Bella Tones

Ian Harmer of Bellatones picked out by spotlights.
Ian Harmer of Bellatones picked out by spotlights.

Bella tones : beautiful sounds! And Bellatones are a Leicester band I’ve been following and shooting for many years now. And they do indeed create beautiful sounds.

I went to a couple of their gigs in December, one at The Donkey on the 3rd and the other at Soundhouse on the 15th. I thought I’d share a few images from these gigs.

I only shot during the first of two sets at The Donkey as 1) I felt I already had plenty of photos and 2) I always feel like I’m getting in the way of the rest of the audience enjoying the show.

I was quite pleased with the shot at the top of this post of Ian Harmer picked out by small circles of light. He (as usual) was positioned right at the back left of the stage so it took a bit of careful aiming. I was quite surprised how well the autofocus managed to lock on to him given the low light and other members of the band moving around in front of him. I’ll share a colour version of this photo below, along with more from that night.

The multicoloured lights at these venues are one of the reasons I produce many of my live music photos in black and white, trying to get white balance right for somebody’s skin tones when the lights are shifting colour all the time is tricky. And then of course I do also just love black and white. As I’ve probably said several times here before : I love the timeless quality of black and white, I love the way it adds another layer of abstraction from reality and I also like the way it removes the distraction of colour. Anyway, on with the photos. There will be more from the Soundhouse gig further down this post.

All photos taken using my Fujifilm X-H1 and a variety of prime lenses (90mm f2, 35mm f2, 18mm f2) and also the 10-24mm zoom.

Ian Hamer of Bellatones on the keyboard at The Donkey, 3rd December 2023.
Ian Hamer of Bellatones on the keyboard at The Donkey, 3rd December 2023.
Bellatones playing at The Donkey, Leicester. 3rd December 2023.
Bellatones playing at The Donkey, Leicester. 3rd December 2023.
Olive (forground) and Sam of Bellatones at The Donkey, Leicester. 3rd December 2023.
Olive (foreground) and Sam of Bellatones at The Donkey, Leicester. 3rd December 2023.
Sam of Bellatones on flute at The Donkey, Leicester. 3rd December 2023.
Sam of Bellatones on flute at The Donkey, Leicester. 3rd December 2023.
Olive (foreground) and Paul of Bellatones playing at The Donkey, Leicester. 3rd December 2023.
Olive (foreground) and Paul of Bellatones playing at The Donkey, Leicester. 3rd December 2023.
Bellatones playing at The Donkey, Leicester. 3rd December 2023.
Bellatones playing at The Donkey, Leicester. 3rd December 2023. I went with a very extreme contrast rendering for this photo. New bass player Nigel “Waldo” Underwood is closest to the lens and was lurking in the shadows throughout the gig so I got around the side of the stage to try and capture something. The spotlights made the contrast high anyway so I just went with that look.

Having taken way too many photos at The Donkey on 3rd December I was back to see Bellatones play again at Soundhouse on 15th December. And I need to learn a lesson here. I said above “way too many photos” – there were hundreds. And it being a busy time of year all I’d really done was pick out half a dozen favourites from those in the two weeks before this next gig at Soundhouse.

When I shoot at a gig I’ll start off in “single shot” mode on the camera. One press of the shutter release equals one photo taken. As the gig progresses I’ll find myself switching into “continuous” shooting – keep the shutter release down and keep firing off photos at a rate of many per second. Why? Because with musicians moving around the stage you can find that you’ve slightly missed focus or slightly missed a good pose / expression / moment of action. Great, continuous shooting can help with that but it leaves me with quite a daunting number of photos to work through. I might only process a couple of dozen of those photos but I still have to look through all 400 to find the ones I want to process. I might have a burst of between 6 or 10 shots of pretty much the same scene and I might use one of them – or none. I need to be more disciplined and not take as many photos.

At the Soundhouse gig Not My Good Arm played before Bellatones so I got a few shots of them. There should have been another band playing too, Code Switch Theory, but sadly they had to pull out due to sickness and Not My Good Arm were down one member of the band for the same reason. This becomes significant later in the story, honest.

