#2016top3 3/3 – Grange Crags

Grange CragsThe third of my #2016top3 favourite images, a birch and bracken on Grange Crags, has in fact already been on the blog.

The photo was taken in mid January, and what I like so much is that the scene was completely different when I first noticed its potential but developed exactly how I imagined it.

I had gone to Grange Crags that afternoon only thinking of taking a wide angle view in the opposite direction, a sunset across Derwentwater to Skiddaw. But as I waited I saw a line of birches in the sun that contrasted against the trees in the shadow of Grange Fell. There was one birch that I could isolate – I like compositions involving negative space – though I didn’t like how all the bracken in the foreground was in bright sunlight. But I spotted how I was in the shade and the shadow was probably going to move up the slope. From then on it was a matter of waiting and hoping the shadow would continue in that direction, nicely parallel to the slope.

I liked the photo so much that I posted about it earlier in the year, but I never got round to posting the photograph I had actually intended to take that afternoon. So here it is too, taken almost an hour after the picture of the birch.

Grange Crags

Sunset over Skiddaw and Derwentwater from Grange Crags


#2016top3 2/3 – Honister Pass

You’re looking up the Honister Pass from the Buttermere side, and the lights at the top belong to the quarry.

It’s a scene I’ve shot in daytime with the light coming down the valley and picking out the curves of the wet road, but the idea of shooting it at night has been in the back of my mind for a while. Usually in the evenings I just want to eat, read, review the day’s pictures, nip to the pub. In November though it was getting dark well before pub time and it was also very mild for the time of year, so this was an ideal opportunity to get the shot.

The first attempt didn’t turn out too well. The light trails were soft, and I’m unsure if it was because a tripod leg may have been slightly loose or because I was finding it too dark to focus with the Fuji. But helped me work out the rough exposure time – and prepare for long waits between cars.

It’s a combination of two 75 second exposures with my Nikon D800. I had already been waiting half an hour before a car appeared. It headed up the valley and then stopped half way, so that was the end of the first exposure. Almost immediately another car started coming down and this second exposure stopped just before the white headlight trails reached the red ones left by the first car’s rear lights. I did take another exposure which recorded the second car as it came all the way down, but I prefer them this way.

#2016top3 1/3 Rainbows

Double rainbow over Derwentwater from Ashness Jetty

In the last few days there’s been a Twitter hashtag going round, #2016top3, for your favourite 3 landscapes of the year, and as I had joined in I thought it was a good excuse to get myself back into posting to this blog.

I like to get up to Borrowdale early each November. It can be risky, and last year I got one day of sun and mist followed by a week of solid rain. Or you can be too late and a big storm has blown away all the leaves. But this time I really hit “peak Autumn”. The landscape was full of autumnal colour, and mist / fog / sun / snow had been perfect conditions for photography, but this picture came on the one day when it was raining and I was just taking it easy.

That morning during a break in the rain I spent an hour or so playing around with close-ups of the carpet of red maple leaves in the back garden. Sun kept breaking through, and I remember noticing a rainbow over Castle Crag, but it soon vanished and I would have been perfectly satisfied if those red leaves had been all I’d photographed that day. So when I set off for Keswick I wasn’t thinking of rainbows – it just seemed a good time to nip into Booths supermarket.

Nothing in particular made me stop as I passed Ashness jetty, just the thought that the day was short, but the rainbow appeared the very moment I went down the steps. The picture was taken on my Fuji X-T2 (I’m preparing a hands on review) and was only gently adjusted in Lightroom. At the time I was awestruck by the brightness of “the rainbow” and I didn’t even notice the second one. It just left me thinking that with photography sometimes it’s inspiration that comes looking for you.

Church architecture

I’m not religious but over the last few years I’ve visited some of England’s major cathedrals and abbeys. A big surprise has been how close many came to destruction  – from the scissors arch added to bolster Wells, to Ely’s octagonal tower, and Lincoln cathedral bears signs of earthquake damage. Man’s best efforts to worship are so often at the mercy of nature, or “acts of God”.

Fuji XT-2 – an easy camera to like

X-T2_BK_18-55mm_FrontLeft_White-590x480I can’t be the only photographer whose head has been turned by the new Fuji XT-2, and this week I had a great chance to play with one at Fixation in Vauxhall. So if anyone else is wobbling or wondering – and if anyone still reads this blog – I thought I’d jot down my impressions.

