Northumberland Photography Workshop

Roger, The Castle Man, recently enjoyed a fantastic photography workshop with David Speight Photography. Read all about the workshop below directly from David Speight!

The end of September saw us venturing North East for the Northumberland Coastline & Castles workshop. The workshop was sold out months in advance, so anticipation of a great weekend was high and, for once, it seemed the weather was also on our side.

I reached Embleton on the Friday afternoon at around 2pm to find everyone had already arrived, so after some quick refreshments we headed down to the beach and our first location of the weekend. The plan was to make our way to Dunstanburgh Castle, photographing the ruins first, from the northern side (Embleton), followed later by a sunset shoot from the southern side (Craster). The clear blue sky from earlier in the day had now been replaced with some lovely white clouds and things were looking perfect. However many times I visit Dunstanburgh, I can’t help but feel a sense of awe at the sheer history of the place. What a sight the intact castle must have been, dominating the headland and situated perfectly for early warning of marauding attack from the sea.

We were photographing Dunstanburgh from around Greymare Rock, using polarizers to give a bit of a contrast boost to the blue sky and white cloud and, although not the best time of day and light, I think we managed one or two nice images. It was about this time that I stupidly managed to fall over and land fully on my ribs. It still hurts now, two weeks later when I laugh/sneeze/cough/hiccup! We eventually shifted our position to the south of the ruins, so we could shoot looking up the coast at sunset. We were hoping for some nice side-lighting on the shoreline rocks and, if possible, the castle itself. Our luck was in and, even though we had plenty of cloud over the ruins, we were dealt quite a nice sunset, but better still some nice warm side-light on the barnacle-clad rocks. The image below was taken just before we called it a night and headed back along the beach towards Embleton.

Day two and with a 5:45 am start, we headed off from our base at Seahouses to the northern end of Bamburgh Beach to photograph the always impressive structure of Bamburgh Castle. This particular workshop was timed to coincide with low tide at sunrise, so this gave us full access to the beach. I had hoped for more patterns and pools in the sand, but I guess with quite calm seas, the beach itself was pretty featureless. We did however find one area, where the lights from the castle were reflecting quite nicely in the damp sand and, as the castle is nicely lit, it’s possible to get some good images, even in near darkness.

We spent the full morning at Bamburgh, photographing the castle from the Basalt rocks and also the Marram grass-covered sand dunes, eventually heading off to Seahouses for a well-deserved full English breakfast and a look at the images we’d captured so far. We’d already shot images suitable for various processing techniques and, over breakfast, we went through the stages involved in stitching images for panoramics, focus stacking, exposure blending (both free-hand and using luminosity masks), resizing and sharpening images for web and also the general raw image workflow.

It was decided that we would next head back down the coast to Beadnell Harbour. For the first time on the weekend, we had a spell of overcast light, but as it’s easy to find more intimate details around the antiquated harbour, this light probably worked better for us and again we managed some really nice images. I especially liked Phil’s image of the lobster pots and rope under the archway, which we processed the next day. I thought it particularly suited the slight warm toning. Next we headed off to shoot the sunset at our last location of the day. The cloud just wouldn’t shift, so we ended the Saturday with pretty flat light, but I think some of the later images, which were long exposures, worked well as the light started to fade.

The forecast for Sunday was for clear blue skies. Not always the best conditions for photographing the landscape, but on arriving at Holy Island at around 05:40 am, things were looking pretty good. We made our way through the village and followed the path toward the castle. We started by shooting the views across the bay, with Lindisfarne Castle as a focal point in the background, as the sky started to take on a lovely pink glow. Sunrise was forecast for around 7am and it was obvious that with very little cloud, once the sun rose, it would be difficult to control contrast while photographing the views towards the castle. By the time the sun eventually broke the horizon, we’d managed one or two good images of the wider views, including the castle. With the sun still close to the horizon, the whole area was being bathed in lovely soft warm light. There are antiquated old fishermen’s huts complete with rotted wooden doors and rusty hinges, dilapidated, upturned fishing boats, lobster pots and other associated fishing equipment here, so no end of subject matter, making it easy to compose images around some of the smaller details to be found near the shore.

We had to leave Holy Island before the causeway was flooded again at 12:25pm, so we headed off for Sunday lunch at the pub and another processing session. We finished the day with an hour or so shooting from the dunes and beach at Embleton, but with no cloud and some really harsh light, it was difficult going here. Luckily, we did have some fantastic conditions at the main times of the day, i.e. sunrise and I’m already looking forward to the next Northumberland Coastline & Castles photography workshop which is planned for early March 2016.

A very big thank you to the guys, Roger, Roger, David and Phil for their enthusiasm, humour and great company in general, which made the weekend such a success. Coincidentally, it was great to have West Yorkshire's very own connoisseur of castles and the ‘Castle Man’ himself, Roger Masterson on the workshop. Roger founded award-winning castle booking company, Celtic Castles. The company specialises in the provision of overnight castle accommodation, private functions and parties, family gatherings, weddings and corporate events, with the common theme of a fantastic castle experience. Their company now features over 90 unique and diverse castle properties within its extensive portfolio across the UK, Ireland and France. New castles are continually being identified, assessed and added to the growing list of properties featured. So if you’re looking to get all Medieval for the weekend, take a look at the fantastic historic properties on offer at Celtic Castles.

See more at: David Speight Photography!

If you want to catch the sunrise and sunset, then why not stay in a castle local to these areas. I have included a few suggestions for you below...

Langley Castle

Lumley Castle

Aikwood Tower

Castles available to book through Celtic Castles