A Winter’s Morning at Bradgate Park, January 2012

Here’s a few shots from a recent early morning visit to Bradgate Park in Leicestershire.

Looking back from the “Old John” Folly, Bradgate Park, Leicester, January 2012

There’s been some lovely winter sun over the last two weeks.  This is not exactly typical  for January in Northamptonshire which is often grey and rather depressing.  Unfortunately for me, most of the winter sunshine has occurred during the week, when I am at work, and the last two weekends were quite disappointing.

Fallow Deer, Bradgate Park, Leicester, January 2012

Last weekend the forecast was for clear frosty nights and fine sunny days so with this in mind I decided to get up early on Sunday morning and head up to Bradgate Park which is roughly an hour’s drive from my house.

A frosty morning for runners and walkers, Bradgate Park, Leicester, January 2012

It was certainly a cold and frosty morning, but somebody forgot to order the sun and a blanket of grey cloud covered the sky for almost all my visit.  I don’t mind cloudy conditions in general, especially when taking people pictures, in fact cloudy-bright is perhaps my favourite lighting for outdoor portraits.

A rocky outcrop, Bradgate Park, Leicester, January 2012

However, I was disappointed not to see the sun on this occasion as I had purposely made the journey up to Leicestershire specially to take advantage of the winter sun that had been a feature of the preceding week.

Fallow deer grazing near “Old John”, Bradgate Park, Leicester, January 2012

Never mind, here are my photos of the frost, the park and the deer.  I still enjoyed my visit as I always do here.  There’s nothing nicer than setting out up the climb to the Old John folly at Bradgate, camera and monopod in hand, never quite knowing where the deer will be and what opportunities there will be to photograph them.

Young male fallow deer, Bradgate Park, Leicester, January 2012

Unlike last time when it was rutting season, I managed to get quite close to the deer this time, and they seemed oblivious to my presence for the most part, which was ideal.  I also looked for other photo opportunities while I was there, including the many runners and walkers who frequent the park, some of which I have included here.

Close-up of fallow deer head and antlers, Bradgate Park, Leicester, January 2012

To see more of my photos from Bradgate Park over the last 12 months, please check out my gallery here.

Geoff

Grey Seal Pups at Donna Nook, December 2011

As this is my first blog post of 2012, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy and healthy new year.

As some of you will know, I was born in Lincolnshire and the majority of my family still live there, even though I now live in Northamptonshire with my daughter Sophie.  It is always a great pleasure for us to spend Christmas over near Lincoln with my brother and sister-in-law, Alan and Helen.

Young grey seal pup laying on its back

Every year, during the holidays, we try to fit in a visit to one or more of the many attractions in the area although last year was an exception as I managed to catch the flu during my stay which spoiled any plans we had.

Adult female (cow) seal with its young pup

This year I managed to avoid any bugs and we took the opportunity to visit the grey seal colony at Donna Nook, near North Somercotes on the Lincolnshire coast.  This was not the first time we had been to see the seals there, we first went there during the Christmas holidays in 2007.

Young grey seal pup showing off its rear flippers

Over the past few years, Donna Nook has attracted visitors from all over the country to see the grey seals who have chosen this particular stretch of beach to give birth to their pups.  During the peak season, from early November to mid December, up to 1,000 female seals (cows) and their young pups can be seen from the special viewing area.

Young grey seal pup looking alert and showing off its webbed hind feet (flippers)

Adult males (bulls) tend to stay further up the beach, away from the public area, but can still be seen and photographed, albeit with a longer lens.  For this trip, I had my trusty  Canon EF 80-200mm F/2.8L with me, together with my EOS 5D Classic.  This has been a terrific lens for me over the years but perhaps a little short for this subject at times, although the seal pups do venture surprisingly close to the double picket fence that separates them from the viewing public.

Young grey seal pup has found something to play with

When they are newly born, the seal pups are covered in white fur and appear somewhat “deflated” by a beanie toy with insufficient beans to fill it.  During the next 3 weeks, they feed on their mother’s milk which is 10 times richer than cow’s milk and soon start to put on weight, giving them that oh-so-cute rounded look that we all love.

