Unusually for me I was packed and ready to go 3 days before this trip , staying in wigwams meant less careful packing , just throw everything in 2 large bags and I'm ready . As is customary I collect Andy from Leeds and off we head , car sitting slightly lower than usual and nattering 19 to the dozen about the weekend ahead . 7 of us are attending the meet , 5 staying in Wigwams at Pot-a-doodle-do at Scremerston whilst Phil and Lynn have their camper van at a site local to us . The journey up was quite uneventful , cloudy skies began to clear the closer we got and we talked briefly about heading out in the hope of shooting the Milkyway . We roll in to the site a little before 10pm and meet up with Dean and Dan who'd arrived a few hours earlier and got our wigwam keys plus an electric card which was most useful . Heater on , kettle on and within 5 mins the wigwam looked a total mess . Common sense kicked in and we decided an early night was called for , we'd all had fairly long journeys and wanted to be fresh for sunrise on Holy Island . We finished nattering and turned in around midnight with alarms being set for 5.30am......so much for an early night !
The alarm , sounded far to soon & thankfully the wigwam was still warm as there was a thick layer of frost on the windows......brrrr ! Sunrise was supposed to be around 8am so we figured leaving the wigwams at 6.30am would be fine , roughly a 20 min journey to Holy Island would see us arriving in plenty of time to find our desired compositions & set the cameras up . On stepping outside the wigwam we could already see the horizon starting to glow with shades of pre-dawn color....this prompted a flurry of activty , gear was hurriedly loaded in to Dans car and we set off rapidly , sunrise was starting to look good and we didn't want to miss a second of it . The causeway was slippy and icy which struck us as odd given that sea water contains salt , Dan was concentrating on the road and I was concentrating on the colors in the sky which were growing in intensity . We parked up and fair skipped down to the harbour , frost was thick on the ground and the icy puddles were reflecting the colors from the sky .
We all headed off in different directions and as the tide was out I started looking for a composition on the beachy area hoping to use the little rivulets as lead in lines to the castle . Fairly quickly I realised it wasn't working for me so I headed up on to the grassy bank hoping for more inspiration there . Sunrise was almost at its peak and I was still struggling for a composition I was happy with , trying to capture color in the sky , foreground interest and pick out the frosty grass was proving a tad difficult and I rapidly was becoming frustrated ! I wanted to pack up and head off to the Lake District where they had snow on the hills and stunning reflections in the lakes and tarns.......yup, I was definitely not feeling the love !I finally saw a pair of upturned boats , hulls thick with frost and tried a couple of angles , one way I got the harbour wall in to the right of the frame , the other way I got fishermans pots and a plastic jerry can in so I settled on the 2 boats leading you to the castle behind with the sunrise colors filling the right of the frame . It wasn't what i'd had in mind for an image but having waited some 6 years for a sunrise that good I wasn't going home empty handed ! That shot done i wandered over to the harbour wall for a look around . The sky was now turning a more golden yellow , lighting up the calm water and infusing the whole scene with wonderfully soft light . There were a few small boats moored just off shore so I framed up and fired off a couple more shots then packed up and headed back toward the main path figuring the others would probably be about done as well . We stood gossiping by one of the benchs for a few minutes , all really happy with probably the best sunrise we'd ever had on a meet .
Next stop was the Barn at Beal for a well earned cup of something warming and possibly a bacon butty.....its hard work this photography lark :-) Refueled we headed off to Scremerston Beach which was just down from the Wigwam site hoping to get some long exposures over the rocks . I had a wander around but again struggled to get enthused , the sky was almost devoid of clouds and the tide wasn't doing anything interesting so I settled for just drinking in the scenery and making the most of the peace and quiet . The plan was to head off to St Marys lighthouse for sunset then on to Newcastle quayside for a little night time photography followed by St Abs lighthouse if the sky was clear enough to shoot the Milkyway
Breakfast done & it was still early so we decided to take a little nosey round the local areas ,the 1st stop being a a very old bridge on the England /Scotland border to pass an hour then headed back to the site to meet Rich , on to another campsite to hook up with Lynn & Phil and then we headed off to St Marys Lighthouse .
Or not as it turned out.........we'd underestimated the travel time so revised the plan and went to Bamburgh Beach . The tide was out the sky still devoid of cloud , it was the clearest I've seen , the Farne Islands were clearly visible and the light was simply amazing , turning the sea the most startingley soft yet bright blue I've ever seen . Again I struggled to find a composition I was happy with , I tried a few angles then , almost in desperation , I setup a long exposure at the waters edge , very minimal , just the patterns in the sand for lead-in lines , Lee big stopper on plus a .9 nd grad and I got an image i really liked . Lovely pastel colors , smoothed out water and a few patterns in the sand , simple but effective.....at least I think so .
