Over the Christmas I made my first proper visit to the Torridon area. I made a fleeting visit driving the coastal road last year and watched the sunset over the Isle of Skye from Bealach Na Ba but we carried on to Asssynt after that. It had been a place I had wanted to visit [...]
Beinn a' Chrulaiste, a mountain I have been trying to capture for a few years now. I originally stumbled on the mountain about 4 years ago or so, I think from a walking routes website. I was looking for good mountains in the area with great views and Beinn a' Chrulaiste came up as a [...]
In a quest to keep revisiting locations I recently went back up to the Boxing Gloves on Kinder Scout. This amazing formation has weathered over millennia to create a formation that we can now associate something with. If you look closely, you can see the outline of a boxing glove or two. I have probably [...]
Quite a short blog today I think, but I just felt that my recent trip to the Salt Cellar was worth a mention and worth the blog. So a few weeks ago I arranged with Stephen Elliott (another local Peak District photographer) to meet up. I have known Stephen a long time now, probably around [...]
The Peak District offers up some of the most accessible hillside viewpoints in the country, getting up high and walking from the car is usually no problem. Of course, this means that on any given day, especially at the weekend, these viewpoints are likely to be busy. I've never been afraid of walking to my [...]
So, I'm a little late to the party writing this blog. It's now the 5th of January and no doubt you've seen and read many photographer's blogs or posts on their favourite images of 2016. The truth is, I was away in Scotland until the 2nd January and since then I have been trying to [...]
So it's now December and I think I can officially say Autumn is at an end. It's been quite a strange one this year and I have seen a lot of people saying it's the best Autumn for many years, some claiming a decade! I'm not quite sure I agree with that. First off, Autumn [...]
No, not always. Greece is actually a very mountainous country, especially the mainland. A lot of the mountains are typical Mediterranean, bushy and arid with not much in terms of features. However there are some distinctly amazing areas where the mountains differ a lot. One of the highlights has got to be the Zagoria region near Ioannina in North-West Greece. The other highlight is Meteora near Trikala.
These two areas caught my attention around 5 years ago and 3 years ago I made an effort to visit them in August. I wrote a blog about that visit here. Unfortunately, we went in August and it was too hot and too dry to do some of the things we wanted to do, including hiking up to the Astraka Refuge Hut.
Since then, I had been itching to go back and finish what I had started. I never quite found the time, but this year I was determined. I had started planning and knew ideally I needed to go late May. I came close to booking to go solo but I actually found a willing friend to join me. I don’t mind doing things on my own, but having a friend with you really adds a social element and can keep you sane for the week, especially if the weather turns for the worst or you relax outside of the golden hours. So I booked and started to get a plan together.
My main objective of the trip would be to visit the Astraka Refuge and the mountains surrounding it. The great thing about this area is that not many photographer’s have explored it, especially those who aren’t Greek. There’s a certain allure to that kind of photography for me. What I really wanted to do as well was showcase a different side to a country that people just wouldn’t expect. So, back to the refuge, this building sits around 1920m high up above Mikro Papigo and provides a great base camp for exploring the mountains around it. At this altitude, the scenery really starts to change and things become more rugged, alpine and very dramatic. One of the highlights of the area has to be Drakolimni, an alpine lake looking over towards the impressive Astraka mountain. For the second part of the week, I was to return to Meteora. The refuge has it’s own website with some awesome 360 panoramics to give you an idea of the area. http://www.astrakarefuge.com/en/
So, we had flown to Thessaloniki and drove 4 hours to the Zagoria region. The forecast for the week had started to look pretty dubious and as we gained height, the clouds rolled in, capping the mountains and we saw a few bolts of lightning fire off. A daunting prospect when your plan is to head high up. The sunset was late, around 9pm but we had booked into a hotel in Mikro Papigo that allowed check-in until midnight. Despite feeling tired, we decided not to take the easy route out and instead headed for sunset at Vikos Gorge. I had been to this location on a previous visit but hadn’t had a cloud in the sky and I wanted to return hoping for a little more luck. Luckily (and purposely chosen for this reason) the walk from Vradeto to Beloi isn’t too bad. We actually parked at the end of the dirt track and the walk is probably 15 minutes at most.
It was a surreal difference to the last time I was here. Gone was the dry grass, replaced by a fresher smell with wild flowers I hadn’t seen before. It caught me so much by surprise, I didn’t even bother to put on my walking shoes which was a big mistake as the rain had created muddy paths and lethal limestone. On arriving at the viewpoint I hadn’t quite got the same shock I had last time, with drops in places of around 1000m making me feel dizzy but I was still very impressed and glad to be there. The last time I had found a composition a little too late, after the sun had gone down and I didn’t make the same mistake twice and scrambled up to the higher viewpoint where not many people venture.