This seal pup has its white baby fur on one side, and new grey fur on the other

After about three weeks, the mothers will return to the main seal colony further out to sea, to feed and to get their strength back.  The seal pups, meanwhile, will start to lose their white fur which is replaced by the much shorter haired grey speckled coat that you see here.

The foreground pup has lost its baby fur while the younger pup in the background waves to its fans!

By the time the pups are about 6 weeks old, they are strong and confident enough to leave the beach where they were born and at high tide they will swim out to join the others in the main seal colony, which lives for large parts of the year on sand banks further out to sea.

This young seal has lost its baby fur and will soon join the main colony out at sea

I have posted some more photos from our day on my website here.  I shall also be posting some of my photos from 2007 in due course, including the one shown below which I titled “Bashful Seal” and which recently won the “digital image of the year” competition for 2011 at Desborough and Rothwell Photographic Society.

"Bashful Seal"

If you are planning to visit the seals at Donna Nook, remember the best time of year is from early November to mid December.  The best days to visit are during the week if you can, as the public viewing area and adjacent car parks get very busy at weekends during the peak season.

Have a great 2012!

Geoff

Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door – A Walk Along The Jurassic Coast

I thought I would share some more photos taken on my recent holiday in Dorset.  This time I will be taking you up and over the coastal path from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door.

Lulworth Cove - A wide-angle view of the bay

Lulworth Cove is a natural phenomenon formed over hundreds of thousands of years.  The cove, which is almost circular in shape, was formed because softer clays just behind the shoreline eroded faster than the Portland Limestone that forms the cliffs at the entrance to the bay.  The faster erosion of this soft clay, with harder chalk cliffs behind it, is responsible for the impressive shape of the cove – one of the finest examples of such a feature in the world.

Lulworth Cove - Close-up of the beach

The two photos above were taken from roughly the same place up on the grassy slopes overlooking the bay.  The wide-angle shot shows the view at the wide end of my 17-35mm zoom.  Even at 17mm on my full-frame Canon 5D, I was struggling to get in all of the cove.  Using such a wide-angle lens also distorts the view somewhat as I was considerably closer to the bay than appears from this shot.  By comparison, the close-up shot of the beach was taken at the long end of my 55-200mm zoom.

"Lulworth Cove is a magnet for geology students from all over the world"

Lulworth Cove is a magnet for geology students from all over the world.  The photo above taken in the nearby “Stair Hole” shows an example of limestone folding caused by movements in the Earth’s crust millions of years ago.  It also gives an idea of what Lulworth Cove itself would have looked like in its infancy thousands of years ago.

Looking back towards Lulworth Cove from the coastal path

In 2001, this stretch of coastline was granted World Heritage status by UNESCO.  The coastal path heading West towards Durdle Door climbs steeply from the visitor centre and car park at Lulworth.  My daughter Sophie and I took several breaks as we headed up the chalky path.  My excuse was that I wanted to stop to take in the views, nothing at all to do with being out of breath!

Looking West towards Durdle Door and the Jurassic Coast

The rewards for our efforts were spectacular views along the Jurassic Coast.  As we finally made it to the summit and the path levelled out we caught our first sight of Durdle Door, not the arch at this stage but the huge hunk of Portland Limestone from which it is formed.

The limestone arch at Durdle Door

Finally, after a quick stop for an ice-cream, we arrived at Durdle Door.  The limestone arch was every bit as spectacular as I had expected it to be.  It’s not easy to convey the scale of it in photographs as the cliff-top location from which I took the shot above is itself massively tall.  However,  a closer look at the foot of the arch reveals a number of young men and teenage boys perched somewhat precariously on the rock waiting their turn to either jump or dive into the water below…

"Tombstoning" feet first at Durdle Door

The act of jumping into the sea from various heights has recently become known as tombstoning.  The practice has been in the headlines recently due to a number of incidents where there was insufficient depth of water to jump or dive into, sometimes leading to serious injury to those taking part.  Diving head-first from a pier would appear to be especially dangerous and should never be attempted under any circumstances.

Diving from the rock at Durdle Door

There appeared to be no such problem with depth of water here, at least not at the time of our visit.  Divers and jumpers alike were encouraged by their freinds and families while entertaining casual onlookers from the beach and cliff top directly opposite.

