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December 2011  Photographers Resource - Monthly  Edition 96

Winter Photography and Attractions


Merry Christmas

from all at Photographers Resource

See you in the New Year

In This Issue:-
  • Editorial

  • Feature - Winter Attractions

  • Photographic Feature - Winter Photography

  • Photographers Diary

  • December Wildlife Diary

December is here and the end of 2011 is approaching and it's time to take stock of what we have achieved during the year and start to look ahead and plan for 2012.

I don't know about you but new years resolutions don't normally work for me, as there never seems to be enough time in the year to get everything done that we want to. However one resolution that perhaps UK photographers should try this year, is to get out and about more and take some great pictures of the British countryside, and its abundance of Wildlife , flora and fauna. With finances tight it might be the best opportunity to put off that trip abroad this year and make the most of what Britain has to offer. We too have our own special highlights with many mountains, woodlands , rivers, canals , lochs and waterfalls as well as colourful wildlife like Red Squirrels , Badgers and Goldfinches, as well as all the visitors from the bird world, such as swans, swallows and more, but we also have great landscapes to with great skies and sweeping vistas.  Okay the weather isn't always great, it can be cold, wet and grey but this just gives you more photographic challenges to overcome, and master, but at the same time have more atmospheric photos.

With Christmas and the holidays nearly upon us we can use this opportunity to both experiment with our night time, or low light level photography, by going out into the many high streets and villages with Christmas light displays and capture some great photographs. Villages like Bourton on the Water in Gloucestershire, who puts their large Christmas tree in the River and therefore you have the chance to not only capture the lights but use your skills to also capture the reflections in the water. Or for another Christmas reflection, if you are down in Cornwall, you could visit the harbour village of Mousehole and capture their floating Christmas harbour tableaux, the largest of which is 150ft long, see the diary below for more on this. If you have your house decorated, inside and out, then you don't have to travel

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Each month we have a newsletter or magazine and this comes out on or about the 1st of the month. The newsletter links to a number of new articles, tables of information and detailed location guides, amongst other things.

One of the most popular features is a monthly diary covering interesting and unusual things on, around the UK, in the two months ahead.

Everything that appears, or ever has, is indexed in a number of ways, alphabetically, by topic, by county, and often linked into sections. Many of the sections have their own front doorways so people with specific interests have direct access through these doors to their area of interest.

You can also get back to see every newsletter, from the beginning, via our recent editions link.

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If this is your first visit, click here to find out how you might best use this site to help you find what you are looking for.

too far, on your doorstep you have the opportunity to capture your house in all its glory when it gets dusk, or inside you could experiment with 'candle' light photography or practising your flash skills. If you need help or ideas on how you might go about this, then take a look at the articles in our Lighting and Reflectors Section.   You may also find our Filters section gives you some ideas on how you might be more creative.

Don't forget Christmas and New Year can also be a good opportunity to brush up on your portraiture skills by taking photos of your friends and family as they visit you or you visit them. This not only gives you a chance to master your skills and try out new techniques but also gives you the opportunity to grow your family album.

With the end of 2011 approaching and winter upon us there are still many photographic opportunities to be had for those of us brave enough to venture out in the cold. Our Winter Photography Feature below sets out some of the opportunities that you may like to consider. The winter weather itself can also offer great picture opportunities from waterfalls   bulging with water from the many hours of rain, frost on the ground and foliage can place crystal like features onto fallen leaves, plants and cobwebs, and if any of you are lucky enough to get snow over the coming months then there are loads more opportunities to be had. Britain does not completely shut down for the winter, so there is still plenty to see and photograph.

   See Larger Image The Frost Effect

   Frost Covered Ivy

For those of you who may not want to venture out during the cold days then Photography over the winter months is a guide to what other tasks you might want to consider doing. This time of year is the right time to experiment indoors with new techniques or extend the skills you already have, such as using flash, macro photography, party portraiture, we have many articles to help you in the right direction. The other task which as photographers we are not very good at is keeping the data on our photos up to date, so perhaps the colder longer nights is the right time to be at our computers and to use this time to sort through what we have taken throughout the year and get it organised and backed up. The tasks we could do include:

So from this you can see even during the winter months, if you're not out photographing the beautiful British countryside you can still be making good use of your time by sorting out those images you have taken throughout the year.

Photography is a year round activity and not just for summer !


Winter Attractions

Many of us during the winter period assume that many, if not all, UK attractions shut down during the winter months, and some will put away their cameras until the spring of the following year. However this is not the case, there are many photo opportunities to be had during the winter months as long as you can work around the shorter colder days.

