Wednesday 29 January 2014

A Drab day at Irby.

It was Jet walking today but yet another cold , wet and dreary day with overcast skies.  We decided on Irby Dale as it's not too far and opted for the long walk.  Despite the weather I took a couple of pictures.  I had had in mind for a while a high key shot looking straight up through the branches of the beech trees so the grey skies were perfect for it, especially when converted to black and white.  The beech leaves remaining on the trees were spots of bright colour against the drab surroundings and made suitable subjects for 'colour pop' shots.

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Monday 27 January 2014

Walking The Derwent Watershed from Langsett Reservoir.

On Monday 27th January I had arranged to meet up with my brother and two of our children (not quite children now!!) for some hill walking.  We parked by Langsett Reservoir on the outskirts of Sheffield on a cold morning with a not wonderful forecast.  Actually the weather turned out much better than we could have hoped with a cloud base well above the tops, no rain and even a glimmer of sun at times.  We even had a sprinkling of snow on the tops.  Setting out from the car park, we followed the valley of the Little Don or Porter which runs into the reservoirs.  This is a superb valley with flat, grassy bottom, wonderful Scots pine trees and steep sides.  We could have been in the Cairngorms.  It would make a splendid spot for a wild camp.  Eventually we reached the point where the main path crossed the river, where we stopped for some lunch.  From here we girded our loins and climbed up to the watershed with excellent views to the Woodhead pass and Bleaklow in the north and west; Whin Hill, Losehill and Mam Tor in the South with the Derwent Reservoirs in the valley bottom and the outskirts of Sheffield to the east.  We were on top of the world and felt it.  The going was reasonable as the ground was slightly frozen with a sprinkling of snow underfoot.  It was a fantastic romp along the high ridge of Outer Edge until we reached the Cut Gate path coming up from the Derwent Valley.  Sadly it was time to head in the opposite direction and make our way back to Langsett and the cars, stopping for soup and Soreen malt loaf on the way.  I had hoped to spot mountain hare on these high moors but sadly there were none to be seen.  There were, however, plenty of grouse reprimanding us with their 'go back, go back' call and we had smashing views of a short eared owl hunting in one of the side valleys and watched a merlin dashing low as it hunted its prey across the high tops.
Yet again a wonderful day to be out.

All photos taken with a Panasonic LX7

To view large click on a thumbnail.
Langsett Reservoir.
Little Don Valley.
Scots Pines in the Little Don Valley.
Cat Clough with The Rocking Stones in the far distance.
Boundary Stone and Bleaklow.
Along Outer Edge; boundary stone in the foreground.
Signs of winter.
Looking towards Bleaklow.
Looking south towards the Great Ridge of Mam Tor in the far distance.
Looking down to the Derwent Reservoirs.
Outer Edge with Margery Hill in the distance.
The Derwent Valley.
Along the Cut Gate Path with the Elmley Moor Transmitter on the skyline.
Langsett Reservoir.
Red Grouse on the Wall. (oh for my 500mm lens!)

Friday 24 January 2014

Waiting for the Kingfisher.

As the weather today unexpectedly turned clear and sunny, although cold, I decided to pay another visit to Cleethorpes Country Park to try for the kingfisher, this time complete with camera gear.  The plan was to settle down set up for the prepared perch where I knew it frequented; I even took a chair to make things more comfortable.  There were other birdwatchers and photographers about though and I made the fatal error of chasing the bird when it was seen in the channel round the nearby island.  True to form when I left my spot that was where it settled and I missed it this way not once, but three times.  I shan't make the same mistake next time I go!!  I did manage some distant shots though.

To view large click on an image.

While waiting for the kingfisher the black-throated diver and goosander both came very close and allowed for photography.  The goosander is a fabulous bird, but, although very special, the diver is in winter plumage and a pale imitation of the same bird in full breeding colours.  Wouldn't it be nice if stayed long enough but by then it will have headed back north.  It was interesting to see that the black-headed gulls were beginning to moult into their breeding plumage.
Black-throated Diver.
Black-headed Gull, winter plumage
Black-headed Gull, developing summer plumage
Black-Throated Diver.

All images taken with Canon 7D and 500mm +1.4 converter.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Cycling in the Wolds.

