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  • Cumbria in Photographs by Steve Pipe

    Cumbria through the seasons

    Each year Cumbria sees in excess of 15 million visitors and many of them come between Easter and October, which is a shame as Cumbria is a county of year round beauty. This ever changing beauty is something I tried to show in my Cumbria in Photographs book; capturing the colours and the activities is less of a challenge than capturing the atmosphere and feeling of the changing seasons; here are a few of my favourite seasonal moments which I think show the county at its finest.

    Spring

    Rhododendrons at Wastwater. (Cumbria in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    For me spring is a season of colour, especially if we’ve had a particularly long winter, and the rhododendrons at Wastwater really show that off. I remember taking that shot; it was a beautiful spring day, crisp and clear with a gentle warmth from the sun. Taking the perfect picture often involves a lot of hanging around so it’s nice when the weather warms up and makes things a little more comfortable. Even the small things like taking your time over lunch rather than hiding behind a tree or a rock for shelter and wolfing something down before your hands go numb, make a big difference.

    The county is awash with snowdrops, crocuses and bluebells but surely it’s our daffodils which are most famous, thanks to Mr Wordsworth. They were really late flowering this year due to the Beast from the East bringing some late snows and the daffodils photo was the very last one I took for the book, just a few days before the deadline. I kept visiting to check on their progress and wasn’t sure they’d be out in time, but thankfully they just made it.

    Summer

    Kelly Hall Tarn. (Cumbria in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    The challenge in summer can be escaping the crowds and finding a little peace and quiet and there are a few excellent “off the beaten track” sites in the book. Devoke Water and Kelly Hall Tarn are both usually pretty quiet, as are the fells to the south of Haweswater where you can often wander around all day and only see a few other people.

    If crowds are your thing then there are plenty of events on throughout the summer months where you can enjoy some of the more traditional aspects of life in the county. Many of the shows began as farming meets which, in the years before the phone and digital communication, played a vital role in local life. They are usually well advertised locally and are definitely worth a visit. As well as an increasing number of modern athletics events you’ll also be able to see local wrestling and hound trailing – both events are unique to the county.

    Autumn

    The Milky Way over Castlerigg Stone Circle. (Cumbria in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    As the nights draw in the county begins to glow with the glorious colours of autumn. The leaves on the trees turn through various shades of reds, golds and browns and the fells follow suit as the bracken dies back. Autumn is a great time to enjoy the dark skies above the county too; we have low levels of light pollution and, when the weather is clear, it’s easy to spot the arm of the Milky Way arcing high overhead.

    Autumn is also the best season to spot an inversion – when the clouds stay in the valleys leaving the fell tops clear. Although many inversions are gone by lunchtime some can last for several days so, as was the case with the Windermere inversion in the book. There’s nothing quite like hiking or driving up a hillside through thick fog then suddenly emerging into crisp clear sunshine, especially when you’ve got a full flask of hot tea and a rucksack full of sandwiches.

     

    Winter

    Flying over Ullswater. (Cumbria in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    The county is pretty much empty though the winter months. Many of the villages with high numbers of holiday homes become ghost towns and there’s no problem finding parking in even the most popular of spots. Although Cumbrian winters can be harsh, they can also be incredibly beautiful – though it’s best to make sure you’re well layered up with plenty of thermals. Crunching through the snow on top of a high fell is a wonderful experience, but only if you’re properly kitted out.

    One time when you’ll find plenty of people on the high fells is Remembrance Sunday when people gather at the war memorials dotted around the Lake District summits. The most well attended event is on top of Great Gable where, whatever the weather, several hundred people gather for a short service of remembrance.

    Last year I was lucky enough to enjoy a ride in a Gyrocopter which allowed me to take a couple of aerial shots for the book. It was a fantastic experience but perishing cold; I’d definitely do it again, but perhaps in the summer next time.

    Steve Pipe's new book Cumbria in Photographs is available for purchase now.

  • Lancashire in Photographs by Jon Sparks

    Summit of Clougha Pike (Lancashire in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    It’s often said that modern cameras have made photography easier. I can’t deny that the odds of consistently getting an image that’s in focus and correctly exposed are very much better than they were when I began my own photographic journey, before ‘digital imaging’ was even thought of. But ‘in focus and correctly exposed’ is not enough; it is not, and never has been, the be-all and end-all of photography. Landscape photography, for example, is not merely about making a record of a place but capturing how the photographer felt about that place.

