Future updates

Hi all,
I’m very sorry that I have not managed to keep this blog page up to date, workload since we took on the gallery has meant there is simply not enough hours in the day to keep up with this. However you can still follow my photographic antics on my Facebook page at; https://www.facebook.com/willowsgallery

See you soon.

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Edward the Blue Engine


BR Blue single chimney King No. 6023 King Edward 11 working hard on the approach to Swithland sidings, and passing the fine recently commisioned GWR pattern signals, on Tuesday 19th March. The loco carries a ‘017’ reporting number denoting the Bristolian, which was King hauled on Friday’s during the 1950’s

One of the most noteable restorations in steam preservation – that of King No. 6023 King Edward 11, which had one of its driving wheels cut in half after minor derailment in Barry scrapyard, was completed in April 2011 at Didcot Railway Centre, Oxon after 25 years of hard graft by the team doing the work. The engine was outshopped in the experimental BR Passenger blue livery of the 1949- 1952 period, in which all the Kings appeared at some point.

I did get a few shots if it on Didcot shed at a night shoot back in April 2011, the engine then went over to Norfolk for some running in and I, and other charter organisers, were able to offer some charters with the engine at the Great Central Railway in Autumn 2011 during a planned visit there. However some problems developed with the loco and it was withdrawn from service on its return from Norfolk and the GCr visit was postponed. There then followed a long political battle over what caused the problems and who was to blame whilst the engine sat at Didcot out of use. I won’t go into the details of the arguments, but it all came to a head when some graffiti was sprayed in the firebox at Didcot about the guy who was requested to do some repairs to the boiler. The engine was quickly moved to the GCR for work to be completed without such stupid things happening.

The work was completed for the engine to re-enter traffic at the GCR’s winter gala in January 2013 – almost two years after its initial completion. Through the offices of charter organsier Russ Hillier we were then able to agree some charter dates with the GCR for March 2013. In the meantime a fund had been set up to repaint a few coaches on the GCR in to the early BR red & cream livery to create a decent rake of 7/8 vehicles to run with the engine to recreate the early 1950’s look. Thanks to those who also donated.

King No. 6023 King Edward 11 working hard past Mountsorrel Junc, Swithland, GCR on 21st March 2013 with my photo charter. A classic 50’s shot.

Unfortunately, as is often the case with long desired photo charters, the weather was challenging for getting a decent number of shots in sunshine, with the coldest March on record producing much cloud and cold easterly winds and some snow. Fortunately my two days, on Tuesday 19th and Thursday 21st March did experience some sunshine – in fact they turned out to the best two days of the week, with only the first Monday seeing some limited sunshine and the the final Monday (day 6) getting some sun and snow on the ground. It was difficult to call the train and get it passing the assembled photographers in the brief sunny breaks, but with persistance and patience this paid off and the Tuesday did result in at least 6 decent images worth keeping and processing. Personally I stayed for the Wednesday charter too, run by Russ Hillier, but this day was greeted by full dull and cold conditions and no worthwhile shots were obtained. On the Thursday the forecast was a little brighter for the morning, which did materalise. Unfortunately the engine has developed a problem in its firebox overnight, and only the great efforts of boilersmith David Wright who turned out at 2.30 am and got inside the firebox to effect a repair, enabled us to have the engine for that day – a big thank you to David. This did result in the engine being late off shed and so we started an hour later than planned and missed some good early sunlight which was annoying. However once did get started we headed straight out to Swithland and got a number of runpasts in sunshine with the sun on the east side of the line, which were among the shots I had set my sights on before the charters started, so that was a good result. we did get one more runpast in weak sunshine at Woodthorpe before the forecast cloud again covered the area.

King No. 6023 King Edward 11, in early BR Blue livery, passing between some fine GWR pattern signals at Swithland, Great Central Railway, with a photo charter on 21st March 2013.

Overall some very satisfactory images were obtained, although not everyone was lucky that week, and I think my “Steam Recreations” charters were probably the luckiest in terms of sunshine, so no complaints here then! I have given the charters a weather rating of 7/10 for Tuesday and 5/10 for Thursday to give some idea of the overall picture.
I hope you like the four images included herewith of my own from these charters. Lets hope we are able to see the engine out on the mainline in Blue livery in due course.

King No. 6023 King Edward 11, in early BR Blue livery, passing Kinchley Lane, Great Central Railway with our photo charter on 19th March 2013.

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Devon Cream – milk & auto’s in South Devon

Devon Cream charters – South Devon Railway
25th – 27th February 2013

During the lines gala week, No. 1450 is seen heading past Stretchford with the single Collett coach that looked so good together – a real branchline recreation.

As the South Devon Railway were starting off their 2013 season with a gala event, centered on the Great Western Societies visiting Steam Railmotor No. 93, with local and auto trains to recreate a proper branch line feel of the former Ashburton branch line, I agreed with them several days of photographic charters along with fellow charter organiser Mike Tyack.
The first day was a Steam Recreations charter which was effectively a re-run of a charter I did last year with Collett 0-6-0 No. 3205 with a short milk train. That charter was graced with dull cloudy weather – and guess what …. so was this years. Bad luck seems to have gripped this particular train formation, but it looks so good that I will attempt another re-run in the future. We did manage to get a few shots which have been converted to black & white to give them something of the feel of the past and allow contrast etc. to be managed on the final image without colour problems.

