Bye Bye Barbarella

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The Retirement of Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 747 ‘Barbarella’

I was rather hoping this may just be a small gathering of families, plane spotters and a few photographers but no, the fact that we were immediately directed to the overflow carpark told me it was already very busy.  Another thing that surprised me was that alongside the previously mentioned people were pilots, cabin crew and other people who had previously worked onboard or with this aircraft all there to bid farewell to their queen of the sky.

I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between a few former crew members and it was clear they had an emotional attachment to this aircraft and for them it sounded as though, for them, this was the equivalent of a colleague retiring and someone they would dearly miss.

For me however, the attachment was that I had flown on one of Virgins 747s to Florida last year and we had a great time doing so. I can’t remember the  name of the aircraft though, so it could well have been Barbarella.

July 2018
Manchester Airport

Trying to get a good vantage point to view the plane was going to be difficult as there was many people there before me, but I saw that others where standing on their seats or even climbing to the top of the children’s playground structures trying to get an uninterrupted view. But that would likely end in catastrophe for me so I made do with the view from my bench, which wasn’t a bad one.

Departure was scheduled for 12 noon and sure enough around she came from the airport terminal and headed directly towards the crowds at the runway visitor park. What was funny is that as the plane was approaching us from the terminal, it was partially obscured by one of the airport side buildings and to me, the top section  looked like a whale who’s body and dorsal fin was just sticking through the top of the water. See what you think?

So as the pilots steadily approached, they kindly stopped directly Infront of us to allow the crowd to take pictures of the soon to be retired 747. Word on the ground was that the aircraft was heading to Heathrow to have all four engines changed before being returned to the leasing company, which was apparently part of their lease agreement, I don’t know if this is true but it’s sounds interesting at the least, so I’ll gladly go along with it.

After around 5 minutes they moved on past the grey hanger to our right which houses Concorde and down towards the bottom end of the runway where they would again pause for a few minutes, out the way I might add, still allowing other aircraft to land and depart.

The crew then slowly headed back around towards us stopping on a couple of further occasions to let the large crowd take further pictures.

I’m not in anyway a plane enthusiast but I do like to look at, admire and travel on these huge iron birds, well when I say travel, anybody who knows me will tell you that I hang on for dear life, almost drowning in my own sweat I get so nervous. If you have saw the scene from the comedy film “Airplane” when the pilot is coming in for landing and violently sweating, this will give you some idea of what I am like. Although, I must say,  the older I’m getting, the less nervous I’ve become.

On Many Occasions I think to myself how is it possible for these huge aircraft to even leave the ground. I do find the physics of it all fascinating and have a vague idea of how aerodynamics work  but even so, it seems like it shouldn’t be possible. Obviously the four massive engines help to propel this beast forward and keep it airborne providing many thousands of pounds of thrust. There is something quite reassuring about the aircraft your flying in having so many engines. 

So as the crew wave to us all from the flight deck, the engines spool up and the Boeing aircraft creeps off heading for her departure runway which would be 23R. 

While all this was going on, a few other aircraft had landed and taken off but not many people seemed to notice this, much to the the displeasure of a Qatar airways plane who, after landing, toured past Barbarella’s crowd, pilots waving trying to steal the lime light.

There was also a fast approaching, dark grey cloud which was heading straight for us and wouldn’t it be typical for it to rain just as the main event was happening. I’m glad to report however, that the cloud past by on the far side of of the airport and didn’t spoil the fun.

Sure enough, after a few minutes, you could hear the distinctive roar of four jet engines throttling up and she was off down the runway. To my surprise it left the ground a lot earlier up the runway than I expected, but I suppose this was because there were no passengers or luggage on board and possibly not full with fuel as they were only going down the road to London Heathrow.

And as quick as that, she was airborne. Retracting her undercarriage and legging it down the road. This was not the end of the show however, the pilots would say one final goodbye in the form of a ‘wing wave’ where they gently rock the plane from side to side dipping their wings on their ascent out of Manchester.

I did capture one final picture which tells a great story all by itself.

One retired airplane that is Concorde, who been there, done that and got the free bus pass and the other…..Barbarella who is just starting her journey to retirement.