The weather forecast didn't bode well for today's bike ride in the Lincolnshire Wolds.  As promised it began to rain heavily at 9.00 am and didn't look good, but true to the forecast it began to clear as I set out to meet Brian at 11.00 am.  As the rain cleared, however, the temperature dropped and the wind increased.  Once on top of the Wolds it was both cold and hard work biking into the strengthening nagging westerly wind.  The return journey was much easier with the wind behind, although showers chased me all the way home.  I was good to see snowdrops in flower at all of the usual places on this circuit and I was well pleased to spot a large flock of fieldfares as I don't seem to have seen many this winter so far.  Another good day.
Chased home by showers.

Monday 20 January 2014

The Humber Bridge.

Had to make a trip to Hull today, so went on to Beverley for tea and stickies and managed to arrange to return over the bridge at sunset.  It would have been rude not to stop for a photo.

The picture is taken with the Panasonic LX7 using the panorama facility.  Not perfect but for a quick shot a lot simpler than getting out the trip and then stitching together a series of shots in photoshop.

To view large click the thumbnail.

Saturday 18 January 2014

Dog Walking and Kingfisher Hunting.

It was damp and drizzly today and no good for photography but it was good to be out anyway.  I had volunteered to take Jet, the dog, for a walk so headed for Cleethorpes Country Park to see if I could see the kingfisher that had been showing well.  When I arrived there were other photographers there for the goosander and black-throated diver and they had seen the kingfisher but had only captured distant shots of it.  On a walk round the lake I saw both the diver and the goosander but no sign of the kingfisher.  Other birds present included mallard, coot, moorhen, pochard, tufted duck, black headed gulls, woodpigeon, magpie and sparrowhawk.  While out and about in recent days I had seen hazel catkins fully out and snowdrops just coming into flower.  The aconites in our garden are also beginning to poke through.

Friday 10 January 2014

The Night Sky.

Inspired by Stargazing live on BBC2 and a good prediction, I decided to go out into the Lincolnshire Wolds Aurora hunting last night.  I had no luck so tried a couple of star shots.  From previous experience and research I knew that 30 seconds at f4 with my 10-22 lens set at 10mm and an ISO of 800 would give acceptable results.  I plced the camera on a very sturdy tripod and hung a heavy camera back from it to decrease the risk of camera movement.  I used a 2 sec self timer.  Apart form all this technical info, it was a stunning night (12.00 - 1.00 am).  I expected there to be less light pollution than the was out in the Wolds; it's amazing how a 30 sec exposure captures a glow even when there appears to be none.  It is possible to get rid of this by decreasing the colour temperature but I don't dislike the effect.

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The car with The Plough above and lights of Grimsby.
Jupiter top left with Orion.

Thursday 9 January 2014

Goosander and Black Throated Diver on Cleethorpes Country Park.

Normally I am not one for chasing rarities but when one, and in this case two, are on your doorstep, it would be rude not to.  I have known for a couple of days that there was a goosander and a black throated diver on the lake at Cleethorpes Country park, but until yesterday I had not been able to get down.  Fortunately the day dawned mild and sunny and it was with pleasurable anticipation that I made my way down there.  I walked around the lake until I spotted the goosander and then headed towards it.  I was not on my own as there were several other birdwatchers and photographers in attendance.  The goosander, a female, proved cooperative in the extreme and, although I kept it on, I could have managed without my 1.4 converter.  Although it was easy to see, the main problem was to get pictures of the bird actually doing something other than sleeping.  Fortunately it did occasionally wake up, stretch and preen.  The diver appeared to be settled in the middle of the lake too far away for photography so I wandered around to the side of the lake nearest to it.  Suddenly, after half an hour or so, it surfaced close to the shore and allowed excellent views and photography opportunities.  The light was absolutely perfect, coming from behind and to the side and lighting up the water beautifully.  In a woodland situation I usually prefer bright overcast when the cloud acts as a giant soft box, as full sun can be too harsh and contrasty and produce unpleasant deep shadow or a shadow across the bird.  In a lake situation, however, overcast conditions produce a lot of reflection off the water causing unpleasant glare and an underexposed bird lacking in saturation.  Other birds present this morning included tufted duck, pochard, mallard, various gulls, magpie and kingfisher.