Not My Good Arm playing at Soundhouse, Leicester. 15th December 2023.
Not My Good Arm playing at Soundhouse, Leicester. 15th December 2023.
Not My Good Arm playing at Soundhouse, Leicester. 15th December 2023.
Not My Good Arm playing at Soundhouse, Leicester. 15th December 2023.
Not My Good Arm playing at Soundhouse, Leicester. 15th December 2023.
Not My Good Arm playing at Soundhouse, Leicester. 15th December 2023.

And then Bellatones came on and played a great set to finish off the evening. I was right down at the front and having to work hard to avoid the enthusiastic dancers getting into shot. This harks back to what I said earlier about trying to make sure I don’t get in the way of the rest of the audience enjoying themselves. These places do not have “press pits”.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself that night, took way too many photos (!) and heard some great music. However a couple of nights later I started to feel a cold coming on. I don’t remember anyone coughing or sneezing in my face but this is the most likely place that I will have picked up that virus. By the Monday morning I was feeling so awful, every part of my body was aching, every movement felt like I must be 100 years old. And this thing was persistent, it really knocked me out of action for a couple of weeks all through the Christmas and New Year period. I managed to get done what I had to do but it took me a couple of weeks to reach the point where I felt up to working through the photos from that night. It wasn’t Covid-19, I did test myself several times at various points during the illness – all negative. I did find myself reflecting on mask wearing. I was back to wearing one when I went into shops because I didn’t want to spread whatever nasty bug this was to anyone else. If only others felt the same way I might not have caught this.

Bellatones playing at Soundhouse, Leicester. 15th December 2023.
Bellatones playing at Soundhouse, Leicester. 15th December 2023.
Paul of Bellatones playing at Soundhouse, Leicester. 15th December 2023.
Paul of Bellatones playing at Soundhouse, Leicester. 15th December 2023.
Bellatones playing at Soundhouse, Leicester. 15th December 2023.
Bellatones playing at Soundhouse, Leicester. 15th December 2023.
Sam of Bellatones on flute, Soundhouse, Leicester. 15th December 2023.
Sam of Bellatones on flute, Soundhouse, Leicester. 15th December 2023.

Some Days…

View looking towards Old John at Bradgate Park, Leicestershire.
View looking towards Old John at Bradgate Park, Leicestershire.

… Just don’t go according to plan.

I headed out to Bradgate Park in Leicestershire on Monday afternoon. It had been too long since I’d visited and I decided to take my tripod and have a stab at a panorama and maybe some focus stacked landscape shots.

It was a Monday afternoon in the summer holidays so I was expecting the place to be busy. And it was. The overflow car parks were in operation but I managed to get a spot quite near the entrance gate on the Newtown Linford car park. However, with a place this size (850 acres) I normally manage to find some isolation no matter how busy it is. The main tip here is just to set off away from the tarmac road which leads through the park to avoid the thronging crowds. So that’s what I did.

I was lugging way too much kit around with me. With my camera bag, tripod and big water bottle it came to over 10KG. I’ve written before about how liberated I feel when I shoot light. This was the opposite experience. Added to the weight I had the inconvenience of not having a way to strap my tripod to my camera bag so I was hand carrying that everywhere. I ended up with a rather sore thumb from the rubbing of the tripod leg I was gripping.

I’ve been watching way too many landscape photography vlogs on YouTube so I set out with that kind of shooting in mind. Slow, deliberate, planned. I had a composition in mind, something shot from the next hill to the east of the Old John tower, looking back at the landmark and using some of the rocky outcrops as a foreground.

(A few of the vlog channels I’ve been enjoying lately just in the order they appear in my subscription list : Thomas Heaton, Ian Worth, Henry Turner, Kim Grant

Camera setup to shoot at Beadgate Park, Leicestershire.
Camera ready to shoot at Bradgate Park, Leicestershire (snapped with my phone).