Bear in mind that I’m not very familiar with Fuji bodies or indeed with electronic viewfinders (EVF), and my most recent hands-on experience of either was after the XT-1’s release. I was also limited to handling the camera and wasn’t let loose to use it in practice!

  • In the hand
    • Robust feel and it wasn’t too small in my big hands.
    • I didn’t particularly like the grip which felt angular and big – adding 50% to the body’s height.
    • I much preferred holding the camera without the grip and it felt very comfortable with the 18-55mm lens.
  • I was a little concerned about its heavy battery usage
    • This would be mitigated by getting the grip with its two extra batteries.
    • As 4K video is an attraction of the camera, I can understand why one would get the grip.
  • Electronic viewfinder
    • The updating speed made it barely noticeable – very impressive compared to when I last played with an EVF.
    • I liked how the EVF showed the effect of changing aperture, shutter speed or ISO. I imagine that comment is no surprise, if you’ve used an EVF much more than I have, but I felt myself thinking about how I would use it in practice.
  • Key controls
    • Liked the dials for shutter speed and ISO
    • Really liked the aperture ring on the lens – that takes me back!
    • Quickly got used to changing aperture, shutter speed or ISO without taking my eye from the viewfinder
    • Enjoyed the focus points – quickly figured it out
    • Liked the one click zoom in for critical focus
  • I liked the 3-way articulated LCD and felt it was sufficient for holding the camera high, low, or more importantly at waist level for covert photographs or for simply maintaining eye contact
  • No built-in flash – on the other hand, I’m an available light photographer
Sept 12th Update: Uh oh

Sept 12th Update: Uh oh

So will I get one?

Not sure, might do, but the doubt has little to do with the XT-2, which I immediately liked very much.

It’s really that I’ve no great desire to move from Nikon or change my D800, and I am unsure if I really want to carry a second camera body. It’s handy when you need different focal lengths, and I did feel that it wouldn’t be hard to use the Fuji and Nikon at the same event. Unlike using different bodies from the same camera maker, these two would be so different that I would never be confused. The other worry is if I would be able to limit myself to just an XT-2 and a single lens.

We’ll see.

Lake District V

Cumbria’s open for business

Grange Crags

Sunset in Borrowdale from Grange Crags

After my November trip to the Lake District, the weather seemed to get worse by the day. Shortly afterwards, my brother and his family were almost  cut off by flooding, and that was before the really serious rainfall arrived at the start of December.

Still, I was up there again in January. So early in the year, it was hard to gauge the effect on visitors, but don’t be deterred by what you may have seen on TV.

The closure of the main A591 between Keswick and Grasmere is both spectacular and devastating, and from a visitor’s viewpoint it means you can’t easily get between the Southern/Central Lakes and those in the North. So you choose one side or the other.

At a more mundane level, the damage is more subtle and inconvenient than you may think. So for instance, one location above Lodore Falls was unreachable because the footbridge was in a dangerous state, or Watendlath Bridge is spoiled by scaffolding and a temporary crossing. The flooding hit both of Keswick’s supermarkets, but as I say, that is inconvenient to the visitor and is little trouble compared to those faced by the poor people whose houses were flooded. That area of Keswick is dark at night, and some debris is piled up, but most places are open and they deserve support – so have that third pint you weren’t going to order!

This picture was taken on my second day when I was looking in the other direction and hoping for a sunset to catch the snow on Skiddaw. Looking around, I had noticed a line of birches in full sunlight and they contrasted nicely with those on the steep Grange Fell behind, but it was only once I saw how the shadow was moving up the slope that I started shooting pictures.

If I had been in any doubt about a trip in January, it was gone in those moments. And if you’re thinking of a trip, the Lakes are open for business. The fells haven’t been washed away, and the lakes are certainly not running dry.



Bad Trip on Derwentwater

splash screen

The ugliest Photoshop splash screen ever?

After the recent terrible flooding in the Lake District, you can see the region at its best or, thanks to CGI, at even more than its best in the new Star Wars which uses Thirlmere, Derwentwater and Watendlath for scenery. Well spotted, Colin Bell.

