Discovering Muker – Composition

Yesterday’s beautiful day in Swaledale held the promise of a great evening’s photography, but as it approached closing time, and my chance to get out, the sky became overcast and the light flat. Nevertheless there was still chance to explore the countryside and search for interesting compositions so I pulled my boots on and headed out.

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Muker Meadows | Sony RX1rII
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From Crackpot Hall to Keld | Sony RX1rII stiched
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Grass & Barn near Thwaite | Sony RX1rII

And then, after a quick pint at the Farmer’s Arms, the sky had cleared and overcast turned into  gorgeous sunset.

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Muker Sunset | Sigma DP3 Merrill

 

New Life, Muker

Again it’s been quite some time since I troubled the blog with a new post, but since Nepal I’ve had no time to pick up a camera, let alone point it in the right direction,  but there’s good reason …

… in that we’ve upped sticks, moved North, and bought an Art Gallery and Craftshop in the tiny village of Muker, Swaledale, and opened on Thursday 13th April.

It’s been a busy few months but the couple of snaps below might just provide a taste of why it’s worth the effort!

The gallery’s website is http://www.theoldschoolmuker.co.uk, and if you’re ever travelling in the area, feel free to drop by.

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Evening walk above Muker | Sony RX1rII
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Foveon Sky’s from the Garden | Sigma DP3 Merrill

12 Images of 2016

Twelve favourite images from 2016; an unforgettable year of travel that took us to Norway’s Lofoten Islands, the Isle of Harris in Scotland, and the Himalaya of Nepal, but begins with two shots of my home county of Yorkshire, England.

In order taken … click on a the image to see the bigger picture …

1. Hole of Horcum, North York Moors, England. Shot in the winter on the drive home from Whitby, East to West across the North York Moors, and perhaps the only photo of the Hole of Horcum that doesn’t feature the Hole.

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Hole of Horcum, North York Moors | Sigma DP3 Merrill

2. Saltburn Pier, North Yorkshire, England  A flip of a coin decision somewhere in the Winter desolation of the North York Moors took us to Saltburn, and a perfect sunset as the tide receded. When your lucks in …

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Saltburn Pier, North Yorkshire | Sony RX1rII

3. Utakleiv Beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway. A million photographers on the beach sent me stomping up the sand in search of solitude and a clear shot. All I found was a pile of lumpy old rocks!

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Utakleiv Beach, Lofoten, Norway | Sigma DP0 Quattro

4. Olstind, Lofoten, Norway. Leaving it as late as ever it became a race against the storm, wading through two foot deep snow to find a spot that pointed up the valley. We won by five minutes!

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Olstind, Lofoten, Norway | Sigma DP0 Quattro

5. Pipework, The RERF, Leeds. An odd shot to throw in, but an image that perhaps only the Merrill with its extraordinary tonal range could take, and the culmination of a year long project to photograph the build.

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Pipework, The RERF, Leeds | Sigma DP1 Merrill

6. Boat & House, Isle of Harris, Scotland. A mouldy old boat, a broken down croft and a dull, wet, miserable day; anywhere else awful, on the isle of Harris, wonderful.

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Boat & House, Isle of Harris | Sony RX1rII

7. The Gloaming, Isle of Harris, Scotland. The rooftops of Northton silhouetted against the bay, then out over the sea to the mountains of Harris. Not such a bad midnight view.

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The Gloaming, Isle of Harris | Sigma DP3 Merrill

8. Soul Machine, Wakefield, England. Discovered in the middle of a farmyard machinery graveyard on a local walk, the truck has seen better days, but wears it’s scars with dignity and soul.

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Soul Machine, Wakefield | Sony Rx1rII

9. Himalayan Mountain Stream, Nepal.  A rock, water and time, combine to create an example of nature’s perfection.

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Himalayan Mountain Stream | Sony RX1rII

10. Himalaya Trail, Nepal. A line of Mani stones stretches along a tree-lined, sandy trail, overlooked by the sacred mountain of Kumbila shrouded by cloud ; a microcosm of everything I loved about Nepal.

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Himalaya Trail, Nepal | Sony RXrII

11. Suspension Bridge, Nepal:  A texture and detail of Nepal; the polished slats of a metal footbridge suspended 30 meters above the turbulent, mountain river, captured in Foveon detail by the Sigma DP3 Merrill.

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Suspension Bridge, Nepal | Sigma Dp3 Merrill

12. Mountain Sunrise, Nepal. Not many things are worth climbing out of a nice, warm bed for, but this was one; truly a jewel on a crown.

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Mountain Sunrise, Nepal | Sigma DP3 Merrill

Have a happy 2017.

