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Commissioned by Ramblers Countrywide Holidays to take a group of walkers/photographers on a three day outing to Northumberland.

Ramblers first ever “Walking with your Camera” holiday in Northumberland was an instant success with the group of enthusiastic photographers. A mixture of sites of interest twinned with the magnificent landscapes of the Cheviot Hills, plus a comfortable hotel on the edge of the Northumberland National Park gave clients a rewarding and photographic experience.

The first evening and following morning was spent sorting out the settings of the many makes and sizes of cameras, everything from large DSLR’s with multiple lenses to small compacts which slip in your pocket. The suggestion to members of the group that they might like to try taking RAW images and come away from fully automatic settings which normally produce Jpegs didn’t go down very well at first.

Taking people out of their “comfort zone” is never easy and whilst several members readily accepted the change over a few others were unconvinced at first. The solution was to set each camera to take one RAW image and also one Jpeg which would allow them to experiment later after some instruction from myself. This way they still had a jpeg should they wish to use it…nothing lost and only possible gain!

Our first morning was spent in the Northumberland National Park visiting Harbottle Village and the Drake Stone in the scenic valley of Coquetdale. The morning was dry and bright with reasonably good lighting but with a slightly chilly wind. The first photographic stop was halfway to the Drake Stone in order to take some images of the small Village of Harbottle and the surrounding countryside.

Considerable time was spent giving one-to-one instruction to those who had chosen to work with new exposure settings; combined with information about general composition and the use of strong foreground features within an image, for every member of the group.

The introduction of the “Sunny 16 Rule” got everyone thinking and talking about the light and their aperture settings, shutter speeds and ISO setting. It even brought others out from their comfort zone and a few more cameras were changed over to semi-manual settings.

Then onwards and upwards to the Drake Stone and Harbottle Lake. At the Stone we had a quick elevenses break and further images were taken of the surrounding countryside. At the lake it was more questions and answers about slow shutter speeds and how to blur the water surface. We left the Lake as the clouds were rolling-in and with most of the group repeating the “Sunny 16 Rule” and adjusting their apertures to suit the new lighting conditions.

After completing the circular walk back to Harbottle Village, we enjoyed many stops for photographs along the way. We then had a spot of lunch as we waited for the coach to arrive and transport us back to the Hotel. Most of the conversation was about the new settings and how better their images looked. Small groups of two’s and three’s were reviewing and showing-off the images which they were happy with.

For the afternoon tutorial session the group was split; half to go for a short walk with Alan Paul the group leader and the other half were left to have instruction on processing both Jpeg and RAW images and the differences between them. The group enjoyed the afternoon tutorial and found that by using RAW files it was possible to produce much better quality images.

Wednesday morning. Up early and transported to Holy Island to capture Lindisfarne Castle at sunrise. The light was wonderful as we neared the Island but the clouds were rolling-in fast. A few of the group who were quick to set up tripods and cameras did manage to capture the last of the light before the sky went flat.

The only person who I feel a little sorry for was the amateur photographer who was already on the island when we arrived. Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle is normally a very quiet place where one can more or less expect to be alone in the peace and quiet of the morning. That poor man must have wondered what on earth was happening when 14 photographers descended from nowhere and all began seeking out space to place their tripods and bags. My sincere apologies for disturbing your early morning solitude and I hope you were successful with your images.

Back to the Hotel for a spot of well-earned and needed breakfast. After which, I gave my processing tutorial to the second group whilst the others went off with Alan for a walk around Humbleton Hill. Once again the group enjoyed the tutorial and found that many more things were possible when processing RAW images.

After lunch we all headed off to the picturesque Harthope Valley to capture views of The Cheviot and the surrounding countryside. Some members of the group were happy to stay in the valley whilst others wanted to climb up to the lower crags of Hedgehope Hill. Alan and I split the group once again in order to suit everyone’s needs and whilst he took a party along the valley I took a small group up to the crags for some moody, atmospheric images of The Cheviot, the largest hill within the Northumbrian National Park.

That evening we were supposed to go out before dinner to capture the sunset, but due to the heavy overcast sky I proposed that I do another tutorial on image processing. This time I took one RAW image from everyone in the group and gave a small critique whilst processing the image and talking them through what I was doing. This was very successful and they were all asking questions about processing and processing packages. In fact, it was so successful that one of the party who had previously said that he wasn’t interested in processing his images has now been somewhat converted!

The following day we went off to Bamburgh Castle for the morning. Taking images of the castle from the sand dunes and other things of interest on the beach, including a few candid images of each other.

That afternoon we were transported to the causeway of Holy Island and we walked the 3.5 miles onto the island. The weather had changed and whilst the sky had some definition, it certainly was not the most inviting of skies for photography. After a discussion about their apertures and shutter speeds the group followed as I lead them around the island to some of the more interesting aspects.

