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.

Sunshine at the top of Cragg Vale; England’s longest continuous gradient

Perfect driving (or riding) conditions on the top of the Pennines…  magic light over the moors on a gorgeous warm evening. The heather caught the sun, the clouds added just enough contrast for drama, and bumblebees hummed around, enjoying the late start to springtime this year.

This is where Blackstone Edge Road becomes Turvin Road at the top of Cragg Vale on the boundaries of West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester: this stretch of road is England’s longest continuous gradient. I’ve yet to freewheel down it on my bike, but on an evening like this I’m sure it’d be glorious… and much more enjoyable than the long, slow slog it’d be to climb it!

OakleyView for iPad and iPhone

I chose this location to capture a commission for an iOS app by Oakley, OakleyView, showing off the high-end eyewear manufacturer’s products for different sports and conditions. As this is one of the best country roads around for cycling or motorbiking it was a perfect candidate for the job.

(Update 2014) It was serendipitous to choose this spot to represent a great cycling route; in July 2014 this was one of the climbs on the second stage of the Tour de France. You can see a panorama of all the action further down the road in Ripponden on the day by clicking here…

Air-dried hams hanging in the breeze

Artisan cured air-dried ham at the diminutive but wonderful Height Top Barn Co. near Todmorden. SJ and Nat run a small farm offering a seasonal selection of farmhouse products and wonderful freshly baked bread. Their weekend home delivery service is valued by all their friends on the round, as they sell their own produce and that of the local cheesemaker to your door on a Saturday morning. The perfect start to the weekend… fresh bread, eggs and cheese…

The ham was something they started experimenting with, alongside bacon and pork pies, as their first pigs matured and were ready for the table last year. The flavour of their dry cure is quite special, and the hams hang for months in the drying shed, cooled by the Pennine winds blowing across the tops. However unless you’re a friend of SJ and Nat there’s no chance you’ll get to savour this from their Pennine larder… it’s not available for sale!

There was something very tranquil about this taking this shot, in a tiny room full of produce raised in the fields outside, as the hams spun gently in the breeze.

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

The Brontë Waterfall, frozen and sparkling

An early morning photoshoot for work in Keighley got me up and out long before sunrise this Sunday. By 9.30am work was done and I decided to take a detour across from Haworth to Colne on the way home: a wan golden sun lit up the frozen moors and I stopped off for a walk in the glorious countryside. This is, after all, Brontë Country, where the three famous sisters grew up and wrote their novels, inspired in part by these bleak yet beautiful hills.

A sign to the Brontë Waterfall sounded interesting, so I followed South Dean Beck up the hillside for a mile or so and found the waterfall tucked hidden in the shadows of the valley. I hadn’t expected it to look so exceptionally pretty, clad in lacy frost and icicles as it did. A perfect moorland gem.


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.


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