My Top 4 pictures of 2023

Looking back on my photographic year, 2023 was an exciting one and there were several achievements including making the Landscape Photographer of the Year book. Two pictures were featured and these are described in my blog. Therefore I decide to choose four pictures that summed up my activity over the year. I love sunrises and sunsets in the golden hour. I have included a few of my favourite locations including Moor Street Station, Digbeth (including the Custard factory), Normandy Hill in Houlton near Rugby and the Lake District. My photographs have strong themes in the areas of Cityscapes and Street Photography. I do like a good reflection and trying to be different with my pictures. Let us take a look at my selection of photographs.

Sunrise at Birmingham Moor Street offers many street photography opportunities. Arriving early to take a picture of the sunrise, I looked around for a good view. The first London train was about to leave and another commuter train was just leaving. This scene made me think of the KLF song ‘Train to Trancentral’. The man pushing the button to release the doors, the sunrise and the golden train in the distance all came together at once. A very fortunate capture at Moor Street Train Station. (Taken with my iPhone 15)

Sunrise at Moor Street Station, November, 2023
All aboard, all aboard, whoa.

Normandy Hill is near Houlton in Rugby. The area of Hillmorton is nearby and the canal runs along the foot of the hill. The place used to have wireless masts for Rugby radio. The masts have been removed and the remnants of the bases are all that remain. When the conditions are right the hill has spectacular sunrises and sunsets. There are also views of the surrounding Warwickshire countryside. On a barmy night in July, I set up my travel tripod for my Fujifilm X100V. My camera settings were f/11, s 1/250 ISO 160. The sun was setting low and was just on the horizon. I pressed the button and realised that I had capture three people and their dog passing through the picture. The result was pleasing with the line up of the men and the sun outlining the shaggy coat of the dog. The rays of the sun were captured too. The atmosphere of the shot provides a permanent reminder of all the pictures that I have taken on Normandy Hill.

Normandy hill, Houlton, Rugby, July, 2023.
The last rays of summer sun on Normandy Hill.

Our family summer holiday was at Lowfield House in Little Langdale. Arguably, this spot is the heart of the Lake District and is the starting point for several walks. A place I wished to visit was Cathedral Cave, which is a short 45 minute walk from Lowfield House. Cathedral Cave is an impressive chamber. As a former slate quary, the cave is atmospheric with an open window in the wall allowing light into the cavern. There is a large slate cylinder that appears to be supporting the ceiling. There is a pool of water to the back of the cave which provided many reflections allowing one to appreciate the grand space of the cavern. Needless to say, I, like many photographers who visit this place, just wanted to take lots of pictures. The picture of Jim, my son-in-law, at the mouth of the cave proved to be a popular post on Instagram. Taken with the iPhone13.

Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, the Lake District, August 2023
Jim standing at the entrance to Cathedral Cave. The surface water provided suitable reflections.

I spent a delightful Sunday afternoon wandering around Digbeth, Birmingham and came across @mr_h0spitalflip and his friends on the side steps of the Custard Factory. They kindly let me sit in and take a few pictures whilst they were skateboarding on the steps. I knew this was the best picture as soon as I viewed the result on the back of the camera. I was not using a burst on the shutter. Just one picture and I caught the skateboarder in the light doing the “Custard flip”. Taken with the Fujifilm X100v, ƒ/5.6, s 1/500, ISO 640.

Digbeth, Birmingham, October, 2023
The Custard flip

I also found my Top nine from Instagram and these show my most popular posts by the number of likes. The two UKLPOTY pictures feature heavily. There is a picture of Sandy and me. I was also pleased to see the blossom in Oozells square and my trip to the States feature in the high scores. All good fun!

My top 9 instagram posts in 2023.
My Top 9 Instagram posts in 2023.

Links to my Top 4 photographs of 2023. I realise that I do not have a blog about Normandy Hill and I shall write one up in 2024. I have also included my Top 4 ion 2022 for comparison.

Views around Little Langdale, the Lake District, 2023.

Our base for our stay in the Lake District was Lowfield House in Little Langdale. The house was comfortable and spacious with remarkable views of the valley. I have taken the liberty of posting some of the incredible views that have created memories that the family will treasure in future years. The house was central to many local attractions and the ones we took advantage were based around several of the towns and villages in the area. We visited Ambleside, Bowness, Grassmere, Keswick and Hawkshead. Our favourite happened to be Ambleside for the shops and the many activities that could be done around the town including the pretty Lakehead area. I have created several blogs of our time in the Lake District and Lowfield house was central to our holiday. My final blog will be a few views in and around the Little Langdale valley.

Views around Little Langdale, the Lake District, 2023.
A rainbow forms amongst the rain and the sun.
Views around Little Langdale, the Lake District, 2023.
A beautiful day for a walk.
Views around Little Langdale, the Lake District, 2023.
Morning mist on the fells.

The house was excellent and the website provides all the information needed although I will focus on two features that we loved. The red squirrel at the entrance to the house was impressive. This stainless steel statue is heat tarnished to provide a red tint. The first picture is of the statue and the second is how we incorporated the statue into family photographs.

