I have finally gotten around to sorting and processing the photos from my recent weekend in Suffolk and here’s my favourite image of the entire trip.
I made this shot at Pin Mill on the the River Orwell south east of Ipswich. Pin Mill is a small hamlet just outside the village of Chelmondiston. I had seen a number of shots of rotting hulks and knew that I had to visit, but I really wasn’t prepared for the beautiful anarchy of a wooded riverbank lined with a huge variety of lived in boats and barges. The whole area is National Trust land so there is plenty of opportunity to explore and take it all in. Parking in the Parish Council carpark on the final approach to Pin Mill is convenient and cheap. There is also a pub, The Butt & Oyster, which sounds appealing, but I didn’t get to try it as I finished my shoot at 10am on Monday morning!
This is another location where my new Grubs Boots Stalkers made the difference between getting the shot that I wanted and settling for second best – the mud was really sucky!
Another quick trip to North Devon again prompted me to review sunset and tides. This suggested I would have an opportunity to catch the sun setting into the sea touching Hartland Point if I could find the right location. That location turned out to be Mouthmill, the issuance of a small stream from a deep coombe.
Mouthmill is well known for the spectacular Blackchurch Rock, a double arched, inclined sea stack, that used to be a favourite rock climbing venue in my youth. However, on this occasion the spring tide was far too high to get any good shots of Blackchurch which lies a little way off the cliffs.
After a few minutes of quiet contemplation, immersed in the rumble and suck of the waves on the pebbles, I settled on a collection of driftwood lying in the stream as my foreground. As the sunset developed the colours reflected off both the water and the polished pebbles. Unfortunately the cloud on the horizon was just a little too dense to catch the perfect moment of the sun disk touching both the horizon and the cliff.
Access to Mouthmill involves a good half hour walk from the National Trust Carpark at Brownsham. However, Brownsham Woods offer plenty of photographic opportunities. Even though the return leg of the walk was obviously in the dark, I think it was well worth it. Let me know if you agree.
I treated myself to a trip to the East Coast of England last weekend. My specific objective was an overnight stay on Orford Ness to experience all the weird shingle bound dereliction of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment both at sunset and sunrise. The trip was courtesy of the National Trust, which organises one or two special events for photographers each year. Our hosts: John, Simon and Rob were extremely knowledgeable about both the history of the site and the wildlife.
This is not a trip for the casual photographer. The bunkhouse is comfortable enough, but basic. Bunk beds are included but no bedding so bring your own, but you won’t want to sleep much as the light is amazing even well before dawn!
After my soaking at Hartland the previous evening I decided to try a slightly more sheltered location for Sunday Sunrise, the area known as The Skern on the Appledore end of Northam Burrows. At this time of year sunsets and sunrises obligingly occur 12 hours apart, the same as high tides, so I knew that there would be a good opportunity to catch the water just topping the gullies in the mudflats.
A quick trip to visit family in North Devon last weekend had me checking sunset angles and tide times and I quickly realised that there was going to be a sunset over high tide. I thought that this might provide an opportunity to get some shots of the incredible rock formations at Hartland.
Hartland Point forms the western end of Bideford Bay and tops the Culm Coast, one of the most dramatic coastlines in the UK. The directly west facing cliffs and shoreline are formed of fantastically folded and buckled sandstones some 270 million years old. This is a perfect location for straight out to sea sunsets with extraordinary foreground rocks.
In the end the spring tide was much higher than I anticipated and it turned out to be quite stormy, denying me any of the images that I had imagined. I did, however, manage to soak both myself and the camera. Thank goodness for robust weather sealing, I won’t be doing that again in a hurry.
Hartland Quay makes a great access point for this part of the coast with parking right on the cliffs, although you may need to pay during holiday season. The bar of the Hartland Quay Hotel also allows a welcome dry-off after a stormy night such as I experienced.
Most photographers write blogs to keep their web sites fresh and in order to have something to talk about, gear reviews seem to be very popular topics. I am no different in trying to draw people to my site, however, whilst it is clearly sexy to cover the latest tech and gadgets, I think that there are lots of aspects of the pursuit of photography that don’t get enough coverage. This then is a review of one of my best recent photographic gear purchases – Wellington boots!
For many years I had shied away from Wellies, thanks to unhappy experiences with cheap rubber death traps, preferring to rely on my extensive collection of mountain and hiking boots. However, after one afternoon of wet cold feet trying to get close to a woodland waterfall, I decided that things had to change. After much searching and online research I settled on a pair of Stalker 5.0 Wellies by Grubs Boots.
These boots have transformed my photography allowing me to get shots like this one, which would not have been achievable without the correct equipment.
My top criteria is that any pair of boots should have a good grip and the genuine Vibram soles on the Stalkers, coupled with a flexible neoprene calf section, provide immense confidence on the slipperiest of slopes and are comfortable for extended wear. The neoprene and further special insulation together with a wicking inner lining also mean that these boots are really warm in adverse conditions but not sweaty. Unfortunately these boots only come in green and I am not a fan of green boots, but given the advantages of the Stalkers, I must admit that I am chuffed to bits with my purchase.
So back to the shot:
It was dawn the morning after storm Freya had blown her way across the UK at the beginning of March. The water level in Lake Padarn was unusually high, and the lone tree that usually stands on a little promontory of slate trash was actually many metres offshore. As you can see the light and reflections were superb and rapidly changing with the fast moving clouds. For the composition I wanted, I needed to get my tripod several meters offshore. My new boots allowed me not only to position my tripod but also to stand in the freezing water for around 40 minutes watching the light change from my selected viewpoint. Sometimes it is important to just enjoy nature’s wonders.
I could of course have turned on the wifi on my camera and made shots from the shore via my phone, but I find such tech intrusive and often takes me out of the moment. In the Stalkers, my feet were so comfortable and warm that I completely forgot that I was standing in a lake and on one occasion, squatted to check composition through the viewfinder and stuck my bum in the water for a nasty shock!
The Stalkers have proved invaluable since and have allowed me to get numerous shots that shore-bound photographers have been unable to match.