Rewind: Return to Galloway — The Dungeon Hills

Posted on Saturday, 17th March 2012

I keep saying it, but I’ve been terrible over the last year or so at keeping up to date with processing and posting my photos, and writing about them.

Finally, I’ve finished sorting out the photos from my August 2011 return trip to Galloway Forest Park — prompted by planning a trip to the Isle of Arran this Easter. We’d actually originally intended to go to the Isle of Arran for the August Bank Holiday. However, due to a lack of planning, we decided at the last minute to return to Galloway, with the challenge of walking the Dungeon Hills range — from near Loch Doon, to Loch Dee — in a day. We’d planned to do this on our previous trip to Galloway Forest Park, but due to weather and tardiness, had abandoned the idea. I took my Canon EOS 450D with EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS lens and my Manfrotto tripod (which didn’t get used!).

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Dove Stone Reservoir

Posted on Saturday, 4th February 2012

I woke up this morning and Tweeted “What to do today?”. I decided I would sit down and sort out some of the backlog of photos on my hard drive. Then it started snowing. Then it started snowing even heavier. So I decided to head for the hills — probably not terribly wise when the car is due a service. I was going to head to Saddleworth Moor, but the visibility was really poor, so I wasn’t going to get any beautiful fresh snow landscapes. A quick survey of my OS map had me heading for lower ground at Dove Stone Reservoir. (The above image is actually looking north from the weir to Yeoman Hey Reservoir).

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Stargazing — As Seen on TV!

Posted on Sunday, 22nd January 2012

Last week saw the return of the BBC’s Stargazing LIVE, three days of live shows celebrating “the wonders of our night sky”. After an after work meal, I returned home to catch the end of the main show and the “Back to Earth” Q&A show. Fortunately, the sky over Manchester was clear, with no clouds and little haze (a rare event). So, with a little inspiration from the show I set-up the camera on my balcony to take a startrail facing north.

I’ve tried to take startrails of this view a few times before, but they’ve never really turned out. This one came out ok!

It isn’t my greatest star trail, and there’s a lot of light pollution*, but I thought it was good enough to upload to Flickr, and add to the Stargazing LIVE Flickr Group on Tuesday evening after I’d been to the pub.

Watching the show again on Wednesday, I was pleasantly surprised to hear my name read out by comedian John Bishop, as my photo was featured on the show!

(* I experimented with pulling the white balance back, but with it dragged too far the lights in the foreground looked wrong, the greens looked weird, and the balcony looked unrealistic. Dragging it back just a little left the whole image looking a bit drab. So, I decided to leave the orange cast pretty much as it was.)

Rivington Pike Stars

Posted on Monday, 7th November 2011

My posts are getting a little out of order because I have been lazy about processing my photos and uploading them to various places. I’ve been back to Galloway since I started this blog, and I recently returned from Amsterdam. In fact, I even have a hard drive full of photos from Spain, last Christmas, that I have not fully processed! Posts about those trips will come, eventually.

This post, however, is another star-trails image. This time taken last night (Sunday, 8th November, 2011) at a place called Rivington Pike, near Horwich, Lancashire.

The weather forecast had predicted a clear night, so I headed out with my camera gear, a headtorch, the book I was reading, and five layers of thermal clothing. The drive up the hill got a little scary — the road/track really wasn’t suitable for a regular car. At one point, I had to reverse back up a very narrow dirt track part when I realised I was approaching a step I would never get up. Instead, I had to brave the rougher, bumpy and rocky track. I parked-up and took the short but steep ascent to the tower at the top of the hill.

I checked out a couple of angles before settling on the one above. I wanted to get some of the urban light from below. Moonlight was going to be too much of a problem in my first chosen angle back towards Bolton and Manchester, so I chose a view further out west.

About halfway through the exposure, I heard some approaching vehicles and then saw them on the track below, in the distance. As they approached and the track disappeared from view below the hill, I put down my book and I walked out a little to see if I could see them. Imagine my surprise when a set of headlights crested the brow and came right at me! The group weren’t expecting anyone else up here, and I wasn’t expecting any visitors — especially Range Rovers! As a result of the cars’ lights, I had some glare and background impressions that I had to mask out of the final image, but the illumination of some of the foreground was quite nice so I left it in.

Anyway, here are some more details about the image:

  • Lens: Sigma 10-20mm EX DC HSM f/4-5.6 @ 11mm
  • Exposure: 117.5 mins (235 x 30s, stacked)
  • Aperture: f/8
  • ISO: 400
  • Light: Starlight. Moonlight. Range Rover headlights. Tower painted by a few blasts of a Canon 580EXII at 1/16 power.
  • Stacked in StarStaX for Mac

New Bike!

