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Valley of Lights, Todmorden

After severe flooding hit the Calder Valley twice in rapid succession this summer, the local communities reacted brilliantly to this devastating challenge. Businesses and individuals pulled together, demonstrating the indefatigable local spirit and individual outlook which characterises the upper valley, bringing together neighbours and strangers alike.

With many residential and commercial properties affected for months by the floods, it’s been a tough year, and collectively the area deserved a reason to celebrate their achievements since… and let their hair down. Fast forward six months and cue the Valley of Lights; a unique initiative spearheaded by Totally Locally, supported by Calderdale Council and creatively led by Handmade Parade. Embracing the pool of talent, enthusiasm and skill of hundreds of artists, performers, producers, retailers and members of the public, it’s an event spread over ten days in the three towns worst affected by the flooding here – Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd.

Designed to celebrate the Upper Calder Valley; its people, its creativity, its uniqueness and its hundreds of small businesses, it combined community initiatives with a series of spectacular performances, outdoor markets and displays. It’s a gloriously welcome way to usher in the start of the Christmas period, and the switch on of the lights in each town.

It was Tod’s turn first on Saturday 24th November, and as luck would have it, the heavens opened just before the start of the celebrations. Ironic considering the heavy rain in the summer. However folk round here are hardy and won’t easily turn down the excuse for a celebration and performance… especially one designed to showcase their triumph over the natural elements. Besides, we do parades and parties well around here, such as the Pollination Parade early this year.

After the Christmas Lights switch on, performers and musicians led a Lantern Parade around the town, before a spectacular fire finale in at the Rose Street / Bramsche Square site. Tod Market stayed open late, with both regulars and local artist makers selling their wares, encouraging shoppers to spend their pounds close to home. Musicians and street performers weaved among the heaving crowds, raising smiles and spirits through the rain.

Meanwhile there was a spectacular wharfside flotilla along Fielden Wharf on the Rochdale Canal, featuring lit-up inflatables by Spacecadets (you can view some panoramas of their work from Preston in 2006 and the Lowry, Salford in 2007 respectively). Live music was performed by Daniel Weaver from an open narrowboat: you can just spot him through the crowds during the timelapse video above.

Friends and food clients alike, local food heroes Porcus and the Bear Café set up stall to warm the hearts (and bellies) of the brave souls who ventured out in the rain. I set up my trusty GoPro and recorded a (very soggy) timelapse video of Porcus serving up their homemade rare breed sausages, while I tried out my new DSLR in wet weather conditions. All in all it was damp but delightful night, perfectly showcasing the diversity and distinctiveness of the local area, and making people rightly proud of what they have and hold dear!

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.

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

Pano ysp spiegel1 little planet

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

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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Friends of Mine Festival, Cheshire

This is the deserted Bowl Stage at the Friends of Mine festival after the acts had finished on the Friday night. Although I was predominantly on the lookout for good stills at the festival I couldn’t help but stop to grab this panorama. I was taken by the desolate emptiness of the space, and the contrast between the starry sky and the bright lights and litter of the performance area below, with the Elizabethan stately home in the background. It’s rare to catch a space like this so bereft of festival-goers, but a late night, long exposure treatment caught the moment well.

I’d won a pair of tickets to the event, held at the stately Capesthorne Hall in the bucolic, rolling Cheshire countryside, so a mate and I rocked up with a tent and enough food and beer for the weekend. The weather constantly threatened the festival, but largely held off blighting the performances, confined largely to nightime showers and winds.

The festival was a little underattended, but we caught some good acts and managed to get a few nice snaps as well. Spending the weekend in the great outdoors with good beer, good company and a varied soundtrack was the perfect spring tonic… even if the sunshine was somewhat lacking!

HTML5 version

Click the icons above to view a fullscreen 360° view of the scene with Flash (for desktop) or HTML5 (for mobile). You can also view the location in Google Earth. Happy viewing!

Lumb Bank, at night in deep snow

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This evening I took a rather exciting and unplanned 4×4 journey via Colden Clough to Lumb Bank from Hebden Bridge, after the heaviest snowfall of the year so far. My mate had to go and feed his sheep so I tagged along. Some things don’t stop for the weather … ruminants need their feed no matter what. The unexpected diversion meant stunning quantities of snow, tough driving, and a beautiful view. Real picture-book scene.

The photo is misleading: despite what you see here it was pretty dark. A few lit windows in nearby buildings, a faint sodium orange cast on the clouds, and that unnatural shimmer of snow carpeting the ground were all that illuminated the view. The magic comes from a long exposure to bring out all the detail. For the geeks, shot as a series of single 30sec exposures, f8, 1600ISO.

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

The moonlit bothy

This bothy is at Over Phawhope, near Ettrick; miles from the nearest habitation and nestled deep in the hills. I was staying here on the night this was shot, and after hours of showers during the evening, the clouds parted and the moon rose.

Clouds raced from the west, rising over the hills and rolling, boiling and furious, across the almost-full moon. The resultant light was stunning: the flickering rays and backlit clouds forming a stunning three dimensional zoetrope-like lightshow. Captured by a 20 second exposure in this photo, the clouds becomes stretched and diaphanous and the moonlight brilliant, creating deep shadows and a wonderfully surreal skyscape. I’ve never seen the moon cause a lens flare before!

Blissful tranquility, wonderful natural beauty, and perfect solitude. Quite magical.

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

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