Collett 0-6-0 No. 3205 passing Hood Bridge with the milk train on 25th February 2013.

The weather for the full week was dull cold anti cyclonic gloom that can typically sit around for days on end in the winter months if a high pressure area builds and sits to the north of the UK and draws in east/south east air flows off the continent. So on day 2 we had the visiting 14xx tank No. 1450, courtesy of owner Mike Little, with an auto train. It was planned to use the SDR’s remaining red/cream auto No. W225, but sadly despite best efforts to repair this in time for the gala it was failed with hot axleboxes during the week and was thus not available for the charter.

14xx No. 1450 leaves Staverton with a single red/cream coach as a BR liveried Land Rover waits at the crossing – a timeless scene from the 1950’s taken on 26th February 2013.

Instead I ran with Collett Composite brake (BCK) No. W1645W which is restored in BR 1950’s Red/Cream livery and really looks the part when paired with the weathered black livery of 1450. In my view this combination stole the show at the previous weeks gala and looked so 1950’s branchline that you really felt you were in a time warp. I ran with this coach for most of the day, but swapped to Maroon liveried autocoach W228 for the final run out from Buckfastleigh so that those who wanted auto train working got their wish. The best shots of the day were obtained at Staverton (above), where due to the road across the crossing being closed to traffic that day we were able to perform a number of run-pasts across the crossing with all the period lineside “furniture” around and a BR red/cream liveried Land Rover waiting at the crossing, courtesy of SDR staff member Alasdair Page.
Day 3 was promoted and run by my colleague Mike Tyack under his ‘Steamscenes’ banner and consisted of 1450 with two milk tanks and the line Collett BG No. W276W in Red/Cream livery.

14xx tank No. 1450 heading a short branchline milk train through the trees at Luscombe curve on 27th february 2013.

Again the weather was dull and cloudy, it really does test your resolve when it gets like this! Despite the conditions we gave it our best shot and spent the first session out on Luscombe curve doing various shots until it was time to return for the cooked breakfast at the railways cafe in Buckfastleigh – very welcome on a cold day. Later we headed out again for more shots alongside the River Dart between Stretchford and Hood Bridge before a further return to the cafe. At this point I abandoned the day and headed home – there is only so much one can take of cold, dull and dark conditions!

A classic going away shot of a Great Western branchline auto train as No. 1450 heads away from Nappers crossing with its single auto trailer on 26th February 2013.

As No. 1450 is due to be repainted into BR lined Green livery immediately after our charters, and visit the Severn Valley Railway, this was the last chance to see and photograph the engine in its weathered BR black – a shame in some ways but equally I think the engine will look good in green at the SVR with a Maroon autocoach.

Charter weather rating 0/10.

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Ivatt in the Dales

Ivatt tank No. 41241 arriving at Keighley station in the pouring rain on 24th September 2012

In my 19 years organising and running photo charters at many heritage lines around the country I don’t recall ever seeing a weather forecast so bad as that for Mon 24th September. A day of heavy rain and strong winds was forecast from dawn to dusk, and indeed it had started raining the previous evening and continued until the Weds causing much flooding around the northern half of the country, including in Yorkshire.

Understandingly a good number of those who had booked chose not to bother attending, but 15 brave souls did turn up to join me – I had wondered if I was going to be alone all day! We took the train up to Keighley station, which has plenty of 1950’s period station furniture and signage to create some quite atmospheric scenes around the station, with the Ivatt tank and its two coach train looking the part. At least here we could take photos whilst sheltering under the station canopies! The crew did brave the weather conditions for us and turned the engine on the adjacent turntable to enable us to get some alternative shots. We later returned to Haworth for our lunch break and later took the train down to Ingrow for a visit to the museum there – at least it was dry! The loco ran round at Keighley in our absence and returned to pick us up and take us back to Haworth and an early finish. Despite the appalling conditions the day was enjoyed by all those present and we went away satisfied (if that is the right word!) that we had at least got a few atmospheric shots in the rain soaked platforms at Keighley.
Weather rating 0/10.

41241 approaches Oakworth near Damens loop with our charter on 30th November 2012.

As a result of the appalling weather denying us the chance to get some decent final shots of the Ivatt tank before it is withdrawn for its 10 year overhaul, I arranged a re-run of this charter on Friday 30th November 2012, and this time we had excellent weather with a clear frosty morning giving way to subtle sunshine with frost that lasted all day in places. The train formation was as before with two coaches and two vans which looked excellent in the wintery Dales. We started with some shots to the south of Oakworth, where we did have to wait over an hour for the sun to appear over the hills, but it was worth the wait with excellent steam effects in the cold atmosphere. Following this we proceeded to the south of Haworth and did a number of runpasts with the loco working away from the station whilst others in the group concentrated their efforts on the going away shot. After a run round at Oxenhope we returned to Haworth for a short break and then Keighley, however the light was not reaching the track outside the station here so we proceeded back to Oakworth a covered two locations here before declaring early as the sun had become hazy and with the results we had from the early morning we all felt we couldn’t do better so might as well start the journey home – which proved to be a long one, typical M6 on a Friday evening!
Weather rating 9/10.