Outside the British countryside has loads to offer, whatever type of photography you are in to. For those who enjoy a good landscape all our mountains and woodlands are open all year round, although during the winter months extra precautions do need to be made to make our visits safe. As well as taking your camera remember to wrap up warm and take along a hot drink in a flask. Our canal towpaths and our coastlines are also accessible and by taking a look in our Walks Section you should find some new places to explore. If you are up for a good walk, and probably a hill or mountain, across maybe muddy fields and paths then one of the many waterfalls we have in the UK are worth a visit, particularly after a good rain or snow storm when the rivers a fuller.

Many of the UK's visitor attractions, such as Historic Houses are also open all year albeit with many having shorter opening hours, needing to shut before it gets dark, and/or less days open during the week, while many do just decide to shut down for the winter months, and some have to on safety grounds. For those heritage attractions open all year within the UK, we have a listing of some of them. There are probably others, that over time we will discover, but its quite an impressive list already, with far more open than we realised over the winter period.

Ingleton Waterfalls Trail, Yorkshire

Gallery Links River Twiss and River Doe

Beyond the places on this list, there are many places that have Open Access all of the year, for example, many heritage sites that have no entry fees, like Abbeys and Religious Buildings, Stones Circles,   White Horses and Hillside Features, Living History Museums,   some Roman Britain attractions, as well as National Parks, coastlines, and so on. There are also other attractions or features that are not open to the public for internal viewing but can still be photographed from the outside through the winter months, and in some cases this is beneficial. For example trees block the view of some Windmills and during the winter with no leaves this is far less of a problem. There are also the other added benefits of no cars or people to get in the way, and you may be able to get views that would be difficult when they are busy with tourists.

For the Wildlife enthusiast there are also many wildlife spectaculars and places around the UK where you can view them, including the seven Wildfowl and Wetland centres across the country. Slimbridge  in Gloucestershire have evening floodlit feeding sessions of the Bewick's Swans who visit them, while Martin Mere in Lancashire is the winter home of geese, and during the winter months have large numbers of

 Stonehaven Fireball Spectacular

migratory birds visiting them, giving you the opportunity to capture something that only visits us once a year. Some of our wildlife parks and zoos are also open during the winter months, although many do shut down.

Even the keen gardener or garden photographer has options through the winter months, some plants such as snowdrops of course are at their best during late January and February, but there are also many Botanic Gardens around the UK, open all year round, and have just as much to offer during the winter months, especially if they have orangery's or hot/temperate houses. Also the national gardens of England, Wales and Scotland like Kew Gardens, and the Eden Project (The) in Cornwall  as well as the National Botanic Gardens of Wales in Carmarthenshire.

If you enjoy photographing people, then take a look at this months calendar and you will find many individuals taking part in some sort of activity in aid of charity, like swimming in the Serpentine in Hyde Park, London or in the sea. There are also the Outdoor Winter Ice Rinks in places such as the Cardiff Winter Wonderland, Somerset House in London, and at Life in Newcastle. Towards the end of December and throughout January Scotland in particular have a large number of Fire Festivals and Fire Events, like The Fireball Festival in Stonehaven, Kincardineshire. Or if that's too far to travel then you could take a look at Burning the Clocks which takes place in Brighton, Sussex.


Photographic Feature

Winter Photography

Following on from our feature above, if you are tempted to go out and capture some winter photography then you may find some of the following useful.

The weather in Britain varies a lot, there are poor weather days in the summer and some really good days in the winter. Quite a lot of winter days have sun but there are also attractive cloud formations from the variable weather patterns we have. The low angle of the sun in the winter months gives a light that is, to some, more pleasing for landscapes, and gives the ground and features a less flat effect.

Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, Sussex  
Taken on a frosty, sunny morning in January.  Weald & Downland Gallery

Often the light is good during the day, and where in the summer you may have to get up very early or stay out late to see a sunrise or sunset, in the winter months you can do this type of photography and still get a decent nights sleep.  Photographing sunsets will explain how to go about this together with a more detailed explanation, but we also have an article looking specifically at Sunset Filters which will explain how you can have a sunset in a scene without one necessarily being there.

Snow scenes, ice, icicles, frost, frost on cobwebs, lend themselves to some creative macro photography, whilst Waterfalls in full flow, and waves breaking over the sea front are scenes that come to mind that are most effective or only possible in winter. I remember visiting the Brecon Beacons one year in February when it was bitterly cold and the water coming down the hills in what would normally be waterfalls, was freezing into icicles as it suspended in mid air. Magic! You could experiment with making water freeze by having a go at the method we cover in Water Frozen In Time.

If you're not brave enough to go out in the cold then there are many photographic opportunities you can take advantage of indoors. For instance you could develop your macro photography skills by taking pictures of the smaller Christmas decorations you have, or once Christmas has passed and the decorations are down and you're looking for something to do in the new year, then you could get hold of some winter flowers and have a go at some indoor flower photography.