By now we're all starting to feel peckish , my food is back at base which wouldn't normally be a problem but I'm not in my own car so have to go with the flow . We head to Seahouses as its on the way to Newcastle and call for fish n chips.....I go for a wander round the town whilst the others eat , its looking very pretty with all the christmas decorations up but every thing is already shut for the night , odd given its not even 5.30pm . I nick a few chips that Andy has left and then we're off to Newcastle .
As darkness falls we head back to the cars and head off to Newcastle Quay where Mark is joining us for an hour or so . We have a vague idea of where we're meant to be , do a couple of circuits around the town and eventually find some free on road parking near the water front just a short walk from the Millenium Bridge ( I used to be able to say that word but now , every time I try Victoria Wood seems to take over :-) )
Given it's a friday night and Newcastle (along with most cities I suspect) has a bit of a reputation for being lively a couple of us were a little wary of being there with all our photography gear but to be fair there wasn't an issue . Mark appeared shortly after , not seen him in a fair while so was good to have a catch up . The bridge itself is a quite impressive piece of engineering though it feels a little weird walking on it , kinda moves under you . Photographically you're a little limited on compositions so , after about an hour we were all done and heading back to the cars having said our goodbyes to Mark .
From Newcastle we head off to St Marys lighthouse , the sky was fairly clear & the milky way not really visible but the boys might get some star trails . The car park at St Marys seems to be the in place for the local boy racers in their souped up Corsas and the like , harmless enough and fun to watch as they parade up and down , revs high , music loud and laughter coming from within . We then discovered that St Marys is no longer a working lighthouse which was a shame (the joys of having smart phones) but the boys headed down to the causeway to see what they could get . Lynn and I opted to stay in the car and gossip , think we were both tired and cold . The guys re appeared after about 2 hours , all happy with the images they'd got . We made it back to base just before midnight , made plans for the following morning and I went to the kitchen for some food......eating late is never good but my rumbling tummy would have kept me awake .
Bamburgh beach was the place for sunrise and we set off earlier having learned a lesson on Friday morning . We stepped outside the wigwams to be greeted by a heavy frost and the beginings of a sunrise...it was going to be another good one . We fully expected Bamburgh beach to be swarmng with photographers so it was a pleasant surprise to find we were 1st there . We headed down the grassy embankment and all went our own ways......the sky was starting to color up beautifully and we all had our own vision of what it should look like . I spent a very pleasant hour or so on the rocks using a heart shaped pool to lead in the castle then wandered down to the waters edge hoping to use the waves as foreground interest . It was then that I found out just how waterproof my Salomon boots are.......I really do need to check up on tide times......the sea was supposed to be going out !
The sunrise just kept going , giving time for several different compositions including using a piece of branch that a fellow photographer had found . The morning was magical , one of those rare occasions when the light stayed so good for so long you almost overdose on the sheer beauty of it . Eventually though we all meet up , walk steadily back to the cars and head off to the Barn at Beal again for a catch up and to plan the rest of the day , can't beat a bit of planning over a hot brew and bacon butty !
The decision was made to head off to Alnwick , not somewhere we'd been before but it looked to have a couple of interesting viewpoints that could make for some great shots . The weather was being a bit meh.....not cold but a bit bland with flat light , not conducive for landscape photography but we could treat it as a scouting mission for future visits . We were aiming to find a hill with a cross on the top that gave a view over the estuary to the far bank that was the town of Alnwick . The roads were still fairly empty & after just the 1 u-turn we headed down what appeared to be a bridleway , one car wide in places & ridiculously rutted . We crept at snails pace for what seemed like forever until finally the track widened & we saw a parking area - Dean must have been having kittens in his car which is on low profile tyres with limited ground clearance ! We headed up the hill to the cross but as suspected , the light & sky were just not playing ball so we settled for just mooching about . Lynn & Phil went off looking for birds & Dean & Rich had wandered down to the beach but also failed to find anything to get enthused about it .
We called it a day after an hour or so then after a spending a little time sorting out a fuse in Dean's car we took a trundle , very slowly , back up the track & on to Amble which looked quite promising with a harbour & a lighthouse . The sky was starting to come good now , clouds were appearing , the sun was breaking through & we even managed to find a car park with spaces without too much trouble.....things were looking up :-) We walked the along harbour front , past a row of lovely little huts that were small shops selling all manner of trinkets & food and out on to one of the harbour walls with a lighthouse at the end . Not your traditional lighthouse though, more like a thick pole with a light on it but it was at least painted in red & white stripes . A quick hop over the railings on to a small paved area afforded an unobstructed view so Andy & I set up the cameras ,popped in the Lee 10 stop filter & proceeded to while away a good hour with some pleasing results .
