Whilst I was visiting Bude recently, I had to deliver some pictures that are being featured in an exhibition in Taunton, Somerset. This journey took me from north Cornwall to south Devon, on into somerset and rather than return the same way I’d come, I decided to drive north to the north Devon Coast.
In 1976, here in the UK, we had the most extraordinary summer. Weeks of Mediterranean type weather. I was lucky enough, as an 11 year old boy, to spend that summer staying with a great uncle in North Devon. Everyday we visited the beach. Saunton Sands was the destination of choice and this was somewhere I really wanted to revisit.
Unfortunately, the weather was certainly not that of the summer of ’76 however, it was great to see people enjoying the beach regardless.
As followers of this blog will know, I like bad weather. At least, I like to photograph dynamic weather. As a result I feel sometimes that I do Iceland a disservice as many of my photographs tend to be taken when the weather is doing its thing.
However, of course the sun also shines in Iceland and when the sun shines in the winter months, it’s magical. Daylight is very limited, just a few hours a day and with the sun hanging so low in the sky, the light has a wonderful quality.
Last week I shared some pictures of Vik in the Sunshine. This week I’m sharing a few more blue sky landscapes. As I started to go though my archives, I realised there were far more sunny days over the last couple of winters I’ve been in Iceland than I’d remembered so I’m going to be posting these picture postcard winter landscapes over several posts. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them..
Here are a few more snowscapes from my recent visit to Iceland. From complete white out to the scene as the blizzard recedes, these pictures depict the harsh beauty of winter in Iceland.
I know that conventional wisdom suggests that we should shun the sun. It’s bad for us, it can give us skin cancer. However, the sun gives us life. Life on earth would not exist but for the sun. The Incas and other civilisations worshiped the sun and with good reason. They recognised that the sun was life.
Where am I going with all of this? Well to put it frankly, the sun makes one feel good and I for one will not cover up and cower in the shadows. I can’t take heat, heat is not good for my MS however, here in the Canary Islands, in early March with a constant cooling breeze, I can enjoy the sun and enjoying is what I’ve been doing. This mega dose of ‘feel good’ is just what I needed. I can recommend it to anyone. Having seriously depleted vitamin D levels after a dire winter in the UK, I can safely say, I’m now nicely topped up.
This picture was taken at dawn this morning from the small fishing village of El Cotillo, looking south along the coast to the mountains, the extinct volcanoes that form the back bone of these islands.
No sooner had my feet touched the tarmac following a very busy time in Iceland, than they were airborne once more but this time heading south for a bit of R & R and sunshine therapy. With repeat medical tests looming, the results of which I’m more than a little concerned about, getting away and forgetting all of that for a wee while seemed a smart move.
Where better for such a thing than the Canary Islands, Fuerteventura to be exact. It’s currently 24 °c, that’s around 75 °f, not too hot and with a constant cooling breeze, it’s pretty near perfect for me and to be enjoying this in March is a real treat to be sure. Thank heavens for budget airlines.
Traveling on the first day to a near deserted beach on the northwestern side of the Island, I came across this fairly iconic symbol.
Please bear with me while I take this little break. I’ll be visiting all your blogs and catching up once I’m back to a very cold, grey drizzly Cornwall in a few day’s time. Feels like a million miles away just now not just a mere 2, 300 0dd miles. See you soon.. :-)
I’ve just returned from a few days away staying in Anglesey in North Wales. I was staying in a holiday cottage in a village with an unpronounceable name with my friend, photographer and fellow blogger Poppy and her BB, not to mention Lottie, a beautiful white German Shepherd.
I’d never visited this part of Wales before and it was a real pleasure. We were very lucky with the weather and given the forecast was looking so good, we booked a trip to the top of Snowdon on the little train that runs from the station at Llanberis to the very top of the mountain. Poppy stayed with Lottie while her BB and myself set off for the top.
Snowdon is the UK’s third highest peak at 1085m or 3560ft above sea level. The mountain is quite unique of course in that the other two peaks that beat Snowdon in terms of height above sea level, Ben Nevis and Càrn Eige, require a great deal more effort to reach their respective summits. These two peaks I should mention are in the Scottish Highlands of course. As my hiking days are over sadly, being able to catch a train to the top is a very real bonus.
There are two services that run from Llanberis. There’s the diesel service, the only one that had any tickets left, and the more romantic perhaps, steam service. As the picture of the steam service below illustrates however, romanticism comes at a price and I was quite glad I was only able to get the diesel ticket.
Given the weather, I knew I wasn’t going to be taking fine art, moody, mountain landscape photographs on my way to the top. I certainly wasn’t complaining however. As the conductor pointed out, there have been very few clear days at the summit of Snowdon this year. We were very lucky to be treated to the spectacular views in the photographs below..