    In fact, whether you’re shooting idyllic landscapes or hard-hitting news images, all the skill and all the equipment in the world count for very little unless you’re in the right place at the right time. And, yes, that’s another cliché, but it’s still true, and I hope the images in Lancashire in Photos show that I’ve managed to live up to it.

    Of course there’s an advantage for me in photographing Lancashire. I’ve lived here most of my life, and I’ve explored it in many different ways. When this book came on the horizon, I already had an extensive stock of images covering most of Lancashire, and I also had a pretty clear idea of places I wanted to visit, or revisit, for new pictures.

    Train and Arnside Tower from Silerdale Moss (Lancashire in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    However, I haven’t always had the advantage of playing at home. Other assignments have taken me to places I’m far less familiar with, and with strictly limited time to work in too. In those circumstances, there’s always a temptation to head straight for standard views and locations that you’ve already seen in other photographers’ work. Commercially, that’s sometimes a necessity, but from a personal perspective I tend to wonder what the point is. Photography for me is about capturing my own view of places, not reproducing someone else’s. And the ideal way to find my own view is to explore on my own, at a slow pace, and with a willingness to take a random turn because it looks interesting.

    In my view, landscape photography means being part of the landscape. It means engaging with it in some way, whether it’s walking, rock-climbing or cycling (on road- or mountain-bike). All of these have the great advantage of being slow; you move through the landscape at a pace that lets you take in details and allows all the senses to engage. Photography may be a visual medium, but it’s still underpinned by what you hear and feel and smell and taste.

    Working in my own backyard also means I’ve visited certain locations many times. I’ve trodden the summit of Clougha Pike at least three hundred times, and apart from the very early days I’ve always carried a camera, even if photography hasn't always been the first thing on my mind. When it comes to being in the right place at the right time, familiarity with the place certainly helps you figure out what might be the right time.

    Fireworks and train, Lancaster (Lancashire in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Sometimes this means that I can head out with a pretty clear idea in my head of image(s) I hope will materialise. The image of a train and Arnside Tower had been in my mind for some time, and this hazy evening with the sun sinking behind and creating a semi-silhouette effect was just what I’d been looking for (maybe a steam train would be even more picturesque, but it would be a lot less typical).

    But you always have to be open to other possibilities too; while waiting for a train to appear, I noticed the backlighting on the moss crowning the wall right in front of me, which became the very next image in the book. The two were taken almost exactly five minutes apart.

    A train figures in my next example too, though this time it was a bonus, rather than central to my original plan. Shooting fireworks displays like this one over Lancaster Castle definitely requires preparation (and a good tripod), and because each exposure lasts a minute or more you can only shoot a limited number during the 15 or 20 minutes of the average show. I’d scouted the location beforehand, so I knew the railway line ran through the middle distance, but I couldn’t guarantee that there’d be a Pendolino pulling out of Lancaster station during the display. Once I saw it start to move, however, I had to keep the shutter open until its headlights had travelled right through the frame; fortunately this meshed perfectly with a 60-second exposure.

    War Memorial, Slaidburn (Lancashire in Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Then there are the shots that weren’t planned at all, like the image of the war memorial in Slaidburn. I was heading for a walk over the hills to Clitheroe but as the bus passed through the village I noticed the light making an already poignant memorial even more so. Fortunately, the bus-stop was only around the corner, and the first thing I did after disembarking was to jog back up the street to get the shot.

    Planning and spontaneity have to coexist, then, as they did with the image of Lytham that graces the cover of the book. I’d gone expecting to shoot images of the windmill and the old lifeboat station from almost exactly the opposite direction, bathed in late-autumn evening sunlight. However, you can plan for many things but clouds will always do their own thing – and even as they were threatening to frustrate my original intentions I saw the potential for a completely different shot. The first requirement for a landscape photographer – any photographer – is keeping your eyes open.

    Jon Sparks new book Lancashire in Photographs is available for purchase now.

  • Defining a Gem in the Yorkshire Dales by Mike Appleton

    “Defining a ‘gem’ is as much down to personal choice, affiliation and affection as it is to conform to a set checklist of what beauty or a landmark should be.”

    That's the opening line from my new book 50 Gems of the Yorkshire Dales published by Amberley. The tome seeks to discover some of the best places the area has to offer; being distinctive, historical, picturesque, geologically fascinating and above all personal.

    Identifying a 'gem' is something I thought would be easy. As my introduction says: “We can all identify an icon, a symbol, an area of outstanding natural scenery; in fact we do it every day in the choices we make”. Holidays are often based around lakes, mountains and ravines; drives and cycles in the country end up in fantastic pubs or cafes; we can all name a stunning vista from our childhood.”

