May has been a really awful month for photography, wet, windy and grey.
Much as I love this corner of Northumberland I would have gladly moved south just to see a bit of daylight.
Yesterday we did get some sunshine but it came with gale force winds that made just standing upright, on the Hadrian's Wall Path, difficult.
Evening saw a slight calming and some nice clouds so I went out to Crag Lough, where the wind was moving the clouds and stirring up the water.
I took a number of photo's and tried one with filters to give a really long exposure try ing to give a sense of movement.

A windy evening at Crag Lough

Light on Winshields Crag

Took loads more shots with the boats in the foreground, but they have blue covers that weren't on properly and the arrangement of the boats was messy, I do miss those lovely old mahogany boats that were tethered in a V formation.

Sun setting behind the barn on Hound Hill

As the light becan to go I moved along towards Sycamore Gap, the sun never sets directly behind the tree but I thought the clouds to the right of the sunset were worth the dash along, and the exercise would bburn off that cheese scone I had after tea.

 The sunset sky behind the tree at Sycamore Gap

I was using the D7000 for these and shooting in Raw. I just cannot get away with raw, the colours never turn out the way they should and no amount of fiddling on gets the result I want. I like photographs to be the way I saw them, not tweaked to death, so I shall go bck to my jpegs.

As always the pictures are copyright of Joan Thirlaway and cannot be used without my written permission.



A day out, some early dithering about where to go but the thought of driving through the traffic in Newcastle to reach the North East Coast was off putting enough for us to decided to head west, to Ullswater just 40 miles from Gilsland.
The forecast was for rain, TT was optomistically predicting that the rain clouds would clear as soon as we reached Ullswater.
It's not one of the Lake District Lakes that we visit very often, in fact I can't remember the last time we were there.
I did go to Aira Force as a child and I went to one of the excellent plant fairs at Dalamain a couple of years ago but I don't think I went down as far as the lake.
So we ended up in a very wet Pooley Bridge this morning, first stop was for a scone and coffee,in a tea room across from the car park.
The food was nice but the seats of the chairs were horribly stained and, silly though it may be, that really put me off the place.
Eventually it came to the point where we could delay no longer, and headed off down the footpath that takes you to the east side of the lake and didn't the rain come down in torrents.
TT being chirpy reminded me once or twice that it just wouldn't be the Lakes without the rain as I trudged along, specs covered in rain and the new camera in a tesco plastic bag to keep it dry.
On a cold, wet day I can manage quite well without chirpy, thankyou very much.
I did take a couple of photographs, there's even a bit of light in one of them, but Ullswater isn't a particularly pretty Lake, not the way Derwentwater is so maybe I haven't missed much.

A grey day on Ullswater

The steamer that travels down the Lake to Glenridding stopping at various points on the Lake.

The Ullswater Boat House

I walked around to the oft photographed Ullswater Boat House trying to find the spot where most photographs are taken from. I half expected to find a spot with tripod holes or x marks the spot but I couldn't figure it out. I think people must climb over the wall onto the private land to get the right angle for these shots. Here's mine from the road where there's a gap in the shrubbery.
We had a very nice lunch in the big hotel in Pooley Bridge and then went a bit further down the Lake, the sun came out briefly and I caught a bit of light on the easy shore.
I took a grand total of 17 photographs today.

Let there be light.

All photographs used in this Blog are copyright of Joan Thirlaway and cannot be used without written permission


Trying out

I got a new camera yesterday and thought I'd go to Washington Wildfowl  to try it out.
Then last night I decided that a new camera, with controls in different plac, it might not be a good idea to risk missing the shot of a lifetime because I don't know which buttons to press.
So this morning after a quick visit to Herding Hill Tea room (great cakes!) I went up onto Walltown Crags.
So many people walking the Hadrian's Wall Path, it's great to see and I hope it translates into a good year for our local businesses. (I do wish people wouldn't climb on the Wall though, it is an ancient monument)
I'd taken the instruction book for the camera (a Nikon D7000 by the way) but it was so blowy up there that it was in danger of being ripped to bits, so I forgot about accessing the built in Spirit Level and just used the settings I know and love.
When I got home I had to ferret about in Google to find the plug-in's that allow me to open the pictures in Photoshop Elements, then I discovered it only works in Elements 9 so by the time I'd downloaded, uploaded and generally twiddled about half the night had gone by.
Never mind I think the D7000 and I are going to get along just fine, it's so much lighter in weight than the D300 which was the deciding factor for me.

