And now…the weather

So…and bare with me here because this first part is nothing to do with the weather! But it helps explain how a long shift began…

First thing Thursday morning saw me heading over to a newly built Equine Clinic near Great Ayton. I was there to photograph a visit around this impressive facility by Princess Anne who was expected later that morning. But a little later as various dignitaries and guests were all waiting we were informed that due to an issue with her helicopter the visit would have to be cancelled! So after a look around the clinic and seeing some great potential for pictures and arranging to go back to do a photo-story I headed off to change from my suit – jobs with Royals generally require a suit to be worn – into more weather appropriate clothing!

Today was the start of increasing media interest in the ‘Storm Surge’ that was expected along the east coast soon – jobs with weather generally require wellies to be worn!

Below are a selection of my pictures from what turned out to be a long stretch of sleepless activity as I tried to cover events in the ‘shire.

 

Now whilst cold and a little blustery there was nothing special going on along the east coast at first. But it was an opportunity to try and get some shots of people preparing their homes or businesses ahead of the expected surge. So after speaking to my good friend and very talented Whitby based photographer Ceri Oakes who was also covering events I had a quick run down to Sandsend.

From this I was able to get a few pictures of a couple of the Whitby lifeboat crew members as they helped to board up the windows of a pub whose landlord had broken his leg. So they volunteered to go along and help protect it – although members of the crew also drink there but I’m sure that had nothing to do with it. Almost sure? Along with this there were a few ok pictures of waves crashing against the sea wall and a few people loading up their car boots from a council supplied pile of sandbags but other than that it was quiet.

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As it was getting dark and I was losing the light and there weren’t many pictures to be had I headed back to Saltburn for a quick bit of admin and a bite to eat before heading back to Whitby a couple of hours later ahead of the first high tide at 0415 the next morning which was expected to be the first sign of the surge hitting the east coast.

As I drove back through Saltburn I noticed a couple of council trucks entering the lower promenade car park. Thinking they might be doing some prep work ahead of the surge I followed them in and I was able to get a couple of pictures of them as they off-loaded pallets of sand bags near to beach front businesses.

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After a brief pit stop at home in Saltburn I headed down to Whitby. I maybe went a little too early than was really needed but I knew I wouldn’t settle just sitting there at home knowing this was going on soon and I knew that they might close the coast road on the Whitby approach and I didn’t want to have to drive all the way around.

Knowing that with the high tide still a few hours away I wasn’t going to get any ‘dramatic’ pictures as far as waves went but it was an opportunity to walk around the dark streets of Whitby to see what preparations had been made by residents and the council. So I was able to see shop front doorways sand bagged, a large pump deployed ready to be used if needed and other details around the town.

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As I met up with Ceri again and we wandered the streets of Whitby like two wellington-boot-clad hobo’s we called into the Lifeboat station – where she works as the volunteer press officer – to get a bit of an update from the crew and to grab a brew. Now as you’d expect from lifeboat crew members who volunteer to do the great work they do they’re part mad and part balls of steel! And so they were taking all this talk of tidal surges in their stride and it was then, talking to them, that it was clear that the water might not breach the harbour and seawalls on that high tide.

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As the high tide time came and went and with the wind not as strong as anticipated the streets were almost deserted apart from the occasional members of Mountain Rescue, Coastguard Rescue, Environment Agency, RNLI, police and fire services who were all there at various points ready to offer help if needed should the water overtop the harbour. Fortunately this time they weren’t needed and with the town now safe from this high tide after a couple of pictures on the bridge as Ian Hugill from Scarborough & Ryedale Mountain Rescue gave a final check of the water levels I headed back to my car to edit, caption and file my pictures.

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With daylight approaching I was going to head back home. The next high tide wasn’t for another 12-hours or so and that one was of concern as the wind was due to be stronger. The Shipping Forecast, that amazingly poetic and hugely useful weather and sea-state information service from BBC Radio 4 was giving gale forecasts showing ‘severe gale 9 to violent storm 11’ – ‘violent storm’ is one down from the maximum used, Hurricane Force! – so potential to be a bit blustery then.

As I was leaving it began to snow quite heavy. So not wanting to miss the opportunity I shot a few pictures in the Whitby and Loftus areas as I headed back to Saltburn. After a quick bite to eat I once again headed out to try and make something of any overnight snowfall locally. Whilst we didn’t see the snow fall that other parts of the country had I was able to shoot some pictures of snowmen and cute donkeys and some wintery views in the Commondale and Great Ayton areas.

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With the day getting on and the next high tide in Whitby around 4pm or so I took a couple of hours to quickly head to South Gare near Redcar to see if the waves were crashing against the seawall and lighthouse as they sometimes do on a big swell. Not surprisingly they were quite impressive and I sat myself in the nearby dunes, wedged my camera against my knees and spent some time glued to the viewfinder as the unpredictable waves did their thing.