Richard

Everest Base Camp Trek, with the Sigma DP3 Merrill

In a post specifically for Sigma enthusiasts I’ve collated the shots of the EBC trek taken with the DP3 into one post, so you don’t need to look at that horrible Sony thing 🙂

With a weight limit of 15kg, and the Sony already in the bag, I had to choose from one of my three Sigmas as the second camera. The Merrill DP3 was the obvious choice given its focal length, but more than that I’ve always been blown away by the DP3’s resolution and sharpness, and of course that Foveon look.

All shots were taken at ISO100 as it the Foveon way, all were handheld.

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Everest Base Camp, A Photo Diary – Descent

The final post of the diary covers our descent from Kalapatthar back down to Lukla, and from there to Kathmandu.

Wednesday 16th November, PM : Kalapatthar (5,545m)  to Perchiche (4,280m)

No photos.

Thursday 17th November,  Perchiche to Tashinga (3,450m)

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Thamserku, Nepal | Sony Rx1rII
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Ama Dablam, Nepal | Sony RX1rII

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Friday 18th November: Tashinga to Monjo (2,850m)

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Mountain Sunrise, Nepal | Sont RX1rII
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Mountain Sunrise, Nepal | Sigma DP3 Merrill
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Looking back to Everest, Lhoste & Ama Dablam, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Saturday Market At Namche Bazaar, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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High & Low Bridges Over Dudh Koshi, Nepal | Sony RX1rII

 

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River Crossing, Nepal | Sony RX1rII

Saturday 19th November:  Monjo to Lukla (2,804m)

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Himalaya foothills | Sigma DP3 Merrill
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Old Bridge, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Starfield, Nepal | Sony RX1rII

Sunday 20th November: Lukla to Kathmandu

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Foothills, Nepal | Sigma DP3 Merrill

Diary Notes

Wednesday 16th November, PM : Kalapatthar (5,545m)  to Perchiche (4,280m)

Day twelve (pm). Descending Kalapatther I start to lag behind, then a sudden energy surge and I descend quickly – almost running – to catch the rear of the group, then I totally blow up! I struggle in last to Gorak Shep for lunch. I feel completely shot with a five hour decent to Perchiche ahead. As we set off Charlie asks if I’m ok and our guide, Dunbar, takes one look and immediately takes my pack.  Despite the help I can’t keep up the pace and drop back with Dunbar as the others go ahead.  At the mid-point rest I, under instruction, continue down, but am soon caught, passed and again drop behind. Dunbar, concerned that I will delay the group reaching Perchiche before dark, finds a porter who agrees to take the group down. I’m relieved that I’ll no longer hold them up. We follow, with Dunbar constantly urging and encouraging me to walk faster. I try but immediately blow up and have to stop; if he’d had a rope he’d have tied it round me and pulled me along. Round a bend and the smoke that marks Perchiche comes into view. My heart sinks, it seems incredibly distant, the sun has long disappeared behind the mountains and its getting cold. We arrive in total darkness and I head straight to the bedroom and sit on the bed. Dunbar brings tea and a hot water bottle to warm me up. I sit there in a trancelike state, in my full outdoor gear, without the will or the energy to drink the tea or to climb into bed. Eventually I force myself. Today is my nadir.

Extract for Sarah’s daily blog.

“The afternoon we knew would be hard as it would involve a further five hours of walking to get down to Pheriche. What made it harder still is that one of the group [me] started suffering from altitude sickness at the top of Kala Patthar and so was walking very slowly and we were worried for him. It was another reminder of how hard life is here. There was no real option but for him to keep walking to get lower. Our guide suggested that the remaining five of us navigated ourselves down to avoid walking in the dark! So we did! The thought of having to come down the steep rocky slopes in the dark made me much braver and I came down them very quickly!”

Thursday 17th November, Perchiche (4,280m) to Tashinga (3,450m)

Day thirteen. In the morning, with the drop in altitude, I feel much better and eat some cornflakes. Though I have to walk like John Wayne due to chapped thighs I have no problem keeping up with the group. At lunch at Thyangboche I eat again. Back below the tree line, and with some food inside, if feels like someone flicked a switch and I’m suddenly myself again, rather than the pathetic sod of the previous few days. I even take some photos!

Extract for Sarah’s daily blog.

“We met up again with our Australian couple, the husband of which had suffered from severe altitude sickness. He looked so much better and it was lovely to see them. He had been seen by a local doctor who had said that he was, at that point, a 10 out of 12 on the severe altitude sickness grading. A ’12’ is an unconscious state and the doctor said that at that stage, some people do not make it. It was such a shock to hear that. We have seen so many people suffering from various illnesses that it brings it home just how hard the environment is here. I am inawe of those that go further up the mountains and what they must go through to achieve their ambitions”

Friday 18th November: Tashinga to Monjo (2,850m)

Day fourteen. Despite my chapped legs and other unmentionables a favourite day of the trip, starting with a wonderful sunrise over the mountains. At Namche, after a superb lunch of spring rolls, (all food now tastes delicious) we’ve an hour to ourselves and I head straight to (what looks like) a chemist to buy medicine and soothing cream; relief at last! We re-cross the suspension bridge over Dudh Koshi and when we rest by the river I balance the camera on my rucksack and take some long exposures shots. 