So here's a shot of Hadrian's Wall at Walltown this afternoon.

Hadrian's Wall as it snakes it way over Walltown Crags, an impressive bit of masonary

One of the undulations of Walltown Crags, with views west over Gilsland and the Solway coast beyond

From the top of Walltown Crags you get a view of the lake, picnic area and to the north the marshland. There's also a strange arrangement of tree guards, this is the Willow maze.
A piece of living artwork in its infancy.
Michael the Ranger, tells me  that there are various species of Willow planted so there'll be a variety of textures and colours once they grow.
Fortunately, Willow is very fast growing so we shouldn't have to wait long to see the results.

The Willow Maze

If you have time it's well worth a wander into this bit of Walltown, masses of orchids grow here and they're just starting to bud up now, the wildflowers areas attract many different butterflies and during a quick visit this afternoon I watched Martins, Reed Bunting and Spotted Flycatcher over the lake.
Day out tomorrow, was hoping to go to Ullswater but the forecast wasn't good so it might be the NE coast instead, must remember the instruction book.


If you go down to the woods today

Here in Gilsland we are blessed with an abundance of Bluebell woods and I've been to three of the nearest ones.
The perfume when you visit these woods, with the bluebells in full bloom, is amazing and it's an experience I'd recommend especially if your feeling at all stressed, imagine sitting in a patch of bluebells with sun dappling through the trees and butterflies dancing amongst the flowers, pure magic.
The first wood I went to was Coomb Crags Wood, one of the places where the Roman's quarried stone for Hadrian's Wall at Birdoswald, it's a very pretty wood with several waterfalls along the way.
It is quite a strenuous walk with a couple of steep bits but I think it's worthwhile, lots of tree types so you get different plants in the understory.
I listed 30 different wildflowers in a one hour walk.
For the circular walk you can get details here

Bluebells in Coomb Crag Wood

My next visit was to Bellister Wood, this is owned by the National Trust and is near Fetherston Castle. This is one of the better known Bluebell woods and when I got to the best patch of flowers I discovered many of them had been flattened by photographers who had been lying down to get their shot. 'Early bird' and all that.

The Bluebells in Bellister Wood

Then I headed off to the Irthing Gorge Woodland often referred to as Spa Wood because it's behing the Gilsland Spa Hotel. This is probably one of the easiest woods to visit, park in the hotel car park, walk down into the woods, cross the Spa Bridge and turn left into the birch wood.
The hotel has a coffee shop and does lunches, so you can make an outing of it.

Irthing Gorge Bluebells, this woodland is managed by the Woodland Trust so it's very natural

Spiders (a second spider is just behind the flower, you can see it's leg)  and web surround the flower

I was on my way back to the car when it started to rain and it poured, for once I got back just in time to avoid a soaking.

Something I've been wanting to try, camera was on the tripod and I used a filter to slow the shutter speed right down to give a longish exposure. Press the shutter and move the camera vertically to blur the shot while retaining some definition.
It's probably easier to get this effect using photoshopping but as I've said before I'm a photoshop klutz.

Thankyou for viewing.


Slipping and sliding

Quarter past four when the alarm went off this morning, it was unbelievably hard to persuade myself that I wanted to get out of a warm bed and head out into a frost covered morning.
I'd looked at Metcheck last night and I knew the weather was about to change so if I didn't go out this morning then it might be a long wait for my next opportunity.
So off I went to Cuddys Crag, I was tempted to stop at Cawfields, some nice mist gathering there but I pressed on to the Cuddys Crag layby.
The climb up was hard this morning, I was puffing and panting fit to bust, I don't know why some mornings I find it more difficult than others, but I do.
Not so much mist about here but it was looking nice with a covering of frost, so I set my tripod into the regulation grooves ( just kidding, but so many pictures are taken from this exact spot that there should be an 'X' marks the spot)

The classic viewpoint for Cuddys Crag with Hadrian's Wall running through the frame.