I spent a little time, trying different compositions. A large cloud hung over Timfi, the mountain range where Astraka resided. This first shot was my favourite of the evening, I loved the wild flowers adding a little colour to the scene and the foreground rocks just helping to give a little scale to that huge drop:
I moved back up top and also shot a similar scene but this was the original composition I had in mind which I had spotted a few years back:
Finally, once the sun had gone behind the cliff I whipped the telephoto lens out and zoomed far into the valley, with the light nice and orange. The scene was quite hazy in all but it had a nice dreamy feel to it.
I was at this point pleased to have improved on the photos I had taken last time but I was also feeling shattered from the long day. Unfortunately, it was another hour or so to the hotel. While, on the map it was only 5 miles away, the village was across the gorge and you simply can’t drive across! So, you have to take many steep and windy mountain roads to get there. We arrived in Mikro Papigo very late and didn’t have a clue where the hotel was. The village itself is pretty much car-free due to tight and narrow roads (we found this out the hard way) but after a quick call to the hotel we were soon in our room getting ready for the next day.
We woke the next morning and checked the forecast. It said thunderstorms were due to roll in, but sitting in the early morning sun it was hard to believe. We packed slowly and probably headed off a little later than we should have. We decided to leave the tents and instead take up the drones. With the forecast, being in a tent probably wasn’t going to be the best of ideas. We had 950m to ascend but we weren’t sure on the mileage, just that it would be 2hr50 (a European thing). The trail was fairly good and even though it was steep in places, it wasn’t actually too hard or too much of a chore and me made it in 2hrs20. Shelters and springs are along the way and if you so wish, you can even have a mule carry your equipment (we didn’t). We had a few local guides express concern on our way up due to thunderstorm risk but we decided to carry on and if it turned for the worst, we would turn back. We got to the refuge fine and it was actually the first time I had stopped in one. We met the guy who ran the refuge, who stays there from May until October. He explained the facilities and rules to us and it was perfect. I was disappointed looking down into the basin below where the lake at Xeroloutsa had pretty much dried up. May is usually a good month to shoot the lake before it dries up (the refuge didn’t open until mid-May anyway). I had been hopeful as I knew they had a harsh winter, but it turns out they also had a very dry spring despite snow up the mountain until mid-April.
I felt sweaty from the walk, so went to take a cold shower (the only kind in the refuge!) and came out with a head that hurt and fingers I couldn’t feel it was that cold. Proper mountain water I guess! As I was drying off, the rain started to lash down and I saw a bolt of lightning in the not too far distance and from the direction of the way we had come up. We had timed it just right.
That was it for the evening, the rain persisted and the cloud had come in. No photography to be done. I had gathered a rough idea of where Drakolimni was during the brief period of visibility but knew it might be a tough walk to find the next morning in the dark. I awoke at 4am and was disappointed to wake up to more clag, with no sign of it clearing. Back to bed it was and we got up later that morning. The weather started to clear a little just after breakfast. We took the drones out and did a bit of video and photos. This first image is of Astraka mountain:
This next shot shows the location of the refuge against the beautiful mountain backdrop:
After this we decided to do a reccy trip up to Drakolimni. It actually turned out to be our only real break in the weather while up there. With the cloud floating around, there was still enough drama to take a shot and it helped diffuse the light a little.
So, I’m a little late to the party writing this blog. It’s now the 5th of January and no doubt you’ve seen and read many photographer’s blogs or posts on their favourite images of 2016. The truth is, I was away in Scotland until the 2nd January and since then I have been trying to catch up.
2016 for me is a funny year to look back on. On a personal level it wasn’t the best but it has hopefully opened some new doors. You know the saying. But this isn’t a place to talk about my personal life, so on to the year in review.
I’ve seen a lot of posts and blogs showcasing their favourite 10 images of 2016, I’m not sure where this come from and how official it is but I’m not going to go down that road. How do I choose 10 images? Do I pick personal favourites, choose what I think are the best (there’s a difference between the former and latter) or do I just simply showcase my most popular as perceived by social media? I’m not sure.
So I had been thinking about this blog for some time now and how I would write it. I’ve done them before and I wanted to just do something a little different. One thing stuck in my mind and to me that’s perhaps my favourite experiences of 2016, photographically speaking anyway. I’ve done a lot of photography in 2016 and in some cases probably upped my game, but a lot of the images I like the most won’t even get a mention.
I’ve captured new parts of the Peak District (rare for me), bettered old images, been to Dorset and Cornwall which was fantastic and photographically a very different experience for me and had some pretty good light along the way.
