There hasn't been much snow this winter, but as seems to be the way in recent years. we get a cold snap in March which always transforms the landscape. This weeks change in the weather, was certainly very welcome, from an Alphabet Challenge perspective as I wanted to get "E" completed before heading up to Norway next week to run a workshop.
The Cleveland Hills on the North York Moors and more specifically the Wainstones are not too far from where I live and with the evenings a lot lighter now, they seemed to be the ideal place to go for a hike with the camera. You can access this area in a couple of ways. The easiest way, is by parking on the side of the B1257 at the top of Clay Bank, where you can either walk straight up the steep face or traverse around the bottom of the cliffs and then pick your way up through the rocks. The second way is to park at Loadstones car park and then you can walk back towards the Wainstones, although this will take you a good hour or so. Having spent so much time in the gym over winter, I parked at Clay Bank and went straight up the face. This route will only take you about 20 minutes and it isn't a technical hike, just make sure you have good footwear. Obviously with a foot of snow on the ground, it proved to be slightly more challenging but nothing to really worry about. I did take the precaution though of putting some crampons in the bag and my climbing helmet, more so as a precaution for coming back down as, I knew it would be a lot icier and I didn't want any accidents with the Norway trip so close. Once you reach the top, you end up on a very flat plateau and from there it is simply a question for following the path (if its not covered in snow) to the top of the Wainstones.
I had an hour so to kill before sunset, so I wasn't in any great rush, so looked for compositions on the way over. With the sun still being fairly high, it made finding compositions quite tricky as the light made even brighter by the reflected light off the snow. I have always found that a good quality polarising filter in vital in conditions like this. It helps to take the shine of any wet rocks, but more importantly it makes the sky very blue which helps with the overall look of the image.
You can't really miss the Wainstones when you follow the path, if you do, you have either walked through the heather or indeed you have fallen off the top of them! There is a path down through the rocks, which then allows you to follow the route over the res of the Cleveland Hills or indeed back or towards Lordstones if this is your destination. From a photography perspective, especially at this time for year, then at sunset you will be shooting directly into the sun. My idea for yesterday, was to stay at the top of the stones and look for compositions, that would have a unique feel about them. Obviously, it always helps after there has had been a decent amount of snow, as the landscape, especially in the foreground will always be slightly different due to the direction of the wind when the snow falls.
Just a quick word on safety. Always be really careful when taking photos, when there has been a decent amount of snow. You really do need to know the area well. What may look like solid ground could quite easily be a snow bridge with a big drop below. You don't want to be falling through, getting stuck, having to be rescued or even worse. Take a look at the image above, it may appear to be safe to walk though the gap in the rocks, but had I done so, I might not be writing the blog! The other point about the photographing in the snow, is that you must treat in in the same way that you do when you are on a beach. Don't just go walking around anywhere and everywhere. Once your footprints are there, you can't get rid of them ( well I guess you can in photoshop but do you want to go to all that effort ! ) so always have a look around and think what you might want to include in your compositions.
I have to say, once the sun had finally dropped below the horizon, the early blue hour light was just stunningly epic. It was totally complemented by the pastel colours in the sky and really rounded off a great couple of hours. Once, I had finished taking photos, it was such a wonderful experience, being totally alone on the top of the hills, watching the light fade and having a well deserved cuppa. Moments like this, are totally priceless in my opinion and from a personal point of view, I always seem to come alive and feel totally at home in environments like this. The walk back down to the car, should only have really taken 30 minutes, but I kept on lingering to admire the sheer beauty of this place. In the end the steepest section of the hike was completed in total darkness, but yet again there is something very magical about hearing your footsteps on the snow and your route illuminated by the head torch.