Saturday 19th November:  Monjo to Lukla (2,804m)

Day fifteen. It’s like the day after a bad hangover. I feel fantastic and full of beans and nothing hurts! I put the walking poles away so I can more easily use the camera and snap away, focusing on the everyday textures and sights of the trail, rather than the mountains, and I’m in my element. Some of us take a side trail instead of the main path. The scenery is magical and for excitement we get to cross a dilapidated bridge one at a time. The full group meets up further down the valley for lunch before the final push to Lukla. In the evening we distribute tips to the guides and Yak man along with giving away surplus equipment. This is the last we see of our two assistant guides who’ve looked after us so well. After dinner I take the camera out for one last chance to photograph the stars in the clear Himalaya air.

Sunday 20th November: Lukla to Kathmandu

Day sixteen. Up early, breakfast, and soon make the 50 yard trek across to Lukla airport. I watch the planes start to come in and fly out, no dramas. After an hour or so we get the call and head for the plane. The pilot guns the engines and we set off down the slope, rising into the air 20 yards before the end of the runway and the vertical drop to the valley floor. Another perfect flying day and I snap the foothills through the airplane window. An hour later and we’re driving through the craziness of Kathmandu to the hotel, a complete contrast to what’s gone before, trek done.

Everest Base Camp, A Photo Diary – Everest

Part 4 of the diary focusses on the final upward trek to Base Camp and to our ultimate high point of Kalapatther, at 5,545m.

Tuesday 15th November: Lobouche to Everest Base Camp (5,300m) then Gorak Shep (5,165m)

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Nuptse, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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The Way to Base Camp, Nepal | Sony RXrII
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Nuptse, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Avalanche, Nuptse | Sony RX1rII
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Glimpse of Everest, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Khumbu Glacier, Nepal  | Sony RX1rII
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Nuptse, Nepal | Sony Rx1rII

Wednesday 16th November: Kalapatthar (5,545m) then down to Perchiche (4,280m)

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Everest & Nuptse, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Everest, Nepal | Sigma DP3 Merrill
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Everest & Nuptse | Sony RX1rII
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Everest, Nuptse pano with Ana Damblam (right) from Kalapatthar, Nepal | Sony RX1rII Stitched

Diary Notes – Days 12 & 13

Tuesday 15th November: Lobouche to Everest Base Camp (5,300m) then Gorak Shep (5,165m)

Day eleven. I’ve no enthusiasm to take notes and have little recollection of the walk to Base Camp. I’d thoughts of wondering around the camp and down to the Khumbu Ice Fall, taking creative, cool photos, but physically and mentally I’m gone, and in this truly incredible place I can only take a few shots of the incredible scenery. Though I look surprisingly ok on the photos I can’t honestly recall the walk back to Gorak Shep, other than being last back, or anything about the evening. Everyone is feeling the altitude, but most are faring better!

Extract for Sarah’s daily blog.

“We tried to eat something but no-one felt like much so we set off for the next three hours which would take us to Base Camp. Our group had reduced to six. The Australian couple [John and Debora] had decided not to come at all today due to severe altitude sickness and so were heading down to a lower altitude today. One of the Yorkshire men [John] was so exhausted having got to Gorak Shep that he stayed there. It was a reminder of just how hard this is and sad that we all couldn’t achieve what we had set out to do”.

Wednesday 16th November: Kalapatthar (5,545m) then down to Perchiche (4,280m)

Day twelve (am). It’s -15c as we leave the teahouse at Gorak Shep. We cross the flat ground to the base of Kalapatthar and I strain my eyes to look for the summit. For the first time I seriously worry that I won’t have either the will or the energy to make it to the top. Each step of the climb is effort, every false peak a personal crisis, I can’t keep up with the (slow) pace and fall off the back of the group. An hour in and I decide it’s enough. Up ahead the group pause for breath. I reach them and ask Dunbar if we return down the same path (my plan is to stop and wait for the group to return). He answers yes but before I decide what to do the group press on. I have no choice but to follow. I reach the summit, the last of our group. I’m exhausted and find a place to sit. What a view! The magnificent vista of the Everest Massif, down the Khumbu Glacier, to Ama Dablam and beyond. I manage to take a series of shots to create a panoramic image and eventually summon the energy to clamber around. The word awesome is so often misused. This place truly is awesome. We take photos (I try to smile but it looks like a grimace) to prove our accomplishment then it’s time to head back down. Am I glad I didn’t stop, give up, turn back, absolutely, I may be spent but I made it to this unique and incredible place!

Shooting Notes

No insights or interesting takes, It’s just compose and shoot, trying to avoid people spoiling the view. 

