Mid - March 2016, the "Good Friday" week to be exact.
I usually do "wildlife photography" - believe me I use the term very loosely! and every now and again I try my hand at a different aspect - Macro, flora, Ware In Bloom, London, holidays - you know the sort of thing. I like to try different aspects - good for building skills & understanding.
Well for some time now I've been a "tweeter" mainly just as a way to share my (mainly) bird pictures with others who share (mainly) bird pictures. One day, someone, and I don't know who, "re-tweeted" a seascape photo from another tweeter named "Moonfruit Photography" and ever since I've wanted to try to replicate that picture. Check out the link and you'll maybe see why.
I've conversed with "Moonfruit" several times and it turns out that "Moonfruit" wants to try "a long lens for some wildlife", while I want to try "a short lens for landscape" - you couldn't write it could you! - er maybe you could, I just did.
So, armed with 3 nights B&B, a "Guide to . . ." and bleary eyes from watching YouTube videos - no not those ones! - the ones about ND Filters, Big Stoppers, Focus Stacking, Wide Angled lenses, I set off for Dorset and The Jurassic Coast. I'd arranged to meet a proper photographer on the second afternoon for a 1 to 1 session, and hopefully some useful tips to try out. (I actually wanted to take an award winning seascape photo but realised, during my second pint of "Proper Job" in The Greyhound, that probably wouldn't happen - "probably"? - who am I kidding!).
So 3 nights, 4 days, the programme in my mind (though fluid, the plan, not my mind) was:
Day 1 - drive 150 or so miles from home to Corfe Castle, check in to B&B, couple of hours at Swanage and/or Studland. Eat in Corfe. Sleep.
Day 2 - Breakfast, morning at Lulworth Cove, back to Corfe in time for afternoon 1 to 1. Eat, sleep.
Day 3 - Fossil hunting at Charmouth, visit to Lyme Regis (first time since 198?), maybe evening photos somewhere. Eat, sleep.
Day 4 - Maybe some wildlife on the way home, get back home before the M25 clogs up totally (failed - miserably!).
There's the plan, here's the reality.
Day 1 - drove 150 miles to Corfe Castle, about 4 hours including just 61 miles in the first 2 hours (you gotta love our motorway system!), and 30 minute break at a grossly overpriced service area. Satnav spot on, arrived at B&B (see link at the end) at about 2.00pm - no one home, then I remembered the check-in time was "from 4.00pm". So to Swanage - only 7 or 8 miles, parked by the sea - 40p for 3 hours (Herts CC please note!!!). Broke out the wide-angle lens to match the wide-angle beach, lens not wide enough. Cold breeze but "bracing". Plenty of people about, all well wrapped up against the wind.
Big, broad beach at Swanage, pier at one end, cliffs at the other, brown cold water in between! Seaside smells all around, gulls screeching - love it.
I took a few shots of the beach - you won't be seeing them - and the pier but they're certainly not award winners, in fact they're crap!
(I realised some years ago that some people with cameras have an "eye" for a picture, they are "photographers", the rest of us, including me, don't have that "eye", and we take pictures, NOT photographs, I may touch on this theme again tomorrow).
|My best effort at a "photo" of Swanage Pier|
All checked-in, local hostelries discussed and evening meal venue (The Greyhound) decided. It's 5.00pm, too early to eat and certainly too early to drink. I'd seen photos before of views of "the castle" from above and fancied a go at that so I walked up "West Hill" - let the heavy breathing, wheezing and coughing begin! - I stopped 4 times on the way up to get my breath back and give my legs a chance to catch up, but mainly to "check the view", bloody hell it is steep, you know it's steep from the ground view but once you try going up it you find out just how steep, I swear parts of it were vertical. no doubt that's why there's a doctors surgery and a graveyard at the bottom - honestly there really are!
Anyway I got to the top via my "check the view" stops, and decided it was the wrong hill really! It does overlook the castle but generally the evening shots are taken from the other side, presumably East Hill, but I wasn't going up that one, not this evening at least. Here's the best I could manage - you can see East Hill behind the castle - from about halfway up.
Coming down is so much easier than going up, I strongly recommend coming down hills.
Back to B&B, shower, smellies, clean clothes & off to The Greyhound. Nice pub, though I got the impression "they" didn't see it as a pub, more a "gastro-experience", but with "Proper Job" on tap - it's a pub, a pub that does food. Got the beer first, read the menu (that didn't take too long!), ordered "Our famous Fish & Chips", with "Flower Pot" chips - funny didn't mention the grease laden greaseproof "faux" newspaper which just kept the cooking oil in the batter. Still the piece of fish was actually very good, and so were the chips, the "mushy peas" looked and tasted more like liquidised nettles - not for me thanks. When "mine host" walked round and asked "Good evening, everything OK" - well, all I'll say is that if he didn't want my comments, he shouldn't have asked! Decision made then tomorrow I'm eating elsewhere. In fairness a couple from the same B&B had other dishes and said they had been "absolutely delicious" so just me then!