But, what sticks in my mind? Well, mist especially in the mountains is one thing that has stuck in my mind. I’ve had a few instances in 2016 where I headed up a mountain accepting before I set off it wouldn’t be anything spectacular to then be welcomed by breaking clouds or passing mist. I love mist, who doesn’t? But when it goes from nothing to amazing scenes of sun poking through mist or it being side-lit by the sun, it’s just a moment on the hill where I feel that little bit more excitement than most times.
It started off in Assynt, Scotland. Me and my girlfriend, Sarah made our second ascent of Stac Polliadh (or Stac Polly as most call it) and we had stood around. We had some fairly nice light, some snow storms and then got covered in clag. It looked like it was almost over at this point and I waited around at the bealach with Sarah and considered heading down. Not one to be defeated though, we waited around and as luck would have it the mist started to clear. Sarah stayed down at the bealach and captured a fantastic photo. I had to rush back up to the Eastern summit, caught out by this sudden break and managed to fire off one shot before it all went again. It was amazing to see, nevermind photograph, the strong sunlight being diffused by the mist and views to the lochs below.
If I were going to critique myself on this one, I might choose to re-process it a little less warm and I wish I had more time to fine-tune the composition. However, I’m still glad to have had the opportunity to witness this:
Next, we’re back at Assynt. This time from our second visit in March. All week it had been pretty poor weather wise, flat grey skies and cloud-capped mountains. I had wanted to capture a view from Sgurr An Fhidlheir (The Fiddler) looking over to Stac Polliadh. We attempted it on one day but unfortunately had to turn around. The next day, I set up off on my own and it was still pretty drab. The forecast suggested sunshine and showers but I wasn’t convinced, there were certainly showers on the way up though. I wasn’t bothered though, after a week of not doing much I was determined to at least get up a mountain. I love photography and capturing the moments, I get frustrated when it doesn’t happen but I do have to try and tell myself from time to time I’m also a walker and to just enjoy being out there, some people won’t ever get the chance and others don’t realise what we have.
I got to the summit and I was thick in clag, though I could see hints of brightness. It was also very windy. I had arrived in plenty of time and thought I would wait around for the golden hour to come. I phoned Sarah to let her know I was at the top and safe and while on the phone the cloud started to break up. It was unexpected and a magical moment. The views over the lochs to Stac Polliadh and Suilven were amazing and I was made up.
It wasn’t the golden hour but I didn’t care. The light was pretty good, fresh looking in fact and by the time golden hour started the best of the mist had cleared up. I managed to capture this shot and if I’m to name one image as my favourite from 2016, it would have to be this one.
Next we’re off to the Brecon Beacons. It was my first visit here and of course we just had to climb Pen-Y-Fan. It was one of them mountains on my list for years but for me the Brecon’s is quite far away especially compared to other National Parks. But, we had a reason to be in the area and made the most of it. We made it a hill-walking day but took our camera’s anyway. It was lovely in the day with broken cloud but started to clear up. With a nip in the air, Sarah decided to head down and I stuck around. I jumped from Corn Ddu to Pen-Y-Fan a few times, working with the light as it changed, finding new compositions.
What caught me by surprise though, is while on Corn Ddu photographing a composition I had spotted on our ascent was a mist that rolled in from behind me. It made a rather boring sky something rather special with the mist getting hit by the sun.
Next, I’m just going to chuck a cheeky shot in. It’s not a mountain image and one from Dorset at the ever popular Durdle Door with hardly any mist. Despite being summer, it had been a foggy day most of the day with breaks in the fog while we were at Bournemouth to reveal scorching temperatures. Our last night before heading to Cornwall I almost insisted we go to Durdle Door one last time as I still hadn’t got a sunset shot I was really happy with.
Walking down, the fog kept rolling by and actually made the strong summer sun quite diffused. I jumped into a spot Sarah had shot the previous year and admittedly, I was inspired to use her composition of a panoramic looking across Man O’War bay and Durdle Door, The fog made the image hazy, although it had almost completely burnt off and in the end I came back with an image I actually rather like despite being such a well photographed location.
Lastly is from a visit to Snowdonia. I had been up the Glyder’s back in April to try and capture something and thought my luck would be in once again and mists kept passing but unfortunately the sun didn’t want to play. So, after getting itchy feet having not done a wild camp for a while, due to an accident injuring me I set back out to Capel Curig to see what I could do. Setting off, the forecast was promising but as ever, the forecast changed last minute and predicted flat grey skies and even some rain. To make matters worse, I dropped my wallet in a Tesco on the way but decided to carry on anyway as Tesco had found it and put it in lost property.
On arriving at Capel Curig, it was grey. flat and boring. I may have even had a little sulk and felt like not bothering. But I had driven 3 hours and what was I going to do? Just turn around and go home? Nope. After having a word with myself, I decided to go up anyway and again try to enjoy just being out the mountains. What a right decision it turned out to be!
