Valley of Lights parade finale, Hebden Bridge

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser.
Click here to view a fullscreen version for some mobile devices. 

After the excitement and spectacle of Todmorden’s Valley of Lights celebration on Saturday, expectations were running high for the Hebden Bridge leg. Swapping the rain for a clear, frosty moonlit night, the town shivered with cold and the thrill of anticipation.

Handmade Parade invited me to come and take some panoramic photos, so I was lucky enough to get a grandstand view of the finale at Old Gate, right across the river. We watched as the lantern parade culminated in the participants lining the riverbanks, waiting expectantly. Performers filed over the old bridge, heralding the start of the finale performance, and then we were treated to an hour of stunning dance, theatre, puppetry, drama and pyrotechnics.

The atmosphere in the crowd was electric, fuelled by the eye-catching performances (from the highly talented local Handmade Parade and FlameOz crews). As I’d sat behind the fire sculptures at Tod, it was great to get an audience-eye view of the main show. Two fire dancers started the finale, marching over the bridge and twirlingFirst watching the tableau depicting the rainclouds gathering over the valley’s characteristic landmarks… cottages, mills and even Stoodley Pike. As the rainclouds encircled the valley, a huge furious paper dragon came down Old Gate, wrapping itself around the players; then shadow puppeteers evoked the enveloping wall of water which the flooding brought to the valley. Stellar fire performances from FlameOz gripped the audience, while a fiery sculpture of the dragon glowered in the gloom behind. This ramped up the excitement further, before a wall of pyrotechnics lit up the length of the river and bought the event to a close. Epic stuff…

If you click the image at the top of the page you’ll be able to view three different 360° panoramas, shot from a pole above the crowds. They show different stages in the show; from the lantern landmarks, to the fire sculpture, and the pyrotechnic fountains at the finale. And if you pan around you’ll see the crowd agog and enrapt, and may even spot some wide-eyed children looking from the first floor window of the cottage behind us.

After that we moved to the car park to see the 200 LED-strewn riders on the Night Light Bike Ride as they streamed in for a quick break before moving onto Mytholmroyd, before heading down to the canalside for food, drink and craft stalls at the Night Market & Canal Boat Flotilla. A hot cider from the Real Cider Company, and a Porcus sausage barm did wonders to restore circulation after several hours in subzero temperatures.

It was great family night out, and felt like a resounding success. It shows that, despite adversity and hardship, local talent and enthusiasm is enough for a community to tease out a silver lining from dark storm clouds here in the Pennines!

A flaming fire finale to Hebden Bridge's leg of Valley of Lights, Nov 2012


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.

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.

Fires on the moors…

Huge plumes of smoke cut across the clear spring sky as I drove home on Thursday, heralding fires on the heather moorlands between Rishworth and Littleborough. At first I thought it might’ve been the managed fires used by gamekeepers to trigger new growth of the heather which young grouse love so much, but as I crested a hill and looked across the valley I realised these fires were out of control.

Lots of fire appliances were parked up across three sites between Rishworth and Todmorden, dozens of firemen trying to beat down the flames and limit the spread of the fires. We’d had several dry weeks and a light wind was enough to fan the flames across tinder-dry moorland: wild birds circled in distress and the heady smell of smoke hung in the air around them. I wanted to take some shots of the fire, but caution ensured I didn’t venture too close in an attempt to capture the view. Better safe than singed…

Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash, or for more info in Google Earth.

Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash, or for more info in Google Earth.

Inside Over Phawhope bothy

Few pleasures beat sitting in front of a warm fire on a wet afternoon, sipping a wee nip of single malt. Especially after having chopped and dried out the wood for most of the day to get the fire going …

Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash or QuickTime format, or locate the scene in Google Earth.

A woodland fire on a sunny afternoon

I spotted smoke suffusing through the trees as I drove back from Hebden Bridge. Unable to resist the delights of low sunshine shining through smokey woodland, I parked up and crossed the railway track to investigate. It was a dry day, and a series of small fires had broken out on the dry leaves along this old lane through the woods, although by the time I made it up the hill the fires seemed to have largely died out. After shooting this pano I beat the remaining flames out before leaving.

Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash or QuickTime format, or locate the scene in Google Earth.