Bed, good night.
Day 2 - Breakfast, excellent, good choice, plenty of it and flexible - you can have whatever you want basically.
Set up for a walk then. Off to Lulworth Cove, bad start, car parking £3 for 2 hours - what happened to 40p for 3 hours? 3-4 hours "an arm & a leg", and there were more tariffs but I seem to recall they included VAT, a mortgage and deal with the devil for your soul. Captive audience I suppose - build it and they will come syndrome - then we can fleece them!
Signpost said "Durdle Door 1 mile" - not too far then, off I trotted. Remember I said West Hill was steep, yeah, nah, not compared to this one! This had a proper path to the top and the slope looked friendly enough, wrong! Once you start you get about 100 yards and then you realise you are walking vertically! at least that what it felt like. Only three stops on the way up, but the breathing, coughing and wheezing was up to Level 6 or 7 - thank god I'd been to the gym! I made the first summit, walked for another 20 minutes or so to the sign post that said "Durdle Door 1/2 mile" - liar! I've already walked a bloody mile! I could see an arch similar to Durdle Door but much smaller - never realised just how much difference the high tide makes. Decision time - go on or go back? no contest and as I said I recommend coming down hills!
I walked around "the cove", took a few pics of the cove area & Stair Hole, a Mallard, and some ropes, then went for tea & cake before heading back to Corfe for the afternoon 1 to 1.
Anyone who has read my other blogs will know that I seem to attract nutters but also that when it comes to ordering food, especially Cheese & Ham sandwiches, time seems to stand still. So today, after my exertions at Lulworth I needed a snack before my 1 to 1 session which was likely to go on until sundown. The Greyhound was out and Corfe seemed devoid of "café" type establishments, there must be one here somewhere surely ("Yes there is, and don't call me Shirley"! - sorry!)
Having found the only open café I made my way to the counter and ordered, wait for it, "a cheese & ham sandwich please, and a pot of tea", paid got my "number" and instructions to "Listen out for your number, number 26, could be quite quick" Good I'd only got an hour (the time is now 1.00pm). I knew there were 2 or 3 orders ahead of mine but I got the impression that my sandwich wouldn't take long - others were waiting for cooked food, sandwiches are 5 minute jobs right? After just 5 minutes a "waitress" appears at the door and calls out the next order number, "Number five? anyone, Number Five?" Five! I've got Number 26, at this rate my sandwich should be with me about Thursday! Number 5 was for a table of 5 people all having different cooked food, they couldn't remember who had ordered what, one couldn't even remember she was a vegetarian after accepting "a sausage & bacon baguette" although she'd ordered (it turns out) "Beans on Toast".
Long story / short - my quick order arrived at 1.40, just 40 minutes from ordering and being told twice "You are next sir". It must be the salad that takes the time!
And while I'm on about it, just how strong are those teabags they use? I got a pot of tea (about 2 cups worth) with one teabag AND an even bigger pot of boiling water to top it up, roughly 5 cups of tea from one teabag - assuming it wasn't a recycled teabag - I don't think so. And why is it that those stainless steel teapots, water jugs and milk jugs don't pour? Well they do but they pour their contents on the tray or table and all around the cup!
I made my 2.00pm rendezvous for my 1 to 1 session with moments to spare.
Afternoon session at Kimmeridge Bay, tides out but will be back! I was hoping we'd come here - I'd seen the photos (Moonfruit and many others). Wide bay, cliffs all round, plenty of rocks and other stone formations, plus waterfall, seaweed and cloud.
Thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon / evening session despite some pretty grim light at times. It was more tiring than I expected, more complex than I expected and by the end of it I was knackered! I learnt a few tricks which came as second nature to my tutor but not to me and I learnt more about Photoshop to produce a final result - it may not look great but it's the result of 12 individual images stacked and stitched, and, theoretically at least, all in focus.
I think I'll call it "At least 50 shades of grey!" - at least I did manage to "smooth out" the water to some extent!
Definitely something that needs practice, the coastline of Hertfordshire look out! If anyone wants details of my "tutor", please let me know and I'll pass them on. He really did know his stuff but we were fighting conditions and he was fighting me too! or at least my lack of knowledge & understanding of the "landscape" arena.
Back to B&B just after 7.00pm, wash & eat / drink at The Bankes Arms Hotel.
Nice friendly place, decent varied menu, good fresh food - Pasta (Penne) Carbonara + Garlic Bread, and a couple of pints of Ringwood Forty-Niner - all very nice thank you and very reasonably priced. I'm back tomorrow evening I think but have to decide what to have - I need a few more days to eat all the choices I want!
