I have driven past Raby Castle in County Durham many times, on occasions I have even seen the Deer that roam the grounds of castle close to the road, yet I have never actually visited.
There were lots of places that I could have gone to get the D part of the Alphabet Challenge completed, however this was too good an opportunity to miss and I am so pleased that called in.
There is a small entry fee to the grounds and I believe that it may also entitle you to go into the Castle when it is open. I have to admit that I was surprised at how many Deer there actually are and they seem to be very comfortable being photographed. I am not sure if they restrict access during the rutting season and looking at the size of some of the stags antlers, I certainly wouldn't want to get too close!
All of the images that I took were taken with a Canon R5 and a RF 100 - 500mm L lens. Auto focus was turned on along with animal eye detection and continuous tracking. The weather wasn't very kind but it hardly mattered as the Deer were not particularly active which allowed for much slower shutter speeds and kept the ISO down., I never really got above 800 ISO and the R5 can handle that without any problems at all.
The Castle itself isn't easy to photograph as there are lots of single trees scattered about which, whilst beautiful and would look amazing on a foggy day, are all in the wrong place! Very poorly thought out, when they were planted 100's of years ago. If only there gardener had had the insight to think that one day, people would visit the grounds with a magic box that takes real life paintings. :) Try as I might, I could not find an image that worked and was balanced. It wasn't until I drove past Raby again on the way home that an image opened itself up to me. I didn't really have the time to get all of the camera gear out but the trusty iPhone 14 pro seemed to do the trick quite well. The image below was taken from the side of the road, just outside the grounds. Thankfully there is a handily placed lay-by to park in.
If you want to do a spot of easy wildlife photography or indeed test out a new camera or lens then I can highly recommend paying Raby a visit.
A little further up the Tees Valley is High Force and Low Force waterfalls. I have to admit that I had never heard of Low Force before, so a big thank you must go to the owners of Rumours coffee shop who told me all about it. If you are ever in Middleton - in -Teesdale then pay them a visit, the Carrot Cake is amazing.
You can gain access to High Force Waterfall by parking next the to High Force Hotel and paying the £5 entry fee to walk down to the falls. I have to be honest, whilst it is great to look at the waterfall, from a photography perspective then it doesn't really work. Granted you can shoot it at a long focal length but then it just becomes another waterfall. There are plenty of large boulders to create foreground interest, but you will need to shoot really wide and as a result you loose the scale of the waterfall. If you do walk on the rocks then just be careful as you go as they are very slippy. The High Force Hotel has undergone a refurbishment in recent years and is very welcoming. The food is superb, great value for money and the service is equally as good.
About 2 miles from the hotel, back down the valley is the hamlet of Bowlees. There are a couple of places to park which gives access to Low Force. Now this area is full of photographic potential! Once again, my time was limited, however I will defiantly be returning here. The falls are much more photogenic. There is a little suspension bridge that gives access to the far side of the River Tees where you can walk back up it to High Force and from where I am sure much better compositions can be found.
In an around Low Force there are a series of waterfalls, great rocks for the foreground, a mixture of ever green and deciduous trees and plenty more besides. The light wasn't great but, I image its pretty spectacular during a good sunrise or sunset. The photo that I am sharing with you was taken about half a mile upstream of the water falls. Once again be very careful of the rocks as they are slippy.
With this area being so far up the Tees Valley there are only a few villages and hamlets. As such there will be very little light pollution which could make this area amazing for some dark sky photography. Fingers crossed, I will be able to bring you some of those images during the course of 2023.