If you have more time you could take on a project, like creating something to help enhance your skills or make photography easier, like creating a Macro Background System or a Home made reflector.  Or learn a new skill by using one of our project based tutorials such as Composing Photographs.

You could spend the winter months taking a look at what photographic project you could take on for the coming year. We have a number of ideas to get you started in Possible Year Projects, including Photography in your home area. Or just planning a one off trip to get something different and spectacular such as photographing a waterfall, Planning a Waterfall Trip may help you with this.

Whatever you decide to do over the coming months or year, you can see that photography is no longer a spring and summer activity it can be carried out all year round. With the cameras getting better on our mobile phones it is not always the case that you have to carry heavy kit with you, you could just go out for an afternoon stroll and still come back with something amazing, something you didn't intend to get. Many of the techniques and ideas in the many articles we have on this site are just as relevant to the mobile phone camera as the DSLR. Techniques are not equipment dependent, but are skills that will last.

Happy snapping and see you in the New Year.

The Photographers Diary

The January diary is now in the 'next month' slot with December moved to in the 'this month'. Both months have a lot of opportunities for everyone.  Some highlights that are of particular interest in December are:-

The majority of items listed in our December diary and many others you will find is based around Christmas, whether it be a town or city switching on their lights, steam railway companies putting on special Santa trains, or one group or other doing something for charity. It is nearly all based on the human need to feel generous and give help, time and money at this time of year. Once Christmas is out of the way then the next big celebration is New Year and when you look at the last week of December and to the run up of New Years Eve you will find many activities and events taking place that involves fireworks,   processions, charity and enjoyment. So December may be in Winter in the UK, but many of us take this opportunity to have the time of our lives. So what is going on, lets take a look.

One event which takes place in December and isn't primarily a Christmas event is the International Horse Show at Olympia in London from the 13th to 19th of this month. This is 7 days of horse lover heaven, with equestrian events taking place in the arena such as show jumping, dressage, the Shetland Pony Grand National, stunt riders and military showmanship. There is also the Winter Solstice on the 21st, which is the shortest day of the year.

Santa Dash Liverpool Round Table

Santa is not only busy this time of year with delivering presents to the many children around the world, but is also busy doing his bit for charity, with a Santa Dash in Brighton and Southampton on the 10th and 11th, as well as chasing a Christmas Pudding on Weymouth Beach on the 18th.

Many village, town and city streets are decorated and illuminated with Christmas lights during this month. In the small Cornish community of Mousehole they light up their harbour with over 7,000 lights. It all started in 1963 when a local artist put up a single string of lights, and it has grown to the tableaux's that float in the harbour and the many displays around the harbour walls today. Every year, except 1973 when there was a national power cut, they have been switched on. If you want to see them then switch on this year is the 17th December and they will be on every evening from 5pm-11pm until the 3rd January 2012.

On the 22nd the streets of Caerphilly in Wales, using the backdrop of the magnificent castle, they have a River of Light parade with local children parading the lanterns they have made in the weeks coming up to the 22nd through the town centre accompanied by music, samba and drumming. It ends with a fireworks display at the castle.

On Christmas Day when many of us will be concentrating on opening the presents Santa brought, and feasting on the mouth watering Christmas dinner we have toiled over, there are a few hardy souls around the country taking part in charity swims. Such as the Peter Pan Christmas morning swim in Hyde Park where club members take a dip in the Serpentine Lake, to those who brave the cold sea water around our coastlines likes those at Weymouth on the south coast, Lowestoft on the east coast and Porthcawl in South Wales. While in Kirkwall on the Orkney Isles men and boys will be taking part in the BA' Game, running through the town with a locally made leather ball. It starts on Broad Street at 10.30am.

The 26th, the day after the celebrations, and in the UK we call it Boxing Day, looking at our diary it would appear that many now want to loose those extra pounds they put on the day before by taking part in physical activities such as the Windlesham Pram Race in Surrey, or Beach Football in Scarborough, Yorkshire, more swimming but this time in fancy dress in Aberdeen, wheelbarrow racing in Swimbrdige Devon and Barrel Rolling in Grantchester, Cambridgeshire.


 Barrel Racing at Grantchester Adam

The final big celebration of the year is New Years Eve and from Shetland down to London there are many events taking place, nearly all involving fire or fireworks. On the 30th Edinburgh kicks off its New Years celebrations with a Torchlight Procession up to Carlton Hill where there is a firework finale, and on the 31st (News Year Eve) a large event with music and fireworks takes place in the main streets. Stonehaven near Aberdeen have their Fire Ball Spectacular with over 60 people marching up and down the High Street swinging giant blazing fireballs. Allendale in Northumberland have the Baal Celebrations where 45 local men, known as Guisers, carry flaming tar barrels on their heads to the market place and at midnight light a bonfire. In Cardiff they have the Calenning of live music, midnight ice skating, funfair and a family fire show culminating in fireworks within the grounds of Cardiff Castle. Just north of Cardiff in the small town of Mountain Ash, they have the Nos Galan Road Race, where competitors both young and old take part in an evening road race. In London revellers gather along the side of the River Thames in front of the London Eye and await the firework display that brings in 2012.

