Whitby Abbey: vampires optional…

This is the impressive ruined Benedictine abbey which sits on the hilltop above Whitby, the delightfully picturesque fishing town on the coast of the North Yorkshire moors. The abbey forms an impressively moody sight in its own right, overlooking the North Sea and the quaint fishing harbour below.

However it (and the town below) found literary fame after Bram Stoker set part of his novel ‘Dracula’ in Whitby. The fictional count preyed on Lucy on the East Cliff, just a few yards from this abbey. 120 years after Bram Stoker wrote his gothic masterpiece, Whitby has become a regular place of gathering for goths from across the country. We arrived there on one such weekend, the day after Halloween, and the site was dotted with impressively-dressed goths checking out the ruins. The spectral figures added to the sense of other-worldliness. The skies were exactly what one would hope for in a setting like this: turbulent and rolling clouds, with shafts of sunlight breaking out above the autumnal moorland. Very evocative…

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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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Sundogs over burned moorland

I was out walking with a mate on the tops near home when we saw how first-hand much damage the recent spate of moorland fires had wreaked on the landscape. I know this area fairly well: the conifers in the background were well-grown and obscured the view to the heather beyond. At least that was until the fires took over,  burning and blackening the heath, scrub, and many trees. More were scorched, their needles taking on unworldly hues, and fresh green growth was determinedly poking through the charred earth to make the most of the short summer.

Closer to the camera the pond had retreated into two smaller pools, sapped by the earlier heat of the summer. The cycle of devastation and rebirth painted a vivid picture: I was mesmerised by the colours and decided to shoot an HDR panorama. It was only part-way through we noticed a small spectrum-like flare either side of the sun, flanking it like two shimmering prisms. I’m really pleased to have unintentionally captured this uncommon phenomenon, known as sun dogs or parhelia, caused by sunlight refracting through high, icy cirrus clouds.

Incidentally this was the first pano I finished with HDR Expose, a new app to rival Enfuse and Photomatix which I’ve used for years to tonemap 32-bit images. Still getting to grips with this new tool, I like the more life-like results it allows than some HDR examples you see around the web.

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[Timelapse] Sunset over the Bridestones

Ancient stones and aging skies

Short test HDR time-lapse piece I shot recently up at the Bridestones. Love the sped-up cows and sheep in the background…