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Northumberland: Castles and Coast

By |2024-05-20T12:07:52+01:00February 28th, 2024|Categories: Featured Gallery, Portfolio Galleries|Tags: , , , , , , |



Castles and Coast

Over the years, the northern county of Northumberland has played a pivotal role in my life as a photographer. It remains my favourite English county due to its rugged landscape and fascinating history. The landscape, shoreline, castles and history of Northumberland come together to create the perfect canvas for photographers. Around the same time as my visit, the photojournalist John Tordai visited the county as part of the Photographer’s Britain book series. Tordai had been brought up in Northumberland and the book was a fond look at the landscape, people and history of the ancient county. The fantastic documentary images remain a big influence on my work to this day. A small selection of images from earlier visits will be added to this gallery at a later date.

Northumberland

The flag of the historic county of Northumberland
The flag of the historic county of Northumberland

To say that the county has a rich history would be a bit of an understatement. As a border county with Scotland, Northumberland has seen its fair share of events that have defined the county’s history. The south of the county saw the rise of the Industrial Revolution with shipbuilding, coal mining and armaments manufacturing. Cragside House near Alnwick is an example of the wealth generated during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. it is the north of the county, however, that I’ve always found more fascinating with the castles, coastline and rugged landscape providing a lot of source material for the photographer to work with.

Once you get out into the more rural and rugged areas of Northumberland it comes as no surprise to find out that the Northumberland is the least densely populated county in England. Northumberland also has more castles than any other county in England, including those at Alnwick, Bamburgh, Dunstanburgh, Newcastle and Warkworth.

Bright Light and Bumpy Seas

The weather certainly did smile on me that week. A mixture of blue skies and clear sunshine combined with occasional more moody and darker weather. The light quality was just perfect and that helped with finding photographs in the locations visited. I had wanted to visit Lindisfarne, otherwise known as Holy Island, but time and tides got in the way. Making the most of the time on the island would have been tough due to a very early low tide. An exciting alternative idea for a return is to take a boat trip along the coast from Seahouses to Lindisfarne where the boat docks to let people look around the ancient island. Something to consider on another visit.

The sense of emptiness is always there with Northumberland. The beaches especially provide a space to be able to wander off and barely see another human for some time. Bamburgh Castle has always been a great place to try to photograph the iconic building in a new fresh way. The first images were taken from a grassy dune infested with midges around a mile south-southeast of the castle back in 1992. Some fifteen years later the photographs were taken close to and around the castle in the village of Bamburgh. For the most recent images, the location was further along the beach heading towards the distinctive Bamburgh lighthouse near some brightly decorated World War Two sea anti-tank defences painted as Rubik’s cubes, dice and toy bricks.

The biggest challenge and thrill came with the tour boat out to the Farne Islands. The wind had made the sea swell rather bumpy which made using a camera just a little more difficult. The movement of the boat and the use of an 80-200mm lens made framing the image in the viewfinder a game of timing and chance. Just the removal of a solid physical foundation to compose and shoot photographs made it so much more of a challenge. The only respite from the waves was as the boat got closer to the shore of the Islands where the waters were calmer.

RFP Podcast: Northumberland Castles and Railroad Landscapes The Richard Flint Photography Podcast

In the podcast. Details on April's visit to Northumberland and photographing a couple of fantastic castles, the landscape, and more. Streamlining work on the website, to make the site a little more slick and light, and the problem with old WordPress plugins. Instagram and Twitter thoughts and RFP's social media future. The podcast link is for the excellent Railroad through the American landscape video work of Acme Cinematography on Youtube Podcast link https://www.youtube.com/@AcmeCinematography

Bonus Podcast: Favourite Northumberland Photograph Pt2 The Richard Flint Photography Podcast

A bonus podcast talking about the first of two favourite photographs shot in Northumberland in late April 2023. The image of the harbour at Seahouses is my second favourite photograph. View the photo at darkerskies.wordpress.com/podcast

Super Fast Puffin Flyer

If you enjoy a challenge then try photographing a puffin in flight. It’s not as easy as it sounds. The Farne Islands has a vast population of Puffins numbering around 37,000 pairs whose agility in the air is quite incredible. Although the puffins seem rather awkward on land they come into their own when they are in flight. They rarely fly in a straight line, Weaving and bobbing in the air at what seem incredible speeds, makes the task of getting a shot of a puffin in flight with a telephoto lens extremely challenging. I took many shots but came away with the opinion that it would take a lot of time and practice to get the photograph I’d be happy with.

The Guillemots colonies were easier to photograph from the tour boat and I was especially pleased with several of the photographs. I even managed to get one with a flyby from a passing guillemot. Fortunately, the movement of the boat was less energetic than further out to sea which helped reduce the problems of correctly framing images. I did wonder how some of the more dedicated bird photographers with their big lenses had got on. I’d found it tricky shooting with a 200mm let alone a 400mm or more.