Durdle Door - View of the beach and the arch looking West

After a very enjoyable time watching the antics on the rock and enjoying the views out to sea, it was time to head back along the path to Lulworth.  I stopped one more time to take in the view looking back along the beach with the arch pointing along the coast towards Weymouth in the far distance.

Looking East from Durdle Door towards Lulworth

We certainly enjoyed our day exploring Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door.  The path from Lulworth was quite tough and steep for inexperienced walkers like us but it was well worth the effort in the end, and the return journey was somewhat easier, starting as we did from the top of the cliffs at Durdle Door.  Our original plan was to go down to the beach for a better view of the arch but in the end we decided to leave that for another day…

More photos from our walk can be found on my website here

Geoff

P.S.  Safety advice for anybody considering “Tombstoning” is available at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) website here

Horses of The New Forest

Just thought I would share a few photos I took on my recent holiday in Dorset.  It was the first time I had visited the area so didn’t really know what to expect.  I had heard about the New Forest Horses of course but what I didn’t appreciate was just how many there would be and how widespread an area they are free to explore.

Lone Horse in the Long Evening Shadows, The New Forest, Dorset

One of the highlights of the week for me was seeing all the horses (and cows and occasionally goats and donkeys) roaming virtually free across large areas of the New Forest.  Drivers need to be on full alert at all times although the horses themselves seem to be oblivious to passing vehicles.

New Forest Horses are free to roam over large parts of the National Park

As anyone who knows me would testify, I am pretty hopeless when it comes to photographing landscapes but put a large brown animal into view and suddenly I have something to point the camera at and use as a focal point around which to compose a (hopefully) pleasing composition.

Grazing Horses in the Long Evening Shadows, The New Forest, Dorset

One thing I have picked up from landscape photographers over the years is the best times of the day to take scenic photos.   Early in the morning (even before sunrise) is one of those times, especially if there is a morning mist as there was in April for my visit to Bradgate Park.

Mother and Foal, The New Forest, Dorset

Then in the evening as the sun goes down and the shadows grow longer, and the light takes on a warm glow, assuming of course that the sun stays out which in my experience it often doesn’t.  So it was that I set out one evening to photograph the horses of the New Forest, not really knowing where to head for, but with a vague idea of the sort of light I was hoping to see.

Lone Horse in the Long Evening Shadows, The New Forest, Dorset

I shall post more photos from my Dorset holiday soon, including my hike from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door on the World Heritage Jurassic Coast.  Meanwhile my New Forest Horses can be seen in higher resolution over on my website.

Geoff

Bradgate Park re-visited: Up close with the Fallow Deer

Last weekend my very good friend Barry and I had an opportunity to go up to Bradgate Park for a couple of hours.  I wanted to show Barry the park as he had never been there  before.  It was a very different morning to the first time I visited the park with Janet.  There was no mist this time around, only a clear blue sky as we made our way into the park.

Young Male Fallow Deer Grazing, Bradgate Park, Leicestershire

At first there was no sign of the deer but as we moved further down the path I spotted what I thought might be a group of Fallow Deer sitting up on the higher ground.  I decided to try to get nearer and to my surprise they didn’t seem bothered by my presence at all as I moved closer.  I managed to get quite a few shots of this group of young males, including the three photos here.

Young Male Fallow Deer Resting, Bradgate Park, Leicestershire

It was great to get so close to these beautiful creatures and the thin veil of cloud that suddenly appeared from nowhere came at just the right time to give me some lovely diffused light for these shots.  I appreciate that some people might not like the amount of vegetation that is obscuring parts of the deer but I’m just happy to have captured them looking relaxed.   Click here to see some more of my photos from Bradgate Park.

Young Male Fallow Deer, Bradgate Park, Leicestershire

This is definitely a place I look forward to visiting again, especially in the autumn and winter.  Just for the record, we also called into Rothley Station for an all-day breakfast (Woof!) before heading back to Leicester to see an exhibition of photography hosted by Leicester and Leicestershire Photographic Society, which included no less than seven of my prints.  A very enjoyable day!

Geoff

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