© Maureen Paul 2011

After dinner, we had our final briefing and some feedback from the group. All had enjoyed the trip and had found it beneficial to their photographic skills and knowledge. It was certainly a good time had by all, easy bite-sized chunks of learning with lots of laughter and enjoyment on the photographic walks. I have already had several Thank You messages sent to me and I thank each and everyone for your kind remarks.

www.davidlewins.co.uk

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I have recently returned from a Cruise and Walk holiday, (Magic of the Canaries ) working for Ramblers Worldwide Holidays around the Canary Islands, incuding Madeira, La Palma, Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lisbon.

This image was taken from the stern of the MS Balmoral, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines as we approached Lisbon.

The 25th of April Bridge, is a suspension bridge connecting the city of Lisbon, capital of Portugal, to the municipality of Almada on the left (south) bank of the Tejo river. It was inaugurated on August 6, 1966 and a train platform was added in 1999. Because of its similar coloring, it is often compared to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA. In fact, it was built by the same company (American Bridge Company) that constructed the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and not the Golden Gate, also explaining its similarity in design. With a total length of 2,277 m, it is the 20th largest suspension bridge in the world. The upper platform carries six car lanes, the lower platform two train tracks. Until 1974, the bridge was named Salazar Bridge (Ponte Salazar).

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Commissioned by Ramblers Worldwide Holidays to document in photographs their tour of The Hills and Valleys of Nepal. Think about it; what photographer would refuse a chance such as this? The “Roof of the World” with all those snow-clad mountains, foothills and scenic valleys. Mountains rising out of the earth, giving drama and an unrivalled grandeur to the terraced, hilly landscape of Nepal. A true landscape photographer’s dream.

It certainly sounds fantastic but in reality those snow-clad mountains kept teasing me for almost a full two weeks! I was certainly shown little hints of their existence on several days but as the sun rose higher in the sky, so did the mists from the dew-soaked earth which obscured their grandeur from view. Each time we gained height to some spectacular view point on one our walks we looked out onto further foothills topped with cumulus cloud and mist. To say this was frustrating is something of an understatement. Peering into those clouds and mists each day making out the vague outline of Fish Tail or Annapurna 1 which was soon obscured from view by more swirling cloud was truly frustrating.

The day of the 31st December began very misty and after a brief bus ride to the start point of our walk, we set off as further mists swirled in bringing with them dark and ominous clouds! However, the day faired not too badly. It was warm and good walking weather. The dark clouds came to very little and to some extent gave a little extra detail and contrast to the sky. Sunset happened but was not very impressive because of the heavy cloud cover. I had Dinner with the remainder of the group and then headed off to my room for some sleep and rest.

I had been allocated a room at the furthermost end of the complex and on the top floor. This was fine with me as it commanded a nice view of the pristine hotel gardens below with all its landscaped beauty and colour. During the night I was awakened with the sound of heavy rainfall pattering on the roof of my room. Somehow I managed to fall back into the Arms of Morpheus and woke up naturally at my usual time of 5:30am.

I switch on the lights, jumped out of bed and headed in the direction of the hospitality tray. Then I poured the coffee granules into the cup and switched on the kettle and then visited the bathroom. On my return the kettle still hadn’t boiled and as I waited I began to wonder what the weather was like and remembering the earlier rainfall I headed to the windows and pulled up the blinds.

To my utter amazement the view which greeted me was totally jaw-dropping! Those hidden mountains, the “Roof of the World” was in full view and the light from the early morning sun was just catching and lighting up their peaks with a warm orange hue. I wasted little time and quickly grabbed the camera bag, flipped the catches, withdrew the camera, picked up the tripod, slid open the door to the balcony and set the tripod and camera on top of the convenient table which was standing there.

The view was stunning and getting better as the moments passed. I quickly composed the scene, plugged in the shutter release cable so as not to risk camera shake, focussed and pressed the release button. An eight second exposure in the early morning half light which seemed to take forever.

What happened next seemed to take forever too, but in reality happened very quickly. As I waited with bated breath and goose bumps on my body, I suddenly realised that I was still as naked as I had been when I got out of bed! Not only that but other sounds were beginning to permeate into my blinded and over-enthusiastic state of mind.

I was hearing voices; specifically Japanese voices and very close at hand. With reluctance, I slowly averted my gaze away from the grandeur of the mountain range and the still blank screen of the camera and looked over the balcony into the hotel gardens. There were about thirty Japanese photographers below me, with an assortment of cameras and lenses, looking at the same scene which I had been viewing plus several of them looking up at me with faces full of smiles as they realised that I had eventually become aware of their presence.

Oh the embarrassment of the moment! I quickly dived back through the sliding doors into the bedroom and grabbed my trousers, hoisted them up then back to the balcony to continue photographing the mountains. Possibly a little red faced but this time at least I was covering most of my dignity with clothing!

Knowing how the Japanese enjoy photographing anything which moves I am quite sure that a mad Englishman, exposing not only images from his balcony but also his person, gave them something extra to show their friends on their return home. This certainly puts a whole new meaning to working in “RAW” files!

As a footnote: If anyone should see a picture of an extremely handsome but naked photographer, posing on a balcony next to a Canon camera posted on the internet could they please contact me…I would like a copy!

www.davidlewins.co.uk

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