Unfortunately, part of Derwentwater is also used for the splash screen of Photoshop’s latest version which includes a view looking along the Keswick landing stages. You can see some jetty poles, and Hope Park and Skiddaw are in the background on the right (see location on map).

Without getting too deep, splash screens set one’s mood and perhaps one’s aspirations, and in the past Photoshop has featured feathers or raindrops or exploding crystals or other images that conveyed the amazing power of this application. This one, apart from desecrating a location I know well, seems to set the bar at the much lower level of Instagram or Snapseed? It must be the ugliest Photoshop splash screen ever, don’t you think?

It’s a shame because, for the record as they say, I happen to like the new features in Photoshop such as the new Welcome panel, Generator, and Libraries. These cloud-enabled features are now coming together and amounting to something that’s more than the sum of their parts. But when anyone asks me what’s new in this version, the first thing that comes to mind is this horrid splash screen.

Using the splash screen to showcase users’ creativity isn’t a bad idea, and in my opinion Lightroom 6.3’s current “blue face” is a great choice, for example. But isn’t it obvious that sometimes they are bound to choose an image that provokes negative reactions in some users? After all, if you let me decorate your office, it would be no surprise if sometimes you saw little virtue in my choice and would want to tear it off the wall. If you’re going to insert someone else’s idea of art into my daily experience, you’ve got to let me cover it up. if I choose.

Sadly unlike the office wall there is no simple way – and I have looked hard – for us to switch off Photoshop’s splash screen, revert to a generic blue rectangle, or substitute our own work – which you can do in Lightroom. While I’ve no doubt some people may like the image and find their creative juices rising like the Greta or Eden rivers, for the next 6 months every time I go into Photoshop I’m going to be confronted with this Bad Trip on Derwentwater, or whatever it’s called. You know, I’d rather see pictures of the floods.

Dog walkers


Dog walker crosses fields with dry stone walls on foggy morning in Rosthwaite, Borrowdale

Sometimes you just don’t mind people wandering into your landscape, do you?

I’m back from another trip to the Lake District. It was quite possibly the wettest two weeks I’ve ever experienced there, yet it had begun with a couple of glorious foggy days like you see in this photo. That morning I went out just as the fog was clearing and had only walked a few metres from the house when a neighbour suddenly appeared and walked into the perfect spot for me.

The rain began the next day, and it continued until even local people were complaining and sheep and cattle were lining up for the ark. There’s only one road through Borrowdale and the lake was pretty high, and in the following days some rivers burst and a few key roads were flooded. It was the start of a difficult time for the region.

For a photographer rain can be such a downer too, but I often think of a friend’s mantra about there being “no such thing as bad weather, just a bad attitude”, and one of my own sayings is that when something gets in your way, it’s probably just inviting you to photograph it. Without being very profound, such thoughts can just nudge the photographer into creative action when you might be tempted to cut a trip short or remain indoors. I have good rain wear and a ThinkTank cover for my camera, so if it wasn’t going to stop raining it would have to be the rain that I would go out to photograph.

And once you are out there, the “bad” weather does have the very great virtue of deterring most walkers and all but the most determined photographers. The landscapes are different, lakeside trees are suddenly in the water, fences cross flooded fields, the waterfalls are nice and full, and you have it all to yourself. When you do encounter another photographer you usually exchange wry smiles, maybe stop for a chat and hear what other locations are like.

But it seems a little different when you run into a photo workshop, don’t you think? You’re outnumbered, and it’s not hard to imagine why the workshop leader, if that’s what they are called, might not appreciate you chatting to his clients. It’s awkward enough when it’s dry, but I had been all alone at an almost-submerged Ashness Jetty when a one-to-one workshop arrived, and it was an encounter that reminded me of how you can feel in London when “professional dog walkers” use a public park to exercise their clients’ pets. Just as they can turn a space that’s supposed to be for everyone into their business place, on this occasion the water level left very little space for tripods, and yet I still felt it was me who was in their way, not them intruding into my scene. A single dog walker by himself is often welcome, of course.

Snow’s the winner


Ian Taylor’s “The Ref’s an Angel”

So 2015’s Landscape Photographer of the Year winners have been announced, and the Lake District seems well-represented, I’m glad to say.

I wasn’t very keen on last year’s winner, but I could at least see a certain intriguing quality that made me want to keep looking.

