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Bluebells in the woods: springtime comes to Hardcastle Crags

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser.

After the short, grey days of winter, springtime percolates slowly through Calderdale, injecting life and colour into the valley once again. Muted monotones turn into verdant hues, flowers and buds appear, and the hills echo to the sounds of bleating lambs and birdsong.

This year it feels as if spring’s come later than ever: the wild garlic is still here, coexisting alongside bluebells and daffodils almost a month later than when I shot this panorama last year. It all feels a bit messed up, and I can hear hailstones hitting the windowpanes outside as I write this. So when there’s a window of good weather, it’s worth taking advantage… such as when I caught the setting sun light up this

Hardcastle Crags is an oasis of calm for me, an outpost of tranquillity and a place to escape the hectic nature of working life. It’s by no means an unspoilt landscape, but despite hundreds of years of man’s influence it’s a treasure trove of flora and fauna, and a great place to explore.

Technical info: shot with Canon EOS 5D Mark III, shaved Sigma 10mm f2.8 fisheye lens, Nodal Ninja RS-1, Promote Remote Control. 10 exposures, 1.7EV apart; HDR tonemapped with Photomatix Pro & HDR Efex 2.

 

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser.

I first shot the bluebells in the Crags during my first spring in the valley, back in 2007 as I was just starting to embrace panoramic photography. It was the first panorama I shot bracketed in RAW… 3x exposures of 39 views. I stitched three separate panoramas (one for each exposure) overnight using the long-departed Realviz Stitcher. Seems an eon ago.  Six years, and thousands of panoramas later, it was great to revisit the theme once more, applying more rigorous technical and artistic experience to the subject.

It’s prompted me to dig out the original RAWs from 2007 and restitch this scene, which you can view above. It’s by no means perfect, but it acts as a good comparison to this year’s version. And you can never have too many bluebells on on page…

Technical info: shot with Canon EOS 400D, Canon 18-55mm, Panosaurus head. 3 exposures, 2EV apart; HDR tonemapped with Photomatix Pro

Sylvia Plath’s grave at Heptonstall

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The American-born poet, Sylvia Plath, was buried at Heptonstall, near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, in 1963 after a short and troubled life. In the past she was perhaps better known for her marriage to the former Poet Laurate Ted Hughes (originally from Mytholmroyd, a short distance away) but in recent years her creative impact and ability has been positively reappraised, based on a wider body of her work being discovered.

Her grave lies in the new graveyard: the headstone carries a simple inscription from Hughes, and has been defaced several times (if you look closely the name ‘Hughes’ is typeset slightly differently as the text has been replaced: a certain strand of more radical feminists is alleged have attempted to remove his surname repeatedly, in response to the abusive relationship in life and revisionist way he managed her creative legacy after death).

Sylvia Plath's headstone

On previous visits (see photo above from August 2012) the grave has been marked with stones, pens and other trophies and tributes from fans and well-wishers. On this occasion, fifty years after her death, the grave had been tidied up, just displaying floral tributes. During the time I was photographing this pano there was a steady stream of visitors to the site…

I shot this panorama on the same afternoon as a short and impromptu photoshoot with the excellent and highly tipped Merseyside band Bird, in and around the old and new church of St Thomas at Heptonstall.

Adele and Sian from Bird

I shot the band shortly before the second date on their current UK tour, when they played at the Puzzle Hall Inn in Sowerby Bridge. We had a short window of opportunity to take a few shots on a cold February afternoon, in the sombre surroundings of this ancient Yorkshire hilltop village under leaden skies. The weather matched their enigmatic, emotional and intimate music… given extra resonance as we viewed Sylvia Plath’s grave.

Thanks to Adele, Sian, Lex, Emma and Jack for their patience and good spirits: sitting in front of an open fire in the pub after an hour’s shooting in the raw winter’s air has rarely felt as rewarding!

Bird’s fourth release, Ophelia, is out now on Jack to Phono Records.

 

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

 

High above a Handmade open workshop in Hebden Bridge

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at preparations for this year’s Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade. After capturing some of Thingumajig and Handmade’s creations at the recent Pollination Parade, director Andrew Kim asked me to come down and capture the joyously organised chaos of dozens of kids and adult helpers, all working in sync to make the parade more spectacular then ever. This was meant to be the last open session before the big day, and it was always going to be a wonderful spectacle.

Now in its fifth year, the parade gets bigger and better with every iteration. This year’s theme is ‘Enchanted Wood’, and floating high above the floor at Victoria Mill where the dress rehearsals and last-minute refinements were taking place, that woodland motif is apparent. From oak leaves to giant hedgehog and deer, the puppets and costumes look fantastic, and the excitement was palpable.

Originally scheduled for Saturday 23rd, the parade had to be rescheduled following the severe flooding which so badly affected parts of the Calder Valley on Friday 22nd. Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd and Todmorden were all hit by rising water levels, and on the Saturday everyone was focused on mucking in and cleaning off Hebden’s centre. However with some nifty and rapid reorganisation, the parade was rescheduled for Saturday 30th June, to happily co-exist between the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival launch and the Mytholmroyd Gala.

This is just a sneak peek… hopefully you can come along on Saturday at 11am to see the rescheduled parade… show your support for the many children and adults who’ve worked so hard to make this happen; the resilient Hebden Bridge community, and the Calder Valley in general. It might rain on our parade, but it won’t extinguish the spirits of the people which makes this part of the world so special!

Brighter than ever: inside Radiance again for 2011

Click or tap the image above to view a fullscreen panoramic 360° view of the scene in your web browser

This is Radiance, a gorgeous lighting and craft boutique in the small market town of Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire. Radiance is owned by designer/maker Hannah Nunn: as well as creating her own acclaimed range of lighting, Hannah has a keen eye for the beautiful, showcasing and selling other talented designers’ work too. The result is a truly magical shop, filled with a wide variety of carefully chosen, high-quality craft products.

It’s the third year in a row I’ve worked with Radiance  to carry out a 360° photoshoot: you can view the 2009 version here (in the previous shop unit), and 2010’s version here (interesting to see how much the shop has changed in just one year). I was commissioned to return to Radiance, a year on, to illustrate this evolution, and to create a more comprehensive 360° view of the store, to compliment Radiance’s newly redesigned website. I also captured a series of high quality shop interior and exterior for press and marketing purposes.

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