Winter-misted Hills

Beyond our neighbours’ frosted washing lines,
Their silvered slates and chimney-pots,
Our borderland begins …
Make what you can of it, for no one knows
What story’s told by winter-misted hills.

Douglas Dunn – Northlight 1988

Fawcett Hill

Looking west from Fawcett Hill

Towards Beaufront Woodhead from Fawcett Hill

No way through to Beaufront Hill Head

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Cabin crazy

This is the sort of thing that I find interesting, particularly when I have been cooped up for too long.  Anyone who uses a Fuji X camera appreciates the remarkable jpegs it is capable of producing straight out of the box.  However, as a ‘serious’ photographer, I feel obliged to shoot in RAW to provide maximum scope for adjustment – change to exposure, recovery of highlights, adjusting shadows etc etc, the possibilities are endless.  Consequently, I spend happy hours post-processing an image to the point where sometimes it is almost as good as the film simulated jpeg produced by the camera.

There are other options – Photoshop Camera RAW camera calibration contains all of the film simulation profiles which, at the click of a mouse, supposedly provide immediate conversion to the preferred profile – except that, even to this amateur eye, they don’t look as good as those produced in camera.

Enter Fujifilm’s X RAW Studio – I don’t know if this approach is unique to Fuji but it seems a very neat solution. This isn’t just another RAW processor, instead it enables access to the image processor inside the camera.  Consequently, what you get is exactly what Fuji intended; not only that, it is non-destructive so you can generate as many film simulated versions as you like, all from the same original RAW file i.e. if you are shooting RAW + a simulated JPEG, you are not constrained to one version of the JPEG.  There are detailed explanations of the set up and conversion process on Youtube – this is a good one.

If my ramblings are clear as mud, perhaps this will make more sense – this is the same image – shot in RAW and Acros + Red filter JPEG and these are four versions of the same image with four different Fuji film simulations:

  • Top left is Vivid/Velvia with strong grain;
  • Top right is Acros+Yellow filter with strong grain;
  • Bottom left is Sepia with no grain;
  • Bottom right is Classic Chrome with no grain.

Not only are these none destructive edits to the original RAW file, the subsequent JPEG edits are also preserved in *.FP1 files so they can be reloaded and amended further.  All of this done with the convenience of a large monitor, rather than peering into the camera’s LCD.

How often I will use X Raw Studio I am unsure, given that I am already post-processing with Photoshop CC, ON1 2018 RAW and occasionally ON1 B&W (this remains a very effective mono engine even though replaced many releases ago).  Nevertheless, it is good to know the option exists.

Anyway enough of that.  The reason I am going cabin crazy is down to the endless hours in front of this screen.  The Siberian snow has now been replaced by a dull wet slushy thaw and I can find no enthusiasm to go outside – unlike the previous few days.  This has been the weather in and around Hexham:

Our under-used postbox – we haven’t seen a post person in days.

Egger from Oakwood – on a smartphone – too weighed down with shopping, even for the diminutive X100F.

The view from Hexham Bridge using a smartphone – as above.

The road down to Hexham

A flock of sheep ane behind, a Flock of Seagulls

Carter Bar

According to Wiki: Carter Bar forms a popular point for tourists to stop and take photographs on the Anglo-Scottish border. There are two marker stones on either side of the A68 for this purpose, the original stone created by local Borders stonemason, Edy Laub. Upper Redesdale, the Scottish Borders (including Tweeddale) and to the east, the Cheviot hills are all visible from Carter Bar. However, its altitude means snow is possible even in late spring and early autumn, and the Carter Bar pass can be subject to frequent snow-related closures during the winter.

Perhaps I should have read this before setting off on the Yamaha.  A hint of warmth in the air around Hexham convinced me this was just the day for a round trip to Scotland along the A68.  Everything was fine until Byrness village when the already biting wind chill bit harder, snow appeared in the verges and a persistent layer of ice was visible at the northern end of Catcleugh Reservoir.

By the time I had climbed the 418 metres (1,371 ft) to Carter Bar, the landscape was mostly white.  Fortunately, the roads remained clear and ice free.  Pulling into the viewpoint lay-by I was hoping to see The Borderer mobile snack bar but they had sensibly upped sticks for the winter.  There was nothing to do but extract the camera, take some quick shots, try to get some heat into my fingertips and head back south (I really do need heated grips).  Not the most comfortable ride but a thoroughly energising 77 miles.  Next task, wash off the salt and muck from the bike … and me:

The lay-by heading north

The A68 looking south into Northumberland

The lay-by heading south

Postcards from the edge

We have seen much weather this last 48 hours.  The cold Arctic front has duly arrived, bringing snow to Netherbutton, Orkney.  We are marooned, at least for the next few hours – there is much to be said for the Internet under such conditions.  It makes you wonder how the Scandinavians manage to put up with it but, perhaps they don’t.  The Finns have a word for it – Kaamos – drifting around with the browser, as you do on such days, I found this:

Thousands and thousands of Finns suffer from kaamos depression, or depressio hiemalis as the fancy Latin of doctors terms it. Depression, anxiety, exhaustion, restlessness — it’s all mostly because of the lack of light. How are you supposed to wake up and keep moving when it’s dark outside when you go to work, and dark again when you get out? It’s as if the cold colorless world outside settled into your bones — unfeeling, unmotivated, a dull ache, a hunger that can’t be satisfied, a sleepiness that can’t be shaken — all in all, not a nice thing at all.