The Darling Lighthouse

The Longstone Lighthouse looked fabulous in its red and white paint with a blue sky background. The tour guide even pointed out the window that had been Grace Darling’s where she had seen the wreckage of the Forfarshire, a ship carrying 62 people. The Forfarshire had foundered on the rocks and broken in half; one of the halves had sunk during the night. Darling, aged just 22, and her father, William, determined that the weather was too rough for the lifeboat to put out from Seahouses, so they took a 21ft rowing boat across to the survivors, covering a distance of nearly a mile (about 1.5 km). Darling kept the coble steady in the water, while her father helped five survivors into the boat.

Grace’s story after the rescue is sadly a short one. She died from tuberculosis four years later. During that time she became a national heroine for her actions during the rescue. Both Grace and her father were awarded the Silver Medal for Bravery by the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, later named the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

Monochrome or Colour?

A number of the images in the gallery are in black and white, in some cases next to the colour version of the same image. I’ve added both versions because I couldn’t decide on which I preferred. Some images just worked better in black and white. I do enjoy working in both colour and monochrome and I can see myself doing more of that in the future. The Mull of Galloway Gallery provided a valuable lesson in not trying to limit the work created to just colour or monochrome. I have found a good workflow for black-and-white images, after probably too long a period of being too set on digital colour photography and being unsure about what digital black-and-white could deliver. It’s just about experimenting and finding some process that delivers the result you want.

My Favourite Image

A couple embrace on an empty beach at Alnmouth in Northumberland.

So many great shots were taken during the week-long visit to Northumberland. I recorded a couple of podcasts detailing my favourite photos, and to be honest I cheated and picked two. For this page though I’ll stick with one image – the couple on Alnmouth Beach. There are two versions in the gallery. One colour and the other the image I’ve chosen. I like both but prefer the monochrome tones better. I think it concentrates the viewer on the couple without the distractions of the yellow, green and blue tones of the colour version.

There is also something else there. Photographs usually say a lot about the photographer who has taken the image. The sheer sense of fun and joy shown by the couple adds an element of envy. Who wouldn’t want to be young and in love again? Are they embracing because they have just got engaged? Or is it because they are just having some fun on an empty beach, enjoying the distraction-free moment of just being together?

We’ll never know.

Photography Prints

If you would like to purchase a print of one of the photographs seen in this gallery, the Richard Flint Photography RedBubble store has a wide range of images available.

Framed prints, canvas prints, art boards, metal prints, acrylic blocks plus lots more can be found on the RedBubble store HERE.

Love Lock Locations

By |2023-01-27T15:33:02+00:00January 27th, 2023|Categories: Blog, The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , , |

Lovelocks left on the bridge at Bakewell, Derbyshire, UK

With the start of the new year, it was time to appraise my work from 2022 and generally, I was pleased with the work produced. All except my personal work which seemed to ebb away during the second half of the year. 2022 turned out to be quite slow creatively speaking for my own self-initiated photography, but there were a few glimmers of creative light. The first six months did produce some interesting images and at least one idea to expand on in the future.

A potential project is about love locks locations. Love locks appear to have a history dating back to the start of the 20th century, though it is only since around 2000 that the popularity of lock locks has picked up quite considerably.

Love lock Locations

Derbyshire and Scotland were visited in the early part of the year. Both places had very different landscapes but I came across something in both locations that I find fascinating. Love locks. In Derbyshire, I found a mass of lovelocks on a bridge in Bakewell. Almost the entire length of the footbridge was covered on both sides by lovelocks attached to the railings of the bridge. The sheer weight of all these padlocks on the bridge must be significant, indeed, in the past, many local authorities have had to remove locks placed on bridges to remove extra stress placed on the structure. The bridge in Bakewell was apparently cleared in 2018 but four years later the structure is covered with padlocks.

The second location was up at Dundee Law, a huge hill in the heart of the Scottish city with magnificent views over the River Tay and the surrounding landscape. Although the number of lovelocks was much lower than at Bakewell, the numbers appeared to be growing. All of the locks were placed with a good view from the Law. I visited on a very rainy day so the visibility was not great but the Tay bridge could still be seen crossing the vast expanse of water that is the Tay river. It seemed the perfect place to put a memorial.

So This is Permanence

Do we have much permanence in the modern world? I’d argue we don’t. Even memorials for loved ones who have died seem to be on the decline with the headstone being replaced by a silent and private location where ashes are scattered. Most of us get cremated and the use of burial plots has dropped as a result. Most of us won’t get a headstone.

The lovelocks have gained in popularity over the last two decades or so. While it may be people just following a trend, lovelocks do appear to be important for a lot of people looking for a permanent reminder of a person, relationship, family, or event. In an increasingly digital world with virtual memorials on Facebook, the lovelocks could be seen as a response to that increasing lack of physical remembrance in our lives.

Will lovelocks locations keep appearing? I think they will. Lovelocks appear to be fulfilling a need for many people. Local authorities do face the problem of increased stress on structures such as bridges etc due to the weight of a mass of lovelocks so regular clearance may be needed. However, some authorities have started adding special areas where people can add lovelocks for free or with a donation to charity.

