The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee beacon on Stoodley Pike near Todmorden

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It’s been an especially long weekend in the UK, with two extra days holiday to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and it seems as if most of the country’s taken it to heart as an excuse for an extended party. Me too, but the crowning glory for me was seeing our local Jubilee beacon lit at dusk on the hills above Todmorden.

I only found out by chance on the day that the nearest Jubilee beacon would be at Stoodley Pike, a favourite vantage point overlooking the Calder Valley. As I read the details a couple of hours before it was due to be lit, there was a slight drizzle outside, so I was unsure if I’d be rewarded with a spectacular view if I climbed up to the monument.

However by 8pm the evening sun was glorious – a perfect example of the photographer’s golden hour  – and I decided it’d be well worth a drive and climb to capture a couple of my 360° panoramas as the beacon was set alight. I’d already had a busy day in Todmorden, photographing the Pollination Parade, and thought it’d be perfect to round everything with a bit of exercise and a stunning view over the South Pennines.

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A springtime carpet of wild garlic / ramsons

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Taking advantage of some welcome sunshine and very little breeze early on a Sunday morning, I made it to a nearby Pennine clough to capture this verdant carpet of wild garlic.

We’re almost at the end of the wild garlic season, which normally runs from March to early May. Their allium aroma still permeates the woods but now their delicate white flowers punctuate the woodland floor, heralding their imminent demise. The last decade or so has seen a resurgence in interest in foraged and wild foods in the UK, celebrating fresh, local flavours. Ramsons, or wild garlic, remains one of the most abundant and yet underused.

This is one of my favourite times of the year: the greening of foliage above and on the woodland floor; the gentle waving of the ramson fronds, and wild native bluebells appearing under the protective canopy of the trees, soundtracked only by songbirds and the odd bleat of spring lambs on the slopes above. That helps to underline that spring is (finally) here…

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Keeping it local… Made in Tod

Keeping it local, I managed to make the most of a brief window in the weather and shoot a couple of panoramas on my doorstep in Todmorden this weekend.

Panoramic view of Todmorden outdoor market

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Firstly, the outdoor market under some welcome blue skies. We’re lucky to still have an active indoor and outdoor market, unlike many similar-sized towns nearby. Although it faces increased competition from faceless supermarkets encroaching on the area, Tod market provides a great selection of goods & foodstuffs for local consumers. Campaigns such as Incredible Edible Todmorden have proudly promoted locally produced and sourced products, tying this in with greater awareness and action about the welfare and sustainability of foodstuffs.

The panorama below shows four traders, all of whom sell superb fresh local and regional produce. In the marquee you can see local free range pork farmers Porcus serving up one of their amazing rare breed hog roasts, and as you pan around you’ll see Paul the fishmonger (bringing fish direct from Fleetwood), Christine from CN Produce (who sells Porcus bacon and sausages amongst other regional delights) and Hazelwood’s greengrocers. Definitely the best place to shop in the town… totally local, and great value!

Incidentally, here’s a timelapse video I shot of a previous Porcus hog roast in Rawtenstall last year…

Secondly, inside Todmorden’s glorious Victorian Town Hall (which I originally shot back in 2008), was the annual Made in Tod show, organised by Todmorden Business Association to showcase local companies and producers. The event was well attended, and I decided to take capture this panorama from high above the exhibitors, using an aerial pole rig. I particularly like the ‘mirrorball’ view below, which provides a unique perspective on the event…

Panoramic view of the Made in Tod show 2012, inside Todmorden Town Hall

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Mirrorball panoramic view of the Made in Tod 2012 show

 

 

Sunset, snow… and the ‘Rude Stone’

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I only found out about this old stone cross last year when I was researching for another project. It stands on the hills between Todmorden and Cliviger, near the Lancashire/Yorkshire border. There’s some debate about how old Mount Cross actually is, with locals suggesting it may originally date from the 7th century, although other estimates date it from the 11th or 12th century. Either way, it’s the most ancient religious monument in the area, and may have stood weatherbeaten and resolute looking down the valley for close to a millenium. Pre-Schism, pre-enclosure, pre-industrial – there were still wild boar and wolves around back then – I imagine even in those days the silhouette of this priapic religious feature may’ve raised a smile or two, earning it the nickname of the ‘Rude Stone’.

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Since shooting the video below (a short HDR timelapse of the sun setting here last year) I’ve harboured the desire to get back and capture a really stunning sky. One late Saturday afternoon, as the sun set quicker than the temperature, I grabbed a couple of DSLRs and set off up the hill. First I shot some bracketed stills, then, just as the sun dropped over the hills, captured this HDR 360° panorama.

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Spiegel: two views of a sculpture by Jaume Plensa

I shot a panorama of acclaimed Spanish artist Jaume Plensa’s ‘Dream’ in September 2009… the elegant, elongated girl’s head peering over the trees at the old colliery site at Sutton Manor captured my imagination, much as it does with thousands of drivers passing along the M62 everyday.

Two years later a major exhibition of his work opened at the ever-wonderful Yorkshire Sculpture Park: visiting it had been on my agenda for some time but I was waiting for the right kind of weather, and an appropriate window in my diary. Finally, just a few weeks before the exhibition ended, a wintery Saturday in January brought the kind of clear, cold calm which I’d craved. It’s hard to ignore the beauty which the light in the afternoon imbues on a cold landscape on a day like this… temporarily lighting up the landscape before fading, leaving only a hint of its former self smeared on the horizon.Perfect for shooting man-made artworks in an outdoor environment.

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Pano ysp spiegel1 little planet

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Evidently many others had the same idea… the park at West Bretton was heaving when we arrived, with hundreds of people enjoying the rolling parkland and interior exhibitions. The Plensa exhibition itself was revelatory: a good selection of new and existing piece spread throughout the grounds, and filling the underground gallery. The underground pieces were superb, but popular and therefore packed… so it was a relief to break into the crisp air again and stretch our legs, walking around the spacious parkland. After several hours wandering through the grounds, basking in the setting sun and shooting some wonderful HDR sequences (see the gallery below), we made our way back over the pastures in the almost-inky darkness towards the car park.

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