Day 3 - My intention was to go "fossil-ing" on The Jurassic Coast - cue the music! I'd read through a handbook to the area and headed for Charmouth, which, the book assured me, was the best place to go as fossils "can simply be picked off the beach" - not today! I'd stopped off en-route to have a look at an old fashioned camera shop in Bridport which sold second hand gear and I wanted a decent tripod which unfortunately he didn't have. He did have dozens of old cameras, lenses, filters, knicks and knacks photographic, any "photographer" (see above for definition) would be in his / her element in here and would probably need to be dragged out kicking and screaming to allow the owner to go home at the end of the day!
I arrived at Charmouth, the sun shone, there were plenty of people about but it wasn't crowded. Cup of tea and a sandwich (Crab salad this time), self service, food & drink immediately on hand - is this the way forward I wondered? Sat in the sun, ate and drank and then headed on to the beach. General safety rule is "Stay away from the cliffs" because they tend to collapse at regular intervals.
I recalled a recent episode of BBC Countryfile, Ellie Harrison walked on to this same beach in search of fossils, met a man, walked 10 yards and "Oh what's that?" - an ammonite, talk about a plant! I spent 2 hours and all I found were a few small shell-fossils. I spoke to one man about them and he confirmed what they were and added "Good luck getting them out, they're extremely fragile and just break up" - which they did later at home. Still 140 million year old shells are still good to see and I did find one "fossil" which was id'd as a Melanmite (or similar) which I can't find anywhere but is apparently a type of sea-worm.
A couple of shell-fossils first
now the fossilised sea worm (about 2.5 cms long)
and in cross-section (about 5mm)
140,000,000 years old - wow! - give or take a few millennia!
I spent the rest of the afternoon walking round Lyme Regis, I'd been here before but I think it was about the same time that Elvis died (if you believe he did die that is!). A few Herring Gulls posed for me and those steps on the pier were a challenge sober, you wouldn't want to try them after a night out!
It didn't ring any bells as I walked around, and along the esplanade, onto the pier, back along the esplanade via the Ice Cream shop (1 scoop Vanilla, 1 scoop Cappucino Crunch) - nice! Along the High Street, and back up the hill, another one straight up!, to the car park and, once clear of the town centre traffic, back to the B&B in time for dinner and I'm hungry!
Back to Bankes Arms tonight, opted for the "Pollo Alla Milanese" (or as described by the young lady who came to take my order "the Pollo wotsit") with Spaghetti & tomato sauce - absolutely delicious, no fuss, no gastro-experience, just good straightforward food! All washed down with a couple of pints of "Lady Anne Bankes" bitter - only available at the Banks Arms Hotel - recommend it.
Day 4 - the dreaded drive home in the storm forecast for the last two days.
A few snaps of Corfe Castle from my B&B before I left.
and, as I said, the graveyard at the base of West Hill below the castle ruins!
I decided to take a chance and visit RSPB Arne, just a couple of miles from Corfe, so why did I do 6.5 miles? Cos my bloody Satnav threw one, that's why. I drove for 15 minutes and ended up exactly where I started with no sign of any RSPB reserve. Eventually found a side road to Arne, and suddenly the Satnav got it's act together (but would relapse later!).
Arne is a large reserve with heathland, woodland, ponds, meadows and coastline but birds were scarce - no doubt the strong winds were having an effect, and the Dartford Warblers were nowhere to be seen. I approached one of the hides and a huge flock of Brent Geese flew off (note to self "What field craft skills!). On reflection, the ponds would probably be "good for Odonata" later in the year!
Thankfully this group of Sika deer were more accommodating and were relaxed with me taking a few photos of the group, clearly used to people being around.
After a lunch of Leek & Potato Soup with huge chunks of bread, and yet more tea, I hit the road for home, the time is 2.00pm, and I've got about 150 miles ahead of me.
All I'll say about the journey is this - the Satnav took me out of Dorset & Hampshire and because of "heavy traffic reported, you are on the fastest route" on the route I came in, took me through a couple of towns, Wimbourne I think was one, which were clogged to a standstill. I finally hit the M27 / M3 with constant traffic reports of "hold ups on the M25" - there's a surprise. I spent over 2 hours on the M25 from J12 to J25, counted 20 planes taking off over the bit by Heathrow, sat in a jam watching the speed cameras on the opposite carriageway flashing away as drivers ignored the 40mph "variable limit", someone made a shed-load of money this afternoon.
I got home at 7.20pm, 148 miles in 5.33 hours, most on motorways, average speed = 27.77mph!
Two positives despite the jams, 1). I averaged 62mpg for the journey and 2). No speeding ticket!
Tired out but thoroughly enjoyed my trip.
B&B was Olivers, and was excellent, I would definitely recommend it.
The Bankes Arms Hotel was also excellent for good food, good beer, friendly atmosphere and reasonable prices.