Again, I was fortunate to get there in plenty of time and once again clag started to break and the sun broke though. I caught a few images I had in mind but what I wasn’t expecting was to be shooting Castell Y Gwynt at sunset as I had marked it for sunrise.
However, having finished at Bristly Ridge I turned to my left and saw a thick fog clinging the tops with the sun just poking through. I had to rush across the ankle breaking boulder field, shooting a couple of shots along the way in case it disappeared and got to where I wanted to be literally in the nick of time. I shot one shot that I knew I liked but I was in such a rush I wasn’t sure I had got it in focus.
Luckily I had and it’s this shot of Castell Y Gwynt (Castle of the Winds) looking into the setting sun before vanishing for the night. Another image I really quite like.
So that’s it. Not really a year in review but more of a record of my most memorable moments of 2016 photographically. I honestly feel blessed to have captured these shots, because to repeat them would be quite difficult and it gives them..
So it’s now December and I think I can officially say Autumn is at an end. It’s been quite a strange one this year and I have seen a lot of people saying it’s the best Autumn for many years, some claiming a decade!
I’m not quite sure I agree with that. First off, Autumn came very, very late this year and when it did, the leaves turned slowly. The trouble was some of the early trees such as Birch lost their leaves very quickly while many others were very green even into November. I think the late Autumn was down to mild and sometimes even hot conditions in October. Even at the end of October I was leading a workshop in my t-shirt! What has been welcome though is the cold snaps we seem to be enjoying recently, especially the relatively early snow. I hope we’re in for a good winter.
The colours didn’t seem quite as vibrant to me this year either. It might have been the lack of rain in particular as so many locations were dry and not glistening, especially in places such as Padley Gorge.
All that said, I still tried to make the most of what I could and I thought I’d share some of the images from the season with you.
First off we have Padley Gorge, I headed here on a workshop with Richard and got totally engrossed in photographing the cascades, especially finding the swirl pools. Oh and of course, that tree and millstone!
Next we move on to Stanage Edge. I initially had intended on going to Carhead Rocks with a promising sky looking like it would light up, but chasing the clouds and light had me move onto Stanage. It eventually cleared up which was frustrating but I still managed to get enough detail in the sky with a new composition from here. The autumn colours in the bracken and plantation were awesome.
Now onto my favourite shoot of this Autumn. These shots are from Abbey Bank above Derwent and Howden Reservoirs. I had tried shooting this area before and been meaning to revisit for a while. The first shot I really rather like because of the light filtering through the trees, really illuminating the colours and also being able to see the rain passing by in the photo. It didn’t seem to go down too well on social media, but for me I still like it. It’s also a shot I perhaps wouldn’t usually take, not only did I crop the 3:2 ratio to a panoramic one out of one image, I also took it handheld for fear of losing the light or not getting any later on.
The next image is the one I went to take. Abbey Bank overlooks Howden Dam surrounded by Autumn colours. If lucky, the dam will be in overflow really adding to the scene. Unfortunately, after a rather dry October and start of November (until the day I went!) I had no such luck. Luck was on my side in another way though and a rainbow broke out just as I got to the top of the hill. These really are some of my favourite types of conditions.
Next was my final official workshop to focus on autumn colours in the Peak District and I headed out with Ronald. We started off bright and early at Lumsdale and it was a good opportunity to retake an old composition of the central falls. The colours at this point were really good but still plenty of green on the trees above. It was the 6th November!
We then went to Ladybower and the Derwent East Side Walk to see what we could find. The light kept coming and going, testing us but we ended up spending some time up in some woodlands where the Beech leaves lying on the floor looked great.
Next I had a decision to make. I had previously suggested Lead Hill on Derwent Edge or Bamford Edge for sunset but reading the weather and looking at satellite imagery it looked like it was closing in. I looked over towards Stanage and while only a couple of miles away there seemed to be breaks and the radars agreed. We made a dash for it and in all were well rewarded with some great light, autumnal colours and the first signs of snow.
It’s always good when you manage to call conditions and actually get some light on a workshop. As you can see from the last picture, towards Ladybower was totally clagged in. No rest for the wicked though and the next day saw me up early and heading up to the Yorkshire Dales to meet David Speight Photography. I had wanted to visit more Yorkshire Dales locations and we also wanted to plan our next joint workshop together which you can see here.
We spent a day visiting classic and new locations and the onset of winter was really apparent. Autumn colour still in full force at Scalebar Force though:
We finished the day off with a sunset walking along Southerscale Scars to Raven Scar. Always good to photograph limestone pavements and there was some epic light and clouds, unfortunately we weren’t in quite the best spot, with it being selective, picking out distant hills.
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