Wildlife Photography In December

Probably the most recognizable wildlife character this month, is not only outside in our gardens, town parks and countryside but also on many Christmas cards in our homes, it is the Robin. It is probably one of the friendliest of the garden birds and is not shy to come up close to our windows to take a peak at us, and many even get some of them to feed out of their hands. Its lovely bright orange (red) breast adding a dash of cheerful colour to the cold landscape outside. With autumn now behind us and the start of our winter period, with frosty mornings, duller and shorter days a spot of colour will cheer any of us up, and at first sight when we look out of our windows and find the leaves no longer on the trees, things can look bleak and gloomy, but look a little deeper and there are still some flashes of colour to be found.

In the bird world look out for Goldfinches with their colourful bodies and red faces feeding on Teasel seeds on the sides of roads as you're travelling over the holiday period. Take a drive down many country road and you will be confronted by many male pheasants this time of year,  look out in the fields and you may find them fighting with each other as they compete for the females. In the dusky period of our shorter days you may also hear a Tawny Owl or two with their classic 'tu-wit-tu-who' call as they stake out their territory.

On ponds, or open spances of water you will see wildfowl like, swans and ducks feeding and after a cold frosty night you may also see them skating on thin ice.

With Christmas just round the corner our two most popular plants this time of year is

Skating Ducks

the Holly bush, with its striking green leaves and scarlet red berries and the mistletoe which take pride of place on our mantle pieces and in front door wreaths. They are also popular with some of our birds such as the Waxwing which likes to feed on the holly berries, but also if you see a mistletoe bunch hanging in a fruit tree look out for the Mistle Thrush, with its spotty breast, who may be feeding on the white sticky berries. Staying with plants another popular Christmas plant is the Ivy, with it being evergreen it does add a hint of colour to our winter countryside, and provides a good warm nesting site for some of our smaller birds such as the wren in the spring.

When out walking at dusk listen out for a fox or two calling out with their eerie screams and yelps as they start to pair up for their mating season. Their cubs being born during January/February. You may also spy bats zipping around catching many of the smaller insects that are attracted to the Christmas lights, for their night time feed. Taking a walk in the woods is not as unappealing as it may first seem, as small flocks of small birds will be moving about at ground level to disturb the insects, you may also catch sight of a small shrub called the butchers broom on the woodland floor, and with no leaves on the trees you may also glimpse various birds in the branches that you can't normally see. If you are brave enough to explore our mountain regions, especially in Scotland where even now there is snow, then you may come across the Mountain Hare or Ptarmigan, this won't be easy now they have their winter coats.


Foxes are staking out their territory this month

Many of us don't think about visiting the coast at this time of year, many prefer our beaches when it is warm and sunny and they can play on the sand. However the wildlife love it this time of year, as there are not many of us about. Our coasts and estuaries are full of wading birds and wildfowl, feeding on the soft seashore. Kingfishers and Otters also migrate to the coasts during winter months for the very same reason, there is usually plenty of food to be had. Along some of our coastlines like at Blakeney Point in Norfolk or the Farne Islands, off the Northumberland Coast, then you may see the white Grey Seal Pups, curled up on the shoreline trying to keep warm until mum gets back from her feed.

There is still plenty of wildlife to see during December, although the shops shut for Christmas the wildlife world doesn't, so take a look at Wildlife photography in December for more on what you might see if you can brave the cold.

Summary of Articles Included In This Issue


Red Squirrels


Bewick's Swans

Grey Seal

Wildlife photography in December

Landscape Photography

Photography Over the Winter Months

Open all year

Photography in your home area

Planning a Waterfall Trip

Photographing Sunsets  


Sunset Filters

Photographing fireworks

Macro Photography

Macro Background System

Indoor Flower Photography

Water Frozen In Time



Possible Year Projects

Home made reflector

Composing Photographs

Organising and Indexing Your Photos

Adding Keywords and Captions

Adding Metadata to Photos

Backing Up Your Photo Collection

External Hard Drives

Printing on a Budget

Making Photography Book

A look at Framing

Lists Included in This Issue

Heritage Attractions Open all Year

National Parks

Botanic Gardens

Outdoor Winter Ice Rinks  

Fire Festivals and Fire Events

Locations Guides Included in This Issue

Slimbridge, Gloucestershire

Martin Mere, Lancashire

The Fireball Festival, Stonehaven, Kincardineshire

Burning the Clocks, Brighton, Sussex

Blakeney Point, Norfolk

Farne Islands, Northumberland


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