A few facts about Barbarella.
  • Entered service in 2001
  • Costs in the region of 265 million US dollars
  • Seating capacity – 455
  • Carries more than 57,000 gallons of fuel
  • 8357 miles maximum range
  • Wingspan – 211ft
  • Length – 231ft
  • Height – 68ft
  • Crusing Speed – 565mph
29th December 2014 Barbarella made an emergency landing at London Gatwick Airport due to a landing gear malfunction shortly after take off. The flight was heading to Las Vegas and had over 440 passengers and crew onboard forcing the pilot had to land the plane with a damaged undercarriage.

New York City

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30 sec, 14mm, iso200, f9

The Reason For This Trip

July 2020 will be our 10 year wedding anniversary and as a treat to ourselves, we thought we would book a few days away in New York City, just the two of us. The Big Apple is a place that was on both of our bucket lists and I’m glad to say that it didn’t disappoint.


I Am Not Rambo

Now, obviously I was always going to take my camera with me on this trip as I couldn’t possibly travel all that way and leave it behind. That said, I must remember this is not a photography trip and under no circumstances am I to get carried away clicking that shutter button and acting like the photography equivalent of Rambo, firing off shot after shot capturing everything that catches my eye as this could become annoying for my wife. However, there was an agreement in place that I could go and take this one photograph without consequence, the shot of the Lower Manhattan Skyline from the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Its an image I’ve seen many times before and is probably one of the classics, but no matter how many times I see it, my reaction is always the same…..WOW! So for this reason If I only had one shot left in my camera, this would be the one!

My Vision

I wanted to capture this scene at sunset by using a long exposure just as the city lights started to illuminate. This would allow me to add extra interest to the buildings in the form of lit office windows whilst still capturing the hopefully colourful sunset sky, also smoothing out the water and adding movement to the clouds.

The groines in the foreground are, I’m led to believe, the remains of the old Pier One which once stood proudly on the river bank and are a perfect addition to this image.

Dumbo, Brooklyn

Having taken a very easy tube ride from Times Square in Manhattan to Brooklyn. We arrived around 3 hours before sunset and immediately headed for the local beverage establishment. Not for an alcoholic drink but for a warm coffee as it was starting to get cold. This was expensive! and too posh for us but no matter, we were determined to get this image…….when i say we, what I actually meant was me.


1/500sec, 12mm, iso 800, f8

Our route would take us past the very popular Dumbo instagram shot of the cobble stone street with the Manhattan Bridge in the background framing the Empire State Building. This location is even listed on Google Maps as ‘Insta gold’ believe it or not.

Take a look…….Manhattan Bridge Instagold, 15 Washington St, Brooklyn, NY 11201, United States

It was packed! Trying to get a clean shot was difficult but with patience, I managed to get one or two that I was happy with.

1/250sec, 40mm, iso 800, f8


The location I wanted to shoot from was in the Brooklyn Bridge Park, or more specifically, Pier one. It’s right on the banks of the East River offering excellent views of Lower Manhattan and the Manhattan Bridge. You can also see the Statue of liberty from here too.


60sec, 13mm, iso 640, f10

Although I knew what image I wanted to go home with, this didn’t stop me trying to capture something different from what I had seen before and I think I achieved it with this next image. The huge boulders made a great base for the image whilst the long piece of driftwood made a fantastic leading line towards the groines, then onto the buildings in the background. The only thing lacking was a decent sky. It was very dull and overcast with the threat of rain but no matter, I was still enjoying myself and I was just very grateful for having the opportunity just to stand there.

60sec, 13mm, iso 640, f10

How I Captured This Image

So, I as I illuded to earlier, a long exposure was the way I wanted to go with this image. Firstly, I attached my camera to the tripod and framed up my shot being careful not to cut the tops of the buildingsout of the image. I then switched to manual focus and focused on the buildings in the background as these would be the main subject of my image. I use manual focus to make sure that the camera doesn’t change focus points between shots. I then screwed my trusty 10 Stop Hoya Pro ND Filter on the front of my Olympus 12-40mm lens therefore extending my shutter speed to 30-60 seconds which would give me the smooth water I desired. Then It would just be a case of setting the shutter on a 2 second timer to eliminate any camera shake when pressing the shutter button, which could blur the image, and take shots as the light changes.

Printing My Image

I’m very pleased with the images I came away with that night, yes, I would have liked a better sky but sometimes you just have to take what your given and at least it didn’t rain.