Everest Base Camp, A Photo Diary – Higher Ground

Part 3 of the Photo Diary covers days 9-11 as we leave the trees behind and climb above 4,000m, visit Ama Dablam Base Camp, reach the Khumbu Glacier, and trek to Lobouche, at 4,931m our jumping off for Everest Base Camp.

Saturday 12th November: Ama Dablam Base Camp (4,576m)

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Kwangde Re, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Everest (just) & Lhotse, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Ama Dablam, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Ama Dablam Base Camp | Sony RX1rII
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Ama Dablam Base Camp, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Ama Dablam Base Camp, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Ama Dablam Base Camp, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Ama Dablam, Nepal | Sigma DP3 Merrill

Sunday 13th November: Pangbouche to Dingboche (4,360m)

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Everest Massif & Lhotse, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Tawoche & Arakamtse Peaks (left), Awi Peak (Right), Nepal | Sony RX1rII Stitched
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Dingboche, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Prayer Flags, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Making Tea overlooked by Ama Dablam, Dingboche, Nepal | Sony RXrII

Monday 14th November: Dingboche to Lobouche (4,931m)

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Tawoche & Arakamtse Peaks, Nepal | Sony RX1rII Panoramic Mode
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Frozen Yak Pasture below Arakamtse Peak, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Arakamtse Peak with just a glimpse of Cholaste Tso, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Looking back, Ama Dablam (left) & Thamserku (right) Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Khumbu Glacier Terminal Moraine, Everest Climber Memorials, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Khumbu Glacier overlooked by Nuptse, Nepal | Sony RX1rII

Diary Notes – Days 9 to 11

Saturday 12th November: Ama Dablam Base Camp (4,576m)

Day eight. A 6am start after no sleep, steep climb up to Ama Dablam Base Camp to push way past 4000m and for the first time leave the trees behind! Superb views of Lhotse and Everest though Everest is partially hidden. Arriving at Base Camp Dunbar spots climbers high up near the summit of Ama Dablam through binoculars. We all take turns but I can’t make them out. It’s my first day without a headache after Deborah, one of our party and a physiotherapist by training, prods at the back of my neck for literally 2 minutes. Unbelievable and I’m forever thankful. Return to Pangbouche at 3:30pm but again can’t get warm. Sit by the fire for 30 minutes, then shower, before back to the Observation Room (and warmth) before tea. Can’t eat.

Sunday 13th November: Pangbouche to Dingboche (4,360m)

Day nine. Made no diary notes, and very little recollection of the day, which indicates my state of mind. What I do recall is barren, but spectacular landscape, immense high mountains over the valley on our left, walking through boulder fields and yak grazing pastures, and it’s stunning. Unfortunately the camera is used less and less because the lack of sleep, food and cold, are having an impact. When we get to Dingboche I must feel ok as I take the camera out for a wander to see if there are any interesting shots to take. Evenings, nights and mornings, are now fading into one, as typically all I do is head for my bed and a hot water bottle. Ask me anything about the teahouse in Dingboche and I’d struggle to answer.

Monday 14th November: Dingboche to Lobouche (4,931m)

Day ten. An early and at this height very cold start. I walk in a daze. Thirty minutes in I see Rob sink to the ground; the cold has got to him! Dunbar feeds him hot water (we all carry hot water in our bottles now, cold water would freeze). Fifteen minutes later Rob is well enough to continue, though to his disgruntlement Dumbar (rightly) takes his rucksack. Yorkshire pride maybe bruised but in this place pride really does come before a fall In the early afternoon we reach the moraine of the Khumbu Glacier. It’s hard going and each step takes real effort, but I feel like we’ve reached a milestone; the glacier means that Everest, though still hidden, is close! At the top of the moraine we pass the memorials of mountaineers who have lost their lives on Everest; a place of real contemplation. After lunch we have the choice of staying at the teahouse or walking to a viewpoint overlooking the Khumbu Glacier. Four of the party opt to remain. I, despite being spent, out of sheer stubbornness* choose to go; a mistake. On returning I’m asked if it was worth it. My immediate and unequivocal answer is NO (though I’m in a minority of one), not because the view wasn’t stunning but because my batteries are totally depleted and I missed the opportunity to rest and recuperate. I’m not alone, John, the doctor in our party, is suffering from a chest infection and from the altitude, is in a bad way, and can go no further. Tomorrow he and Debora will head for lower ground after making it all this way.

* During the many miles of training for the trip, it was the thought of being fit enough to do the optional excursions that drove me on!

Shooting Notes

It was all point and click with the Sony, with the Sigma making a solitary appearance for a close up of Ama Dablam. I didn’t have the energy or enthusiasm for anything else!

Everest Base Camp, A Photo Diary – First Days

It’s a nearly two weeks since I landed in a cold, rainy Manchester, after three weeks trekking in Nepal, and it’s taken that time to get some photos and notes of the trip in order. The original intention was to set a limit of one photo per day and one post, but it proved too difficult and too limiting and so I threw that idea under a passing oliphant and instead decided to do the complete opposite and provide a comprehensive photo diary, complete with brief diary and shooting notes at the end. I’m sure there are many, many, EBC trekking posts that are more informative and better written, but hopefully the pictures go someway to redress the balance.  More posts to follow over the coming days.