Photography Prints

If you would like to purchase a print, the Richard Flint Photography RedBubble store has a wide range of images available.

Framed prints, canvas prints, artboards, metal prints, acrylic blocks plus lots more can be found on the RedBubble store HERE.



From the Archive: Walking the Dog

By |2018-07-19T11:27:36+01:00July 17th, 2018|Categories: The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , , , |

A couple walking their dog on the beach near Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk, UK

This is an image from 2016 but only just been recently added to the Norfolk gallery. Just viewing this photograph puts me back in a year that i’d rather forget, though that feeling is starting to fade with the passage of time.

Nearly two years ago, I ended up going on an unplanned trip to Norfolk for a week. My mother, who’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer just a few months before, had wanted one last final family holiday even though her own health was failing at a terrifying pace. We all needed a break after the months of bad news stacked on bad news. No silver lining had appeared. No miracle was going to occur. Emotionally we were all exhausted. Burnt out.

With hindsight we should have made the decision to holiday a lot earlier, but the chemotherapy and other hospital visits had made the possibility of getting away impossible. With the chemotherapy cancelled due to my mother’s weak health, the opportunity arose to take that holiday at the end of September 2016. Very quickly we made the decision to go to Norfolk and, as it happened, we made it just in the nick of time. Within a week or two of our return my mother would be incapable of travelling anywhere.

The ‘holiday’ took place in September 2016 and went better than I could have imagined. The change of scene did us all good even though my mother didn’t have the physical strength to get about that much. Norfolk had been an old family holiday favourite so it was a friendly and familiar place. Best of all, the travel distances involved were not huge. It was an escape, if only just a partial one, that enabled us all to relax us a little bit.

Sand blowing over the beach near Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk

I’d visited the beach near Burnham Overy Staithe on numerous occasions and taken one or two good images there including the photo of the man walking along the beach (carrying his boots) in a thick sea fret. Happy memories. To get there you have to walk along a winding path, probably about a couple of miles from the harbour car park at Burnham Overy Staithe. On a calm late summer evening, it’s a great way to enjoy the view, listen to the sounds of the Norfolk coast and soak up some fresh sea air. Peace. Bliss. Escape.

A strong but warm wind blew across the beach which seemed to blow all the worries away. The strong wind didn’t deter other visitors from enjoying the beach and it was those people that i concentrated the camera on. Photography is a great therapy. It can provide a purpose and an mental distraction just when you most need it. The instinctive mental process of looking for photos blocked out any other thoughts. I see a shot. One couple were particularly enjoying the vast expanse of space, their dog energetically chasing a thrown bright red ball again and again across the sand.

Chasing the red ball - a dog runs after a thrown red ball on a beach near Burnham Overy Staither, Norfolk, UK
Chasing the red ball – Norfolk Beach

The wind was incredibly strong and did cause some problems keeping the camera steady, but the light was bright so i did have a wide variety of shutter speeds to choose from. One thing i did want to capture was the movement of the fast moving sand so i tended to keep the shutter speed as low as i dare – around 1/80s @ f/22 for the top dog walking image, moving up to 1/250s @ f/11 for the lower red ball image.

The dog walkers were among the last pictures taken on the beach before i walked the couple of miles back to the car park.

The camera was a Nikon D3 using a 80-200mm Nikon f2.8 lens.

More images from the Norfolk project can be found HERE

From the Archive: The Sunbather

By |2018-06-14T16:07:32+01:00June 15th, 2018|Categories: The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , , , |

No matter how many times i look at this photo, i still can’t believe that the man was comfortable lying on that pebble beach. He did seem to be enjoying soaking up some rays.

This image was taken on the sea front at Sheringham in Norfolk around 2008. Walking along the sea front, i could see this chap sunbathing from quite a way off and I just hoped that he would stay there until i could get there… AND get the photograph. Fortunately he didn’t move even though he was literally just a couple of yards from the sea front path with people walking by. No one paid him the slightest bit of notice.

As luck would have it, a bench was located directly across from where my sunbather lay that provided a place to sit and a lower viewpoint for the photography. The resulting image is one of my favourites from the Norfolk Project combining a surreal moment with some humour. On the return journey, after visiting the lifeboat station at the end of Sheringham’s sea front, i noticed that he’d gone. I suspect he was waiting for his wife to return from town.

The 6×6 format was used a lot in the Norfolk Project, mostly in a landscape role, but I also found it good for street images like this one. I would often remove the prism finder and look as though i was cleaning the camera – then focus and get the image. I imagine most people thought i couldn’t take a photo with a piece of the camera missing!

The camera was a Bronica SQAi using a 80mm lens. Film stock was Ilford FP4. Sadly i haven’t shot much 6×6 in recent years. I think it’s time to revisit the 6×6 format again sometime soon.

More images from the Norfolk Project can be found HERE.

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