41241 leaves Haworth on a frosty 30th November 2012.

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Clifton Suspension Bridge at Twilight

Clifton Suspension Bridge & River Avon, Bristol, at twilight.

I’ve had this shot in mind and on my agenda to do for sometime since I had seen the opportunity when driving through Bristol awhile back and seen other images taken from similar vantage points. I was waiting for the conditions to be right – tide in, broken cloud, little wind and of course an opportunity to get up to Bristol for an evening shoot. It all finally came together on August 6th when a quick check of the tide tables after looking at the pleasant evening sky developing at home led to think it was the right time to make an attempt on this one. I also checked the Met Office satellite image of the current cloud cover for the area, a very useful tool.
I quickly gathered my gear together and asked my wife, Jane, to accompany me as heading into the city in the evening on quiet footpaths “off the beaten track” may not be such a good idea alone with lots of camera gear! We headed off up the M5 and into Bristol where upon arrival we needed to establish exactly where the access to the park I needed to go to was as my research on-line had proved misleading, so 1/2 hour was spent driving around the Cumberland Basin area of the city trying to work out access and a place to park. Once achieved we arrived at the desired location and quickly set up just as the sun had set and the colours were appearing in the sky and the lights on the nearby buildings and the bridge itself started to show up more brightly, introducing a much better contrast for the shot. I took a number of exposures as the light in the sky faded and the contrast between street and building lights and the twilight sky became more balanced and subtle purple hue appeared in the sky. I left the location very happy with my evenings efforts.
Canon EoS 5DMk11 with Canon 24-105mm L Lens @ 67mm. 74secs @f16. Lee 0.9 ND Grad. Manfrotto tripod and cable release.

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Poppies – in search of red

Poppies at Roundway Hill, Wiltshire. Canon EoS 5D Mk11, EF 24-105mm lens 1/20th sec @ f16. Lee Poloriser and Manfrotto tripod

Last year I decided I wanted to get a decent shot of a poppy field with its strong splash of red dominating the image. It proved harder than I thought!

Time spent researching potential locations in magazines and online often proved fruitless, with some nice images being seen but rarely with any information as to their actual location – it seems people wish to keep this information to themselves. Also as Poppies are effectively a weed, farmers are usually quite keen to eradicate them from their land so they may not appear in following years. They can also flower at varied times of the year – some appeared near Shaftesbury in Dorset a couple of years back in November! However June/July is perhaps the best time of year for the vibrant red displays.
Further research did reveal that there had been poppies appearing regularly each year near a publicly accessable hill in Wiltshire. Checking the information given and OS maps of the Devizes area revealed that this may well be Olivers Castle Mount at Roundway.
I had got up early for a dawn shoot early one morning in mid July – rare in itself given the recent very wet weather we’ve all been suffering! A good forecast for the early morning proved correct and I headed across to Somerset Lavender, nr Radstock to attempt some shots here as the sun rose across this wonderful field of purple. However the sky was clear and devoid of any clouds so after a few shots I abandoned the location feeling that previous visits I had made here had produced better results than those that were possible on this morning. It was now just before 6am and rather than return home empty handed I decided to head over to Devizes and try and find the poppy field, arriving at around 6.45am I headed for the village of Roundway to try and search out the field. After driving around a few lanes trying to work out the geography of the area I decided a dead end lane from the village may be where I needed to head, this climbed steeply up onto Roundway Hill and I could then see the splash of red ahead me – bingo. I needed to continue along a by-way and park before heading along a path to the edge of the field. A real bonus was a small group of trees on the top of the hill fort which provided a nice backdrop to the poppies and a by now blue sky with wispy high clouds forming. A number of successful images were made in what seemed a quite short space of time before the sun lost its intensity as the wispy clouds thickened up to herald the next band of rain to cross the south of the UK in this very wet summer. Having got some decent images “in the bag” I headed back to the car and home for a late breakfast feeling quite pleased that I had at last got some shots in decent light in this awful summer – let alone that they were of a field full of poppies. Oh and it was raining again by the time I got home!

Whispy clouds and Poppies at Roundway Hill, Wiltshire. Canon 5D Mk11 with Sigma 17-35mm lens. 1/15th sec @ F16. Lee Polariser & Manfrotto tripod.


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Road to the Isles

A three week camper van expedition to the Scottish Highlands & Islands in search of landscape perfection – oh and a little steam!
A long planned trip to Scotland in spring lighting conditions when the mountain regions still have their winter feel about them but the days are longer and the weather often a little more comfortable. The plan was made even better when a good client of mine requested a 1-2-1 workshop session on Skye, which was agreed for mid April, fitting in nicely with our planned trip north. My wife, Jane, joins me on these long trips and in between enjoying the scenery caters for my needs very well – I could not wish for better companionship. We decided to visit the outer Hebridean islands of Lewis and Harris and then return across to Skye to meet David for the workshop before finishing off with some attempts on the annual Great Britain steam special as it made its way around Scotland.