Weirdly, it was the earlier image taken an hour or so before sunset which was my favourite and this is the one I decided to hang on my wall. I’m not sure why I preferred this one when I had my heart set on the sunset image but photography can be a funny thing sometimes.


I had recently bought a Canon IP8750 printer and this would be the first image that I would print at home. My paper of choice was a sheet of A4 lustre, a middle of the road conventional size and finish and because I didn’t want anything to fancy or expensive for my first round of prints incase I made any mistakes.

It now hangs proudly on my wall and brings back great memories of a fantastic trip.

Sunrise Photography From Cwm Idwal In The Snowdonia National Park

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This would be the dramatic mountains and lake of Cwm Idwal.
‘Cwm’ which is Welsh for ‘valley‘ and ‘Idwal’ Which stands for ‘Lord of the wall‘ is located in the northern area of the Snowdonia National Park in Wales.
Conveniently, there is a National Trust public car park on the A5 near Llyn Ogwen, which is also the start of the Cwm Idwal walking trail.
For me however, I would only be going as far as the lake its self which is about a 15min walk from the car park and being a person who likes to be economical with my energy, this would provide outstanding scenery for not a lot of effort.

Sticky Out Tree and A Waterfall

    29mm, f9, iso 640, 1/100 sec

Immediately at the foot of the trail, I was greated by a fast flowing, tall waterfall. I was able to cross the falls easily thanks to a small bridge but, amazingly, what grabbed my attention in this caotic scene was a small tree, sticking out from the rocky bank above the water with the amazing, slightly snowy mountains in the background. With images of single trees like this, I prefer to have seperation between the tree and the background so they don’t overlap and blend into one another. I had my camera as low as possible, nearly touching the ground to achieve this shot.
It is also very important not to overexpose the highlights as there is nothing worse than getting back to your computer and finding that the sky has no detail and your left with just a white empty space where the sky once was. Exposure bracketing would be a great way to ensure you capture all the detail you need, but it will require software blending later on.

24mm, f9, iso640, 1/100 sec

*exposure bracketing is when you take a shot that your camera thinks is the correct exposure for the scene, but then also taking extra shots under and over exposing. I take 5 exposures which consists of -2 stops, -1 stops, correct exposure, +1 stops, +2 stops.

Llyn Idwal

The weather was predicted to be dry all over Wales this morning but this wasn’t the case. The rain and wind had seemingly followed me from Merseyside.
The path is made up mainly of rocks and the ground was very saturated so a decent pair of waterproof footwear was essential, I must get some for next time!
As I reach the lake edge, with wet hiking shoes, I struggled to catch my breath, not from the walk up, but from the shere beauty of view that greated me. A vast lake surrounded by spectacular tall mountains shrouded in cloud and it was just one of them moments where you can’t help but stand and stare.



A Compromise

I was instantly drawn to a group of large boulders at the water’s edge and thought these would be a great foreground for a long exposure. However, due to the strong wind and patchy rain, all my images either came out blurred or were ruined by rain drops on the lens. So instead I would have to make do with handheld, high shutter speed images which would freeze the movement in the water, but ensure a sharp image.
With the day being dull, I needed to bump my iso up quite high in order to maintain the depth of field I wanted and to obtain my target shutter speed of 1/100sec. Iso 1000 infact.
Never be afraid of uping your iso to get a faster shutter speed as it’s better to have grainy pictures than blurry ones in my opinion.
There were many others shots to be had at the lake but due to the time wasted waiting for the weather to pass, I would have to save them for next time.


A few handheld shots from the path on the way back down.






Andrew’s At It Again

As I look at my images in Photoshop, I can’t help but create another reflection image, to see what it might have looked like if the water was flat calm. Have I mentioned that I love reflections. I’m clearly addicted to them.



This trip turned out to be little more than a breathtaking scouting mission where I say Wow! And Awesome! a lot.
I certainly didn’t get any award winning images that’s for surebut it was a fantastic experience none the less.
I did attempt to explore a bit in the opposite direction to the lake where I spotted a couple of smaller waterfalls, but quickly abandoned it as there was no clear path and the ground was very boggy.
I’ve also now made a mental note of many compositions I’ve seen which will definitely make it easier next time. This also gives me a great excuse to come back again one day.

