Malham Sneak Preview….




Yorkshire photography – Wet, cold, miserable, overcast….

Today was all of the above, so time to head to a stream and make the most of the low light conditions.

Luckily the river was abnormally high so lots of white water and unusual flow patterns. Ideal for creating a milky, surreal effect.

We’ll be taking a group to this exact spot on the 20th January 2013, there are still places left, so get your booking in – or just paypal £75 us at, and we’ll show you how it’s done.







5 Amazing Lake District Locations



The Lake District is famous for walking and it’s stunning views over hill and lakes, perfect for the active person. However, it’s possible to get great shots without and enjoy a relaxing, sedate day out – all of these shots were taken within 1/4 mile of the road.

1 – Haweswater

The eastern side of the lakes is often over looked, and this reservoir/lake (there is a dam which raised the lake 90 feet) is rarely seen. There’s a long road that traverses the full length of the lake, which is, to be fair, uneventful… till you get to the end.

You’re treated to this outcrop and island in a steep valley setting – it’s an impressive sight, one you don’t really expect.


2 – Wrynose Pass

Wrynose and Hardknott are passes which offer a challenging drive and amazing views – and are both around 1200 feet tall, though feel about 2000!

There’s a little bridge and stream about 1/2 way up which are worth stopping at, as they offer great foreground interest to the sweeping background to the right.

wrynose looking at bridge

3 – Kirkstone Pass

The highest road pass in the lakes, at over 1500 feet, has great views over Windermere and Brotherswater, I’ve always favoured the Brotherswater side. The long, “V” shaped valley, with the Helvellyn range to the left, are amazingly impressive. There is a little stream following the road down the hill, so you can park up, hop over a wall and you’ve got instant, stunning foreground – all you need is a 1/2 decent day and you’re on to a winner.


4 – Blea Tarn, Little Langdale

Just around the corner from Wrynose pass, and before you hit Great Langdale, there’s a lovely little tan which reflects the Langdale Pikes on a still day. A car park and small walk get you there, then you get a fence, rocks, pebbles, streams and ducks for foreground – with probably the most impressive background in the lakes. Here you see mist in Langdale, water rings left by a fish and the edge of a little wood.


5 – Buttermere

Often pretty busy and hard to park – Buttermere has splendid views back to Honister Pass Haystacks, amazingly powerful landscape which thrives on dark, brooding skies. A short walk from the village to the lake edge brings you trees and fences to use in the foreground, all adding upto a great location.
buttermere velvia

5 Great Yorkshire Waterfalls

Yorkshire’s never short of water, it rarely stops raining for long, so Yorkshire’s Waterfalls are a great subject for anyone into photography.

Waterfalls are abound so we thought we’d show you a few of our favourites from across the region.

1 – Scalebar Force, Settle

This is the prettiest of the lot in many ways, yet inaccessible to anyone with poor mobility or acrophobia. Cascades of water falling over many levels of rock created a plethora of compositional opportunities which are rarely found. Parking on the side of the road leaves a mere 100 yard walk to see the falls, then a steep, slippery walk down the slope to get the view you see here. It’s worth the struggle!


169 dales malham ribblesdale snow 176 dales malham ribblesdale snow 177 dales malham ribblesdale snow 180 dales malham ribblesdale snow 196 dales malham ribblesdale snow




2 – Aysgarth Falls, Wensleydale

Not one, but a whole series of falls over about a mile. Aysgarth is about half way between Leyburn and Hawes and has lots of paid parking available, so ideal for a few hours of shooting. Here we see the view of the biggest of the falls, the “Lower falls”.

You can get access to the “Upper falls” by walking up the road and looking over a bridge to see them, then going through a gate to get a closer, riverside view.

The middle and lower falls are a bit of a treck downstream. A lovely woodland path with occasional views into the inaccessible river. If you walk on past the lower falls for about 100 yards there is a hole in the fence where you can get down to the river bed level, offering you lots of great photographic opportunities.

071 wensleydale yorkshire dales-Edit 083 wensleydale yorkshire dales-Edit

lower falls 2

3 – High Force, Teesdale

The biggest flowing waterfall in England sees the whole of the Tees flowing over this 70 foot cliff. It’s impressive; very impressive. It’s noisy and full of spray, so not the most sociable of locations, but well worth a look – just take a towel and lens cloth.

The falls face away from the sun so rarely get any light on to them – making longer exposures and blurry water easier to create. Here’s a very early HDR image of the falls.

high force classic view

103 tynedale teesdale high force-Edit 102 tynedale teesdale high force 219 tynedale teesdale high force 183 tynedale teesdale high force-Edit


4  – Potsforth Ghyll, Bolton Abbey

Away from the busy river Wharf is the Valley of Desolation, a strange rift on the far side of the river to the abbey and shops. It’s not an obvious find, and is about a mile from the road, up a gentle slope before you start to hear the falls. Then it’s into a deep gorge where you’ll find this beautiful, possibly the second prettiest, fall in the Dales. A fall which benefits from lower flow, due to the excessive spray you get when it’s full – and also you get more water paths to shoot, rather than on huge plume of dirty-white water.

