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Alphabet Challenge - I is for Industry

There were two goals in mind when I set myself the "Alphabet Challenge" back in January. The first was to create a series of images that I could put into book, which would document my photographic journey through 2023. The second and most important one, was to ensure that I made the effort to get our with the camera all the way through the year. You see, during the months when it get light at silly o'clock in the morning, it also coincides with everything usually being green and the water levels in our rivers and streams very low. In previous years, I have never really been that enthusiastic about this time of year.

Life, has been very busy over the past few weeks and I have been very conscious that I needed to crack on with the challenge. I have no doubt that I will get it done by the 31st December, but the whole point is take images regularly and to think about what I am going to do. There were a number of opinion available for I and, I had debated heading into the Yorkshire Dales to take some images of Ingleborough ( Yorkshire's highest peak), however I settled on Industry. Before setting out, I had a vision that I wanted to be able to capture both the new and old, with that in mind, I pointed the car North and headed towards Teeside and Hartlepool.

First stop was just north of Hartlepool at Steetley Pier. This is a venue that I have visited on quite a few occasions and despite getting some decent images in past, I have always left a bit disappointed that I hadn't managed to an image, that I was really proud of. Probably the biggest reasons for this, were that I had never really had great light and also I had visited when the tide was either ebbing or indeed was at its lowest. Two big tips for you here then, go when there is a decent forecast and also when the tide is in!

Steetley Pier is a 2000 foot long pier that was built in the 1960's. It was built to pump sea water which was needed to react with Dolomite which in turn then produced Magnesia. Magnesia was used producing hard bricks that were used to line steel furnaces. Steetley happened to be in the perfect location as it has plenty of salt water, the area had deposits of Dolomite and then there was a local coal for the now long gone kilns and steel works. When this industry fell into decay, there was no longer the need to the salt water and the pier became redundant. in 2005 a section of it was removed to stop people walking or fishing from it, as there are large holes, which apparently people can and did fall though in the dark!

Despite its wooden structure, it is still standing proud, although how long that will last for is anyones guess. It does make a great subject to photograph and usually you will find plenty of people there. It is a well documented location in the landscape photography world and many people go for very long exposures to totally flatten the sea off and make a minimalist and fine art image. This morning, I had the whole place to myself, I never saw a sole from the minute I arrived until when I left 90 minutes later. You see there are some benefits of arriving at 4am! Parking is very convenient, as over the past few years a lot of housing has sprung up in the area. You literally park in an estate, just be mindful that people will be sleeping and that you don't park on their drives. From the car, it is only a 2 minute walk to the beach and pier.

There are an abundance of compositions to be found. The pier is obviously your main focal point but there is a lot of foreground interest to be found. Just have a wander around and try to find something unique. As you have probably guessed, you will need a tripod for this location, to smooth the sea then you will need either a 6 or 10 stop ND, A grad will help take any hot spots out of the sky and as ever a polarising filter is always handy. All of the above images were shot with a 24-70mm lens at different focal lengths and my aperture was between f11 and f16. Shutter speeds were 0;3 second up to 4 minutes.

The rest of the morning was spend taking images from south of Hartlepool to the north bank of the River Tees. This area is full of opportunities and I have only just started scratching the surface of it. I did toy with the idea of running a weekend workshop in this area last year which would focus on Industry. Following this mornings adventure then it was something that I am keen to add to the calendar. Let me know if you would be interested. Believe it or not, this area is also great for the wildlife photographer. The RSPB have a site at Saltholme. in the winter many migratory birds can be found. Between the reserve and the power station there are a couple of areas where you can park up and viewing areas have been built. It isn't uncommon to see Seals on the mud flats when the tide is out. Heavy industry dominates the landscape and as I have mentioned the potential to find unique images seems to be limitless. I drove past a number of pipelines this morning and whilst I didn't stop off at any, I image that there would make amazing leading lines.

Coming out of Saltholme, if you turn right then you will see the world famous Transporter Bridge that crosses the River Tees. Sadly the bridge is no longer in use, but it dominates the skyline and makes for a great image. You can get up close and personal with the Transporter bridge by following the road and you can park right next to it. It is about a 5 minute drive from Saltholme. This part of the Tees is tidal and different compositions reveal themselves during different stages of the end and flood. Old moorings dot the river banks and make interesting foregrounds with the bridge in the background. However, do be careful on the mud flats as it is easy to get stuck or loose a welly. You can also drive onto the South Bank of the Tees and again park very close to the bridge. There are usually some old boats moored which with a very wide angle lens, you can include in your image. My final image of the morning was taken from next to the Transporter Bridge and is looking across the river. To me, it sums up the morning and what I wanted to achieve perfectly, To the left hand side there is the old; disused and abandoned warehouses, with modern factories behind. To the left we have shipping containers, which arrived on large ships, who knows what they contain. What I do know is that from the Tees to Steetley Pier, the area offers the landscape photographer something very different and one which I would very much encourage you to visit,

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