Coastal Photography in Llandudno, North Wales.

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12mm, iso200, 20sec, f5 (focus stacked)

Llandudno is a place I’ve visited on many occasions, mainly on days out or holidays with my family.

It has a certain nostalgic feeling and as far as seaside resorts go, it’s definitely one of the nicer ones.

There are so many things to see and do here from the Great Orme down to arcades and funfair rides, there is even a taboggon ride at the ski centre which is a lot of fun if a bit hair raising the first time. But Llandudno pier is what I have come to photograph which just happens to also be the place where we chose the name for our daughter, by looking at all the named souvenirs on offer.


27mm, iso200, 0.5sec, f16



Situated on the North Wales Coastline between Conwy and Colwyn Bay, it’s only a short drive from the A55 which makes access pretty easy and It would definitely be a good base if you wanted to explore North Wales.


My Dilemma

I arrived on the morning of 6th October, which was a Sunday, about 30 minutes before sunrise expecting the place to be derelict, I find that it is anything but, Wales Rally GB is in town and the promonade is rammed. Given that I am a keen Motorsport fan I was torn between photographing the rally cars in the service area or heading for the pier to capture sunrise, which is what I came for afterall. I stood for a few moments negotiating with myself what to do but in the end I decided not to allow these fancy pieces of attractive metal to distract me from my mission. Pier sunrise it is!


12mm, iso100, 1sec, f5


Heading past the Llandudno Grand Hotel, I find steps leading down to the beach. This side of the beach mainly rocks, stones and pebbles, not much in the way of sand but at least I had some foreground for my image.
The tide was receding (a bit like me), and it was far enough out not to cause me any problems, but close enough to still surround most of the pier.
On the horizon, there is a thin opening of cloud filled with a bright pink colour giving an incling of what lay beyond. 
“It’s going to be a good one!” I was thinking but …no. The sunrise gods had other ideas and quickly pulled their roller blind of cloud down, blocking my sunrise. Ah well, let’s see if we can still make the most of it, after all it’s still a fantastic place to be anyway. The first few shots I captured where in the blue hour and my focus was firmly on the beautiful old pier which stretched out into the sea (as piers usually do Andrew), and later as the sun came up I made use of my Nd filters to extend my shutter speed, there for smoothing out the water and blurring the clouds. I also went for a high key look with some of my shots, making them brighter than usual which suited the conditions quite well I thought.  

40mm, iso200, 5sec, f8


I also had a little wander down the beach to see if I could capture anything original or creative and this is what I came up with.

34mm, iso64, 0.6sec, f22 (focus Stacked)


The Great Orme

About 1 hour after sunrise I head up from the beach to the ski centre and follow the short but steep path up to my final location, The Great Orme. Llandudnos mini mountain gives superb views across the whole of Llandudno bay and can be accessed with just 5 mins of walking from the ski centre car park. It’s also home to goats and sheep and although there was no other people about, I was far from alone up here. Apparently the goats are pretty special too, a breed of wild goats that permenatly live on the Great Orme but not of them would come close enough for a picture. The sheep however were anything but camera shy and I’m pretty sure one winked at me when I was taking their picture. 


40mm, iso200, 1/400sec, f2.8



So all in all a great morning of photography and I came away with many images I was really pleased with. I’ve also been to a part of llandudno I hadn’t been upto before and got to see a few rally cars too. I love being out and about in the landscape with my camera, it gives me the perfect excuse to go to all these beautiful places and indulge in my passion. Although all the sunrise shoots I’ve done lately have been really cloudy and overcast, I’m sure that one day I will get my burning orange sunrise.

Oh yeah, if anybody finds a 62mm Hoya Pro Circular Polarising Filter on the beach, that would be mine……Doh!


What Are Your Thoughts on Photography Art?

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If a picture you see is “not real” or has been manipulated in some way do you still like it?

The reason I am asking this question is the fact that I like to create ‘art’ from my photographs. I may take an object out of the picture to make it look cleaner or more minimalist, I have also added things in like trees or rain and I’ve swapped a sky from dull grey clouds to a bright orange sunset image.


Taylor Park, St Helens, Merseyside


12mm, iso 200, f13, 1/250th sec. 