Walk further up and you get a second, smaller fall which cascades over boulders – worth a look once you’ve exhausted your ideas.



5 – Gordale Scar, Malham

Finally the most impressive location of the lot – Gordale Scar. A huge gorge with water flowing through it, cascading over boulders and through a hole in an old lake bottom. It’s part of a walk from Malham to Malham Tarn, so you get people walking up it all the time – they look like ants against the majestic surroundings.

This can be totally dry in the summer, so be aware of that if you are a waterfall die-hard! There is a small falls called Janet’s Foss within easy walking distance of the scar, so visit that too.

082 yorkshire dales malham workshop-Edit


5 Tips on Cropping Photos


Cropping a shot is a great exercise – you can find completely new images within an existing frame.

Here’s a shot with lots going on, probably too much to be an effective shot on its own. We have a few rocks in the foreground and lots of lines and circles from the moving foamy water. It was taken on an overcast day, so no interesting light.




Crop 1 – Most of the shot…


So to start with, I’ve gone mono and done a little work bringing out detail in a few areas, the bank at the top being the most obvious. So just a basic crop to make things sit better – the stone now in the bottom left “introduces” you to the shot, rather than acting as the focal point.




Crop 2 – Get rid of the circles

A stone and the circles maybe too much for one shot, so here we have a hint of the circles, then the stone at the bottom. Note how the diagonal lines from the foam now take on a larger role in the shot.



Crop 3 – Just the moving water

The exact opposite of crop 2, we’re now concentrating on the water. Putting the foam circle on the right par of the shot allows space for the diagonal lines to lead us in from the bottom left of the shot. The rugged bank makes more impact too.


Crop 4 – Eye of the Storm

This is a cool-toned version, adding blues in there to change the feel. This is as tight a crop on the spiral as I was comfortable attempting. The flat-edged stone in the right corner nicely points to the middle of the spiral. _MG_2942-3


Crop 5 – On the Rocks

And finally, just the main pebble – a hint of water flowing by.


Which is best?

To be honest, none of them are going to get on to a magazine front cover, nor may wall, but the exercise of trying to find different images within one image is the key part of this example. Each crop has used compositional ideas such as lead lines and the rule of thirds, which hopefully you can spot.

So next time you’re a bit stuck with a shot, get stuck in and hack away, you never know what you may find!

The Photography “Kit Obsessive”

Photographers fall into many camps, but one that really stands out is the “kit obsessive”.


These tend to:-

  • Talk incessantly about kit – above anything else
  • Buy novelty items they rarely use
  • Are never happy with their current kit
  • Motivated by numbers and specifications
  • Can compare and quote reviews of competing kit items
  • More interested in the tools than the photographic results
  • Are first to hear “new kit speculation”  blogs and forums
  • Always think “if only I had a….” rather than “what can I do with my….”

I’m sure every photographer enjoys using great kit – handling pro kit is like a pianist playing a Steinway, it’s a buzz you get from using the best there is.

The love of music, as with photography, is the creative process – the performance. The tool, be it a beaten old school piano or the £75,000 Steinway grand, is just a vehicle for you to express yourself. A great pianist will sound great on either… and vice versa.


The “kit obsessive” is, to me, missing out on the many beauties of photography – a few of which are:-

  • Finding a perfect, hidden location,
  • Telling a story in one image
  • Capturing the beautiful mountains,
  • Using light falling through a window,
  • Clouds creating amazing shapes,
  • Fleeting smiles from a beautiful model,
  • Waiting for a sunset, only for it to create the reddest sky you’ve ever seen
  • the moment a wild animal looks in your lens,
  • meeting  new and interesting people,
  • conveying awe inspiring power and beauty of a super car,
  • the reaction of the couple seeing their wedding photos for the first time
  • show the magnitude of a sky scraper…..

The list can go on and on and on…. But for me, not one of the true “motivations” is kit.


Example – What do you think about on a commercial shoot?

Imagine a PR shoot with a business person.  Here’s what you tend to focus on….

On these shoots you’ve first and most importantly to talk to the person – shake hands, smile, say hello…. Then keep talking as you set up the lights… Find out things you can talk about later in the shoot… find out what the pics are for, how they’d like to look, see if they’ve any example images…

Then you’ve to suss out the location… where looks good, how to light it, look for windows/mirrors and dodgy reflections – all the time talking to the client of course…


Then you’ve to shoot of course – probably using the same body/lens/flashes you’ve used dozens of times before…. That’s all on auto-pilot… leaving you to guide your client… get them talking about themselves, or something to guide their “mood”…

And that is the wonderful thing about photography – for that time, you have got someone in the palm of your hands, be it some aspiring model or (as I’ve had) a group of senior directors of a multi-billion pound company – no pressure there.

My point is about motivation and enjoyment. Just as a builder has the best power tools for his job, I have the equivalent in camera and lenses – fit for purpose. That’s not in question. It’s what drives you to take photographs that is.


