Friday, 24 December 2010

Image of the Week - White Christmas?

Well it looks like the snow is here to stay until Christmas, unless there's an unexpected change in the next few hours.

I really can't remember ever having a white Christmas before, although I can remember as a child at least one New Years Eve being stranded at relatives in Kent. Despite the traditional Dickensian snowy Christmas scene on most Christmas cards, the usual Christmas weather, here at least, is damp and miserable.

This weeks image was made just this weekend after snow fell during Friday. The family and I were on the obligatory walk to the sledging slope at the edge of the village with sledge in tow (an upgrade from the air bed we used last time) when I spotted this scene. Although it was 1pm it was only three days to the winter solstice and so the sun was very low in the sky. It was perfectly aligned behind these trees for this silhouette and created the long shadow in the snow.

I'm planning on a few days off over the festive season so this is my last post of 2010. I have many plans for 2011 and I can't wait to get stuck in but for now I want to wish everyone a happy Christmas and a prosperous 2011.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Image of the Week - King's Tor, Dartmoor

I feel like I've been slacking recently. No image of the week post last week and no new photographs for over 2 weeks. Unfortunately I have been busy with admin for most of this month; VAT return, license quotes, raising/chasing invoices, business plans etc. None of this is very exciting and after a while even keywording & captioning images looks like fun!

So to this weeks image. I've been revisiting old images recently while researching possible images to illustrate a book I am considering writing when I came across this one of King's Tor in Dartmoor National Park near the hamlet of Merrivale. Photographed on St Valentines day a few years ago, this was not the picture I had set out to make.

I had set off early with the hope of catching dawn light at the ancient Merrivale stone rows nearby. I arrived to find Dartmoor shrouded in thick fog and receiving a generous helping of heavy rain. I spent most of the morning exploring the surrounding landscape in an attempt to identify future photographs. This was not that easy given I could only see a few yards so I had to guess at what features lay beyond the fog but it kept me amused for long enough. I recall my wife called at one point to ask how I was (it was St Valentines day after all). “Wet”, was my response.

I found myself on King's Tor when the weather quite unexpectedly started to break and in a very short space of time the air had cleared and I was confronted with the scene you see in this picture. By the time I had set-up my composition patches of sunlight were streaking over the landscape.

You can make out a raised track across the picture about one third of the way down the picture complete with a small bridge. This is the remains of the old Plymouth & Dartmoor Railway that closed in 1956. This particular section once ran from Princetown to Yelverton and loops round King's Tor to reach the granite quarry works that once operated here. Remaining sections of railway now make up part of the Dartmoor Way trail.

This picture has remained a favourite of mine and just goes to show that the most wonderful colour can be found on Dartmoor, even on an apparently bleak winters day.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Image of the Week - Chagford Common, Dartmoor

On the spur of the moment I decided to travel down to Dartmoor yesterday. I'd been hearing all about how most of the UK was under a blanket of snow for over a week but had yet to see anything more than the lightest of dusting here. I awoke yesterday to hear on the radio that south Somerset and parts of Devon had received snow overnight. A quick check of a web cam confirmed that a reasonable quantity of snow had indeed landed on Dartmoor and the forecast was for bright spells and clear skies later so off I set.

Rather ominously as I approached Dartmoor the snow had all but disappeared. So, it was with a bit of a surprise that I arrived at Chagford Common to find near white-out conditions. Visibility was very poor and I couldn't help laugh at the irony if I failed to make any photographs of the snow because of, well, the snow.

I'd come this far and I had a flask full of hot coffee so I decided I might as well enjoy it. At one point I ventured out of the car and tried to find a footpath to some ancient standing stones I knew of on the common. I thought if I walked to the stones and waited perhaps I would be rewarded with a break in the snow and maybe some decent light. It was useless of course, I could not locate the path anywhere in the snow and I realised that wandering off onto the moor in these conditions trying to follow a path I could not even see was asking for trouble.

I made a few exposures on my digital camera of the conditions; snow covered road, a 4x4 passing by, a bit of heather sticking out of the snow etc. and then retreated back to the car.

About two and a half hours after I arrived the snow suddenly stopped and I could see signs of sunlight breaking through the clouds in the south west. Shortly afterwards warm sunlight spilled out onto the landscape creating quite a contrast to the coolness of the white snow. To add to the mix dark clouds hung in the sky marking the passage of of the retreating storm.

The sunlight lasted for about 40 minutes, and I managed to make a handful of interesting pictures in that time. My spot meter refused to play ball, giving the same reading no matter what it was pointed at. It was working perfectly by the time I arrived home so I have put that down to an almost exhausted battery affected by the cold. Luckily I was prepared and I had a backup meter in my bag. A brief pink dusk light display in the clouds completed the day.

My favourite picture above was almost, but not quite, what I had in mind when I set-off yesterday morning. I was hoping for a view similar to the one below I made a couple of years ago. This was from a slightly higher viewpoint a few hundred yards to the right of my main picture above, but the sunlight just wasn't in the right place for that yesterday.