Starlings Masterclass


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April 2009 |

My assignment this month took me right to the Yorkshire border in wild country above Mallerstang. For some while I had thought I should, in the spirit of a pilgrimage, climb to the source of the River Eden. I knew I was going to find the long trudge testing and, like any true penitent, I was well and truly on my knees towards the end. En route I had gazed into the depths of the dark rocky chasm, befittingly called Hellgill. Then I toiled along the faint path above Hellgill Beck (only later does it become the Eden) to reach the trackless peat hags and great dreary morasses of Black Moss. As I struggled ever upwards I suffered from a dark night of the soul - this was after all, Easter week. The stream dishearteningly continued, oozing through endless marshy pools. I honestly wondered would I ever reach the top? And then, ah relief, Lady Anne’s Pillar marking the source, suddenly appeared as a welcoming beacon on the horizon. I struggled up to it, blessed the redoubtable Lady Anne, had a bar of chocolate and started to relish some of the best views I’ve seen in a long time. By contrast my return in late evening sunshine, at ease along a broad path via Hugh Seat, was sheer heaven. Larks, curlews, lapwings, grouse and golden plover were my companions. And what I hadn’t expected was the brilliance of the rock scenery along Mallerstang Edge, with its pillars and cliffs reminiscent of High Cup Nick.

The easy return, looking south with Ingleborough and Whernside in the distance. An east wind was softening the light, bringing a haze that in general had been irritating. But the resulting soft glow at sunset was compensation. I used a tripod, though I think I could probably just have got away with hand holding this shot. The mirror lock and a cable release all help to give maximum sharpness.

Lady Anne’s Pillar, marking the source of the Eden on the Yorkshire/Cumbria boundary. Rich though the light is, I would have far preferred a more interesting sky. Early morning or late evening light all help – to be honest though, it isn’t that fascinating a photographic subject. I used my tripod to support my Nikon D200 with the 17- 55mm zoom.

The dramatic cliffs along Mallerstang Edge are brilliant, and I do need to return in better light to get optimum photos This rich light is gorgeous, but the rocks need something that gives them more definition. I love the very flat top, with the abrupt drop. I used my tripod to support my Nikon D200 with the 17- 55zoom, setting the ISO to 100 for best results.

Looking into the depths of Hellgill. This gorge is so narrow that Dick Turpin reputedly leapt across it on his horse while being chased by police. However getting down into it to take photos as an ordinary mortal would be tricky, and I had to compromise on this occasion by seeing what I could do from the top looking under the bridge. My neighbour offers to abseil me down on a rope. However, it’s not the getting down I’m so bothered about as the getting out again! This photo was taken from an awkward position, with one arm firmly wrapped around an overhanging sturdy tree and the other hand jamming the camera against it to keep it steady. Needless to say, I didn’t bother with a tripod! I upped the ISO to 320 for more shutter speed, (a just workable 1/8th second.) An aperture of f 9 allowed just enough depth of field for the shot to work.