My gear is a Canon 5D Mk11 together with Canon 24-105mm L lens and Sigma 17-35mm lens, used with a Lee filter kit and Manfrotto Carbon Fibre tripod to keep the weight down.

Elgol sunset, Isle of Skye. Canon EOS 5D Mk11 with Sigma 17-35mm lens. Lee ND6 and 0.9 ND Grad filters used. 30 secs @f25.

Using our camper van we set off on April 4th and through some pretty appalling weather conditions around the midlands but the forecast was indicating better conditions further north. It did indeed brighten up as we progressed north along the M6 and arrival in Keswick was to a very pleasant, if chilly, afternoon.

First photo location was Castle Rig Stone Circle with some satisfactory images of the circle with both Helvellyn and Blencathra as backdrops in very nice light. My Lee Polariser being employed on these shots to good effect as the sun was at 900 to the sun. We then headed down to the lakeside at Keswick for some shots of the boats on Derwentwater as the sun set over the nearby mountains. Nice warm evening light being experienced with snow on the background mountains.

Day 2 (Thurs)
Early alarm to check that the skies were still clear – perhaps a little too clear really. We moved from our overnight camp spot to walk out onto the wooden walkways at the western end of Derwentwater at Great Bay. A little disappointed at first by the low water levels in the lake causing large areas of uninteresting mud to fill the foreground of several compositions I looked at. I then settled for an area where I could get close to the water’s edge and this paid dividends with a nice image resulting using my Lee Polariser and 0.9 ND grad. I waited for the sun to finally appear over the nearby Ashness Fell and obtained a few more exposures before heading back to the van for breakfast and wash & brush up.

Derwentwater at dawn before the sun rises over the nearby Ashness fell to illuminate the foreground. Canon EOS 5D Mk11 with Canon 24-105mm lens. Lee Polariser and ND Grad, Tripod and cable release. 0.4secs @ f13.

A quick visit to an outdoor outlet in Keswick and we set off for Scotland up the M6 & M74. Leaving the very pleasant sunny conditions seemed rather odd, knowing that the weather was not so good further north!
A break at Aviemore for a look around and a decent break in the long arduous journey. We later continued past Inverness and out to Glen Torridon for a second overnight stop.

No late images being possible this evening due to low cloud & drizzle and a very tired photographer!

Day 3 (Fri)
Alarm sounds at 06.00hrs – low cloud and raining so back to sleep! A later start saw us head out of Glen Torridon and around the Wester Ross coast visiting a number of locations on the way including Gruinard Bay, where some shots were attempted when short brighter spells started to appear. We paused again adjacent to the path to Loch a Bhraoin when another burst of sunlight appeared – a couple of images attempted here but not that successful with the sun making only brief appearances.  We then arrived in Ullapool to sample fish & chips before heading off to Loch Lurgainn and views of Stac Pollaidh in wonderful evening light with some very pleasant images being made and a beautiful sunset.

Day 4 (Sat)
Ground Hog day! We awoke at our location beside Loch Lurgainn to the accompaniment of rain, wind and very low cloud so after the usual morning rituals & breakfast we headed off to Loch Assynt for something to do – but we could barely see it! We returned to Ullapool and booked onto a campsite for the weekend and enjoyed the rest of my 50th birthday in the town.

Day 5 (Sun)
Further heavy rain and drizzle saw to it that we stayed on our campsite most of the day until the weather looked like relenting a little in late afternoon, so we then headed out to the Inverpolly Forest area.  A shot was attempted from Druim Bad a Ghaill towards Stac Pollaidh as the summit briefly flitted in and out of the low cloud cover – I must go back to this location and try again sometime. We then continued along the coastal route to Lochinver and out to Loch Druim Suardalaio for a view across the summit of Suliven which like the Stac ‘ kept briefly appearing from the low clouds. The image made here is I think a keeper, but as the light faded rather quicker than I had hoped this too is one for another time.

Monday was a travelling day as we were booked to cross to Stornoway for a 5 day visit to the Isles of Lewis & Harris.  A very warm welcome to the islands was felt as locals gave us tips and advice for our visit. We decided to make our first overnight location New Tolsta – a truly stunning beach location with river outlet and nearby cliffs and views across to the mountains of Sutherland on the Scottish mainland. Sadly the light refused to play ball on this evening and no images were made, instead I opted to wait and see what the morning light brought on day 7.

Day 7 (Tues)

New Tolsta dunes, Isle of Lewis. Canon EOS 5D Mk11 with Sigma 17-35mm lens, Lee 0.9 ND Grad. 0.6 secs @ f13.

Morning at New Tolsta brought cloudy conditions at first and I had to wait until after 8.30am for the sun to appear, however some quite pleasant images were made of the dunes and the long sandy beach.  After this I returned towards the ‘ van but paused a while in the small tidal estuary and this arguably produced the best images of this location as the light became more dramatic with stormy shower clouds developing. After a much delayed departure from here we headed off to Stornoway for a while before heading south to Harris over the dramatic A859 road over the mountains with some stunning views across lochs towards the various peaks. We headed on towards Horgabost and made some images at Seilebost on the way and eventually settled at Sgarasta for the last of the day’s sun and our overnight camping spot above the beach. The images made here in the evening light were stunning – the light just kept coming back after I thought it had finished for the day. Truly breath taking.

