Whitby ‘Illuminated Abbey’ and ‘Fountains by Floodlight’

People, Yorkshire

Some photos from the ‘Illuminated Abbey’ event at Whitby Abbey and ‘Fountains by Floodlight’ event at Fountains Abbey. I’ve been to Fountains by Floodlight before and they had their wandering ‘monk’ back again, posing inscrutably in the ruins (whilst always giving a friendly smile to the odd worried child!) – it did bring back memories of last year’s favourite moment when a small boy asked him which Jedi knight he was! Whitby had wandering bodysnatchers and Dracula characters (believe me, it was too cold to be wandering round in a habit!), and projected bats and cobwebs on the ruins, which I would have happily lived without, as the ruins are imposing and mysterious enough in their clifftop position with the clouds drifting over the moon.  The ruins were floodlit in ever-changing shades of crimson, gold, violet, aqua, midnight blue, emerald and magenta, though the ducks on the tarn near the abbey seemed a little less than impressed by the colour display!


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A more creative approach to nature photography

Creative, Nature

I love watching wildlife and capturing an animal or bird’s behaviour or character in my wildlife portraits, but some of my more recent projects have been aimed at capturing more of the spirit and beauty of nature in more creative ways. This is very much a work in progress, and rather than one particular style or technique, I’ve tried a variety of styles and  techniques, as I think what is needed to bring out its essence and character is, to some extent, dependent upon the animal, bird or environment concerned.

For example, when photographing terns in the Farne islands, I wanted to convey something of the balletic elegance of their flight, and so aimed for a high key approach with the sun shining through the feathers to give a more ethereal quality, combined with a slower shutter speed to allow some movement blur.

When watching bullfinches feeding in a snowstorm in Scotland, the white background and bright colour palette of the bullfinch plumage reminded me of Chinese bird and flower brush paintings, and this concept certainly influenced how I approached the subject. With the snow helping to create a minimalistic background, I exposed the image to brighten this further, used a slower shutter speed to capture some movement blur, like rough brush strokes, in the bullfinch’s fluttering wing, and aimed to keep the image simple and painterly in my processing.

Sometimes the animal’s habitat is what makes the scene interesting, in which case I aim to use composition and processing to bring out interesting patterns or textures. An example is the long-eared owl in woodland, where I wanted to emphasise the patterns formed by the branches, against a subdued colour palette caused by an earlier snowfall, with the owl being merely a part of the beautiful woodland scene.

Equally I loved the amazing curves and shapes of the eroded cliffs on Noss, Shetland, where the texture and pattern of the cliffs make the picture, as much as the gannet perched on his ledge (see also at the top).

Sometimes the story is about the relationship of the animal to its environment. I photographed this stag roaring on a mountainside in Ardnamurchan. The roaring of stags carried for miles, and was the only sound other than the wind in the remote glen where we stood looking up at the mountainside to spot the source of the noise. When photographing him I wanted to show something of the size and space of his remote habitat, so I waited until he moved towards another stag and stepped out onto the crest of the ridge, so that I could silhouette him as a very small, but still recognisable shape against the colourful sky.

I have also worked on a series of photos of water birds where the colours reflected in the water are a key element of the picture. These great-crested grebes are probably my favourites of these images. I love the colours and patterns of the reflections and ripples on the water.

Most recently I managed to take a series of photos of swans in a style I had wanted to achieve for some time. I sometimes like to use a dramatic lighting style (chiaroscuro style lighting) in my monochrome photos, and had pre-visualised photographing swans in a very high contrast style, with the light shining through, and on, the swan’s white feathers, creating an ethereal effect, as with the tern.

Hopefully these photos capture more than just a record shot of wildlife, though they don’t always seem to go down well with judges, but, as we’re always being told, we should take the photos we want to take, and these are definitely the photos that I enjoy making the most, so it’s an area I want to keep developing and progressing – watch this space!

Railway in Wartime

People, Places and travel, Yorkshire

Every year the North Yorks Moors Railway hosts a ‘Railway in Wartime’ event at its stations. Grosmont had a Battle of Britain Mk2 Spitfire in the carpark and dancing on the platform; Goathland was protected by the Home Guard; Levisham became ‘Le Visham’ a French railway station occupied by German Wehrmacht and Feldgendarmarie, with radar and anti-aircraft battery next to the station, and Pickering hosted visits by Churchill, wartime vehicles etc, and had a number of dodgy characters selling stockings (and some rather dubious silk garments!) from suitcases on the main street. An amazing number of people dress up and join in, and the challenge for photographers is that there is just too much to photograph!

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A visit to Studley Royal


We visited Studley Royal, near Ripon, on Monday, and I got some photos that I’ve been pre-visualising for some time. I really wanted to get some close-up photos of the swans, picking out details of the their plumage against a dark background. Fortunately I got the light I wanted and some cooperative subjects and I was pleased with the results.