If you are a “kit obsessive”, I implore you to take a step back; start enjoying photography for what it is – recording the light coming into a box.

If your “enjoyment” of photography is the gadgetry, you’re missing the true enjoyment; “seeing” the world around you.


5D Mark 2 – First impressions

Love the Classic 5D…

I’ve been shooting with the classic Canon 5D from 2006 to present, been perfectly happy and only once been short of pixels for a job (it was a colossal print… did a stitch of 9 images in the end). But my main body has now done way over its allotted 150,000 photos and so the time for a new, reliable body came along.

I got a canon 5D Mark 2 (note, not 3…. a mark 2) as they are more than fit for my needs, and are more cost effective than the Mark 3.

So the first task was to check out the new features – things like Live View, 3 User Presets and My Menu were the main things. Obviously getting ISO 6400 and 22.1M Pixels is a bonus.

Live View


C1/2/3 Custom Setup

So live view – this is actually useful, being able to compose the shot, then zoom in to a spot on the scene, zoom 10 times (digitally) and focus is a real bonus, one which I’ll be using on Landscape and perhaps architecture work. It’s also going to be great for teaching as you can demonstrate many things “as they happen”.

C1, C2 and C3 are your Custom set-ups – the 5D has 1, the 5D2 has 3… I’ve used these for a HDR set-up, a Landscape (tripod based) setup and a fast “hand held portrait” set-up, so I can quickly adapt to changing conditions.

My Menu


Then the My Menu… that’s really useful, many settings are buried several menus deep – mirror lock up being the main one. You can add any 6 menu items in here – so it’s very quick and easy to access them. So those are the main practical benefits I’ve seen so far.

My first professional shoot with it went off perfectly, the main difference being the ISO setting is changed by the top wheel on the Mark 2 – that caught me out EVERY time I went to change it. It blended seamlessly with my flash/lens set-up  and the images of the baby are just incredible.

Since then I’ve hooked it up to my Samsung Tab 2 and got the camera shooting Focus Stacks and it can take so many more Auto Exposure Brackets than in-built 3 (handy for tricky HDR situations).

So yes, the Mark 2 does have some worthy upgrades which will help move my photography on – namely the higher ISO, higher pixel count – and a few time saving devices like the Live View and C1/2/3 settings), so well done canon!

Has it changed my motivation, style and how I work – not at all! 😉

Return to the Land – Yorkshire Landscapes…

Landscape Photography – Yorkshire’s Perfect!

Landscape is many photographers’ first subject – accessible, healthy, gregarious and unpredictable.

That was the attraction – a weekend diversion to new and interesting places. A whole world of dales and lakes to discover. From Teesdale in the north to the Peak district in the south, Leeds is just a couple of hours from the lot.

Much of the noughties was spent in these idyllic locations – capturing them in bright sunshine, dull clouds and frozen snow.

For me, the challenge of photography is always to improve, to get better shots than last time, to find something new. Returning to familiar locations with my first DSLR, then my first set of ND grad filters and polariser, then trying my first Canon 5D, or the ultra wide Canon 17-40 L  lens all kept the interest going, and the results improved time upon time, peaking in 2008, when I created a book of Yorkshire landscapes.

After that point, I found I was gradually getting diminishing returns on these trips – bad weather would blight them, nothing new really jumped out, and my architecture and people photography was taking off. So landscape became a rare outing – just the occasional trip to the Lakes or Yorkshire Coast and that was it.

So meeting up with Richard Spurdens, himself a former landscaper, to revisit the Malham and Settle area was a real blast from the past.

The usual December “dodgy weather” almost gave us cause to cancel, but instead the clouds broke to create some of the most dramatic sky-scapes I’ve ever photographed.

Traditional landscapers research locations, where the sun rises on a particular day, where to be set up at sunrise to capture the perfect light and set off at ungodly hours to capture it.

I picked Richard up at 11:15AM, had a coffee and hit the Airton at around 12:30 – not really conforming to stereotype.

I practice “peripatetic photography” – which is basically driving and pulling over when you see something good. Another sin in the Landscape Photographer’s handbook – which states you must park up and walk all day to get the perfect shot. We stopped perhaps a dozen times before settling down for a half hour at the beautiful Scalebar Force.

From there to capture the sunset at the now infamous tree on Malham Rakes, where I used “Live View” on the Canon 5D Mark 2 for the first time. Quite enlightening really – being able to zoom in 10 times and manually sharpen the image AND also see a histogram of how the image will appear at the current exposure settings is a large jump from the tried and tested techniques mastered with the original 5D.

Failing light and black clouds sent us packing to Malham tarn – Yorkshire’s highest lake, and that day, coldest. Frozen around the edges, it created a captivating foreground to counter the featureless sky.

Editing the shots has been a delight, making the most of the dramatic “god rays” over Pendle Hill and sheep, plucking detail out of the darkness and showing the dales off at its stunning best.