Day 1: Katmandu to Lukla, then onto Monjo (2,850m)

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Another Safe Landing, Lukla Airport | Sony RX1rII
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Kusum Kanguru SW Face | Sony RX1rII
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Kusum Kanguru | Sont RX1rII
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Mani Stones overlooked by Nupla | Sony RX1rII
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Nupla | Sigma DP3 Merrill

Day 2: Monjo Acclimatisation Day

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Looking Up Monjo High Street, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Looking down Monjo High Street, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Tomorrow’s Journey Toward Namche Bazaar & Beyond | Sigma DP3 Merrill Stitched
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Monjo des. res. Overlooked by Sacred Khumbila | Sony RX1rII
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Khumbila & the Road Ahead | Sony RX1rII
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Khumbila | Sigma DP3 Merrill
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Mountain Stream Study 1, Monjo, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Mountain Stream Study 2, Monjo, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Prayer Flags, Mountain Stream Study 3, Monjo, Nepal | Sony RX1rII

Day 3: Monjo to Namche Bazaar (3,445m)

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High & Low Bridges crossing Dudh Koshi | Sony RX1rII
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High & Low Bridges Crossing Dudh Koshi | Sony RX1rII
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Everest First Sight | Sigma DP3 Merrill
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Namche Bazaar | Sony RX1rII
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Thamserku | Sony RX1rII
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Namche Bazaar | Sony RX1rII
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Namche Bazaar | Sony RX1rII
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Namche Bazaar | Sony RX1rII
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Namche Bazaar | Sont RX1rII
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Namche Bazaar overlooked by Thamserku | Sony RX1rII

Diary Notes – Days 1 to 3

Saturday 5th November: Katmandu to Lukla, then onto Monjo (2,850m)

Day one. The alarm goes off early! There’s no lie in, and after the long flight from Manchester via Abu Dhabi I could really use one. Overdressed and overheated (an attempt to make the luggage weight of 15kg) we’re expertly guided through the chaos of Kathmandu airport check-in by our guide, Dumbar, and now sit in a mini-bus on the tarmac watching, our Twin Otter plane being checked, fuelled and loaded, with bright, red, Mountain Kingdom kit bags. The Twin Otter will take us to Lukla, 2,800m up into the Himalaya, and the start of our trek. The sky is blue, the weather calm, a perfect flying day. If you want a tip sit on the left to see the spectacular white wall of mountain peaks. We fly into Lukla without a hint of danger. And what a flight! What an incredible introduction to Nepal’s high country! The World’s high country. After a relaxing cuppa, a sorting of kit bags and lengthening of walking poles, we plunge into the sights, sounds and smells of the Himalaya. I’m lost in a state of awe.

Sunday 6th November: Monjo – Acclimatisation Day

Day two. Acclimatisation does not mean rest! It means an early start and a slow but strenuous hike straight up, then down, a near vertical Yak trail to gain, then lose, 600m of altitude. After lunch the afternoon is more relaxed as we take in Monjo, get our first view of the sacred, unclimbed, mountain of Khumbila, and, from the National Park checkpoint, the trail ahead. In the late afternoon I take a camera and tripod down to the stream we crossed at the foot of the village and lose myself in the moment. It takes five minutes to walk down the trail to find the stream and twenty minutes to walk back up! Even at 2,800m the effect of the thinner air is very real.

Monday 7th November: Monjo to Namche Bazaar (3,445m)

Day three. More incredible scenery as we first follow the river, then climb up and over suspension bridges, heading toward the market town of Namche Bazaar. On the way we catch our first glimpse of our ultimate destination, Everest. In the afternoon, to gain more metres, we climb to the Sagarmatha National Park Visitor Centre. From there we have distant views of Everest and Lhotse but I find myself more enthralled by the mass of rock close by, Thamserku. In the evening I head out with the tripod to take street shots of Namche at night, and as I wander I stumble on a view of the town dominated by Thamserku behind. At 3,445m I’m starting to feel the altitude. I’ve yet to shake off the nagging headache I’ve had since I arrived in Nepal, and combined with my first bout of the craps I’m not feeling my best.

Shooting Notes

With a weight limit of 15kg I limited myself to two cameras, the Sony RX1rII and, for those shots that needed some extra reach, the Sigma DP3 Merrill, the latter of which I hope will also provide some unique Foveon images. Incredible really that with the former currently costing ten times more than the latter I’ve absolute faith in the Merrill. The Sony’s 35mm lens means it’s out most of the time, but in the bright conditions the Sigma is in its element. When walking there was no real chance to use the tripod, we didn’t stop in a place long enough, so the majority of shots are handheld unless stated. All Merrill shots are at ISO100.