Views around Little Langdale, the Lake District, 2023.
Red Squirrel by Clare Bigger.

The CookCoo clock was a big success. The grandchildren loved it and every time we came close to the hour, they gathered in the kitchen to hear it chime. Last year the swing at Swinmoor House was the feature that the family loved most. This year, the “qoo ckoo” clock took on the same significance.

The qoo ckoo clock is above the Kitchen entrance. (Picture by Katie Morgan)

Here is the family photograph taken on the steps outside the house with the fells in the background.

Views around Little Langdale, the Lake District, 2023.
Family picture on the steps outside Lowfield House.

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Links to the complete series of my blogs around our visit to Little Langdale in the Lake District in August 2023.

Slater's bridge and Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, the Lake District, August 2023

Our holiday base was at Lowfield House in Little Langdale. Arguably, this spot is the heart of the Lake District and is the starting point for several walks. Slater’s bridge and Cathedral Cave are both accessible in a short 45 minute walk from Lowfield House. Setting off from the house we walked past the Three Shires Pub, down a country lane and then over the fields. We quickly reached Slater’s bridge which crosses over the river Brathay. Here the river is more peaceful than Colwith Force further downstream. This bridge is made entirely of slate and dates back to the 17th Century. With the back drop of the valley and the fells on either side, this packhorse bridge was built by miners to transport materials from the nearby mines. Several pictures were taken around the bridge before we headed off to the mines.

Slater's bridge and Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, the Lake District, August 2023
Slater’s bridge showing the walker’s path up to Little Langdale.
Slater's bridge and Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, the Lake District, August 2023
Another view of this wonderful packhorse bridge.
Slater's bridge and Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, the Lake District, August 2023
A picture apportunity on the bridge.

We approached the slate queries where Cathedral Cave is located and missed the accessible entrance. Instead we moved up to the higher ground finding the entrance to the top gallery that looks down on the large chamber. My daughters were not impressed with my photographer’s instinct to get the best view possible. I was not allowed near the edge which was a sheer drop down into the cave. However, I still managed some good pictures of the cave from the rock gallery.

Slater's bridge and Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, the Lake District, August 2023
Entering into the upper part of the cave.
Slater's bridge and Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, the Lake District, August 2023
Jim shines a light in the top gallery with the larger cave behind.
Slater's bridge and Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, the Lake District, August 2023
Rob and Natasha with the beautiful view behind them.

We explored outside looking for the entrance to the chamber. There appeared to be a precarious entrance along the rim of the quarry but after watching some walkers finding the descent difficult in the damp conditions we decided not to follow. I was a little despondent as I would have loved to have found the cave. As Sian and I walked back in front of the others, we found the entrance to the Cave. I should correct myself and say that Sian found the entrance. The group was excited as we entered into the chamber.

Slater's bridge and Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, the Lake District, August 2023
People passing through the cave provide an estimation of scale.
Slater's bridge and Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, the Lake District, August 2023
The central cylinder of slate with other rock deposits reflected in the water within the cave.

I was so pleased to visit the Cathedral Cave. The impressive chamber is very atmospheric with the open window in the wall allowing light into the cave. There is a large slate cylinder that appears to be supporting the ceiling. The pool of water to the back of the cave provides many reflections allowing one to appreciate the grand space of the cavern. Needless to say, I, like many photographers who visit this place, just wanted to take lots of pictures. I hope you enjoy the journey through the series of photographs that I have taken.

Slater's bridge and Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, the Lake District, August 2023
Jim stands at the entrance to the cave.

On the way back we passed by a ford which would be fun to drive through if you had the right type of vehicle. We followed the path home but took a quick stop at the Three Shires Inn where I enjoyed a pint of my favourite beer named after the Old Man of Coniston. The pub is not of the same character as the Sun in Coniston and the only saving feature is the beer.

Slater's bridge and Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, the Lake District, August 2023
The deep ford over the river Blathey

Postscript – We enjoyed the walk so much that we took the grandchildren along the same path. They so enjoyed the bridge and the visit to the cave. They will remember this visit for a long time in the future.

Slater's bridge and Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, the Lake District, August 2023
Walking towards Slater’s Bridge
Slater's bridge and Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, the Lake District, August 2023
Group photograph on the bridge.
Slater's bridge and Cathedral Cave, Little Langdale, the Lake District, August 2023
Performing in Cathedral Cave.

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Links to the complete series of my blogs around our visit to Little Langdale in the Lake District in August 2023.

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Climbing the Old Man of Coniston, Lake District, August 2023

We always plan for countryside walks or mountain climbs for our family holidays. Whilst in Scotland, we climbed Ben Lomond and when in Hereford we travelled to the Welsh border to climb the Cats Back. In the Lakes there are many fells to choose. Initially we thought of Scarfell Pike, but then chose the Old Man of Coniston due to its close proximity to our holiday home (Lowfield House, Little Langdale). This lakeland fell is an old favourite of mine and there are well marked climbing paths to the top. I have done the easier route twice that passes by Goat’s water. We decided to take the direct route that leaves Walna Scar car park taking walkers through Coppermines valley and past Low Water to the north of the mountain.