The photo at the top of this post was taken just a little further to the left of where I took the snap above. I shot it as a stitched panorama at the 24mm end of my 10-24mm zoom.

I think watching all those vlogs had me in a frame of mind to be experimental. Yes, I’d shot panoramas before going back to film days (3 or 4 frames of film to end up with one image was quite costly back then) but I also decided to try composing using the screen on the back of my camera rather than the viewfinder. I never normally do this but with my camera secured on a tripod then why not? It might help quite a bit when the camera is in a low position and looking through the viewfinder will mean getting into an uncomfortable position, yes? Well, because in bright light it can be difficult to see the image on the LCD screen, that’s why not. However, I stuck with it – I was having an afternoon of experimentation after all. And I can say right now, I’ll be going back to the viewfinder 99% of the time. 

So I shot my panorama and tried a few focus stacked images – focussing on the rock formation as my foreground and then on the hill in the background with a view to merging the exposures in Photoshop to have a sharp image from front to back. I’m not bothering to share the results here, suffice it to say that I wasn’t really happy with them.

The light was nothing special on Monday afternoon so after a while I decided to just sit on top of this hill for a while and take in the views. I’m a Leicestershire native and have been visiting Bradgate Park for longer than I can remember and yet, having felt that I’d explored the park thoroughly over the years, I realised that I’d never been up this particular hill before. So I sat there and vaped for a while, enjoying the peace and quiet and staring down towards Bradgate House where I could see all the crowds of people walking along the road like ants. 

On my way back to the car park I decided to head back down to that road near the ruins of the house, even though that meant picking my way through the crowds. I managed to nab a couple of reasonable (and obligatory) deer shots as I went and then spotted a family of swans near one of the waterfalls on the River Lin, momentarily invaded by a crow. These were shot hand held with my 100-400mm lens. 

The results from the afternoon were as follows :-

  • Worn out from lugging all that kit around. On the up side, probably good exercise!
  • A sore thumb from gripping that tripod all the time.
  • A sense of frustration at not really having achieved what I set out to do.
  • A determination to carry less equipment with me. Yes, having “everything” there can open up opportunities – but it can also remove them because you’re spending so long faffing about with bits of kit.
  • Realisation that I could have shot that panorama hand held and likely got  as good if not better results.
  • Thoroughly enjoyed myself despite my perceived failures. It was great just to get out and see what I saw.


A Bad Case of G.A.S.

It happens now and again. I get G.A.S. – Gear Acquisition Syndrome. I already have too many camera bodies, I already have too many lenses and yet something appears on the market which I lust after.

Right now that something is the Fujifilm X-T5

But also right now, I am not working, haven’t been working for over a year. So, no, I really can’t just go out and treat myself. I am looking for work but meanwhile I’m living off my savings (which I’m fortunate to have some of) and I’m not claiming any state benefits so basically zero income (other than a very small amount of interest on those savings). No, I’m not in a position to scratch that itch.

So how do I quell the G.A.S.? Other than constantly reminding myself of the above inconvenient fact regarding lack of an income?

Well, in the case of the X-T5 Fuji have moved up to a 40 megapixel sensor. Only a few of my lenses would be capable of resolving the full resolution of that sensor. I’m sure I’d still get improved results from all of my lenses but it’s a niggle. Maybe only one for “pixel peepers” but try to understand, this is ammunition I’m using to convince myself I’m fine with my old 24 megapixel X-H1 (and older cameras too).

40 megapixels would be handy for producing large prints, A3 and bigger. But although I have an A3 capable printer then I’ve not actually printed anything larger than A4 with it as yet.

So, what is the best way of getting over G.A.S. for me? Simple : get out and shoot with the kit I already have! It all works beautifully and getting a new camera or a new lens will not make me a better photographer. I recently wrote about the pleasure I had in getting out with my X100T again. 16 megapixels, fixed 23mm prime lens – and a complete joy to shoot with.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. Enjoying the cameras and lenses I already have and holding that G.A.S. in check, telling myself that when I have a job and a regular income again, then I can consider it.