This year’s overall winner does nothing for me though. Maybe it does look better as a print, but it just left me thinking snow is certainly unusual in Dorset and that it must have been chosen by southerners. Sorry, I don’t see much there.

Of the other winning entries, I’d have gone for Lizzie Shepherd’s zigzag walls in the snow (snow seems big this year), Julie Hutson’s clever treatment of London’s Shard, or most probably for Ian Taylor‘s “The Ref’s an Angel” – despite the corny title.

Out of my way?


The Norman army arrives. Bloody immigrants, coming here and stealing our country, eh?

For a few moments I was thinking xxxx!, xxxx!, xxxxxxg kids!

This was last weekend at Battle Abbey, Hastings, built above where the great battle of 1066 is supposed to have taken place.

Almost 10 years ago I’d been to a big re-enactment there and I still remember feeling the ground shake as a line of dozens of horses charged up the hill. That was one of the bigger events there – I’m sure they’re planning something similar for next year’s 950th anniversary – but Saturday’s event was on a more modest scale.

The re-enactors depicting the Normans had just arrived at the bottom of the field and were marching up directly towards where I had stood. And these kids decided to stand right in the way, or rather right in my way. For those few seconds I was thinking damn them, or why can’t they turn to face me.

Afterwards, I was just thinking ooh, ooh, ooh those kids.

As usual the Anglo-Saxons lost. But I am very glad to say the crowd did boo the Normans.


-1x-1Just been looking at Simon Butterworth’s impressive black and white images of Redcar steel works which looks like it will soon be no more, along with so many jobs.

I knew of his name as the winner of Landscape Photographer of the Year a couple of years ago but I don’t think I’d ever seen his web site. There’s some fine photography there, and having recently visited Cwmorthin I particularly enjoyed see his series on Welsh slate. There’s a lovely abstract half way through.

It makes me remember how landscape photography shouldn’t just mean pretty views (or the currently-fashionable tangles of trees!).

Hadrian’s Wall

It sometimes seems that re-enactments follow me, rather than me seeking them out. In September 2015 I was in the Lake District and was cooking my evening meal when I caught the words “re-enactment” and “Hadrian’s Wall” on the television. It turned out that a 100+ strong group called Legio I Italica had arrived from Italy for an event that weekend. Being on “il Vallo di Adriano” seemed a hugely emotional moment for many of the participants. Initially at Birdoswald, in the evening they transferred to the more remote Housestead fort where, after having left Rome in 40C heat, the sudden temperature drop provided a real sense of guarding the Empire’s Northern frontier.

Hadrian’s Wall


1/200 at f9, ISO 3200 on a D800, adjusted in Lightroom

The only bit of Hadrian’s Wall I’ve ever seen is its Western tip on the Solway, and I have often thought of exploring the area as it’s only an hour’s drive away from where I stay in the Lake District. Somehow it just hasn’t happened.

Roman history is not “my period” but I suppose I have become slightly more interested in it recently, and last Thursday I had visited the Hardknott Fort. The drive up the Hardknott and Wrynose Pass is exhilarating in itself, then high up over Eskdale the fort is still in very good condition (those Roman soldiers could teach modern day Cumbrians about building walls made to last). But I hadn’t any plan to visit the Wall during this trip.

Then last Friday evening I was cooking, and I just happened to make out the words “re-enactment” and “Hadrian’s Wall” on the television. That sealed it.

Most of the day was at Birdoswald fort. The re-enactors were a group called Legio I Italica and had travelled 40+ hours by coach (in two coaches and a truck for their gear) all the way from Italy. They had also brought their own barbarians, which seemed an unnecessary luxury as there’s no shortage of them in this country!

And it was quite a day. I spoke with quite a number of the re-enactors and for many of them a weekend on the “Vallo di Adriano” was hugely emotional, a bit like getting to Mecca.

For the evening they transferred to Housesteads fort, and that’s where this picture is from. It’s a remote spot and the temperature had dropped a bit much for some members of the legion (it had been 40C in Rome), but surely that’s just what you sign up for if you’re protecting the Empire’s Northern frontier for the weekend?

So I’ve finally seen some of the best parts of Hadrian’s Wall. And so much for imagining there would be one weekend in September when I wasn’t photographing re-enactment.