While I don’t think it’s the most impressive lighthouse in this area for these dramatic wave type shots – for that go to Seaham – you can still get some alright stuff from it. But it pays to sit somewhere out of the wind and be patient. Photographing big waves here is tricky. It’s not like surfing where you can read the waves better and see a set coming. In wild, violent seas the water is all over the place and you can guarantee that as soon as you rest your eye from the viewfinder the days’ monster wave will arrive and you miss it while all you hear from all the photographers’ around you are the machine-gunning motor drives doing the business!

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But it made for some ok pictures and added to the general coverage of the crazy weather we were having. Now admittedly at this point I was knackered. I’d been on the go without sleep for nearly 30 hours or so and was looking forward to a shower, some dinner and probably a bit of wine! But being the conscientious and professional (haha really!?) photographer I am I checked in once again with the top Whitby-based photographer Ceri to see what if anything was going on and to get a quick update a couple of hours before high tide and make the call about going from there.

I can’t really remember all the conversation I had with her about what was going on. All I heard was, “water coming over a bit” and “bandstand” and “could be on”!

Now as any photographer shooting news will tell you missing an ‘event’ that takes place nearby is very frustrating if you weren’t aware of it. If the intention is to be there and you miss it then it’s bloody annoying so, and with complete regard to all motoring laws and speed limits, I drove to Whitby! Arriving as they say ‘in the nick of time’ I parked on West cliff and headed into town.

With high tide fast approaching, wind roaring it was a very surreal scene. Looking down onto the town from West Cliff offers a spectacular view anyway. Add to this hundreds of people standing there watching, freezing cold wind howling off the sea, amazing light shining down at sunset and huge waves rolling in it was quite an amazing sight. I think there was even a rainbow thrown in there at some point?!

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Other than a couple of quick pictures I knew I needed to head down the hill. You have to be where the water is after all! So I went down to Pier Road which was getting the brunt of the sea’s anger. The builder’s rubble sacks that were filled with sand on the slip way were scattered everywhere and there was debris brought in by the water all over the street. Members of the Coastguard were keeping people back from the deluge of foam-covered water each time it breached and flowed along the road for hundreds of yards. The ice cream kiosk near the slip way had already been ‘relocated’ by one particularly large wave and it was obvious that this was the place to be for pictures.

Now amid the chaos of everything that was going on there was a moment when, just like in the movies, it all seemed to go quiet! People seemed to stop, the waves eased and everyone’s attention turned to the old lady in her motorised scooter who was heading straight up the street towards the cordon tape put in place by the Coastguard.

After the coastguard chap explained politely to her that it was probably not the wisest journey to continue up the street towards the churning water on her scooter she paused, had one final look towards this annoyance that was now splashing over the slipway and flowing towards her – and I would swear here that she tutted to it – before carrying out a pretty slick 3-point turn and motoring off into the foam filled streets as she was forced to take a longer route to wherever she was heading. Nicely done!

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With the light fading fast we headed further into town to see what else was going on in the New Quay Road area and to work some pictures there. This is an area that is always prone to flooding and arriving there the water was already coming over the top of the harbour wall. Fishing boats were floating at street level and it made a surreal sight. Even though their moorings had been slackened by their owners to allow for the rise in water level one of the moorings was torn off as the boat rose but fortunately a second rope held it and it didn’t break loose. Shops and restaurant staff stood behind flood shutters in doorways and looked on as water flowed around the street but it was soon clear that this wasn’t as bad a flood surge as it could have been and thankfully with minimal damage it wouldn’t take too long for the water to eventually drain away.

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So with the main threat from the high tide now passed and with the surge heading away from our part of the coastline we headed back to Pier Road for a final look there for any other pictures before I headed back up to my car to edit, caption and file the pictures in to the picture desk as quickly as possible. With nature once again demonstrating its amazing abilities and with some great work by emergency service personnel, with communities all along the east coast coming together to protect their homes, properties and businesses it all offered up some decent photographs and more importantly the damage and disruption wasn’t as bad as it might have been.

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With nearly 35 hours on the go without sleep, with a routine of charging up various electronic ‘stuff’ as I drove around between locations and grabbing quick food as and when and with the challenge of the working conditions it was a challenging time but ultimately quite rewarding as a photographer. So with thanks to Ceri for the updates and info, to the Whitby lifeboat crew members for the brew on a cold night here’s a few ways the pictures were used in the media over the following days…

For those interested in such things all the pictures in this set were shot on my Fuji gear. The wide shots were on the Fuji X Pro 2 with a 16mm f1.4 lens and the longer tight stuff on a Fuji XT1 with a 50-140mm f2.8.

