Location: Spittal

Despite living in the North East of England for a little over 50 years, I’d never visited Spittal until this month. Spittal is (arguably) a suburb of Berwick upon Tweed, which lies close to the border between England and Scotland.

It must be said that Spittal on the whole is not fantastically photogenic. There’s a nice enough beach for locals to walk on but you wouldn’t drive 60 miles from Newcastle just to see the beach, because there are numerous better beaches further south in Northumberland, such as Bamburgh, Embleton, Druridge Bay.

The thing that DID attract me to Spittal was an area of rocks just 30m long by 5m wide, consisting of highly weathered layered sandstone; I’d seen a couple of images from my flickr contacts.

RZ67, Velvia 50, Spittal Rocks, 5-border

Many of these shots have no indication of scale, which I like – are we looking at rocks 2,000 feet high or 2 feet high ? (Answer – 2 feet)

For this trip I used my Mamiya RZ67 with either the 110mm or 65mm lenses. Although I’ve been using the Fujifilm GA645Zi a lot recently, this subject needs (a) close focussing, and (b) a big viewfinder so you can check what’s in focus

RZ67, Velvia 50, Spittal Rocks, 6-border

Working at close range, the depth of field is pretty limited. I wanted most of the scene to be in focus so used f22 for most shots. I used the depth of field preview to try and check the focus, but the screen gets very dim when you step down to f22 so this wasn’t a perfect method. I also tried multiple versions of the same image with varying focus points, with a view to trying out focus stacking, but haven’t got round to trying this yet.

So that's what happened to the baked potato I dropped !

So that’s what happened to the baked potato I dropped !

RZ67, Velvia 50, Spittal Rocks, 3c-border

Fuji Velvia, accidentally under-exposed

All four images above were taken on Fuji Velvia 50, which I haven’t used much recently as I now generally prefer negative film due to the wider exposure latitude. However I figured that in the absence of any sky or deep shadows, Velvia should be able to handle the dynamic range quite well. The last one was problematic because I accidentally underexposed by maybe two stops (and took three versions with a view to focus stacking, all incorrectly exposed. I think what happened was that I took an accurate meter reading, but failed to transfer those settings to the camera. Although Lightroom was able to pull back an image, I’m not so happy with the result so this scene will be attempted again in the future – providing I can actually find the exact spot.

EDIT – I produced another version by transferring the file from Lightroom to Photoshop and simply using the Auto Colour command. I’m much happier with this version:

spittal rocks-photoshop version


After the roll of Velvia was used up I changed to Kodak Portra 400, which of course has a very wide exposure latitude.

2015-5-16, Spittal, RZ67, Portra 400, Digibase, EpsonScan010-border

I found that the exercise of making these semi-abstract images was a good discipline in composition. The subject matter is just lines, curves, and textures, with colour playing a supportive role. There is no well-recognised version of what a “standard” image should look like, as a point of reference, as there would be with, say, a portrait. There isn’t even a “right way up” as you can turn the images left, right, or upside down to get the result that pleases you … and that might not be the same thing that pleases other viewers.

A rock with an angry face. Portra 400 film

A rock with an angry face.
Portra 400 film

Small differences in camera angle can make a large difference to the composition. I can’t imagine doing this type of image without a tripod because, apart from the practicalities relating to the shutter speed, I needed to study the viewfinder carefully, especially checking the edges for unwanted intrusions.

I hope to go back to Spittal soon. Of course, the key elements will look the same, but the arrangements of trapped small stones, and the sand left behind, will change with each tide; and the intensity and direction of light will also provide different opportunities. The sun was fairly strong on my visit, but I waited for cloud cover before pressing the shutter. I think light cloud would be the optimum situation, and suspect that rain need not stop play.

Apart from the rocks pictured above, another feature I noticed was a stream emerging from a small cliff at the end of the promenade, which obviously had a high iron oxide content, as the rocks around about were heavily red-stained (effectively with rust, which also got left behind on my camera bag and boots).

2015-5-16, Spittal, RZ67, Portra 400, Digibase, EpsonScan016

I didn’t do the scene justice on this visit but will revisit the area around the stream outlet next time.

Now here’s a map which shows you exactly where to find these features. There’s plenty of free parking nearby, and it’s not far to walk from the car parks to the rocks. There’s also a cafe on the sea-front which serves enormous toasted teacakes with jam….

Location: High Cup Nick

High Cup Nick is a u-shaped glacial valley in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which is a pretty dramatic location, at least by the standards of the North Pennines. It lies on the Pennine Way, and in this guise it is often walked on a route from Teesdale crossing west across the Peninnes to Dufton. However, for my first visit I chose a circular route from Dufton, starting off up the valley of Great Rundale Beck, and traversing across Backstone Edge to reach High Cup Nick before returning to the Pennine Way.

According to the guidebook I used, this is a route of around 11.5 miles, so I decided to take the Fuji GA645ZI rather than the heavier Mamiya RZ67. A Manfrotto monopod doubled up as a walking pole.  I managed to make the route a bit longer because after a mile or so I tried to take a photo and found out that the camera batteries – still the set that came with the camera when I bought it – were flat. No problem, I thought, I have another set in the camera bag… which turned out to be the wrong size. I quickly thought through the options. Carrying on without a working camera was theoretically possible but would probably make me miserable. So, thankful that I had made this discovery early on, I returned to the car where I thought I might have a bag of batteries including some of the right size, and definitely had a couple of other cameras.