More photographs here

Every cloud….

Keswick’s landing stages must be one of the most-photographed locations in the Lake District. You can still get lovely images if you choose your time or conditions – early morning mist, still water, autumn colours, even the unusual angle of sunset in late June – but there will always be other people hanging around, and other photographers to avoid. If you do make eye contact with another photographer, you know you share his guilt of laziness in your choice of subject.

I certainly wouldn’t be around that part of Derwentwater in the middle of an afternoon at the height of summer, but last month I had a week up in the Lakes and I simply couldn’t motivate myself to fight the weather. There is a saying that for the photographer there’s no such thing as bad light, just a bad attitude, and it seemed to sum up how the week’s unchanging grey skies had affected me. Sunrises seemed too early, sunsets didn’t really happen, everything was just green, green, green, and so I caught up with some reading and worked my way through the previous weekend’s pictures from Hoghton Tower. But by Thursday, while the skies were still overcast, at least I was beginning to recover and needed to get outdoors.

For me there seems a problem with timelapse photography – I only want to do it when I’ve nothing better in prospect. If the light’s interesting, do I really want to hang around in one place for half an hour, or much longer, while the camera snaps away? But if I shoot a timelapse sequence merely to fill time, when I can’t see opportunities for normal photography, are the results ever likely to merit the effort of standing around all that time? That’s a mental barrier I can’t easily overcome!

I haven’t shot many timelapse sequences and this afternoon I was testing my sense for how to match frame rate to different subjects. I think I’ve settled on 5 second intervals for  big landscapes as it allows cloud movement to dominate the movie. The downside is that since 12 frames per minute produces a mere half a second of video, I’d have to stand around for at least half an hour to record a useful 15 seconds of landscape footage. With a busy scene like this, I was trying 2 second intervals and shot for about 90 minutes. It still seemed rather manic, so I’ve halved the speed and plan to use 1 second intervals next time.

Sound required a bit of ingenuity. I tried recording a movie on my iPad so that I could strip the sound off it, but I still could hear the D800’s shutter release from 20 metres away – at least when the ducks and geese fell silent. So when I had finished shooting the timelapse sequence I simply recorded some standard video on the D800.

I am a complete beginner with video editing. I have recently got my hands on Adobe’s Premiere Pro and After Effects, and I am enjoying learning them, but for relatively-simple video projects you can use Photoshop. So here it was Photoshop that was used to splice the sound onto the timelapse movie and then render the final result, and one advantage of Photoshop is that you can use your existing experience and techniques – in this case a Curves adjustment layer darkens the sky, and a couple of other things are going on too.

File format also deserves some thought. Here I shot directly to movie format because my D800 has a timelapse feature that bakes a 1920*1080 pixel MOV file. While this seemed simpler than shooting hundreds of raw files and baking the timelapse movie in Lightroom or Photoshop, the latter approach would allow more scope to adjust the results and more pixels might allow you to add interesting pan and zoom effects during post production. I’m unsure if I would use Photoshop or Premiere Pro or After Effects for panning and zooming, but figuring it out is a big part of the fun.

And isn’t that the point? The weather might be dull and uninspiring, the subject may a cliche, and “l’enfer c’est les autres”, but isn’t experimentation interesting enough in its own right to get you out of the door? It should be, shouldn’t it?


Silence is golden?

Blea Tarn

If you are worried, don’t be, I’ve not disappeared. I’ve just not posted anything for a while, but I’m frustratingly the same John as ever. Though with a beard, that is different!

In the past I might have done quick posts on things such as the 2015 election which never happened here in Dulwich, apart from just 2 window posters, and our fraudulent system that allowed 1.5 million Scots to elect 56 MPs and 4 million UKIP voters to elect one (and I’m not pro-UKIP). Yes, I’m still angry at that, at least as much as one can be after being a supporter of PR since the days of the SDP, if you remember them.