See more of my work on my website and blogs… HERE

Images copyright Ian Forsyth / Getty Images

All rights reserved.

No usage without arrangement

 

 

Scarborough Awakens

So yesterday morning I headed further down the North Yorkshire coast to Scarborough to shoot a few pictures. Arriving at North Bay after an hour’s drive from Saltburn I was early enough to catch the high Spring tides as they caused a few waves to crash over the seawall and railings. They weren’t massive waves by any stretch which always look so dramatic but the light was great and it made for some nice shapes as the water crashed against the wall.

I find it’s quite addictive shooting something like this as there’s always that feeling of ‘…if I leave now then the next one might be even better‘ so I spent a while shooting a few as I tried to get close enough to get some drama without getting drenched and spending the rest of the day soaking wet and at the same time trying to avoid being knocked over by the cars driving along the road! But needs must and I was able to get a few half-decent pictures that I was reasonably pleased with.

From there I parked up in a usual spot I go to at the end of Marine Drive and close to the harbour where I went for a wander about. I like this approach to doing my own pictures and I try to do a similar thing wherever I go to. Now I know from being there a number of times before that like many places, there are good pictures from certain areas more than others but if I can I try and shoot something different or if I see something that attracts my interest then I just shoot pictures anyway.

After I had wandered about for a while shooting a few around the harbour area, the fishing boats and some ‘street’ type stuff I headed along to the Scarborough Spa. This is a great old building with a rich history and which currently acts as a venue for shows, conferences and performances as well as being one of the most iconic symbols of the town.

Today they were hosting the ‘Scarborough Sci-fi Festival’. An event that brought together those folks that are into all things sci-fi to enjoy and take part in a host of guest talks, lectures, merchandise stands, entertainment, screenings and generally dive into a weekend of sci-fi shenanigans. There were quite a few people dressed up as various characters from all different genres of science fiction so I hung around for a bit and shot a few pictures of some of them as they were outside the spa or down on the beach.

After that I filed a few pictures in and as it was getting on a bit I headed off back in the general direction of my car thinking I might get a few more pictures as I went. But as it was a cracking day on our great Yorkshire coast the visitors had descended in their hundreds and the place was heaving so after weaving in and out between the masses for a while and not really getting much in the way of pictures that were working and after a seagull decided to carry out an aerial bombardment on the back of my jacket letting me know what it had had for breakfast – always happy to share are seagulls! #flyingrats – I figured I would call it a day and head off.

 

Behind the Scenes:

There are some pictures from Scarborough below but before that is a ‘kit shot’ of what I use on some of the jobs or photo-trips I might undertake so by way of a techy stuff interlude I thought I’d go over a few things about what I use. So read on if this stuff interests you or if doesn’t then jump down to the pics 😉

My approach to my photos is generally very ‘loose’ and without a specific brief and I tend to work quickly. Methodically but quickly and kind of let things happen or, if I have to pose up a picture for a portrait (and I might only do it for portraits – everything else is just as it happens) then I don’t go mad with it usually.

I don’t use tripods (unless it’s the middle of the night or something obviously) and I like to travel light and work with a small amount of kit. When I can I use prime lenses. Always have done in the main. But obviously some of the jobs I cover need to have the benefits of using zoom lenses either due to the space, mobility, flexibility or the requirement to get a range of shots from one event. Obviously this is far easier with zooms but for my own stuff or indeed those jobs I do where I know, or think, I will have some freedom then I shoot on prime lenses and that’s what I did yesterday.

All the shots below were taken on a 35mm f2 Summicron lens on my Leica M9 digital camera. I had also initially thought to use the day to shoot some film. I learned photography shooting film. All the technical ‘stuff’ that you need to know I taught myself when I first got into taking pictures twenty odd years ago and understanding film and learning to develop it was of course a big part of that. But yesterday I kind of got into a groove from the off with my digital camera and didn’t end up shooting much film at all unfortunately. But that’s ok – there’s always the next time.

Below is a picture of what I carried yesterday. It kind of looks like a lot all laid out but it isn’t really that heavy and it all fits into the small Barbour shoulder bag I was carrying so it doesn’t end up being too much of a pain to carry around all day especially when one of the cameras was always out anyway.

