Sunday, 12 November 2017


There are lots of things I dislike about taking landscape photographs. The biggest being the walking involved! Thirty years ago it wouldn't have bothered me but these days after  a mile and a half of trudging  up fairly gentle inclines my joints start moaning. Never straying from the beaten path gives you the same pictures everyone else gets. No matter how much care you might take over the framing a few minutes on Google and almost identical snaps appear in droves. The lesson here is to stop photographing the obvious views and subjects.

That said, wandering up a valley in the AONB that I had never wandered up before was interesting. Once more I was in search of signs of human influence. And as with the previous valley visit it wasn't hard to find. Once the tarmac track runs out at the borehole a rough stone shooters track takes over. Not just shooters and game keepers drive their vehicles along the track, I had to move aside to allow an RSPB (spit) 4x4 to pass me on its descent. A much quieter valley, no doubt owing to the shorter length of tarmac. And even a mile from the road it felt as if it could have been twenty.

Another thing that bugs me about landscape photography is how much it relies on the light being not only of the 'right' quality but from certain directions. As I don't plan anything technical I rely on luck in this department. An earlier visit, or even better a different time of year, would probably be better for photographing the valley. But I timed it right for a photograph of the memorial below. Fitting to photograph it on Remembrance Sunday.

One bit of planning I had done was to consult maps. I wanted to see what the 'castle' actually looks like. Not very much as it happens. It's pretty much a stone barn with some fancy windows and door one one side. The door and windows are boarded and locked. Possibly that side is used as a shooting lodge. Sheep making use of the open parts for shelter. Again, a quick internet search shows that the building has been photographed many times from every angle.

After retracing my steps I set off to take the (very long) route home. The main reason for his was to avoid having to drive into the setting sun. Previous drives home from the AONB on bright afternoons had seen me dazzled and unable to see the twisting road in places.

The alternative route proved to be over pretty remote land. But land full of sheep. I stopped three times to see if I could get any sheepscapes. I wished I'd had a longer lens with me. Fell sheep are timid. As usual it proved impossible to get each sheep in a group to pose ideally. The late afternoon light was wonderful though and there was a bitter wind blowing, which had the benefit of moving clouds across the sky. Far better than a bald blue sky.

One point worth noting about photographing groups of animals, or anything else really, is that odd numbers make for better pictures. I don't know why this is. There's probably some deep psychological explanation. But I'm not the first to discover this compositional device works.

But sheep being sheep they don't always hang around in groups of three or five. Only children hang around with their mothers long after they've weaned. Although I wish mummy sheep had looked at the camera I like the gesture of the lamb (damn that rush stem though), the light, and the depth in the landscape beyond. There's a feeling of space to the picture. When Mrs Swaledale did raise her head it was as she ran away on noticing my presence. Bloody sheep.

Further along the road the light, or rather the shadow, on Ingleborough was fascinating. The cloud above it was equally interesting. I took a number of shots as the clouds moved and the light changed. So many it made deciding which worked best difficult. I'm still not sure the one below is the best of the mediocre set.

A little further on lay The Great Stone of Fourstones. Which is, obviously, the only stone for miles around! I don't think I could have time my unplanned visit better. The sun was beginning to set behind the stone. Better still I was the only person there, two others had just left. I did my backlit trick of stopping the lens right down, underexposing, and lining the sun up in such a way that it peeks through a small gap creating a starburst. It's not something that can be easily done using a tripod when the sun is setting quickly.

Walking round the other side of the stone and the low sun warmed the scene as well as showing the texture of the rock. careful framing kept a parked yellow car, the road and a fence out of frame giving the impression of remoteness. Photos don't lie. They just don't always tell the whole truth...

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