Himalayan Sunrise – Sigma DP3 Merrill

Trekking in the cold first light of day, deep in the valley’s shadow before the sun has chance to rise above the ring of mountain peaks. Thirty minutes later it makes its entrance!

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Himalayan Sunrise | Sigma DP3 Merrill

Shooting & Processing Notes

Shot using a Sigma DP3 Merrill, handheld @ ISO100,  f13, 1/320 second. Post processing Lightroom and Analog Efex Pro.

Mount Everest Base Camp Trek – Prologue

In just over a week, I board a plane from Manchester to Nepal to realise the dream of seeing Everest.mount-everest-1

I can’t recall when it started, this fascination with Everest. Perhaps it’s memories of Chris Bonnington led expeditions in the 70’s, when news reports on Everest were characterised by adventure, courage and national pride, rather than commercialisation and death statistics. Perhaps it’s childhood conversations with my two uncles, both climbers, both of whom must have been inspired by that golden age of climbing. Whatever the reason it was buried deep in my psyche, a constant background presence, a subconscious interest occasionally brought to the surface by a news report, or a television documentary, or a browse in the travel section of a book shop.

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Around ten summers ago it once again surfaced, but this time it didn’t want to go away; a real desire to walk in the Himalaya and see Everest with my own eyes, rather than through a documentary film makers camera, the urge to go while I still had the legs.

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Every year since I promised myself I’d make the journey,  every year there was a compelling reason that blocked my way, until this year, my 50th year, when I finally ran out of excuses and literally shaking with excitement phoned to book the trip.

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So tonight I find myself packing flat pack toilet paper and a small trowel in case I get caught short on the trail, a few days away from setting foot on a place higher than I’ve ever been before, and then slowly by surely as my body acclimatises, heading in the direction of up, to finally discover this epic mass of rock, the highest point on Earth, this place of legends, for myself. All the time remembering that what’s a real adventure for me has been trodden by many thousands of feet before, and is simply the starting point for those who actually go on to attempt the mountain itself.

Of course I’ll be taking a couple of cameras with me to record the trip. The Sony RX1rII, so light and small, you hardly know you’re carrying it, and yet produces images of amazing resolution and quality, and the Sigma DP3 Merrill, which I fully expect to reproduce in epic detail the majesty of the mountains in a way that only a Foveon camera can. I’ve wrestled with buying some sort of travel zoom, but in the end decided to stick with what I have, and what I trust to do the job.

So that’s in for now. With the toilet paper and trowel packed I need to check over the camera gear, order a few last items for the trip, and then head to bed, perchance to dream of the Mountain.

Footnote

When proof reading this blog post I found the section below, written by Polly while I slept. She’s a real talent for words and tbh it’s the best bit of the blog!

The sheer magnitude of my achievement will make my bowels turn to liquid and spew and spray from my tight black boxers, but i won’t care because i know Polly is proud of me, and I will be careful and come home safely. I will leave my crusty underwear on the wind swept slopes as a gift to the gods, should I ever wander this way again I may see wisps of cotton  ( black with brown splatters ) caught in the thorny bushes of Nepal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defeated by the Beaches of Harris

Wow, crossing from East to West on our journey from the ferry at Talbert to Northton on the A859 and suddenly there’s Luskentyre right in front of you, white sands, emerald sea,  a stunning introduction to the beaches of Harris.

Over the next six days I tried to capture just a hint, a smell, a touch of their beauty, but ultimately headed home defeated. Whether it was due to weather, or timing, or lack of creativity, or an unfamiliarity with the landscape, or lack of technique, I don’t know, but it was certainly not through a lack of inspiration.

But no photographic series on Harris would be complete without a shot of a beach so some feeble attempts and holiday snaps follow.

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The Teampall, Northton, Isle of Harris | Sony RX1rII
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Luskentyre, Isle of Harris | Sony RX1rII
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Luskentyre, Isle of Harris | Sony RX1rII
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Scarista, Isle of Harris | Sigma DP0 Quattro
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Teampall, Northon, Isle of Harris | Sony RX1rII
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Luskentyre, Isle of Harris | Sony RX1rII
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Northton, Isle of Harris | Sigma DP1 Merrill
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Seilebost, Isle of Harris | Sony RX1rII
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Scarista, Isle of Harris, Sigma DP0 Quattro

 

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Northon, Isle of Harris | Sony RX1rII

 

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Borve, Isle of Harris | Sony RX1rII

If you want to see some photos that do the place justice take a look at Ian Lawson’s Harris Tweed @ http://www.ianlawson.com/prints/outer-hebrides/ . Better still go along if Ian has another exhibition.

Shooting Notes

The shots above are taken with the Sony RX1rII or Sigma Merrill or Sigma Quattro cameras, post processed in Lightroom.

