Embleton Beach - 16mm, f11, iso 100, 0.4 second
Ok, so having grown up near to Alnwick in Northumberland and being deeply proud of my Northumbrian routes, I might be slightly biased; however the title of this blog, isn't misleading. Certainly to me, Northumberland will always be amazing. I am also pretty sure that if you have visited in the past then you will probably be nodding in agreement as you are reading this blog.
I have been waiting to get back with the camera for a good few months and with the covid restrictions that have been in place, I have missed shooting in all of my favourite winter locations. The bank holiday weekend was therefore the ideal opportunity to get back home, catch up with my parents, who still live in Longhoughton and check that the caravan had survived the winter months, no doubt battered by gales, rain, hail and snow from its location on the top of the sand dunes between Alnmouth and Amble. Those of you who know me personally, will know how special the Caravan is to me, having created my earlier childhood memories there, echoing in the footsteps of my father who did exactly the same 30 years prior. Anyway enough reminiscing, onto the photography!
Birling Carrs, 22mm, f11, iso 100, 4 seconds ( taken right outside the caravan door)
By the way, just too mention that all of the photos in this blog, have been taken this weekend.
Tradition dictates that you can't spend a weekend in Northumberland without having fish and chips. You will find many wonderful places to eat in ( when restrictions allow ) or get your takeaway from. For me there is only one place to go. The Harbour Fish Bar in Amble (1 Broomhill Street, Amble, NE65 0AN. 01665 710442) has been serving THE best Fish and Chips for as long as I can remember. There is usually a very long queue, most of whom are locals, which should tell you everything that you need to know about the quality. They are certainly worth the wait. Take them down to the harbour and eat them either in the car which will protect you from the seagulls, who unlike at Whitby, will remain at a respectable distance until you have finished eating if you choose to sit outdoors and watch the world go by.
Amble Pier and Coquet Island - 26mm, f8, iso 100, 25 seconds.
From a photography stance, the harbour offers loads of possibilities at every stage of the tide and in my option works equally as well for the morning blue hour, golden hour and sunrise as it does in the evening. Focal lengths between 16-35mm work really well but don't forget to bring a tripod for those long exposures and a zoom lens in the range of 70-200mm will also work well to compress foregrounds. There is a lot of wildlife around so enthusiasts will also have plenty to shoot, and if you are lucky the you may get a glimpse of a Harbour Porpoise, Dolphin or Seal that are common visitors. There are regular boat trips that will take you on a tour around Coquet Island. www.puffincruises.co.uk At this time of year the island is home an abundance of seabirds who use it bring this years chicks in to the world. You can't land due to the sensitive nature of some of rarest nesting birds including Roseate Terns. Just inland from the harbour you have the River Coquet that leads the eye perfectly to Warkworth Castle which sits proudly above the village.
Coquet Island, 18mm, F8, iso 100, 0.4 second
Moving up the coast, the stretch of beach between Amble and Alnmouth is one of the most unspoilt in all of Northumberland. At the southern end the River Coquet protects the beach and to the North is the River Aln. These natural boundaries, coupled with the lack of roads leading directly to the shoreline, mean that visitor numbers are usually low. The Birling Carrs sit equidistant between the two rivers and the rocks can add some real foreground interest in compositions. The beach works best at sunrise although during the evening and with clear skies you can get some great soft pastel colours. Whilst I didn't take any astro images this weekend, I have shot the Northern Lights, Noctilucent Clouds and the Milkyway on countless occasions from here, although the majority of the North Northumberland Coastline works just as well.
Birling Carrs with Coquet Island and Amble in the background. The pastel colours in the sky are also known as the "Belt Of Venus". 24mm, f11, iso 100, 03 second.
In between Alnmouth and Low Newton there are countless photo opportunities, some of which have been covered in previous blogs that I have written. Whilst I didn't visit any locations this weekend with the exception of the beach at Embleton it is a part of the coastline that is certainly worth the effort to explore with the camera.
Dunstanburgh Castle is an iconic landmark that has been photographed on millions of occasions. You can't pick up a guide book without reading about and seeing photographs of it. If you approach it from the south then you will walk in from Craster and have some amazing views. From the North then the 2 locations that work the best from a photography point of view are either from, what are known locally as the Death Rocks or from Embleton Beach. Check out the blog entry "12 Hours Of Amazement" from January 2020 for more details of Death Rocks. A quick word of warning, the rocks can be very slippy at all times of the year. If it has been frosty then avoid them completely. Walk between the rocks not on top of them and use your tripod as a walking stick. Don't ever be tempted to carry your camera over your shoulder on the tripod as this will probably result in a very expensive slip. Finally unless you know the area very well, the shoot them during a falling tide.
Embelton Beach - 26mm, f10, iso 100, 5th second.