So let’s say you see a beautiful reflection image on social media and you then later find out that the reflection has been added in Photoshop, is this acceptable for you? Do you still like the picture or do you now think I don’t like it because its been manipulated? I’m interested in your opinion on this?


Southport Pier


What is Photography Art?

There are a few different names for Photo art but in my opinion it is a picture that somebody has created very much in the same way an artist would paint a picture. They have a vision in their mind and they then try to re-create it on canvas or in this case as a picture to hang on a wall. Whether you add reflections or remove a tree, your creativity is driving you to make this decision, you have total artistic licence to express yourself and that’s the thing for me, its your picture so you can do what you like with it surely.

Another brilliant point about photography or art is that it is completely subjective. What I like may not be what the next person likes. I may want to place my subject in the top right and they may like it positioned in the bottom left. So neither is wrong It’s just the fact that we have different opinions and that’s all they are, opinions.

One of the best pieces of advice I have been given was to “make sure you take pictures for yourself. Take pictures that you like and you will then gain a following based on your interests and your style” and I’ve stuck by this ever since. What’s the point in trying to please others if you yourself are not enjoying the images you’re taking. 


“But it Didn’t Look Anything Like That!”

Maybe not, but again you must have had a visual image in your mind of what you was hoping to see before heading out. I’m a dreamer and I always yearn for high level clouds, a burning sunset and still water…….I very rarely get them, but a guy can dream.

So maybe this was the only day you could venture out with your camera and the conditions weren’t what you was hoping for, you still would like to be rewarded for your efforts with a nice picture at the end of the day. If you need the help of Photoshop to create an image that you like therefore helping you make the best of the poor conditions, then I see nothing wrong with this because after all, it is your art that you are creating.

I mostly tell people up front that an image isn’t real or has been manipulated but aslong as your not trying to pass it off as real documentary photography then I think even not telling people is fine. However, if somebody did ask me “is that real” I would always tell them the truth. 


My Basic Technique to Create Reflections.

First of all i shoot all my images in RAW format to capture the maximum amount of detail possible. A RAW file compared to a jpg file retains a lot more detail in the highlights and shadows especially but also produces a very flat looking picture, probably nothing like what you actually saw at the time. The idea then would be to edit the image and bring out all that detail by using the multiple sliders or adjustment tools available in your editing software.

I will import the image into Adobe Lightroom, apply my edit and once I’m happy with my adjustments I then export that image into Adobe Photoshop where I will create my reflections.

Now I copy a section of my image usually where I think the water would meet the shore and paste it onto a new layer, flip it upside down and place it over the bottom of the original layer to create a symmetrical reflection. With a couple of finishing touches to give the image realism eg, adding motion blur to the reflection making it look more like water etc and that’s pretty much it. There are plenty of tutorials on how to do this this sort of thing on you tube and it is pretty simple with the correct software. The hard part is giving the image realism and this is the area which I have struggled in the past. Patience and attention to detail is required to do it well so that all the little details don’t give away to easily what you’ve done. I’ve learned a lot about the way in which objects reflect themselves in water especially by using this method. 



I like what I’ve created using Photoshop in the past and I will continue to do this because I enjoy the results.

What I’ve found is that photography is completely individual the the person behind the camera, you will develop your own style and a pattern will emerge in your work. If you can accept that you will never please everyone all of the time, all be it with your style or the technique you have used to create your art this will give you the confidence and freedom to be creative and who knows , you may come up with that one masterpiece and this time next year, we could be millionaires. 





Preston England Temple


Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Blundellsands, Hightown

One Step Forward; Two Steps Back



Blundellsands, Hightown

Iso 200, 35mm, f13, 1/5sec

Unusually for me, I have a rare early finish from work during mid week. Normally I finish hours later with absolutely no chance of heading out with my camera.

This has now left me with a very tough decision to make.

Do I stay in to have an early night ready for work tomorrow or head out with my camera.

Decision Time

I’m going out!

I may not get another chance for a

couple of weeks and find it almost impossible to turn down this opportunity.

Where To Go?

With my mind made up, I check Google Maps on my phone where I have locations saved which I have been to or would like to visit so all I have to do now is to choose one that suits.

The place I had chosen to go was Blundellsands Sailing Club between Crosby and Formby, It has sea, sand and hopefully boats. I can also be there in less than 30 minutes which is perfect.

