Golden sands at Bamburgh, Northumberland

Bamburgh was the seat of the Kings of Northumbria, and the present castle still exudes a solemn solidity and majesty as it sits overlooking the coastline.

We arrived at Bamburgh beach just as the sun was dropping over the horizon, lighting up the Farne Islands and the huge sandstone flank of the castle. It was a perfect scene: magic light, golden sands and feathery clouds on a pastel sky. I’d never have guessed it could be so still on the last day of October.

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Inside the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle is an archetypal mediaeval castle dominating a headland near the picturesque village of Craster in Northumberland. Much of the castle lies in ruins, derelict and neglected since its decline in the fifteenth century. It’s a pleasant walk along the coast for a couple of miles, although there’s not too much to see or do once you get there, as the castle is quite ruined. I’m sure kids would love to clamber all over the place, re-enacting battles and epic tales of derring-do, while adults enjoy the view and a cooling ice cream.

Incidentally if you do go, be sure to stop for a mouth-wateringly good Craster kipper butty in the car park… local smoked herring served in a bap. A perfect foil to the force of the elements rolling off the sea…

As it was a really overcast day the light was flat with little contrast, so I shot this as a 9 bracket HDR to pull out the best of the detail and dynamic range (like the grass though the windows and the stairwell in shadow). I tried to keep the colours as natural as possible… the damp greens contrasting with the warmer sandstone tones. I’m a sucker for the way sandstone weathers so beautifully, even when it’s been protected from the full force of the elements from the North Sea.

HTML5 version

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Hyperboloid Towers of Dub

I’ve always wanted to get inside a cooling tower: those curved iconic structures indelibly associated with power stations. The nearest I got was a couple of years ago when I shot the soon-to-be destroyed towers near Meadowhall from the viaduct nearby. I sadly discounted ever being able to climb inside one of these giant structures, assuming that health & safety and security concerns would rule out any exploratory access…

So you can probably imagine my excitement when a few months ago I read there was a disused and decommissioned power station near Doncaster – Thorpe Marsh – where almost everything bar the six cooling towers had been demolished. These remained due to concerns that demolition could threaten the safety of nearby canal walls. More recently I happened to be driving up the A1 and as I neared the turn-off for Doncaster the rainclouds parted, and provided the opportunity for a little exploration. Fortune smiled, so I turned off and headed to Thorpe Marsh.

The site itself is rather eerie: these towers are truly massive and you you approach they loom up and over you almost impossibly. Getting inside wasn’t hard, but was very spooky. Every noise, from the klaxons on the nearby level crossing, to the crackle of what I presume was heat-proof lining blowing slowly around the floor, echoed and swirled around me. I was convinced somebody was walking behind me at one point. You’ve never heard echoes and reverberations like it: the sound fades and then seems to almost be amplified again as it circles back towards you. Even the click of the camera shutter sounded like a pebble being thrown down a well, amplified and exaggerated dramatically.

I love looking up in this shot, eyes drawn inexorably to the darkening skies above, framed by the aperture of the tower opening. As you’d expect there’s a vast dynamic light range between inside and out: this was shot with a six exposure bracketed sequence and tweaked in post to give some idea of the drama of the scene. Amazing place!

Click below for a full screen 360° view of the scene with Flash, to read more on Wikipedia, to see the location in Google Earth, or to view an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch compatible version.

High above Salford, in high res…

I shot this as part of a project with Toasted Productions earlier this year – it’s a view from the roof of the Heart apartment building at MediaCity UK in Salford. You can see the final work on the MediaCity UK website. as part of a series of 360° views showcasing the show apartment of this headline development.

Recently Garden Gnome Software released Pano2VR 3.0b, featuring a multi-resolution Flash panorama display option. I thought this scene would benefit from a higher resolution version of the fantastic view across Manchester and Salford, so here’s a test version.

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Forgotten places: the empty workshop

Inside an old-fashioned outhouse workshop on a vacant farmstead in County Antrim, near the village of Cullybackey. The abandoned farm lies a short distance from the picturesque Arthur Cottage, the ancestral home of the 21st President of the USA, Chester Alan Arthur.

This is deep in prime agricultural country; the fields around are filled with new barley and potatoes. However farming life isn’t always easy, and while the fields look verdant and well stocked, derelict farms and cottages pay silent testimony to a time when more folk worked the land around here. Who knows what lives once lit up the walls of this building, and whose voices rang out across the farm?

The whole site seemed remarkably peaceful and undisturbed when I visited and captured this scene. I wanted to encapsulate this feeling of restful timelessness within the panorama, to let the space tell its own story with a thousand tiny details, so I took my time and shot multiple exposures to combine later. I think the results were worth it.

This was my contribution to the most recent Worldwide Panorama event, entitled ‘Forgotten Places’. The version on that site was enfused: I revisited the scene after submittingf that, and this version is based on a 9 exposure HDR set, then tonemapped.

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