Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!


20th February 2009

It has been a very grey week in weather terms around where I live and I could do with seeing a spot of sun and blue skies sooner rather than later. Given the times in which we live, the grey onslaught might be seen as a case of pathetic fallacy but we could all do with something to go and cheer us up. I find that I can only take so much grey weather before needing to head off where there is some sun and, though the sun has been trying to break through today, I feel the need for something more substantive. Saying that, the recent mildness, the return of birdsong and the general feeling of spring in the air has been welcome. That’s not to say that the recent cold spell didn’t have its bright spots, but the saying that a change is as good as a rest is what comes to mind.

As it has happened, my two most recent forays into hill country were under largely grey skies. The Cumbrian outing may have had its sunny interludes in the cold, but the mildness of the Irish escapade came with no sun at all and it took a while for the day to brighten up with my Pentax’s metering showing how dark it thought everything was. Speaking of photography, the lack of sun does make it tricky to capture something in the way in which I would like to share with you. The result is that the occasional posting has appeared on here without any photos.

Part of the reasoning for that dates from over a decade ago when I was building the first incarnation of my online photo gallery. Then, all that any search for photos on the web yielded for me were grey day pictures that I didn’t find appealing. The result was that I vowed that sunlit scenes were to be what went on there and I have to say that, apart from the occasional departure, the same thinking rules the roost here too and that’s the way that I’d like to keep things.

That is not to say that concentrating on details found underfoot or ensconced in places where flat grey skies can be excluded will not yield anything. For instance, Torc Waterfall near Killarney in Ireland produced the goods on an otherwise damp and dreich day. The waterfall trick has worked elsewhere for me too, with one cataract allowing me to illustrate a trip report for a walk from Ardlui to Butterbridge utterly devoid of sun last November. No doubt, other details that work well in such diffused light would suffice too.

Thoughts of monochrome photography have sneaked into my mind too. A day that mightn’t be one for capturing colour vistas might yield good black and white vistas. To me, the trick is to ensure that there is enough tonality to carry off the exploit and not every dull day offers that, so the monochrome route is not a panacea for rescuing otherwise gloomy efforts. In fact, I recommend a look at Craig McMaster’s Elements if you want to how much better landscapes look in black and white when there is good light available. Taking colour digital images and converting them to mono like the examples that I have added below (no perfection or greatness is being claimed here) is more involved than merely clicking on the right buttons. Ideally, the photo should have been pre-visualised or planned as a black and white one rather than converting a few and seeing what happens. Of course, there’s no harm having a go at that in a spare moment to see what works and what doesn’t. That can only help develop your monochrome eye anyway and my impression is that there will be more misses than hits before any refinement starts to come on stream.

Loughrigg Fell from Skelwith Fold, Cumbria, England

Oxendale, Great Langdale, Cumbria, England

2009 seems to have got a start with long grey spells and plenty of ice and snow thrown in for good measure. That’s not to say that it hasn’t had its sunny interludes but the precedent of 2004 lingers in my memory. That year is one that I’ll always remember as being one where sunny spells were a rarity and its summer and autumn didn’t help its case, even if the deluges of 2007 and 2008 are perhaps more memorable for some, though that’s not how I’ll remember those (2007 was decent up until the middle of June if I recall correctly). Let’s hope that 2009 brightens up and there’s plenty of time for it to do the deed yet. With all the doom and gloom that surrounds us, it looks like we could do with it.

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