This is just a small extract from an entertaining post at Masks of Eris.

… snow at Netherbutton, Orkney

… blockship at Churchill Barrier No. 3 – between Burray and Glimps Holm

… Netherbutton at the top of the hill – from the track down to the shore

… South Ronaldsay

… Longhouse at Dam of Hoxa, South Ronaldsay

… St Margaret’s Hope, South Ronaldsay, Orkney

… Roeberry, South Ronaldsay, Orkney

The cottages at Netherbutton overlook Scapa Flow, a body of water with a remarkable history. It might be expected that in peaceful times there would be little activity in this remote place but, far from it – there are currently two oil rigs in for maintenance, a supply ship and three tankers.  At night they light up like Christmas trees on dark waters.

Despite the harsh winters and the classic ingredients for kaamos, we have found everyone delightfully friendly and approachable – Orcadians are in the top ten of happiest people in the UK and enjoy the best quality of life of any rural area.  It was not always so, at least if you believe the serviceman who penned this while stationed here in the war:

Bloody Orkney
This bloody town’s a bloody cuss
No bloody trains, no bloody bus,
And no one cares for bloody us
In bloody Orkney.

The bloody roads are bloody bad,
The bloody folks are bloody mad,
They’d make the brightest bloody sad,
In bloody Orkney.

All bloody clouds, and bloody rains,
No bloody kerbs, no bloody drains,
The Council’s got no bloody brains,
In bloody Orkney.

Everything’s so bloody dear,
A bloody bob, for bloody beer,
And is it good? – no bloody fear,
In bloody Orkney.

The bloody ‘flicks’ are bloody old,
The bloody seats are bloody cold,
You can’t get in for bloody gold
In bloody Orkney.

The bloody dances make you smile,
The bloody band is bloody vile,
It only cramps your bloody style,
In bloody Orkney.

No bloody sport, no bloody games,
No bloody fun, the bloody dames
Won’t even give their bloody names
In bloody Orkney.

Best bloody place is bloody bed,
With bloody ice on bloody head,
You might as well be bloody dead,
In bloody Orkney.

Don’t believe a word of it, it’s a great place which can only get better once it stops snowing 🙂

And as fer me,’ Sam said, ‘don’t fret.
The sky’s took a turn since this morning;
I think it’ll brighten up yet.

Three Ha’pence a Foot – Marriott Edgar

You don’t need a weatherman …

climate (n.)
late 14c., “horizontal zone of the earth,” Scottish, from Old French climat “region, part of the earth,” from Latin clima (genitive climatis) “region; slope of the Earth,” from Greek klima “region, zone,” literally “an inclination, slope,” thus “slope of the Earth from equator to pole,” from root of klinein “to slope, to lean,” from PIE root *klei- “to lean” (see lean (v.)).

Whatever the climate might or might not be doing, in these parts, it has certainly been changeable.  From bright, cold March sun through heavy snow, to biblical rain and out the other side to hints of summer, we have had it all these last seven days:

… bitter March landscape

… high water

… lonesome highway

… winter returns

… beneath Hexham Bridge

… bring me sunshine

Captains’ Drive In – Allendale Golf Club

Saturday 6th April 2013 dawned a glorious sunny day giving rise to the first hint of Spring across the Northumbrian landscape.  This sudden and welcome change in the weather was perfectly timed for the Captains’ Drive In at Allendale Golf Club; under bright blue skies each new appointee took their turn at the first tee.  The new Gents Captain, Andy Gray, was first to launch a magnificent drive down the furthest reaches of Allendale’s first fairway, the aptly named 417 yard par 4, Long Reach.  As the applause from the gathered members subsided, this was followed by an equally imposing drive from the new Ladies Captain, Shirley Brown.

Traditionally this kick-off to the new season is followed by a friendly team match between Captain and Chairman but unfortunately the Drive In marked the end of the outdoor proceedings for the day.  Despite the presence of a warming sun and steadily rising temperatures, this was not sufficient to melt the deep snow which still covered much of the course.  As the two Captains walked down the first to retrieve their respective golf balls from the centre of the fairway, the galleries dispersed to the clubhouse with some disappointment.  A couple of members walked the far reaches of the course to inspect the depth of the problem – in the shaded hollows it was probably near twelve inches; there may have been no golf but they were rewarded with some spectacular views of the Allen Valley brush stroked with snow – there is no finer setting for the game of golf, conditions permitting.

The first monthly medal of the year, due to be played the following day, was also postponed awaiting the disappearance of the last of the melting snow.