Lofoten Postscript 2 – Lofoten Collection

Well it’s taken seven weeks, but I’ve finally got my act together and created a collection of favourite images from our February trip to Lofoten. I can finally cross that one of the list!

Click on the image of Olstind below to view the collection.

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Olstind, Lofoten | Sigma DP3 Merrill

 

 

Outtakes – Lofoten Post 12

Some random shots that didn’t make it onto previous posts, but probably should have.

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MS Lofoten Bow Study | Sigma DP1 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

I love this type of subject to point a Merrill at. It brings out the best in the camera.

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MS Lofoten Bow Study Reflection | Sigma DP1 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Ready for Launch? Balstad, Lofoten | Sigma DP0 Quattro | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Second Home, Lofoten | Sigma DP3 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Breaking the Ice, Lofoten | Sigma DP0 Quattro | http://www.richardjwalls.com

Shooting Notes

All shots taken with Sigma, Foveon, cameras, low iso, post processed in SPP and Lightroom.

Snowscapes – Lofoten Post 11

And on the fifth day it snowed … and everything was wrapped in white.

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Boulders | Sigma DP3 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Breaking Through | Sigma DP3 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Shadowlands | Sigma DP3 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

 

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Gaff in the storm | Sigma DP0 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Churchdrifts, Reine | Sigma DP1 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

When it snows in Reine it snows. 6 inches in 3 hours, drifts up to the windows, a fresh and cold perspective.

Shooting Notes

Sigma cameras, post processed in SPP and Lightroom.

 

 

The Classics – Lofoten Post 7

Some Lofoten classics from Moskenesøy island. You could point your camera in every direction, and there’s busloads of photographers who are, and so it’s now time to get off the beaten track …

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Olstind, Reine, Lofoten | Sigma DP3 Merrill | richardjwalls.com

 

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Olstind, Lofoten | Sigma DP0 Quattro | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Olstind, Lofoten | Sigma DP3 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Olstind, Lofoten | Sigma DP0 Quatto | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Hamnoy, Lofoten | Sigma DP0 Quattro | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Nusfjord, Lofoten | Sigma DP0 Quattro | http://www.richardjwalls.com
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Ramberg Beach, Lofoten | Sigma DP3 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

Shooting Notes 

Shots taken with a variety of Sigma cameras, some on a tripod, some not, all ISO100, all post processed in Lightroom. The shot of Hamnoy is a Lightroom HDR of 4 shots.

The biggest challenge of photography in Lofoten is avoiding the hoards of other photographers, nice enough individually, on mass the devil incarnate! Transported around the islands by a high powered fleet of mini-buses, camera’s primed, they’re ever ready to jump out like shock troops and trample a scene to death. The day before the above shot of Ramberg beach was taken it was snowing as we approached, promising pristine conditions, but  pulling into the parking area two mini-vans of shock troops arrived, piled out and immediately trampled the snow; a perfect scene ruined! Later that day on Uttakliev beach I counted  23,734 tripods before becoming bored and walking around the cliffs and away.  I understand why people run these tours, and why people come, but part of Lofoten’s (and landscape photography’s) charm is its isolation and these trips will soon ruin it as a destination.  It’s Greenland next 🙂

The Journey North – Lofoten Post 5

I’m gradually catching up with posts of our Lofoten trip and this post takes us back in time to our  voyage onboard the MS Lofoten from Bergen to Bodo, with time to explore Alesund and Trondheim. The images are (just about) in the order taken.

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MS Lofoten | Sigma DP1 Merrill

 

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Alesund | Sigma DP1 Merrill (stitched)

 

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Alesund | Sony RX1R MkII
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Alesund | Sony RX1R MkII Panoramic Mode
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Alesund | Sigma SD1 Merrill
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Alesund | Sigma SD1 Merrill
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Leaving Alesund | Sigma SD1 Merrill
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Last Light | Sigma SD1 Merrill
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Trondheim | Sigma DP1 Merrill

The stop at Trondheim was particularly memorable but for the wrong reasons. Stopping to photograph the Old Bridge, a lens fell out of my sunglasses and we became distracted searching for the tiny screw that (should have) kept the lens in place and was now lost. Whether I left the camera there, or whether I lost it rushing back to the ship, I guess we’ll never know. What I do know is that captain refused to delay the sailing by the 20 minutes it would have taken to retrace my steps. It’s fair to say I was furious with myself and furious with the ships captain; a camera I’d bought specifically for the trip, only owned a couple of weeks, and costing an arm and a leg lost on day 3 of the trip! The next day our time in Bodo was spent in the police station reporting the loss!

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Lone House | Sigma SD1 Merrill
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Norwegian Coastline | Sigma SD1 Merrill

There’s a fair amount of camera shake in the above image, a consequence of the long lens, the ships engine and my poor technique, but I love the composition so it’s included in the blog.