With the weather not looking promising for a decent sunset, I headed off in the car down the M57 motorway with my camera equipment and walking shoes; however in hindsight wellies would have been more favourable.


As I arrive at my destination, I find that the sailing club car park is closed but this is no problem as there is a public footpath near by that allows direct access to the beach.

I throw my bag on my shoulder and change into my walking shoes then head off down the gravel path towards the shoreline. The first thing I noticed was a mast from a sailing boat extending up above the tips of the sand dunes giving me some idea of what lay beyond. Now filled with excitement that there is at least one boat still out today, I climb up onto the ridge to give me a better view of the area. To my joy there was more than just one boat, there was many.

Previous Visit

I have visited this location once before.

Last time I went south down the beach towards Crosby as there was no boats to be seen in the other direction. What I found was that the beach is littered with bricks and rubble which I can only imagine to have either been washed up by the tide or have been placed there as some sort of sea defence, but I’m not sure.

This was also the location where I sat next to a dead sea bird while capturing sunset without even realising until I started packing up my camera and tripod.

I couldn’t find much to photograph this way, but I did come away with a couple of keepers. The sunset was pretty good that night too.

Location Scouting

This time I headed north up beach towards Formby and my goal was to capture a picture of a boat with its reflection in the water.

I consciously made the decision to leave my camera in my bag and try to find a composition first before setting up my equipment. The idea behind this was that I would put a little bit more thought into my composition this time instead of taking multiple test shot while walking round and ending up with 300 images to edit through later.

The light was very flat, dull and the sky was grey with a hint of blue but this would have to do. I walk north for only about 5 minutes following the coast until I can go no further due to the way the estuary runs inland from here. Time to turn around and start taking some images.


I attached my camera to my tripod and set up to capture my first image.

iso 200, 40mm, f6.3, 60 sec

My subject was an anchored boat in the estuary which was just about floating. I tried to use the estuary as a leading line upto the boat which I had placed on the bottom left third of the image but looking at the back of the camera it hadn’t come out quite as I envisaged which I think was mainly due to the none flattering light. However, having completed a moody edit on the picture in lightroom, I quite like it now.

Onto the next one.

By the time I’d finished taking this image, an opening had started to appear between the clouds and the horizon. This looked promising.

Iso 200, 12mm, f22, 1.6 sec

I had found a large tree branch lying on the sand pointing directly towards the sunset.

I used the timber to lead your eye towards the sunset and made sure to have the horizon on the top rule of thirds. I thought this image was ok but there is better to be had I was sure.


iso200, 12mm, f13, 0.8 sec

My final spot was pretty much back to where I entered the beach and this would have to be my final location as sunset was fast approaching. As I was walking back to this spot, the sun had began to appear through the thin opening of clouds on the horizon. Big, bright and round It lit up the beach giving a very strong and beautiful magenta colour cast to the whole scene. Wary of the fact this would not last long I quickly tried to set up my composition but there was a problem, the ground was too boggy and my feet where getting stuck in the wet clay like sand. After moving Backwards and forwards, side to side it’s clear that I will have to overcome this challenge to get my shot and maybe sacrifice another pair of shoes.

Iso 200, 40mm, f6.3, 1/5sec

Iso 64, 12mm, f22, 4sec

Finally got it! I’ve got a boat, my reflections and a stunning sunset.

Heading Home

I’ve packed up my gear and I start heading home but I see one more composition which I had forgotten about. It was looking directly into the sunset with estuary snaking through the image as my leading line with two boats reflecting on the calm sea water. It would have been preferable that the boats were facing the opposite way, bow pointing to the camera but nevertheless I thought to myself, `I can’t leave with taking this picture’. I unpacked all my gear again, tripod, lens, polarising filter just so I was not leaving this image behind so to speak.

Iso 64, 25mm, f13, 20sec


This is a great place to visit for photography and I’ve only scratched the surface of this location so a third visit is definitely on the cards and next time, hopefully I can make it when the tide is in to capture even better reflections.

I set off on this journey with very little expectations due to the weather conditions but I ended up having one of the most colourful sunsets in terms of light on the landscape I’ve ever experienced. I came away having had a very enjoyable experience all because my desire to take images has brought me here. If I didn’t own a camera I probably wouldn’t have visited this location.