Or I might have spent 5 minutes making a post about:

Over the last few years I just don’t seem to post as often as before. Partly, I sense I have become more private as others have become more open about what they’re doing. The rise of social media makes one feel that nowadays everyone sees such funnies, and Twitter or Facebook often seem a better place to point them out. But I’m not a big Facebooker, limiting it to people I know in person, and I am growing less enthusiastic about Twitter than in the past, so I might not post much there either. As a result I get the occasional nice email enquiring about my well being. Thank you 🙂

As for the photo, it was taken in mid March at one of my favourite Lake District locations, Blea Tarn in the Langdale valley. I’d been along the tarn’s shore, from where a million photos are taken, and as I was about to wander back to the car I had noticed the stile and behind it the rocky outcrop from where I took the picture. Usually at that time of year the lovely orange reds of autumn have gone and look dead, or the greens of an early spring have taken over, but the winter must have been pretty dry and everything was this lovely golden colour.

What you don’t see is that for maybe half hour it wasn’t anywhere near as serene as it looks. Just after setting up my tripod on this outcrop, maybe 50 metres to my right a drone was buzzing up and down, its owner just playing with it as if it was the first time he’d used it. I don’t think he noticed me glowering in his direction, and how I wish I’d marched over and told him drones were banned in the national park (they may be in the US but not here!). The last thing anyone wants, someone droning on, eh?


Speakers Corner

Speakers Corner

I must have taken my first photos of Speakers Corner around 1989-90, so I’ve got thousands of negatives and digital files recording what’s supposed to symbolize our tradition of free speech.

There was a time when I went quite often, and an hour at Speakers Corner seemed to fit in with meeting friends for dim sum or a bit of shopping on Oxford Street.

I’ve gradually gone less and less, and I was quite surprised to discover that last year I’d been there four times. The year before it had been twice, and I’m pretty jaded by it. I don’t really get much out of listening to the ranting of one deluded religious zealot after another, and you can’t get a clean photograph when everyone in the crowd is holding a camera phone to record what’s really just a freak show for tourists.

But I wasn’t doing anything last Sunday and the Charlie Hebdo atrocity made me think it might be more interesting. It wasn’t, and it was as if the events in France had never happened, but thanks to a Metropolitan Police horse I think I finally managed to convey a flavour of the debate….


War crimes

Stacy Kravitz‘s series of photographs of re-enactors depicting World War II Germans is interesting partly for her inclusion of herself in the pictures:

stacykranitz-01.jpg.CROP.original-originalFor three consecutive years, Kranitz participated in nearly weeklong Battle of the Bulge re-enactments at Fort Indiantown Gap in Annville, Pennsylvania. She took on the part of Leni Riefenstahl—the “super brilliant,” “gifted,” but ultimately “fucked up” German filmmaker behind the infamous Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will—with whom she’d been fascinated since she was 15.

While Kranitz and Camp were mostly well-liked at the Pennsylvania event, their presence was always contentious. They were the subject of many suspicious message board threads, and were once nearly told to leave an event. It didn’t help that, at the beginning, Kranitz’s Riefenstahl costume was “awful” and she mostly failed to cover up her modern Nikon camera with the prescribed historical camouflage.

To make matters worse, Kranitz is Jewish, a fact that didn’t escape her subjects, some of whom had histories as members of hate groups. Initially, she was accused of being an Israeli spy, and once, while hanging out at a recreated French Resistance café, she was singled out by Gestapo re-enactors, taken outside, and “shot.”

In my experience of the British re-enactment scene, I’ve not seen any evidence of “histories as members of hate groups” among those who depict German World War II units. Mostly these re-enactors go out of their way to tell you they’re not Nazis and to explain they deliberately chose to represent the Wehrmacht or regular army units. The few who do portray the Waffen SS are often shunned by other re-enactors and lurk on the fringes of events, but even they would say they’re depicting history with its warts, not expressing any hatred.

Of course, acceptability does depend partly on one’s own particular viewpoint. To my British eyes, British and American World War II re-enactment groups appear uncontroversial, the Italians too, but a group depicting our allies, the Red Army, provoked a completely-different reaction from a Polish friend. Other 20th century re-enactors also walk this fine line between good and bad taste, so for instance Spanish Civil War enthusiasts only seem to be Republicans and no-one wants to be on Franco’s side. Earlier periods are affected too, but how can the American Civil War be portrayed without the Confederate flag? Surely depicting a period can’t make someone guilty of endorsing its crimes and darker aspects, even when those events are within living memory. Still, I think it’s far better to stick to the 17th century.