Posted on Wednesday, 12th October 2011

I started a new job earlier this year and, due to my office’s location, commuting by car is no longer the cheapest or most convenient method. So, with my new employer being a member of Cyclescheme — a scheme where you effectively get a tax-free, cheaper, bike by paying for it out of your salary before tax deductions — I decided to start commuting by bicycle.

The other option (which I have been using for the last three months), is public transport: Manchester’s (in)famous Metrolink. The Metrolink is both (very) expensive (£3.20 £3.50 a day!) and unreliable. I suspect my cycle commute will also be faster.

For some strange reason, my employer only opens Cyclescheme applications (and applications for other benefits) every three months. Then, they don’t issue the vouchers for six weeks. So after getting a quote, reserving my bike, and putting in my application at the start of September,

I finally received my voucher yesterday and picked up my new steed tonight from Harry Hall Cycles of Manchester.

My new bike, a Specialized Hardrock Pro Disc

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Startrails in Galloway

Posted on Saturday, 18th June 2011

Spin Me Round — by Ross Harper

I recently got the opportunity to try my hand at making a startrail image, something I had wanted to try for a while. The result is the above image. One of the main problems faced when attempting any kind of long-exposure photography at night is light pollution. With all the light sources in towns and cities, the sky takes on a familiar orange glow. I figured that balancing the light pollution with the stars could be tricky, at least when trying to get lots of stars, including the dimmer ones, in the picture.

When I read the news that Galloway Forest Park had become the UK’s first Dark Skies Park I decided that it would be a great place to go to try this technique. The Dark Skies status means that, within the park, there is very little light pollution from surrounding light sources, resulting in near total darkness — perfect conditions for star-gazing.

Several months passed, and I had not yet planned a trip. Then, one night, in the pub, a friend and I decided to go wild camping. We were in Galloway for three nights but only the second night of the trip provided the clear skies necessary for star trails. I was chuffed to bits that it happened on the night we were camping at a location called “Fore Starr” — a ruined old building.

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Wild Camping in Galloway Forest Park

Posted on Saturday, 18th June 2011

I started writing this as a post about startrail photography, but my verbosity got the better of me and I ended up at about 2000 words — mostly describing the trip. So I decided to split the posts and do one dedicated to our wild-camping trip so that I could keep the photography post more focussed….

One night, a friend (the guy pictured in the images) and I were in the local pub, several pints into the evening, and we started discussing a hypothetical wild-camping trip. We decided there and then to take a trip to Galloway Forest Park, where we could hike across the remote wilderness and camp where we wanted thanks to Scotland’s access laws.

I had another motivation for choosing Galloway: that it was a Dark Skies park and I wanted to attempt some startrail photography (more on that in the next post!).

After weeks of planning and preparation, we set off into the hills of the Southern Uplands from the car park by Loch Trool. For our first day, we planned a route to Merrick, the highest mountain in the Southern Uplands at 843m. We would walk the long way around, via lochs between The Range of The Awful Hand and the southern end of The Dungeon Hills — they all sound very imposing, dont they? Finally, we would ascend Merrick via Redstone Rig and press on a short way to set up camp for the night between the peaks of Merrick and Kirrereoch Hill.

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Entering the Blogosphere

Posted on Saturday, 14th May 2011

Hello, World

Well, I’ve been meaning to re-vamp my website and actually put some content on it for quite some time now. A number of years, actually. So here it is. My entry into the Blogosphere.

With a history of web applications development, I had always thought I would create my own bespoke website using cutting-edge server-side technologies. However, several projects were started, deferred, and ultimately aborted. Basically, I was too busy with life to dedicate time to writing a content management system from scratch. So, this time around I decided to simply get going using some off-the-shelf blog software. Enter WordPress.

I became familiar with WordPress — well, more familiar than simply viewing other WordPress blogs — whilst helping a friend set-up her own photography blog (she has some nice prints on there, check it out: We’d whittled the options down to the ascending trendy Tumblr, and the wildly popular WordPress. Ultimately, the flexibility of WordPress won for both of us.

So what is this blog all about?

Well, I guess to answer that, a little about me: I’m a Software Engineer from the UK. One of my main hobbies is Photography. I usually use my web presence to present my photography and so that is probably what this blog will mainly contain. The odd tech and travel post might creep in too.

Why now?

A few friends have asked me when I was going to do something with my website, and when I was going to start presenting my photography on the web. The catalysts, however, have been helping my friend with her blog, and another friend, a successful photographer, asking me to write a guest post on macro photography for his own blog (more on that in a later post). So I decided to get going with my own blog.

Anyway, here it is.

Hopefully I will get some interesting content up here. Hopefully people will be able to follow my scatterbrained writing style — I tend to write how I think, hence many tangentials, like this one. You may see the style of the blog change over the coming months as I try out different themes, and maybe, ultimately, create my own.