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Ornes | Sigma DP3 Merrill
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Flight to Lofoten | Sigma SD1 Merrill

It was sunset as we took off from Bodo to fly the short journey to Leknes on Lofoten. The view as we left the Bodo was jaw dropping. The above shot, shot using the SD1 Merrill, at ISO800, was typical of the scenery.  Hopefully flying at midday on the return trip I’ll have a better chance to do the beauty of the landscape justice.

Shooting Notes

The shots above were taken with the Sigma SD1 Merrill, DP1 Merrill, DP3 Merrill and (the now lost) Sony RX1 RII.

 

Lofoten – Post 1, 4 Days & Counting

After six months of anticipation it’s now just four days and counting before we begin our journey to the Lofoten Islands; bags are packed, final purchases made, last minute preparations underway.

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Our journey takes us by air from Manchester to Bergen, where we catch the MS Lofoten to head North, hugging the Norwegian coastline for three days and nights until we reach Bodo. There we say goodbye to the boat and make the short hop by air to Leknes, an hour’s drive from our base at Reine.

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Though Lofoten is North of the 66th Parallel the warming effect of the Gulf Stream keeps the deep freeze of the Arctic at bay. Even so  our preparation has been pre-occupied by the question of warmth if temperatures plummet, and how to keep upright on the ice and snow; winter boots, smocks, crampons, thermals, fleeces, hats, gloves, fill our Rolling Thunder holdalls.

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Photography wise the trip is pure Foveon with one notable exception. In the bag is a Sigma DP1 & DP3 Merrill, a DP0 Quattro, an SD1 paired with an 18-300mm lens (both kindly loaned by Sigma for the trip) and a shiny new Sony RX1rII. When the sun’s above the horizon I plan point the Merrill’s and Quattro’s at the mountains, lakes and coastline. If we spot a whale offshore I’ll reach for the SD1. The Sony I plan to use as a general purpose travel camera, and, when the sun goes down, to take star trails and the Northern lights (if we’re lucky enough to see them).

If you want to be inspired by Lofoten the very best place to start is Cody Duncan’s website http://www.68north.com, a veritable mine of information alongside a set of beautiful inspiring images.

Now on with the packing!

What’s in The Bag

  • Sigma SD1
  • Sigma DP1 Merrill
  • Sigma DP3 Merrill
  • Sigma DP0 Quattro
  • Sigma 18-300mm
  • Sigma Close Up Lens
  • Sony RX1rII
  • B&W & Hayes ND filters
  • Induro CLT103 Tripod
  • Many spare batteries & memory cards
  • Red torch for night-time use
  • Silcon gel bags for removing moisture
  • Freezer bags for bringing cameras from cold to warm temperatures

 

Newlands Valley From Catbells

Today’s view from the path to Catbells down into the Newlands Valley. The wind was gusting and the path icy; without crampons we turned back and headed to the warmth of the pub.

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Newlands Valley | Sigma DP1 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

The trip was part of our testing the winter gear for our up an coming adventure to the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway, just inside the arctic circle. Polly is modelling her cold weather get up below, with Derwent Water, Skidaw & Keswick in the background.

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Polly on Catbells | Sigma DP1 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

The clothing held up. It may not have been -10c but it was a solid test. My main worry now is whether the cameras will be able to handle the cold!

Rubbish Waterfall @ The Leeds RERF

Well not quite a rubbish waterfall, more litter-ally (get it?) a rubbish fall!

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Leeds RERF | Sigma DP1 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

After spending the past year or more following the construction of the Leeds Refuse Recycle & Energy Recover Facility (RERF for short) from the outside, I was invited inside by the French architects, S’PACE, to take some shots of its inner workings.

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Leeds RERF | Sigma Merrill DP1 | http://www.richardjwalls.com

Whilst the rubbish fall might not be as picturesque as a Dales waterfall, the plant itself is a hugely impressive building, incinerating the citizens of Leeds’s waste and transforming it into electricity for 20,000 homes, but more to the point a perfect place to point a Sigma Merrill or Quattro camera.

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Leeds RERF | Sigma DP1 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

Whilst I’m starting to prefer the Quattro DP0 for landscape work the Merrill’s eye for detail, and tonal range, is in its element for industrial subjects.

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Leeds RERF | Sigma DP1 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

I know the majority of you would prefer to point your camera at beach sunsets, cute seaside villages, and rolling hills and dales, but I could have spent a week roaming around the RERF looking for angles and  perspectives; industrial subjects are cool too, and different test of your compositional skills.

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Leeds RERF | Sigma DP1 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

In February I go back to complete the job, and with the facility opening in March, it will probably be the end of my association with this fascinating building, and I can head back to mountains.

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Leeds RERF | Sigma DP1 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

I’ll post a final set of images of the RERF then, I bet you can’t wait!

http://www.richardjwalls.com

Shooting Notes

All shots taken using the Sigma DP1 Merrill at ISO100 using a tripod. Post processed in SPP and Lightroom.