 

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So to briefly go over the stuff (from left to right and top to bottom) we have:

My BPPA Press card (British Press Photographers’ Association). Barbour bag. Chamois leather/lens cloth. Air blower for getting rid of dust from sensors or whatever. MiFi to get on ‘tinternet when using the IPad air 2 – I usually use a 15″ mac book to edit, caption and file pictures to a news desks when I’m out and about but sometimes when I’m shooting my own stuff I’ll just carry this as it’s lighter and reasonably capable of doing an edit. I can still ingest pictures, edit, caption and file through that with a couple of programmes but I’m still trying to streamline and tweak that workflow process to make it faster and more efficient. USB and SD card adapters to connect and ingest pictures to the IPad. Notebook & pens. Apple blue tooth wireless keyboard – connected to the iPad I find it easier to type captions on a normal keyboard rather than touch screen and these are great (and light). Ten rolls of black and white film (5 x Kodak 400ASA TriX and 5 x Ilford 400ASA XP2).

Leica M9 with manual focusing 35mm f2 Summicron lens. Couple of 3-stop ND filters (these essentially reduce light coming into the camera allowing me to use a higher aperture especially in bright sunshine as the M9 only has a 4000th of a second as the max shutter speed). Spare M9 batteries (although a couple of my Fuji spares are in there all the time). Leica M2 with manual focusing 50mm f2 Summicron lens – this is a great old camera. This one was produced in 1960 and is fully manual and doesn’t have a meter so needs no batteries. Spare SD memory cards.

Sekonic L-308s light meter – I use this in tricky lighting for getting a first exposure when using any of my cameras if time allows but especially with the M2. It came in handy yesterday with the bright white of the storm trooper uniforms in sunshine.

Using it to obtain an ‘Incident’ light reading which reads the light falling on your subject, instead of measuring the light reflected from it as the built in meter in a camera does. The difference is that in reflected mode, the meter can be fooled because a white subject (or a black subject) reflect light very differently. When using incident mode, how light or dark the subject is doesn’t matter because the meter is reading the light emanating from the sky or artificial light source before it gets to the subject. So as the light didn’t change much yesterday I took a reading at the start so that I was exposing accurately for the bright suits, remembered it and used it as the foundation for exposing the pictures, of the Storm Troopers at least, and then I just tweaked the exposure as needed as I went.

So that’s what I carried yesterday. Fairly simple and light enough to carry around. Shooting as I was on one lens yesterday – the 35 – it does restrict you at times and it takes more thought and discipline to shoot a prime lens and of course there are shots that you simply can’t achieve but that’s fine. In situations like this I’m happy with that. If it was a ‘normal’ job I’d have had three cameras on the go. The M9, but with the 50mm attached and 2 x Fuji XT1’s. One with a 16mm (24mm equivalent as it isn’t full frame) f 1.4 prime and the other with a 50-140 f2.8 (70-200mm equivalent) to give me more options.

But given the choice and the freedom to shoot how I want this lens is normally what I like to use…I can get close to what’s going on, I can include some of the environment in the picture to give it some context, the quality of the lens is amazing and it’s good to be more ‘manual’ – controlling the exposures myself, focusing the lens myself and thinking more about my pictures and putting them together.

Doing it like this as often as possible makes it, for me at least, more intuitive and helps me keep sharp on the basic foundations of photography – the light, the exposure, the composition and the subject – it keeps my eye in and makes me think about what’s important in a picture. All of which can sometimes be overlooked and even forgotten if you always rely on the camera to do everything. Even in fast moving more news orientated stories it has paid off and I’m as comfortable using this manual focusing ‘slow’ camera where I can’t take several shots a second as I am with using my other, more speedy’ cameras’.

 

So anyway…….. here’s a few from Scarborough:

 

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See more of my work on my website and blogs… HERE

Images copyright Ian Forsyth

All rights reserved.

No usage without arrangement.

Centre of the Community

Following an announcement by the Chancellor George Osborne last year where he revealed his plans to stop the current NHS bursary for a student loan system from September 2017 a small but vocal group of student nurses, midwives and their supporters held a rally against the cuts in Middlesbrough this afternoon.

For the trainee nurses and midwives in the northeast region the cuts would leave them with up to £50,000 worth of debt while working up to 37.5 hours a week without a wage.

The NHS bursary previously covered course fees and helped with living costs for things such as childcare.

The rally in Middlesbrough was also attended by Tom Blenkinsop, the Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Anna Turley, the Labour MP for Redcar and Labour MP for Middlesbrough, Andy McDonald.

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See more of my work on my website and blogs… HERE

Images copyright Ian Forsyth

All rights reserved.

No usage without arrangement.

Tadcaster

So after the 300-year old bridge crossing the River Wharfe in Tadcaster collapsed after heavy flooding recently and homes and businesses were flooded the residents of the town began the long process of clearing up. The Environment Secretary Liz Truss also visited during the day yesterday and said the rebuilding of the bridge was a matter of immediate urgency.

Here’s a few from the day…

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See more of my work on my website and blogs… HERE

Images copyright Ian Forsyth / Getty Images

All rights reserved.

No usage without arrangement.