Thanks to Richard Baker

A not-so-remote quarry

Dalt's Quarry

Dalt’s Quarry is in Borrowdale, just off the path from Grange to Castle Crag

I got back from the Lake District at the start of the week. Before I went the forecast really hadn’t been too promising – a series of low pressure systems rolling in from the Atlantic – but for various reasons I’d only made one trip up there this year, so I was really missing the place.

In any case, early November is often the ideal time for autumn colours, and I also wanted to get to a vintage sports car rally I’d photographed last year at the top of the Honister Pass. The rally was on the Saturday and luckily there was no repetition of the freezing rain and driving snow that almost broke my spirit, but I still got a good soaking just when I thought the weather was going to be kind. That was pretty typical of the two weeks.

Of course, Lake District weather is famous notorious for its bewildering changeability. You do get spells like this September when high pressure dominates and I had two weeks of morning mist, still water and not a single drop of rain. Or you can get last Christmas when the downpours barely ceased. But usually you just get change, and as the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather now, just give it another ten minutes – it’ll be worse. Or it could be better. You just never know.

This time though, it wasn’t really changeable – a better word is “capricious”. This place, Dalt’s quarry, isn’t far from where I stay but I’d only seen it for the first time in September. That day, this scene was very green, but it looked like an autumn location and I made a mental note to return in November. On the first day I went, the forecast had been grey but dry – yet it was pouring down by the time I got there. My walking gear is fine, my camera gear is well-protected, and I believe there’s no such thing as bad weather, just different light – but the photos just weren’t up to much. So when I tried again later that week, I’d only been walking for 5 minutes when the clouds parted and wasn’t going to repeat the same walk in the rain and the same rotten pictures – not when I could turn back and go for a pint instead! I’d more-or-less decided that fate was against me and Dalt Quarry.

On the final morning of the trip though, I had so-nearly decided to set off and drive straight down to London when a bit of sun made me give Dalt’s one last go. And that’s what you see here. The cloud had cleared by the time I reached the quarry, the sun was nicely at an angle behind the trees and falling on the famous yellow streak, the air was still and the reflections perfect – and I had the place entirely to myself. It’s a 0.6 second exposure at f22 on the Nikon D800, with a Lee 3 stop soft graduated filter holding back the sky.

Fate did eventually intervene, though in a different if not unexpected way. I’m pretty good at not dropping photo gear or getting stuff wet, but there is one big exception – cable releases. Since I first picked up a camera, I consistently need a new one every couple of years, almost always because of moving around with the cable release attached to the camera and it dropping off somewhere. So it’s totally my own fault, and I’m pretty inured to the thought of giving Nikon £50-70 for a replacement every other year. This time was only unusual in that the cable got caught under my size 12 boot as I clambered up the left side of the quarry – as I pushed myself up a steep bit I tore it apart. Here we go again….

Anyway, this time my £70 hasn’t gone to Nikon. I did look at their fancier £130 release because it does something that really belongs in every high end camera – it lets you set manual shutter speeds longer than 30 seconds. Camranger is great, but it’s more than a replacement for a cable release, while I had seen Triggertrap being used by Richard Leishman when we shared Brandelhow jetty one morning, but it required a smartphone and mine remains in the stone age. So instead I went for the Hahnel GigaPro II wireless remote control. It’s small, worked first time, works when I’m half way up the street and the camera is behind a glass window – and it cost no more than a simple Nikon cable.

So after two good soakings, sometimes fate does work to your advantage.

Norway in 5 minutes

For one reason or another, something always crops up whenever I’ve planned to visit Norway. Long ago, a Norwegian girlfriend moved on before our summer trip, a business conference was cancelled at the last minute, and more recently a tour company had booked me to lead a tour to the fjords but seemed to go out of business and disappeared without trace. Norway remains one of the few European countries I’ve never seen.

I imagine it’s very beautiful and that it’s great for photography, so maybe one day, but I enjoyed watching this short set of timelapse movies by Morten Rustad who travelled the length of the country to capture spectacular scenes in all kinds of weather. I’d also recommend looking at his blog where he describes the project and includes pictures showing some of the gear he used. I always like comments like this:

As I was standing on top of the peak, I could get a more complete overview of the landscape, and found what I thought was a much easier and faster way down. I started the hike, and in the beginning it went very well. But as I walked, it started getting steeper and steeper….

Now that rings so very true, doesn’t it?