Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Grafham Water reflections & sunset


Storm clouds lit up by the evening sunset over Grafham Water reservoir

A month or so ago, I took a trip to the shores of Grafham Water, one of the largest reservoirs in the country, for a spot of photography.

It was a beautiful day, with very little wind and some rather handsome cloud formations. The conditions were perfect to get some tranquil shots of the sky reflected in the sparkling lake. I started off around the western shore, where the nature reserve is located, and took a few images looking towards one of the two pumping stations that serve the reservoir, as it was lit up by the afternoon sunshine. 

I then moved round to the eastern shore, so I could get some shots of the setting sun, as it descended towards the horizon in the west. Luckily for me, as the day began to draw to a close, the clouds started to gather into something that certainly wasn't tranquil, and by the time the sun was throwing out its warm hues of early evening, they were looking very stormy indeed.

As you can see from the images below, the clouds really made the day over at Grafham Water, and thankfully I happened to be in the right place at the right time. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ouse Fen sunset event



Clouds at sunset in the Cambridgeshire Fens at Ouse Fen Nature Reserve

Last week I visited the RSPB Nature Reserve of Ouse Fen, in the hope that I might get a bit of sunset colour. Thankfully I wasn't disappointed, as the clouds were big and the colour was vibrant, which was just the job.

I set up my gear next to one of the lakes, which are actually reclaimed gravel pits, from the still active quarry that is situated nearby, and is the largest in Eastern England, and kept my fingers crossed for a bit of sunset action.

The RSPB, in partnership with the quarry company, are in the process of turning the disused parts of the quarry into a nature reserve, and it will, in several years, be home to 460 hectares of reed bed habitat, the largest in the country.

As you can see from the following images, thanks to the huge, ever changing clouds, the early evening light put on quite a show.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

North East coast day 5 - Fountains Abbey


North Yorkshire Cistercian ruins of Fountains Abbey in the evening gloom

My last day in the North East and I decided to visit Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire on my way back down south. Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England. Founded in 1132, the abbey operated for over 400 years, until 1539, when Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The abbey sits in an enclosed valley within Studley Royal Park, which also features an 18th century landscaped garden, including the Water Garden, created in 1718, which is one of the best surviving examples of a Georgian water garden in England. It is studded with a number of follies including a neo-Gothic castle and a palladian style banqueting house.

Unsurprisingly in 1986, the entire parkland including the abbey was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It was recognised for fulfilling the criteria of being a masterpiece of human creative genius, and an outstanding example of a type of building or architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates significant stages in human history. Fountains Abbey is owned by the National Trust and maintained by English Heritage.

North East coast day 4 - Pennine Waterfalls


Waterfall and woodland in the North Pennines near Bowlees

While I was up north I took the opportunity to visit the Pennines, as I had never visited them before. I had a plan to do a bit of waterfall photography, because I can’t resist a good waterfall, and the Pennines have them in abundance, seeing as they form the main watershed in northern England, dividing east and west.

Often described as the ‘backbone of England’, the Pennine Hills form a more-or-less continuous range stretching northwards from the Peak District, into the South Pennines incorporating parts of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, through the Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines past the Cumbrian Fells up to the Tyne Gap, which separates the range from the Cheviot Hills.

I was concentrating on the North Pennines, which is classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is afforded much the same protection as a National Park. Lying just north of the Yorkshire Dales, it rivals the National Park in size and includes some of the Pennines' highest peaks and some of its most isolated and sparsely populated areas.

Monday, February 6, 2017

North East coast day 3 - Whitley Bay & St Mary's Lighthouse


St Mary's Lighthouse at Whitley Bay on the North East Coast

I took a trip up the coast to Whitley Bay, as I had it in mind to pay a visit to St Mary’s Lighthouse. Built in 1898 on the site of an 11th century monastic chapel, whose monks kept a lantern in the tower to warn passing ships of the dangerous rocks they were passing, this venerable old lady was in use for 86 years before being decommissioned in 1984, and was the last Trinity House (the official General Lighthouse Authority for England) lighthouse lit by oil. 

The grade II listed lighthouse is situated on the tiny island of St Mary’s, which is also home to a small museum and visitor centre along with the one and only inhabited private property on the isle. During the 19th century there was an inn, known as the 'Square and Compass', on there, but in 1895, after complaints about rowdy customers trespassing on nearby land, the landlord had the publican and his family summarily chucked off the island.

The lighthouse is open to visitors, but not in winter, so there weren’t too many people about, partly also I would imagine, due to the blisteringly ferocious wind that was howling in from the North Sea. And which seemed to be on a relentless quest to snatch anything from about my person that wasn’t fastened down, meaning that any time I needed to retrieve something from my camera bag, it triggered a lengthy exercise in gusty frustration.