Climbing the Old Man of Coniston, Lake District, August 2023
The early stages of the climb with Natasha and Rob. Lake Coniston is in the background.
Climbing the Old Man of Coniston, Lake District, August 2023
The weather was poor at the start but the sun is breaking through.
Climbing the Old Man of Coniston, Lake District, August 2023
Dramatic views start to appear as you ascend the mountain.

We set off in driving rain and were getting seriously wet when luckily the weather broke as we reached the Copper Mines. The industrial remnants of the slate quarries and copper mines are now a conversation area. The place is fascinating and lends itself to several photographic opportunities. There are large copper cables to climb over or duck under. The slate miners must have been very hardy workers. I found an article on what life must have been like living and working around Coniston. Whilst on a good day the views are impressive, I would not want to be here during inclement weather. The mines provided a great backdrop for photographs with the mountains in the background.

Climbing the Old Man of Coniston, Lake District, August 2023
Tram tracks at the mine provide leading lines to the view.
Climbing the Old Man of Coniston, Lake District, August 2023
Remains of old industrial equipment.
Climbing the Old Man of Coniston, Lake District, August 2023
More industrial remnants.
Climbing the Old Man of Coniston, Lake District, August 2023
Pulleys used to put the trams
Climbing the Old Man of Coniston, Lake District, August 2023
A welcome rest for Jim, Sian and Rob.
Climbing the Old Man of Coniston, Lake District, August 2023
Slates with a view

Our next stop was the picturesque tarn of Low Water where we saw the cloud line that we would be entering as we continued the climb. The final push to the top was gruelling with the rocks wet and slippery. The path became indistinct in places.

Climbing the Old Man of Coniston, Lake District, August 2023
Jim poses at Low water tarn.

Despite the misty conditions, we reached the top and had a selfie picture by the slate tarn. I brought all my big camera equipment except for the remote release button. The wind was strong and kept knocking the camera and travel tripod over. Luckily a fellow walker was at hand to steady the camera and push the button. Visibility was poor and we decided the best course of action was to go down the way we came up. We quickly came out of the cloud and the views over Lake Coniston appeared before us.

Climbing the Old Man of Coniston, Lake District, August 2023
We reached the summit. Congratulations.
Climbing the Old Man of Coniston, Lake District, August 2023
Return to the mines on the way down.
Climbing the Old Man of Coniston, Lake District, August 2023
One of the climbers we met on the route down.
Climbing the Old Man of Coniston, Lake District, August 2023
Mines and slates.

We did the Old Man in 3 hours 15 minutes which we considered a good time for our climb. We drove down into Coniston. The place to rest and catch up with food and drink is the well known Sun pub. The Sun “above” Coniston, as it is also known, is both warm and welcoming with excellent food and beer. The inside bar area has lots of character including a fireplace were we were able to dry out in front of the fire. Then we settled down to talk about the climb, look at the pictures and enjoy a hearty meal. A visit to the Lakes is not complete without climbing one of the fells and reminiscing on your adventures in the pub.

Climbing the Old Man of Coniston, Lake District, August 2023
The Sun above Coniston.
Climbing the Old Man of Coniston, Lake District, August 2023
The cosy interior of the Sun.
Climbing the Old Man of Coniston, Lake District, August 2023
A ploughman’s lunch washed down with the local beer.

Many thanks for the company of my fellow family climbers Natasha, Sian, Rob and Jim.

________

Links to the complete series of my blogs around our visit to Little Langdale in the Lake District in August 2023.

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Colwith Force, Little Langdale, August 2023

Our family holidays took place at Lowfield House in Little Langdale, the Lake District. I will cover several days out in the area and the first subject of my writing are my photographs of Colwith Force on the river Brathay. The waterfall is hidden in the woods behind the road leading to Little Langdale. There had been a lot of rain the night before and therefore the water was rushing down the river. In the morning, the family took a walk on the road side of the river and then in the afternoon, I crossed the road bridge to follow the woodland path where there were several good viewing points. Safety was the main issue and whilst these pictures look spectacular, I made sure that I was on firm ground and not putting myself or my camera into a dangerous position. These pictures are a mixture of long exposure with and without filters.

Colwith Force, Little Langdale, August 2023
Colwith Force waterfall after the heavy rain.
Colwith Force, Little Langdale, August 2023
The water flow slowed down by long exposure.

Settings with camera body Canon 5D Mark IV
Cover Picture – lens EF24-70mm f/2.8L, f/16, 2secs, ISO100
Picture 2 – lens EFLens EF 16-35mm, f/11, 20secs, ISO100 – Lees Little Stopper
Picture 3 – lens EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, f/11, 120secs, ISO100 – Lees Big Stopper

______________

Links to the complete series of my blogs around our visit to Little Langdale in the Lake District in August 2023.

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