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

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser. Select the icon on the beacon itself to toggle between a lit and unlit scene. Enjoy the view!

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.

So I parked at Mankinholes, slung my bag full of photo gear onto my back, and trekked along London Road and beyond, chasing the last of the direct sun as it crept up the hillside. After a disappointingly wet weekend, the weather had remained patchy all day, but by now all around was suffused in a rich, glorious light as I huffed and puffed my way up the steep slopes.

As I crested the top I was greeted by a sea of red jackets: Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team, who’d organised this particular beacon, were out en masse. They’d set up a barbecue, and there was a party atmosphere as the sunset painted the sky a thousand hues. Behind the pike monument was a handful of tents for those who’d chosen to spend the night there; and as the sun dropped walkers appeared from every direction to join in the celebrations. I set up my panoramic kit up and started shooting, aiming to capture a before and after view of the stunning scene.

The beacon was lit at 10.26pm – the accelerant to get it started burned bright red – and then two signal flares were fired off into the gloom, making everyone jump with surprise. On the beacon, flames quickly took hold of the firewood and cast a ruddy glow onto the stonework of the pike monument, as the crowd gathered around to enjoy the spectacle. I didn’t hang around for too long, so I could make it back down the hill and follow the trail home, using the last vestiges of natural light. When I made it home I poured myself a well-deserved pink gin and tonic (very royal), and excitedly reviewed the night’s photos on my computer. A fitting end to a superb evening.

Here’s a gallery of photos from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee beacon on Stoodley Pike near Todmorden.

In case you’re interested, the last time I shot a series of panoramas at Stoodley Pike was during the winter of 2009, when the hilltops were wreathed in snow. It’s quite a contrast from this panoramic view!

Finally, if you’ve enjoyed this view, please consider donating to the Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team. They receive no government funding (as with all Mountain Rescue teams), but their volunteer team is always available to save lives and assist lost or injured people around the Calder and Aire valleys. Help them to ensure they can keep this vital community service funded, so this wild and beautiful landscape remains safe for all those who enjoy it. They’re also responsible for organising this Jubilee beacon, and the scene you’re viewing. Thanks!

The panoramas were shot from a carbon fibre pole, with a special rig holding a fisheye lens and camera mounted 2.5m above the ground to capture an aerial view. Each view is made up of a combination of different exposures, up to 25 seconds long, to capture the richness of the light as accurately as possible. I’ve elected to keep the blurred images of the people in the scene, rather than retouch them, as the focus of the composition was on the light, and the stunning view.


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