Horgabost, Isle of Harris in rather stormy conditions at sunset. Canon EOS 5D Mk11 with Sigma 17-35mm lens. Lee ND0.9 grad, ND6 and Polariser in place. 2.5 secs @ f16.

Day 8 (Weds)
Overall a frustrating day with the light refusing to “play ball” when we required it too. We headed for the mountain region of North Harris beyond Tarbert.  Some considerable time was spent waiting for the light and often without anything really worthwhile to show for it. In the afternoon we headed down to Reinigeadal and the so called “Golden Road” along the east coast of Harris to Rodel – a very difficult road to drive the camper along and with virtually no parking spaces along the entire route (!) so you can’t stop and enjoy the views, let alone set up a tripod and camera.

Seilbost beach, Isle of Harris. Canon EOS 5D Mk11 with Sigam 17-35mm lens. Lee polariser and ND0.9 grad fitted. 1.3 secs @f16.

We arrived back in West Harris in time for the late light at Horgabost & Seilebost where I was at last rewarded with some good light and some great  images were obtained, rounding the day off rather well.

Day 9 (Thurs)
Starting the day at sunrise, this is meant to be a working holiday after all, trying to get some shots across the Sound of Taransay towards the mountains, some reasonable images obtained but not what I really desired. We then headed across to Luskentyre and a walk along the beach there taking images from the dunes where the colours were simply stunning. However the bitter cold & strong north wind made our walk a little unpleasant on the way back to the camper. After lunch we headed for the community Co-Op shop at Leverburgh – a thriving enterprise and stocked with just about everything you can imagine! A great insight into the way of life on these islands.

The weather then clouded over through the afternoon as a bank of cloud passed to the west of the islands. This cleared around sunset, but a little too late to do anything really meaningful with, so we called it a day.

Day 10 (Fri)
Up at sunrise again to attempt a shot from Horgabost beach, with the low light streaking across the dune grasses. Due to some intermittent cloud this was only partially successful. After breakfast, we headed across once more to Luskentyre for some shots across the sound’ to the now snow-capped mountains from the Dunes. Later I worked on some shots across the inlet at Luskentyre with white sands and turquoise waters – a signature shot of this part of Harris.

Luskentyre, Isle of Harris. Canon EOS 5D Mk11 with Sigma 17-35mm lens, Lee Polariser fitted. 1/15th sec @ f16.

The visit to Harris now all but over we headed over to Tarbet for the ferry across to Skye for week two. On arrival we headed for the Quiraing and after preliminary look at the shot for the morning we headed to a sheltered spot for the night just a mile or so away.

Day 11 (Sat)
Another early start and I was in position for the first light on the Quiraing. I could not have wished for better lighting as the sun rose and shone as expected directly onto the mountain sides with glorious light and shadows playing for me like a pictorial tune. A number of images were made over the next 30 minutes or so before cloud built up and  covered the sun.

Much of the day was taken up with shopping for fresh food supplies, it has to be done sometime, and with arrival at our cottage for the following week which we were sharing with our 1-2-1 workshop client – David Lane.

The evening was forecast for good light so we headed off for the first workshop session at Elgol – a staggering 1hr 20 mins drive from the cottage. Skye is surprisingly big? At Elgol some excellent images were obtained as the sun set into some stormy clouds and with wintery hail showers crossing the nearby Cuillin mountains – the light show was simply fantastic.

Day 12 (Sun)
Up at 6am for the drive out to Sligachan for planned shots of the Cuillin Mountains from

Neist Point, Isle of Skye. Canon EOS 5D Mk11 with Sigma 17-35mm lens, Lee ND0.9 Grad filter. 0.3 secs @ f13.

beside the river.  On arrival a heavy wintery shower was approaching and we could see a light covering of snow on the mountains to give our shots a real wintery appearance. We walked along the river for a short distance and waited sometime for the light, with just short bursts of sun on the nearby mountains and the rocks in the river bed, some very satisfactory images being obtained again.

This was followed by a return to base for a late breakfast and wash and brush up before setting off on a recee’ for further locations near the Cuillins for another morning later in the week.  For the evening we headed out to Neist Point and worked some images of the nearby cliffs in pleasant afternoon light before getting into position for the light to play on the north western side of the headland. Unfortunately the sun was covered by some large dark clouds and we had to wait for an hour and a half for the sun to reappear and play its magic – which lasted for no more than 5 minutes! At times like this that I applaud Jane’s resilience to stick with me when it’s often cold etc. whilst I wait patiently for something to happen.

 Day 13 (Mon)
The weather forecast continued to offer hope for more good light so yet again up before sunrise, this time for the drive to the Quiraing where we saw wonderful light on the approach as the sun broke free from some cloud cover, unfortunately we had misjudged how long it would take to travel from our cottage to the location and we missed this show (note to self – get up even  earlier!), however all was not lost as we could see that patience would bring rewards as the cloud moved and melted away to reveal some wonderful morning sunshine on the Trotternish ridge once more. Having ‘bagged’ these shots we headed back down the hill to the coast near Staffin for some quick shots of the coastal waterfall at Kilt Rock and then back for another late breakfast. In my view it really is essential on trips like this to go self-catering so that you have the full flexibility to be in position for the light and have breakfast when your work is done – few, if any, B&B’s would be this flexible.

