Not So Grim Up North

It was finally here – the little break we had been looking forward to so much. We would be staying in Northumberland, in between the National Park and the coast. The weather forecast was mixed, but favorable for the time of year, and I was looking forward to getting out with the camera, ,enjoying some some time with family, as well as just a break from the stress and strain of the South East.

We drove the long-ish drive on Saturday morning, which turned out to be fairly uneventful. We left at 6am and made a few quick toilet stops, but covered ground fairly quickly and arrived in the North just around lunchtime. We had decided to to head east to the coast for a little drive, as we couldn’t check in until 4pm.

We chose a little town called Alnwick on the map, and headed there for a quick stop. On arrival we parked at the back of a links golf course, right in the dunes, and headed down onto the beach. The golden sand stretched out of sight, and the waves were full of body boarders and surfers, you could be forgiven for thinking we had arrived in Cornwall!! We strolled along the beach, wary of leaving the fully loaded car for too long, in the direction of the small town. I did take a couple of photos, but to be honest, I was tired after the drive, and wasn’t pleased with the results.

Iphone shot on arrival

We walked into the river mouth, around the small town, and along a small stretch of the river called ‘Lovers Walk’ – before heading back to the car and further up the coast.

Lovers Walk – Iphone shot

We were feeling pretty tired by this point, and time was pushing on, so we just drove up the coast, past Dunstanburgh Castle, Bamburgh Castle, Holy Island etc and then inland, across the hills to the edge of the National Park where we were staying and met the rest of our group. We had shopping delivered and had a nice family meal – intent on exploring the local area a bit more the following day.

We were up fairly sharp the next day – and after breakfast we headed straight back to the coast – this time a lovely beach further north, near Ancroft. Considering it was a Sunday – there were very few people around.

Footsteps on an empty beach – 18mm – f7.1 – 1/320th sec – ISO100

I tried a few shots, including some long exposures – but suffered with the 7stop ND filter as it didn’t provide a long enough shutter speed, even if I went up to f22 to allow less light – hence I was disappointed again with the results. I was however a great walk and an amazing beach – as most of the beaches are in this area!

At the beach – 18mm – f22 – 3sec – ISO100

Later that day, while eating our evening meal, I noticed the most incredible sunset forming over the mountains. I felt rude, but I had to quickly finish my plate, and rush out the door to get to a vantage point to take photos before it ended. We rushed up the nearby hill in the car, finding a layby that gave a half decent view, and I tried to capture the epic scene before us…….it was all a bit of a rush, and again I was very disappointed with the results – but, just being there was a buzz, and it was so great to be able to see mountains again.

Mountain Sunset – 38mm – f11 – 1/5th sec – ISO100

The following day we decided to venture into Scotland. The weather forecast predicted that day would be the best of the week, so we set off early to St Abbs. I had been excited about visiting St Abbs since we booked the holiday, so was keen to get there before any perceived crowds would arrive – I needn’t have worried, we didn’t see anything resembling a crowd all week!! Once we arrived at our destination, we set off from the National Trust car park, and immediately we were treated to spectacular views across the the bay and down to the harbour.

Across the bay – 28mm – f18 – 1/320th sec – ISO100

We explored a few paths down to the beaches, and the rocky outcrops we came across – we had the place to ourselves apart from a few local dog walkers which was a real change from the South-East!! We spotted a pod of dolphins crossing the bay – an amazing sight that I had never seen before – tbh, it made my week.

Exploring the rocks – 18mm – f18 – 1/40th sec – ISO100

We walked along the spectacular coast till mid-morning, before having a small picnic in a rocky cove, before heading back to the car by lunchtime.

Picnic spot!! – 18mm – f18 – 1/320th sec – ISO100

We had a lovely meal out at a local campsite, and headed back to base tired but happy. I definitely didn’t make the most of the photography opportunities at this location, probably my only regret of the week – but I the location was simply incredible – I can only imagine was a sunrise there would look like!!

Exploring the rocks – 18mm – f18 – 1/80th sec – ISO100

We spent the next few days relaxing, and making trips to the beaches and driving around this wonderful county. We visited Bewick on Tweed, Rothbury, Alnwick, Beadnall and Milfield to name but a few. We enjoyed exploring the local area around Wooler, including a great trip to a wooded area at Wooler Common, where we got to see and photograph red squirrels!! We don’t have them in the south, so it was another highlight for us.

Red Squirrel 1 – 300mm – f7.1 – 1/200th sec – ISO400
Red Squirrel 2 – 300mm – f7.1 – 1/200th sec – ISO400

All week we had F15 fighter jets and military helicopters flying about which was great!! I tried to photograph the jets, but it was such a rush, as they approached so fast and were gone in a second!!

F15 Eagle – 300mm – f7.1 – 1/500th sec – ISO500

We ventured into the mountains a bit, but by this part of the week, the weather had changed and we had some rather strong wind, which made photography impossible at the elevated heights!! I was hard enough just to stand straight at times!! I was disappointed, but there is always next time!!

On one of the beach trips, I managed to get a shot with Lensball – my only one of the week, but I was pleased with it.

Lensball is back – 18mm – f7.1 – 1/500th – ISO100
Beach long exposure – 18mm – f22 – 13 sec – ISO100

We also made two trips to the amazing Cragside National Trust site, which is, I have to say, the best National Trust site I have visited by a country mile!!

Cragside House – 22mm – f5 – 1/640th sec – ISO100

Cragside has big forest areas (1000 acres) and amazing sculpted grounds. I managed to take my first ever long exposure flowing water shots, and spend some time with family.

Flowing Water – 20mm – f18 – 25sec – ISO100
Getting the photo – iphone shot

You could drive a car along a one way road in the grounds, stopping at various points to park and take walks – it was a great idea to allow people to explore all it has to offer.

Cragside long exposure – 18mm – f22 – 5 sec – ISO100

If you walked a bit further into the wilds (like we did), you could get away from everyone and everything, and there were hidden paths up and down the hillside, with bridges and rock paths to explore – a truly great place.

Exploring Cragside – 18mm – f18 – 1/13th sec – ISO100

All in all the week was amazing as a destination – It was tiring as we tried to fit so much in. I ended up driving over 1000 miles in the week, and there was still so much we didn’t see. We didn’t do any of the main tourist areas (Bamburgh, Dunstanburgh, Lindisfarne, Farne Islands etc etc) and not because it was too busy with tourists – we simply didn’t have time.

Long exposure blue hour – 18mm – f22 – 5 sec – ISO100

I was disappointed overall with my photography, I struggled with compositions and my long exposures in the harsh light of day (going to purchase a 10stop ND filter), and felt most of the time I was rushing – probably the balance between a holiday/break, and an intended photography trip. But, I did get a couple of shots I was really pleased with – which is great, and it has just made me want to try harder tbh.

We’ll be back – iphone shot

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