Oh, in case you were wondering, my shoes survived.

Email –


Blundellsands Sailing Club –

Ripples On The Dam

When it comes to landscapes, the number one thing that I like to photograph are reflections. It doesn’t really have to be any particular subject matter; I just always seem to find myself heading for somewhere that has water. Ideally, the water will be calm and still, however, I can achieve similar effects by using a long exposure.

Carr Mill Dam

My love for reflective landscapes has led me to some fantastic locations and one of my favourite places to visit is Carr Mill Dam which sits alongside the A580 East Lancashire Road, or ‘East Lancs’ as its more commonly known. This is partly down to the fact that its local to me but mainly because of the variety of pictures that are available here. There are trees, water, wildlife, and even a bit of architecture in the form of the 19 Arch bridge that stretches across the dam.

The 19 Arch Bridge taken October 2017

Heading to the Dam

Saturday 18th May.

My daughter has a friends party and the venue isn’t too far from the dam (you can probably tell where this is going). So I came up with the idea of dropping her off and spending a couple of hours at the dam with my camera; then I would collect her on the way back thus killing two birds with one trip…. Genius I know.

As I arrive at the dam, the wind is calm, trees are still, and there is a nice covering of clouds, a little bit dull, but I can live with that. I start thinking of reflections, long exposures, dramatic clouds and capturing the perfect photograph. As I get closer I see a small, white boat on the water, about 30ft from the edge of the bank, occupied by two people, ‘probably just doing some gentle fishing’ I thought so nothing to worry about there, I can still get my reflections with a long exposure; but this would mean editing out the boat later, so all in all a pretty good recipe for a nice picture.

The Waters Edge

I grab my gear out the boot of the car and head about 100 yards away to the waters edge. I look out across the water beyond the fishermen and I see a line of racing power boats. The serene atmosphere was suddenly broken by the sound of highly revving engines, as all the boats set off like greyhounds out of a trap, they start screaming towards me across the water. The two anglers, who turned out to be race marshals in their own motorised vessel, eagerly watch the boats as they take the corner at the end of the straight and head back down the water.

Camera settings – 150mm,1/2500sec,Iso 800,F3.2

Camera settings – 150mm, 1/2000sec, iso 640, f2.8

Camera settings – 150mm, 1/2000sec, iso 640, f2.8

A Lucky Coincidence

DAMN IT! (pun intended) no reflections for me today.

Luckily, I’m a big fan of motorsports so this was right up my street… Or East Lancs in this case.

I quickly equipped my Olympus Camera with my Olympus 40-150mm lens and started to capture the action using a high shutter speed of around 1/2500th of second to ensure I could freeze the boats within the image. However, I was keen to try out a technique called ‘panning’, where you use a slower shutter speed than normal, say around 1/50th of a second, and take a shot while tracking the moving boat across the water. This technique will allow you to have your subject sharp in the image but have a lot of motion blur in the background giving the feeling of movement and speed. I’ve seen plenty of pictures captured this way and can’t help but admire the skill of the photographer. My initial endeavour did not come with a high success rate, more likely because this was my first attempt and it’s a difficult method to master. I was probably getting around 1 in 20 shots which where usable. Most of them the boat was just a blur, a streaky mess. I felt that I did get better as the race went on but it’s all worth the effort for that one shot.

There is no better feeling than looking at the back of your camera and realising you’ve got the image you were hoping for.

I was made up with this particular one.

Camera settings – 150mm, 1/50 sec, iso 200, f8

I was also able to get a couple of pictures at the end of the first race when nobody was on the lake. I was photographing the boats near to a weir which fed into the Sankey Brook and I noticed two logs resting there.
I used the curvaceous overflow as a leading line into the image, the logs as foreground interest, smoothed out the water by using my 10stop filter screwed to the front of my Olympus 12-40mm lens. I was really pleased with the way this image turned out, definitely a keeper for me.

Camera settings – 14mm, 60 sec, iso 200 f9

Loved It!

Was I disappointed I didn’t get the image I was hoping for? ….. Nope absolutely not, I was in one of my favourite places doing something that I loved.

Email –
Carr Mill Dam –
Lancashire Power Boat Racing
Windermere Motorboat Racing Club