The sky was starting to show the 1st hint of color as we piled back in the cars & set off for Dunstanburgh Castle with hopes high for a cracking sunset . It was a bit of a mad dash from the castle car park , down the road , past a row of houses with the best view of the ocean & then along the path leading to the castle ruins .The coast line to our right is a series of small cove type areas with masses of rocks leading in to the sea & we lost Andy to one such area just before the last stretch of hill to the ruins . The sun was setting quite rapidly but either it , or I , was in the wrong place ! I made it to the ruins but failed to find any sort of composition before the sun dipped below the horizon taking the color with it ....there'll be other times though ! I headed back down the path & suddenly color just burst from the sky.....& again either it , or I , was in the wrong place ! Back at the wigwams , showered & fed the boys decided to venture off to St Abb's lighthouse in the hope of some star trails & Lynn & I had a girly night in , just chilling & nattering .
Sunday morning was to be spent at the beach side of Dunstanburgh , a short walk along the cliffs where we split off & went hunting the perfect photo hampered only by the rather bracing breeze and un-interesting sky that didn't bode well for sunrise ! The tide was fairly well out so I didn't venture down to the shore which is covered with large boulders & looks awesome when the tide's either coming in or just on it's way out & one day I will get THE photo from there . But not today.......today I stay by a little tarn in the shadow of the castle ruins and try for a shot but again it just wasn't happening for me .I'm not unhappy about it , I've managed a couple of decent images over the weekend and any tie spent at the coast is fine by me .
After a coupe of hours we head back to the cars , say our goodbyes & as the others head for their respective homes , Andy & I scoot back to the wigwams , pack up & set off to try & find Chemical beach near Seaham .
We had the vaguest of vague idea's as to where Chemical Beach was , somewhere near Seaham was as much as we had to go on ! Andy worked his magic on Google maps & we found a carpark that looked promising and a short walk to the edge of the cliff confirmed we were almost in the right spot . We moved the car back down towards the main road , parked up , grabbed our gear & set off down the cliff along a very steep path with minimal grip underfoot ! We joined a slightly better & flat path that took us down toward the beach & then turned in to boulders , massive boulders ( presumably sea defences ) & things got slightly interesting . The 1st couple of boulders were ok but then I had to resort to some very un-ladylike positions to scrabble down over the last few to reach the safety of terra firma . We'd estimated that the tide was about as far in as it was going to get & I hoped we'd got it right as the only escape route was back up the boulders & that wasn't gonna happen in a hurry !
The place was amazing , sheer cliffs to my right and a long stretch of beach littered with rocks & pebbles in front of me . At the far end of the beach I could see a group of wooden groynes but the tide was in far enough that it wasn't an option to get down there......next time for sure !
I spent a little time looking around and settled on a shoot out across the water with a set of wooden " things " that looked like a crocodiles mouth (to me at least) .The sky was fairly good , blue with a few clouds scudding along which made a long exposure the perfect option . Framed up, .6nd grad & the 10 stop in place , I took a few shots until I got the one I wanted....I'm quite partial to milky water !
A few hours passed in the blink of an eye & reluctantly we packed up ,scrambled back up over the boulders ( more un-ladylike positions !) and spent 10 minutes or so in the car sorting out the next stop , Andy again doing his thing with google maps .
The only thing we knew about the next place of interest was that it was a beach in or near to Hartlepool . Andy managed to find a postcode that was close to the pier , Steetley Cemetery , a bit odd but it was all we had and after a couple of mis-read directions from the satnav we pulled up outside . A large brick wall ran round the perimeter of the cemetery with a path leading through the middle of it to another path that runs along the top of the beach and we get our 1st look at the pier . An impressive structure reaching out a considerable distance in to the sea with a break in the middle where a section has been removed ...you can read more here : Steetley Pier History
Andy was off & setting up as I wandered down to the otherside of the pier looking for my own take on it as the sky was promising for a long exposure to create a contrasty black & white image . We had hoped that sea would go out far enough to allow us to walk out to the break in the pier but judging by the speed with which sunset was approaching it wasn't looking likely . The heavens opened & we both ran for what little cover the pier offered & hurriedly stuffed the cameras & filters in to our bags . The rain shower passed in about 10 minutes leaving the sky looking perfect for a cracking sunset, large banks of clouds just waiting to be lit by the setting sun & we started to get excited...this was an awesome place for sunset . Alas , as is so often the case , sunset fizzled out as the cloud thickened so we took a few shots under the pier then decided to head for home. This is a place we shall return to in the future when we've sussed out a day where tide times co-incide with sunset or sunrise to allow us the best chance of getting the perfect image .& so another trip comes to an end , it's been a pretty amazing weekend with good weather in the main & some fabulous new locations discovered . Roll on 2017 :-)