From the Country Park I decided to go to my feeding station at the woodyard, calling first at the office for a cup of tea with John and to pick up the keys.  Although remaining very pleasant the sunlight became a touch more hazy, perfect for the woodland photography.  In fact it was positively springlike and snowdrops and daffodils were well up and hazel catkins full out.  It's difficult to believe ti is only January and the rest of the country is suffering extreme weather conditions.  There was plenty of activity and visitors included a party of long tailed tits, robins, dunnock, blue and great tits and goldfinch.

All photographs were taken with a canon 7D and a 500mm lens.  For the more distant shots at the Country Park I added a 1.4 converter but the feeding station is set up for the 500 without the converter.  I selected an ISO to give a shutter speed fast enough to stop movement and to keep the birds sharp.

To view large, click on an image.

Black Throated Diver
Black Throated Diver
Long Tailed Tit
Great Tit
Blue Tit

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Out On The Wolds

I enjoyed a wonderful couple of hours out cycling high on the Lincolnshire Wolds today.  As usual I had my compact camera with me and took a few images at favourite locations, especially Moggs Hollow; love that name!!

All picures taken with a Panasonic Lumix LX7

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Moggs Hollow
Moggs Hollow, monochrome conversion.

Sunday 5 January 2014

New Year in Derbyshire.

It was incredible to think that another year had gone by and it was time for our regular New Celebrations at Hartington Youth Hostel in Derbyshire.  It is even more incredible to think that that has now also headed rapidly into the past.  So it was on a rather gloomy 30th December that Heather and I loaded up the car and set off.  The journey went well and we arrived well in daylight and managed to unload the car and get settled in while Peter and Linda (brother and sister-in-law) were still out walking.  We have been seeing the New Year in here since 2001.  We love it; it's always good to get together and nobody has to do the work.  The food and drink excellent and the staff incredibly welcoming.  If Youth Hostelling conjures up images of self catering and morning jobs, forget it.  Think instead of oak-panelled country house hotel with roaring log fores and en-suite rooms!!!  We do the same walks every year, the only decision being is it clockwise or anti clockwise.  This year only Peter and myself were walking, Heather and Linda being on the injured bench and opting for mulled wine and tea shops!!

Our first walk totalled 11 miles and took us from the hostel and down Biggin Dale to the River Dove along which we walked to Milldale.  From here it was up to Alstonfield and then over fields before slithering down a very muddy Gypsy Bank back down to the Dove.  We again followed the river but in the opposite direction back into Hartington and the hostel in time for afternoon tea.  During the morning we experienced torrential rain, but it cleared in the afternoon to give a beautiful finish to the walk and some wonderful light for photography.  Just down from the hostel we pass a fabulous Derbyshire Dales barn that, over the years has gradually fallen into disrepair until last year the roof had gone completely.  Thinking it was only a matter of time we were not optimistic as we approached it this year but to our delight it has been completely restored.  We did well for bird life this year: goldcrests, a family group of long-tailed tits, teal, three kingfisher sightings, excellent views of three dippers, marsh/willow tit, tree creeper and a heron in the same spot we always see one.  We also had a sparrowhawk fly over when we stopped for an afternoon coffee.  An excellent day.

New Year's Day dawned wet and stayed wet all day with gale force winds. And I have never seen so much mud; wallowing best describes it at times.  In a perverse way though it was pleasurably.  There is something very satisfying about staying warm and dry inside good waterproof and immune to the elements.  It has been said there is no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate gear.  Our walk was another 11 miler along the ridge separating the Dove from the Manifold to Longnor and back along the valley of the Dove via Pilsbury Castle.  Not surprisingly wildlife sightings were few and far between and the camera didn't come out once.

Our final walk on 2nd January was a circular walk from Alstonfield, down to Milldale, along the River Dove and back via Hall Dale and Stanshope.  As shorter one of 5 miles as we also had to drive home.  We had much better weather today with some great light for photography and a wonderful rainbow over the river.

All photographs were taken with my new compact Panasonic LX7.  I have bought this to use when I am out walking and don't wish to be encumbered by large and heavy DSLR equipment.  It does the job admirably.  As it is easy to change the aspect ration on this camera It was good to experiment.  I find 16:9 pleasing for landscape format but 4:3 much better for vertical shots.

To view large, click on an image.

Detail on Stone Wall
Alder Catkin
River Dove
River Dove
River Dove.
Hartington Village and Church.
Hartington Church
Youth Hostel
Youth Hostel.
Alstonfiled Church.

River Dove.
River Dove.
River Dove, Ilam Rock.

Alstonfield Church.