    The Dales is my gem and I have been able to transform that love into narration and the ability to use the knowledge I’ve gained, foot by foot, step by step, in language.

    Surprisingly though, that adoration was tested to the full when I was asked to photograph, capture and name 50 of the best places in the Yorkshire Dales. Quite simply, for an area that has so much natural beauty, how can you choose one particular ‘sight’ over another? How can you rank a gem? In a time of bucket lists and must dos, how do you choose the ‘big’ numbers, the scenery that everyone must see? What happens if the smaller fells, a rock in an odd place or setting should be on the sheet too?

    In the end I had to make a choice as I wanted the gems to be as personal as possible. They needed to connect me to a landscape I know and love so much. They are my 50 and as a result there had to be a certain amount of trade-off to make sure I drafted a list I could be happy with.

    They also had tick the boxes – I hate that phrase – of what Amberley does best. Local, Historical, Geographical and Accessible. I think I achieved that.

    Here are some of my favourites:

    Yorkshire - Ease Gill

    1. Ease Gill, near Casterton

    It takes a hardy (if somewhat mad) soul to go underground through the multitude of passages that honeycomb the Dales, but the rewards are immense.

    Ease Gill is part of the Three Counties System, the longest and most complex cave system in Britain, and lies below the Casterton, Leck and Ireby Fells around the 2,057ft Gragareth. So much so that nearly 90km of passage has been found to date – with discoveries continuing all the time.

    Cavers don't have it all to themselves: you can enjoy what's happening above the surface too. Simply follow the beck from its full flow, right through to where it disappears underground and then into spectacular gorges.

    Its remote location means it is very rarely visited. It's serene, colourful at all times of the year, and the perfect place to reflect.

     

    Yorkshire - Semerwater

    2. Semerwater

    Semerwater, near Bainbridge, is the second largest natural lake in Yorkshire after Malham Tarn – and legend has it that it was once the site of a prosperous city in the Dales.

    The story goes that an old man came to the city in search of food and drink. He knocked on each door, being rebuked every time, before he found a welcoming ‘hovel’ where a poor couple pitied and took him in.

    After enjoying the couple’s hospitality, the old man turned to face the town and said: “Semerwater rise! Semerwater sink! And swallow the town, all save this house, Where they gave me meat and drink." Immediately, the waters of the lake rose up and flooded the area drowning all of its citizens, except for the couple who took him in.

    Today the lake is rarely busy, usually glass-like and great for the many birds that visit its shores.

     

    Yorkshire - Ingleborough

    3. Cheese Press Stones, near Ingleton

    Take the path to the Turbary Road from Ingleton to experience this eerie scenery at its finest. You climb into an area of dense limestone, boulders and pavement, before the going is fairly flat and grass-like with Gragareth stretching ahead. Here, in this superb setting – in the stunning Kingsdale – are the Cheese Press Stones.

    These stones were more than likely left stranded in this location by ice movement in the Ice Age. Since then, unlike the limestone which is nearby, they have been shaped and smoothed by the elements, not contorted or cracked.

    The view from here across the Dales is equally as impressive.

     

    Yorkshire - Gunnerside4. Gunnerside

    Long before farming and tourism became the dominant way of making a living in the Dales, heavy industry shaped some of the countryside we visit today.

    Take a walk around Gunnerside – particularly Gunnerside Gill – and the impact of this activity, albeit hundreds of years ago, is there for all to see. This picturesque dale, Swaledale, was the site of a major lead mining enterprise.

    The valley still contains much of its industrial past with dammed streams and old workings dotted around the gill. Sure, it sounds a bit bleak – but in a strange way it adds a certain charm to some of the best countryside the Dales has to offer.

     

    5. Some little-known pubs...

    Yorkshire and pubs go together – and after a walk there are several you can enjoy. My favourites are:

     

    Yorkshire - WoolpackThe Falcon Inn, Arncliffe

    The original Woolpack in long running soap Emmerdale. It’s the way it serves its beer that is the real gem.

    The ale of choice, Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker, is poured from a jug to a glass. It’s the traditional way of serving beer which keeps the ale at room temperature and ensures its great condition.

     

     

     

    The George and Dragon, Dent

    The tap house for Dent Brewery! Say no more!

    Station Inn, Ribblehead

    Remote and in the shadow of Ribblehead Viaduct and Whernside, this pub offers breathtaking scenery and great ale!

     

    Yorkshire - 9781445645605

    Mike Appleton's book 50 Gems of the Yorkshire Dales is available for purchase now.

    To find out more go to mascarandmedia.com

    All photos by Mike Appleton.

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