Winding our way to the Summit
I was going through some pictures taken in Iceland over the weekend. I’m still catching up on processing the many pictures I’ve taken there now. Looking at some pictures taken near Hvaines in East Iceland, I was very much struck by how the character of the scene changed over the course of about an hour.
The kind of conditions encountered that day were absolutely my favourite for landscape photography, sunshine and showers. These very dynamic conditions create the opportunities for variety of light, demonstrated in the photographs below. They really highlight why, as landscape photographers, we should wait for the light, waiting is good especially on days like this one. I’d be hard pushed to choose a favourite amongst these pictures which is why I guess, I’ve posted them all as a sort of demonstration. Talking of which, the photographs also demonstrate quite nicely the difference between using an ultra wide angle, wide angle and standard 35mm lens when taking shots of the same scene. My Nikkor 14-24mm really is an exceptional lens.
Incidentally, I’m really quite pleased to report that the photograph I took on the beach at Reynisfjara that I posted a little while back here, has been published on the 1x gallery website. 1x is a curated gallery of quite exceptional photography and that’s a first for me so I’m feeling really quite pleased. If you’re not familiar with the site, it’s well worth a visit. :-)
A few posts ago I published a picture taken from behind Seljalandsfoss in Iceland. The image below was taken from the slightly drier side of the waterfall. If you look closely, you can just see the path that you can take to get behind the falls. That’s if you don’t mind getting extremely wet that is. The photograph was taken at 12 minutes before midnight incidentally! Midnight sunshine is a feature of the Icelandic summer that takes some getting used to for those of us living in more southerly lattitudes. :-)
35mm f/4 1/60 sec. ISO-125
I took this photograph hand-held with my Sony A7R. I certainly wouldn’t be able to hand-hold my D800e and get a sharp picture at 1/60 sec. which adds to this cameras versatility. There’s a lot to be said for a light compact mirrorless camera.
And why not? :-) Who could resist a visit to this wonderful waterfall if you happened to be passing again. Akureyri is a place I love to visit when I’m in Iceland and Godafoss is a very short drive out of town. You can see pictures from my visit to Godafoss a couple of months ago here and here.
On this visit, with most of the snow now gone, a short scramble down some rocks from a secondary car park got me onto a small beach below the falls, an area previously inaccessible and far removed from the usual viewing areas. Looking across at the many visitors on the other side of the river looking at me, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I had company, it was such a prime spot for a picture or two.
On an otherwise very dull and overcast day, the sun had the good grace to just put in a brief, rather hazy, appearance, just enough to lift the pictures. I was much obliged. I’ve included a couple of pictures taken from above the falls as well as below. As always, gauging scale in pictures like these is difficult and despite a lot of visitors on the other side of the river, none of them wandered to the edge of the gorge and into my shot however, I had a good friend do that for me on a previous visit and you can see the resulting photograph here. I hope you enjoy the images.. :-)
Chillbrook has taken flight again.. Spring is turning out to be a very busy time for me. Lots of interesting places visited and more to come. I’m back in Iceland for a couple of weeks pursuing a couple of projects. Landing at Keflavik Airport, it looked like spring might finally have arrived in Iceland. It’s very late this year apparently.
Here’s a few pictures from my first couple of days. As you can see by my hire car dwarfed by drifted snow on a mountain pass, there’s plenty of winter conditions still to be found but spring does seem to be slowly getting the upper hand.
There is a palpable excitement amongst the wildlife here. The noise at dawn is deafening as the birds get ready to take on the day. Spring and summer are short in Iceland and nature has a lot to pack in to the next couple of months. I’ve a lot to pack in to the next couple of weeks so bear with me, I’ll catch up with you all when I can.. :-)
My last post was about Chepstow Castle. This post is about another couple of castles, one English and one Welsh. Goodrich Castle is an English castle whilst Rhaglan, like Chepstow, is a Welsh castle. All three of these castles sit on the border between the two countries and one can begin to get a inkling that there may have been a great deal of conflict between the two nations in the medieval period and later sadly.
Goodrich Castle is a now ruinous Norman medieval castle situated to the north of the village of Goodrich in Herefordshire, England, controlling a key location between Monmouth and Ross-on-Wye. It was praised by William Wordsworth as the “noblest ruin in Herefordshire” and is considered by historian Adrian Pettifer to be the “most splendid in the county, and one of the best examples of English military architecture”.
Goodrich Castle was probably built by Godric of Mappestone after the Norman invasion of England, initially as an earth and wooden fortification. In the middle of the 12th century the original castle was replaced with a stone keep, and was then expanded significantly during the late 13th century into a concentric structure combining luxurious living quarters with extensive defences. The success of Goodrich’s design influenced many other constructions across England over the following years. It became the seat of the powerful Talbot family before falling out of favour as a residence in late Tudor times.