The Quiraing, Isle of Skye. Canon EOS 5D Mk11 with Canon 24-105mm lens and Lee Polariser fitted. 0.5secs @f13.

Heading out again we revisited Sligachan to work out some more locations for later in the week, whilst also managing to get some quite reasonable shots in the area despite the time of day. We finished the day as “tourists” (actually quite a sanity break) looking around the Glenbrittle and Carbost areas before heading back to base the clouds rolled in as forecast.

Day 14 (Tues)
We almost wanted the forecast to be right so that we could actually get up at a more respectable hour with less rush. It was indeed correct and the forecasted rain crossed the island, and indeed much of the UK, so a day to catch up with some image processing of RAW files etc. The weather cleared during the afternoon allowing us to venture out and pay a second visit to Elgol as the weather looked good for the evening and lead up to

Elgol sunset, Isle of Skye. Canon EOS 5D Mk11 with Sigma 17-35mm lens. Lee ND6 and 0.9 ND Grad filters used. 30 secs @f25.

sunset. We were not disappointed and a magic lightshow was again played out in front of us at this simply magic location for sunsets.  For over an hour after it first looked like we might only get a 10-15 minute break of good sunlight, the light show continued and the trusty 5D Mk11’s and Lee ND filters were used to great effect. Excellent stuff.

Day 15 (Weds)
Back top early rises – we headed off at 05.30hrs for a drive out to Sligachan to work the locations we had checked out earlier in the week. Planned shots with the waterfalls in the foreground and the snow covered peaks of Sgurr nan Gillean behind were wonderful to witness.

Sligachan falls, Isle of Skye. Canon EOS 5D Mk11 Canon 24-105mm lens. Lee ND6 and ND0.9 grad filters employed. 4secs @f16

Several angles being worked as the sun rose over the mountains, there was also more water flowing on this morning due to the rain that fell overnight Monday/Tuesday. We rounded off the session with some shots across the small Loch nan Eilean of Sgurr nan Gillean, at first the water was disturbed by the thermals now becoming active, but surprisingly all became calm again while made our images.

Day 16 (Thurs)
Our plan for this day was to be up at 04.30hrs and to drive out to the start of the path up to the Old Man of Storr. With a lot of cloud around you do question yourself in these situations, but nonetheless we started the climb at 05.20hrs just day break arrived and made the 1 hour climb to the top of the adjacent ridge for sunrise. The skies started to clear nicely and we made our first images at 06.20hrs and some simply stunning light on the ‘Storr with the snow capped Cuillins in the distance.  The effort required to get these shots was well rewarded and made it all very worthwhile. Once back down to the car we did a couple of locations around Loch Fada before heading back for a well earned late breakfast.

Old Man of Stor, Isle of Skye. Canon EOS 5D Mk11 with Canon 24-105mm lens, Lee Polariser fitted. 0.3 secs @ f13

After our success through the week we simply couldn’t bring ourselves to take what on the face of it were “ordinary” and perhaps uninteresting shots around the eastern flank of the mountain area of the island on Friday – a quite strange situation really, only brought on by setting your sights far higher than many perhaps would. The result was a welcome day off and a chance to rest and also get ready for a departure from the island and starting the journey south – first stop Fort William for 3 days of steam photography with GBV with No. 61994.

The evening was spent having a meal at the very pleasant Spein Inn on the Waternish peninsular, the nice sunset seen from the inn being captured in a lucky moment on my mobile phone – a photographer never rests!

Day 19 (Sun)
It seemed rather strange turning my attention to steam photography after two weeks of solid landscapes!

However a trip out across Rannoch Moor doing some landscape shots around Buachaille Etive Mor and Lochan na h-Achlaise came first, although the mid morning light was not ideal. A clear spell around lunchtime did bring a few opportunities that didn’t go entirely to waste.

We went south of Crianlarich but found that locations for a decent shot of the train were few and far between and eventually settled for shot of the train approaching Crianlarich despite the angle of the light being far from ideal. The train eventually appeared very slowly and already running some 50 mins late after struggling with rail conditions and now short of steam from a badly clinkered fire, it came to a halt beside us twice before eventually arriving at the station. After this we moved to our intended location at County March summit beyond Tyndrum, but with the late running train it was clear that the sun would no longer be on this location when the train eventually appeared. The option was taken to move north to Bridge of Orchy, where the light would be more favourable, except that the weather had other ideas and so the day finished with no steam shots in the bag.