The golden sands at Embleton offer another great view of the Castle. You need to be here very early to get a parking space next to the golf course which then leaves you with about a 5 minute walk. At the end of the beach, a little stream wanders its way over the sand which can be used as a great leading line. See the title image. Once again this area works best as a sunrise location and depending on the time year the castle will either be silhouetted by the sun coming up behind it or side lit. For me the beach photographs at its best when the tide is close to being fully in and the curvature of the bay gives a great leading line into the castle. Wide angle lenses work perfectly and make sure you use filters where needs to get the desired movement in the sea and as the waves recede down the beach. Once again a longer focal length will work well in compressing the image.
Serenity III, 135mm, iso 400, 2o00th second.
I can't tell you how many times I have been out to the Farne Islands over the years and they are somewhere that I will continue to visit and take clients too. This year is different though. You can't land on the Island at the moment due to a dispute between the National Trust and the boat owners. For decades the local boat owners have run the most amazing trips out of the harbour at Seahouses, allowing you to get an up close and personal experience with the seabirds that make the Farne Islands their home at this time of year, (the Puffins will no doubt be the favourite of many and you get the chance to get that iconic image of them flying with their bills filled with sand eels.) However the National Trust are looking to change the way in which landings booked and paid for which has resulted in a lot on consternation and no landings. Thankfully all of the boat owners who run the trips have remained totally united which is great to hear and let's hope that this is sorted out sooner rather than later. As an aside, whilst I am a member of the National Trust, I have been pretty dismayed in the strategy that they seem to be adopting at the moment across the country. Fingers crossed they come to their senses before too long as I fear that public support is waining towards the trust at the moment.
Farne Island Puffin - 360mm, f2.8 iso 400, 4000th second
400mm, f5.6, iso 600, 2000th second.
400mm, f5.6, iso 400,
Guillemot, 200mm, f2,8, iso 200, 4000th second.
Whilst you are unable to land on the Islands, the boat trips are still magical and worth every penny in my opinion. Most of the operators offer different lengths of trips and on Saturday I went for the 2 hour, puffin cruise which cost £25. For years I have been going out with Serenity Farne Island Boat Tours ( www.farneislandstours.co.uk ) and have to say that they are fantastic. The crews on all 3 boats are all so knowledgable and make sure that everyone has a great time, imparting their knowledge freely and readily to all on board. The boats are modern and fast and make ideal platforms for photographing the birds. I would highly recommend booking with them and I look forward to going out with them again this year with clients during the weekend workshops that I have planned for the summer.
Seahouses Lifeboat passing Bamburgh Castle - 400mm, f8, iso 400, 4000th second.
Talking of the weekend workshops, all of the summer ones to Northumberland are unfortunately sold out but I do have 3 places left on the one in October which will be running from the 22nd to 24th. Details are on the workshop page of this website. 2022's weekend workshops to Northumberland have also now been released and I am keeping the prices fixed at £125 per person with no more than 4 people as ever on a workshop.
Bamburgh Castle - 44mm, f8, iso 100, 15 seconds
The most iconic image of Northumberland has to be Bamburgh Castle. Everyone has photographed it and for good reason, it is one of those places that you just have to visit. No wonder then that Which Magazine have just named Bamburgh as the best seaside destination in all of the UK. To get the castle at is best, especially this time of year you are going to need to get out of bed very early. It is worth it though, especially as during the summer months, the castle is side lit by the rising sun which popped up directly over Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands yesterday morning. If there are clouds out to sea and there are a few breaks in them, then the light can be very fleeting. Only 1 minute after I took this photo yesterday, there was no light on the castle at all. The rocks at the northern end of the beach can add some great foreground interest to an image and the little lighthouse is a great subject to photograph the Northern Lights over when they make an appearance.
Warkworth Beach looking towards Amble and Coquet Island
16mm, f11, iso 50, 90 seconds.
So there you have it, my whistle stop tour of some of the best places to photograph on the Northumberland Coast between Amble and Bamburgh. It really is a great place to visit even if you are not a photographer, if you are then it will always be amazing no matter what the conditions.
I couldn't end though without mentioning The Old Boat House on the quayside at Amble. ( https://www.boathousefoodgroup.co.uk/old-boat-house-amble/ ) If you are a seafood lover then you have to pay them a visit. The menu is amazing, food is out of this world and its very reasonably priced too. As a treat then I can highly recommend the seafood platter. You won't need a starter and probably won't have any room for a pudding, especially if you get a portion of twice fried chips to go with it. At the moment you can only sit outside for obvious reasons and booking will is essential. Once restrictions have been lifted then you will be able to sit inside too, but again I would think that you will need to book to reserve your place. They are also doing takeaways at the moment too, I saw someone collect their seafood platter. The thought of getting one of these and having it on the beach has me longing to return, which fingers crossed will be in the next couple of weeks.
Longstone Lighthouse from the beach at Bamburgh just after sunrise.
300mm, f8, iso 50, 10th second.