Armed with the correct batteries I found in the car, I got back to the same place about 40 minutes later.

High Cup Nick

High Cup Nick. It was near this point that I dropped my lens cap. The cap for the Fuji GA645Zi is very camera-specific and difficult to replace, so a little light scrambling was required to retrieve it.

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Cycling through the Outer Hebrides, with camera

In May 2009 I finally got around to completing a trip I’d been planning for about twenty years, namely to cycle through the Outer Hebrides islands of Scotland, from Barra in the South to Lewis in the North. Of course, I took a camera with me and since every ounce of weight had to carried I wanted to keep the weight down.

My camera equipment choice was:

  • One 35mm SLR – the very light Canon EOS300 which I have previously blogged about
  • Canon 50mm/f1.8 standard lens
  • Sigma 24mm wide-angle
  • Gorillapod SLR mini-tripod.
  • Cokin 2-stop and 3-stop graduated neutral density filters and holder
  • Bellows-type lens hood
  • 3 rolls of Fuji Velvia 50 1 roll of Fuji Sensia 400 slide film

4 rolls of film would give 144 shots – which some people would use up in an hour of digital shooting, but it did last me throughout the eight day trip, and in fact I didn’t finish the last film – I think I took about 120 images in total.

Abandoned boat on Vatersay

The only item I wish I had left behind – although it didn’t weigh much so this doesn’t really matter – was the gorillapod. I only used it once, because it can only really raise the camera a few inches off the ground, unless you are lucky enough to find a table, fence, or flat rock, in the exact position which gives you the composition you really want. I’ve since sold it.

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A spring wander around Howick

I have blogged before about Howick Hall Gardens, including images taken in May, July, and November. My most recent visit was in March. I wasn’t sure how much colour there would be in the garden; it was a little late for the snowdrops and some of the daffodils hadn’t come out yet. But I was keen to get out for a walk and some photography, so set out with my Mamiya RZ67, 50mm and 110mm lenses, and some Kodak Portra 400 film.

On arrival I found that I had left my tripod at home – duh !

I did have a monopod in the car, and combined with the Portra 400 that gave some flexibility, although I wouldn’t be able to shoot in the darker sections of the woods.

RZ67, Portra 400 , Howick, 16

RZ67, Portra 400, Howick, 1

Chinese red birch


RZ67, Portra 400 , Howick, 12

RZ67, Portra 400 , Howick, 11

I took a route which was new to me, which follows on from the arboretum towards the coast. As I approached the coast, at high tide, the waves were roaring and surging, marking a sudden change in the environment.

RZ67, Portra 400, Howick, 10

The trees adjacent to the beach seemed quite unusual to me.

RZ67, Portra 400, Howick, 7

The prize was this view of Rumbling Kern, the rock formations near to Earl Grey’s bathing house. This particular spot gave a good angle and I plan to return to try for “better” lighting.

More from the Fujifilm GA645Zi – TMax 100 rated at EI 200

Following on from my initial review of the Fujifilm GA645Zi, I continue to be delighted by the camera. One of the things which strikes me when I take a film from this camera out of the developing tank is the consistency of the negatives – no frame spacing problems and consistent exposures provided by the automatic exposure system. The auto-focussing has worked well too.

I have about 15 rolls of Kodak TMax 100 in stock but I was concerned about using the film in the GA645Zi in case the relatively slow maximum aperture of the lens – f4.5 at the widest end, which I use most – gave problems with a slow film.  I decided to try gently pushing the film, at first to ISO200, and see how that went.

The developing information for Kodak TMax Developer gives exactly the same time for either ISO 100 or 200, which is handy in case I want to develop two films at once with those different speeds. I usually develop using a Jobo Processor and the recommended time at 24 degrees C is 6m15s; however as this was film number 5 developed from 1 litre of 1+4 solution, I followed the recommendation to add 1 minutes for films 5 through to 9.

The first image is from Tynemouth Market – I only took one image that day as I visit regularly and don’t feel the need to take lots of image on every visit.


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Location: Dunstanburgh

Dunstanburgh in Northumberland is a location that needs no introduction for UK landscape photographers … so I’m not going to give one. All of the images below were taken near, or on, a rock feature called Greymare Rock, shown on the Google Map embedded below. The rock is at it’s most photogenic when it’s half-covered in water – about two hours below full tide. As usual with rocks, working when the tide is going out is much, much safer than working on an incoming tide – particularly since the surrounding “canonball” rocks are notoriously slippy and could break an ankle.

Canon T90 and Fuji Velvia 50

Canon T90 and Fuji Velvia 50

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First thoughts on the Fujifilm GA645Zi

Christmas 2014 made me the pleased recipient of a Fujilm GA645Zi. Thanks Santa; it’s amazing how you always know just what I want !


Now that I’ve had the chance to run a few films through, it’s time to pass on my thoughts about the camera. To put this into context, I should state where this camera fits into the kevinphotographer ecosystem.

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