Day 20 (Mon)
The train was due to work out to Mallaig on this day, but we did not know which way  round the loco would face. Initially we attempted to go into Fort William to view the train but some road works and hold ups prevented this so we headed out to Fasfern instead for our first shot. Glorious light presented itself with still waters in the adjacent Loch Eil to allow a reflection, as the train  approached a large cloud covered the sun and the shot was spoilt. We then drove on to overtake the train at Glenfinnan and attempt a shot as the train climbed away from the station here. Again glorious back lighting greeted us as the  train approached – working hard against the gradient, but another cloud covered the sun and much cursing now followed as we failed to get our second attempt.
We drove on to Polnish church, but sadly the light angle was right behind the train so we continued onward having to reject some known locations due to the time it would take to climb up to track level before the train arrived. We eventually arrived at Morar and had to settle for this despite the sun being wrong side. A very disappointing morning given the obvious potential when we set out – the frustrations of steam photography!

After a few shots around Glenancross beach looking out towards Eigg and Rum the rest of the day was taken up with being “tourists” just viewing this stunning area before heading back to base to start preparing for the long journey south.

We got up early (6am) on Tuesday to go out and cover the train leaving the area as it passed through the Monessie Gorge but the very dark heavy skies made me decide against this option. I stayed in the Fort William area a little while longer and then headed south along the A82 back to County March to wait for the train to appear, again running some 40 mins late. However the sun did put in a mooted appearance which has enabled some sort of shot to be achieved here. There being no shots worth doing south of Crianlarich we watched the train leave and then headed east over to Perthshire to research some locations between Perth and Stirling where steam age semaphore signals and signal boxes still reign. I settled for Greenloaning, where with permission I was able to access a good lineside spot (right side of the fence) for a shot of 46115 passing the signal box. Excellent early evening light was present for some time before the train was due but this had become heavy dark clouds by the crucial moment and so a record shot of the train, converted into black & white was achieved.

With a poor forecast for the remaining two days of our planned trip we decided to set off south earlier than originally planned. Unfortunately disaster was to strike, the gearbox on the camper van failed on the M74 a little to the south of Glasgow and we had to await rescue to subsequent re-lay home by the AA, arriving back in Somerset at 09.00hrs the following morning, very tired and hungry after a long night.

Despite the large repair bill the facing us, we reflected on what had been a very enjoyable and successful trip to the far north overall.

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Coal Tank charters

LNWR Coal Tank No. 58926 approaching Oakworth with a charter goods working on 21st February 2012.

My latest photographic charters were held at the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway using the recently overhauled LNWR ‘Coal Tank’, numbered as No. 58926 and in plain BR Black livery as it appeared in the 1950’s.
The engine has been restored by the KWVR based Bahamas Loco Society in their workshops at Ingrow, the engine is actually owned by the National Trust. As the overhaul neared completion contact was made with the BLS to see if the loco could wear its BR livery a short period of time and through the efforts of John Hillier of the BLS this was agreed to take place for just a few months in 2012. Initally the engine was relaunched in its more familiar LNWR guise as No. 1054 and then had some minor modifications carried out to give it its BR period appearance. Later in the summer it will be outshopped as LMS No. 7799 and will visit the Severn Valley Railway for the lines autumn gala. It will look good with the SVR’s LMS coaches.

LNWR Coal Tank No. 58926 standing at Oxenhope with a charter local passenger train on 20th February 2012.

Our charters ran on Monday 20th & Tuesday 21st February, day 1 being booked as a two coach local passenger set of ex suburban stock. The engine was requested to be turned on the turntable at Keighley to face north for the start of the week of charters – Geoff Silcock’s Sentimental Journey’s running two days following mine. Unfortunately the weather was not too favourable and cloud prevented us from getting the hoped for early morning glint shot at Haworth. We made the best of the poor light however and personally I concentrated on trying to make some reasonably contrasty RAW files to be converted to black & white images later.

LNWR Coal Tank No. 58926 approaching Oakworth with a charter local passebger on 20th February 2012.

At least the rather vintage engine looks the part in black & white! We did manage a pretty full days photography making the best of the conditions, with the engine turned to face south later as would have been our preference for afternoon shots if the sun were shining.
The engine was turned again at the end of the day to face north for the start of day 2 with a mixed goods train, my thanks to Kieran Pilsworth and the KWVR crews for their co-operation with this. Sadly despite a better forecast Tuesday also started off rather damp, although the sun was visible and the light slowly improved as the morning went on, but it did keep drizzling for some time which made keeping our lenses clear rather difficult. Persistance paid off though and we got a sunny (and dry!) shot just north of Oakworth station before proceeding up the line to Keighley to turn the engine once again and prepare our train for a trip down the branch facing south. Once this task was complete we obtained a shot just outside Keighley, although this did mean a fair wait had to be endured “waiting for the light”. A couple of further sunny shots were obtained Nr Oakworth facing south before we headed off for lunch as the cloud rolled in once more. Some sunny breaks during lunch time gave a hint of a good afternoon to come, but sadly this was not to be as the cloud thickened up after lunch. All participants left happy that had got a few shots ‘in the bag’ of the engine in what will be a very short lived period in BR Black livery.
Sadly the two days for Sentimental Journeys following were also greeted with poor weather – a full days steady rain and wind on the Weds – so that proved challenging also. Typically the Friday was a glorious sunny day, has had the Sunday before – you can’t win them all!

LNWR Coal Tank No. 58926 leaving Oakworth with a charter goods working on 21st February 2012.

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Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express

Black 5's 44871 & 45407 passing Garsdale, North Yorkshire with the Waverley excursion returning from Carlisle to Manchester on 28th January 2012.