Held first by Parliamentary and then Royalist forces in the English Civil War of the 1640s, Goodrich was finally successfully besieged by Colonel John Birch in 1646 with the help of the huge “Roaring Meg” mortar, resulting in the subsequent slighting of the castle and its descent into ruin. At the end of the 18th century, however, Goodrich became a noted picturesque ruin and the subject of many paintings and poems; events at the castle provided the inspiration for Wordsworth’s famous 1798 poem “We are Seven”. By the 20th century the site was a well-known tourist location, now owned by English Heritage and open to the public.
Raglan Castle is a late medieval castle located just north of the village of Raglan in the county of Monmouthshire in south-east Wales and is probably, bar Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland that I visited a while back, my favourite castle of all that I have visited in recent weeks. Rhaglan Castle, like the village of Rhaglan has two names, one English – Raglan and one Welsh – Rhaglan. This seem just a tad bizarre to me so as the castle is in Wales, I’ve gone with the Welsh spelling and included the h. To see all the signage associated with Rhaglan displaying both spellings seems completely bonkers to me but there you are.
I really liked Rhaglan and like all the heritage sites I have visited in England, Scotland and Wales recently, it is immaculately maintained and preserved. Construction of the castle started about 150 years later than most castles of this type. Very much a Johnny come Lately and as a result, has some very modern features not found in other castles of this type. Huge bay windows is one example.
The modern castle dates from between the 15th and early 17th centuries, when the successive ruling families of the Herberts and the Somersets created a luxurious, fortified castle, complete with a large hexagonal keep, known as the Great Tower or the Yellow Tower of Gwent. Surrounded by parkland, water gardens and terraces, the castle was considered by contemporaries to be the equal of any other in England or Wales.
During the English Civil War the castle was held on behalf of Charles I and was taken by Parliamentary forces in 1646. In the aftermath, the castle was slighted, or deliberately put beyond military use; after the restoration of Charles II, the Somersets declined to restore the castle. Parts of the castle were then carried off and used to build local houses and this accounts for the castle missing huge chunks of stone. The castle then became a romantic ruin, and is now a modern tourist attraction protected and superbly maintained by Welsh Heritage.
I spent last week, amongst other things, visiting castles in Wales. My weekend in Scotland a few weeks ago allowed me to visit some very interesting Castles. You can see those here and here. It got me interested once more in medieval history and the fabulous castles that were built at that time. I stayed last week with my friend Poppy and her husband, in Worcestershire. Wales is just a short drive away and the border with England is littered with castles. I had a fantastic week and enjoyed being a tourist, visiting these places, many for the first time.
This post is all about Chepstow Castle. Chepstow is a Norman castle perched high above the banks of the river Wye in southeast Wales. Construction began at Chepstow in 1067, less than a year after William the Conqueror was crowned King of England. William employed his loyal Norman lord William FitzOsbern to build the castle. FitzOsbern’s fortresses were the vehicles from which the new king consolidated control of his newly conquered lands. Chepstow Castle became the key launching point for expeditions into Wales, expeditions that eventually subdued the rebellious population. Chepstow is the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in the UK. To think the wooden door with its hinges and latches in the picture below is nearly 950 years old. They certainly built things to last in the 11th century!
This is a further collection of photographs taken on my recent trip to Inverness. Having taken pictures at Eilean Donan castle, we drove over the bridge to the Isle of skye. In the 8th picture, with the Old Man of Storr in the background, you’ll notice a boat, halfway up a mountain. It seemed incongruous, as did the man who appeared as I was taking pictures and started a very impressive display of juggling in his garden. Click on the images for a clearer sharper view of the photographs! :-)
On Thursday, I took a last-minute, budget airline flight to Inverness. Limiting myself to hand luggage only to make the most of the amazingly cheap fare on offer, I had to leave my Nikon D800e with assorted lenses at home, presenting me with the ideal opportunity to put a new kid on the block, a Sony A7R with 35mm prime lens, through its paces. It’s been incredibly liberating to be out taking photographs with this little mirrorless compact camera and with the same 35 megapixel sensor as the D800, I was looking forward to seeing how the camera performed.
The SLR camera has been with us a long time, it’s a tried and tested design and makes a lot of sense for film photography but given that digital photography is just that, digital, why not set up a shot by seeing what the sensor sees by way of an electronic viewfinder? Seems to make sense to me and indeed it did. I have been seriously impressed with the results from this camera and whilst I’m not ready to list my D800e on eBay, as an option when the amount of kit you can carry becomes a real consideration, you could do a helluva lot worse than a Sony A7R.
The photograph below is of Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness. As one of Scotland’s most iconic castles, this is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. I wasn’t disappointed.