Daisy at Leicester Botanic Gardens.
Daisy at Leicester Botanic Gardens. Fujifilm X-H1, 56mm @ f1.2.
Abstract sculpture by the fish pond at Leicester Botanic Gardens.
Abstract sculpture by the fish pond at Leicester Botanic Gardens. Fujifilm X-H1 35mm @ f1.4.
The Braunston-in-Rutland Goddess sculpture.
The Braunston-in-Rutland Goddess sculpture. Fujifilm X-H1, 35mm @ f8.
Light through a window at Canons Ashby.
Light through a window at Canons Ashby. Fujifilm X100T.
Rocking horse at Canon's Ashby.
Rocking horse at Canon’s Ashby. Fujifilm X100T.
Three panel window in room above the porch at St. Andrews Church, Stoke Dry, Rutland.
Three panel window in room above the porch at St. Andrews Church, Stoke Dry, Rutland. Fujifilm X-H1, 18mm @f2.8.
Alabaster table tomb at church of St. Andrew, Stoke Dry, Rutland.
Alabaster table tomb at church of St. Andrew, Stoke Dry, Rutland. Fujifilm X-H1, 18mm @f2.


Reaching For The Skies

Hallaton Castle from the air.
Hallaton Castle from the air.

About 18 months ago or so I bought myself a small drone, the DJI Mini 2. I thought it would be cool to get a new perspective on the world and be able to take some rather different photographs.

I’ve not used it much since I bought it so I decided to break it out and try to get more familiar with it this weekend.

I headed out to the Leicestershire village of Hallaton where I know there are the remains of a Norman motte and bailey castle.

Hallaton Castle from the air.
Hallaton Castle from the air.

I had actually flown the drone here before in the early days of my ownership but I was really focussed on getting to grips with the basics of flying the thing and although I took some photos and video I wasn’t really concentrating on that at the time.

I need to practice way more. I want to learn to fly the thing smoothly so that I can capture better looking video. Taking stills is easy by comparison. Just fly the thing up there, point it towards your chosen subject and pick your moment. Video is a whole different ball game. Flying the drone around your subject without jerky movements whilst keeping your subject nicely framed – yeah, I need a lot more practice at that. DJI do help by adding a few programmed manoeuvres such as circling a subject or spiraling out from it but I want to learn to have that level of control manually.

Hallaton Castle from the air.
Hallaton Castle from the air.

The three photos above were taken on Saturday 22nd April 2023 at heights of between around 60 and 100 meters above local ground level. I shoot in both raw and jpg and then process the raw files in Lightroom (and whatever other bits of processing software I might feel like using at the time) as normal.

The video… Yeah, the video… Well, I managed to produce something but I do have a fairly steep learning curve here. Yes, I need to learn to fly the drone with more finesse but I also have never really done much video work of any kind. And it shows. But hey, I’m learning.

You can view the video on YouTube here.

I’m Back

A robin feeding.
A robin taking seed from a feeder at Medbourne, Leicestershire.

It has been nearly three years since my last update. There are lots of reasons for my absence which I won’t go into here. However, I’m back to wanting to be creative again and share my experiences so here I am.

Of course, I’ve still been taking photographs in the time since I last posted, it’s an important part of who I am. The Covid pandemic has certainly reduced my photographic opportunities over the last year but my camera has been with me on the all too rare occasions I’ve been able to get out. I’ve barely been outside of Leicestershire for a year now. There was one day trip to the Peak District in the summer of 2020, a short walk along the path up Kinder Scout next to the Grinds Brook with my daughter. I look forward to when such things are possible once again.

The photo I’ve selected for this post was shot on my last “proper” walkabout before England entered “Lockdown 3” at the start of January 2021. My daughter and I had been taking short trips into the local countryside when Covid restrictions permitted. One of our favourite places to visit is Medbourne in the south-eastern part of the county. It’s a lovely village with a stream running through it, a medieval packhorse bridge and a ford crossing the stream near the church. On this particular day, we spotted a robin hopping from bush to bird feeder and back again in a garden area down near The Nevill Arms pub.