Once again a lack of cloud meant my opportunity for photographs would be short, the sun is coming up straight into the camera and very quickly becomes too bright.
Twenty past five and the sun was appearing I dashed up and down getting as many variations as I could.

The sun rises over Hadrian's Wall, in the foreground is Housesteads Crag

I read in one of my camera magazines last month that flare in a shot is the new vogue, so I have left some in todays picture, I'm not a fan of flare but sometimes it's unavoidable and it's the very beggar to get rid of in Phoroshop, well for a photoshop-phobe like me it's all but impossible.

Light filters through the gap between Cuddys Crag and Housesteads Crag
By ten to six I was heading over to Housesteads Fort for a quick check, sheep and lambs were just starting the day and I quite liked the long shadows they cast so I'm including that picture as well.

The Bradley Farm sheep grazing around Housesteads

As I was making my way down the grassy slope at Housesteads I slipped and I was carrying my camera on my tripod with ND grad in the holder, the filter broke into several bits and at £50 to replace them it made it an expensive trip. Fortunately it was probably coming up to time to renew it anyway I would have cried had it been a new one!
BTW I love Lee filters but they are almost impossible to get, everywhere is waiting for stock, so I buy HiTech Filters and they work just as well and they're cheaper.

As always photographs are copyright of Joan Thirlaway and cannot be used without written permission


Great Balls of fire

Up early and out for a sunrise.
No cloud to speak of so I knew it wasn't going to be a long outing, once the sun clears the haze of the horizon it gets too bright for the camera.
Although it was cold there was no mist, other than a tiny bit in the Tyne Valley so I thought I'd go up onto Winshields Crag, this is the highest point on Hadrian's Wall so the views in all directions are great.
Sheep and lambs were still sleeping as I started my climb, one of the gentler slopes to my mind.
The sky was beautiful, lots of colours as often happens pre-dawn.

On the way up Winshields, 5.15am on the last day of April

Looking over Steel Rigg and Crag Lough to Hotbank Farm

Looking over Hadrian's Wall to the east, the golden glow appears as the sun prepares to break the horizon

Sun is just peaking through to the left of Sewingshields Crag

Natures Golden Globe, with the Greenlee Lough and Broomlee Lough showing in the early morning light.

On the way back down as the sun becomes too bright for my camera, I love seeing the way it lights up the land and the colours it brings to the sky. If this was a painting it would seem too gaudy.

Bradley Farm tups enjoying the rest. These are the rams of the flock taking a well earned rest after fathering the lambs. They are only used for two years on any one flock as once their 'daughters' become stock ewe's they're sold on.

Back to Steel Rigg and the Blackfaced sheep of Hotbank Farm, these sheep jump over the dry stone walls, obviously thinking the grass is greener on the other side and, their tiny lambs soon learn to jump with them. The way the dry stone walls are constructed means there are hoof holds although their antics do help to keep our teams of local dry stone wallers busy.

I have to apologise for my lack of skills with Photoshop (I use Elements 9), no matter how hard I try I just can't do more than the very basic adjustments. My images would, no doubt, benefit from some gentle (and I stress gentle) HDR work but I'm just not able to do that.
I try to get the images right in camera, using ND grad filters but sometimes the extremes of contrast are just too much for the camera to cope with.
I hope by showing these images I can inspire a talented photographer to get out onto our beautiful crags and do them justice in the way they deserve.

As always the images used on the blog are copyright of Joan Thirlaway and cannot be used without written permission.

If you are planning a trip to Northumberland I urge you to get hold of the superb publication by Northumberland National Parks available as a download