After a number of years when engineering work had prevented the Settle to Carlisle line being used for steam excursions during the winter months, the completion of these works has allowed mainline steam to again be scheduled on Saturday’s throughout February – between Jan 28th and March 10th in fact, no less than 7 weeks in a row.
My first visit back to the line for a number of years, summer visits when steam excursions are quite regular have been prevented by business commitments and the lack of desire to tackle the M6 on a summer weekend, was on Jan 28th 2012 when Black 5’s 44871 & 45407 double-headed a Manchester to Carlisle and return trip. An extra feature over past winter steam on the route has been the addition of steam haulage over the West Coast mainline between Preston and Carlisle (or part of) including the famous Shap bank. I attempted a shot of this first train at Tebay but this failed due to the exhaust blowing down over the train as it passed my location and the light had become very flat. I then headed across to the S&C line and enjoyed some stunning scenery of the Yorkshire Dales with snow on the upper fells. I had desires on a shot at the summit of the line – Ais Gill, and this looked amazing with a good covering of snow on Wild Boar Fell as a backdrop. However this was clearly not going to be properly lit when the train passed as the sun would have dropped behind the nearby fells. I therefore headed down to Garsdale instead and opted for shot (above) of the train just south/west of the station where the low setting sun was able to catch the front of the approaching train and the snow covered fell provided a nice winter backdrop. An added bonus at this location was the ability to turn around and capture another shot of the two locos catching a golden glint as they headed away into the setting sun.

Black 5’s 44871 & 45407 passing Garsdale, North Yorkshire with the Waverley excursion returning from Carlisle to Manchester on 28th January 2012.

Overall a very satisfactory result with which I was very pleased. I had been tempted to go to Ribblehead viaduct where the best option would have been a silhouette of the train working across the viaduct against the setting sun. I’ve seen some very good results from this by other photographers, but didn’t feel that I wanted to go home with a silhouette shot from such stunning winter conditions.

The weather forecast for the next two weeks discouraged me from travelling north for the trains in the first two weeks of February, in fact the second train on 4th Feb ran in near blizzard conditions! I next found myself up north for these trains on 18th February and opted for a shot at Greenholme on the climb to Shap for my first shot of the day. The weather forecast was generally favourable but with some wintry showers developing later. As I waited for the train the light kept changing dramatically from bright sunny to very dark and threatening so I was on edge as to the potential success of this shot. A large cloud passed over and left the background fell very dark but with full sun on the line itself and my prayers were answered when the train then appeared and truly memorable shot was obtained, even allowing for the presence of the overhead wires along this line.

Black 5's 44932 & 45305 head a Cumbrian Mountain Express up Shap at Greenholme on 18/02/2012.

I then travelled over to the S&C for the afternoon’s southbound run over that line, however a rather unfortunate incident with my 4×4 car and a deep river ford near Smardale caused me to have to abandon any attempts that afternoon, but it seems from various reports that the train was followed by a large cloud all along the S&C and I’ve seen no sunny shots of the train that afternoon! My earlier than planned return south, courtesy of the AA, meant that I was unable to be up north for the run of Britannia No. 70013 on Feb 25th. My next visit is likely to be in April due to other commitments.

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Durdle Door – a Dorset favourite

Canon EOS 5D Mk11 with EF 24-105mm lens, 0.5 secs @ f22 (ISO 100), Lee ND 0.6 ND Grad, Poloriser. Tripod.

A wave breaks just as the shutter is pressed on as slow setting to enable the movement of the wave to be captured on this lovely winters afternoon with warm low angle lighting.

Just one and half hours from home lies the wonderful Jurassic Coast which stretches from
Swanage in Dorset to Exmouth in Devon, it includes a whole host of wonderful locations to practice the art of landscape photography. I use this stretch of coastline for my Dorset coast workshops so visits are quite frequent when added to my own expeditions when the weather looks just right.
Among my favourite locations along this stretch of coast is Durdle Door, a very picturesque natural arch formed in the cliffs near Lulworth Cove, itself another wonderful feature of the area. Shots can be taken from down on the beach (but note is long slog back up to the car park with your camera kit and tripod!) or from the cliffs above.

Late afternoon lighting in the summer months illuminates the face of the arch.

During winter the sun sets out over the sea and provides wonderful low level and warm lighting on the shingle beach and cliffs, whilst in summer the late light illuminates the “face” of the arch. During the deepest part of winter in December around the shortest day the rising sun can be positioned in the arch if you are careful with your composition – I’ve not caught that myself yet though!
I have enjoyed an early morning visit to Durdle Door, setting off from home early in the darkness for the two hour drive and hoping that the weather produces a good sunrise as predicted from looking at the weather charts the previous day. I was rewarded as can be seen below with a wonderfully colourful sunrise, captured with my Canon 5D Mk11 and 24-105mm lens with the aid of Lee 0.9 ND Grad and 0.6 ND filters to obtain a 3.2 sec exposure at f16.

Dawn at Durdle Door on a December morning with a wonderfully colourful sunrise.

Maybe join me for a workshop day on this wonderful bit of Englands coastline.

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