering it. It may well have made for a nice shot of the pier but I’ve always been keen to get above conditions like that and look down on them, so with a quick scan of the ordnance survey map we decided a hike up Cat Bells was in order. This panorama was made about halfway up. I was drawn in by the mystical looking islands reminding me of adventure books from when I was a laddie.

We carried on up towards the summit and I stopped to take in this group of rocks just catching the first rays of sunshine as the sun was bouncing off the top of the mist over the lake.

Finally reaching the summit around an hour after sunrise just as the sun was burning off the last of the low level mist. We had the hills and the views all to our self until we got back down to the car. A breakfast well earned and all before 0930.

This last image for this instalment is the Lodore Falls to the South-West end of Derwentwater. They are quite spectacular and a little different in that they are very closely surround by trees so that the water appears to cascade amongst the tress rather than as part of the river.

The Lake District – Landscape Photography England

Before these lashings of rain arrived over the country I planned a trip to the Lake District for a stictly photographic weekend.

It’s been a while since I’ve done so much shooting in such a short space of time and I’m rather aching and tired but the conditions were wonderful and I’m very happy with the trip.

There will  be more  posts to follow in the coming weeks so keep a look out.

In the meantime here is one from Sunday’s sunrise.

Derwentwater Pier at sunrise.