Shot using my Canon 6D and 70-300ml lens.

I’ll be back with another post describing a project I have been able to work on from home, hopefully in the next few days.

Suffering From (Long) Exposure

Old John
Old John, Bradgate Park, Leicestershire. 30 seconds at f16, ISO 200. Fujinon 35mm f2.

This morning the sun was shining and as I ate my breakfast it looked like a great day to get out and take some photos. However I was suffering from my usual problem – not knowing where to go.

I had just about made up my mind to head into town and wander around aimlessly for a while when I got an SMS from my sister and during the exchange of messages she suggested I head out to Old John, a very well known Leicestershire landmark situated in Bradgate Park.

By the time I actually got in the car the clouds had blanketed just about all of the sky. But this was fine, I had my tripod and my 10 stop ND filter with me (Cokin Nuances) so I decided during the drive that I would try taking some long exposures.

Old John
Old John, Bradgate Park, Leicestershire. One of a handful of shots I took that weren’t long exposures today. 1/35 at f11, ISO 200, Fujinon 10-24mm.

As I set up my tripod for the first time I was soon regretting not having thought to bring gloves with me. It wasn’t long before I was fumbling with the controls of the camera and shoving my hands in my pockets did little to remedy this.

I stayed around the vicinity of the Old John tower for a couple of hours getting steadily more refrigerated before deciding that I’d done enough and that what I really needed was a huge mug of tea.

As I sat processing my photos in Lightroom and sipping my tea at home, I discovered that the sensors of both my X-Pro2 and my XT-1 really could do with a very thorough clean. Dust spots show up way more at smaller apertures and I tend to use smaller apertures when I’m shooting long exposures.

It’s maybe the one downside of interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras that I can think of – more sensor dust. There’s no mirror so there’s nothing to stop dust falling right onto your sensor. I had given both bodies a good dust out using a rocket blower before heading out. Maybe it’s time I dug out the swabs I bought but have never used?

This is the reason I have used my X100T for most of my Fujifilm based long exposure work in the past. The X100 range are mirrorless but the lens is fixed so there’s no lens swapping opportunity for dust to get inside. But sometimes you just want to shoot some long exposures at different focal lengths so it’s time to suck up the dust.

Old John
A bit closer up. 28 seconds at f11, ISO 200. Fujinon 18mm f2.

Old John
The “handle” of the “tankard”. 28 seconds at f11, ISO 200. Fujinon 18mm f2.

Making a Pinhole

Pinhole body cap mounted on X-T1.

If you like your photos nice and sharp and don’t like blur or softness then this might possibly not be the blog post for you. You have been warned.

With World Pinhole Photography Day approaching and seeing as how my previous post was all about feeling like I was stuck in a rut, I thought it might be an idea to make a pinhole to use with my Fuji bodies. It would be fun to do the make and having a pinhole to shoot with would offer some extra creative possibilities. I’d never made one before so it would be a fun learning experience too.

As I predominantly shoot using Fuji X Series cameras these days I decided to make the pinhole to fit my Fuji interchangeable lens bodies.

A pinhole is just that – a small hole through which the light enters the camera. There’s no means to adjust the focus and the aperture is determined simply by how large or small you make the pinhole. It’s very primitive stuff but there’s often a great satisfaction to using simple methods.

I decided I would make my pinhole using a spare body cap. I didn’t want to mess up an original Fuji supplied cap so I bought a cheap third party one from Amazon. It came as a set of body cap and rear lens cap for £3.99 including delivery.

Body cap.
Fuji X Mount body cap.

I was expecting to have to wait a few more days for delivery but the caps arrived way sooner than expected on Saturday morning (today as I write) meaning I had the free time to get on with this little project.

The first thing I did was to drink some beer!


This is usually a good idea anyway of course but I needed some metal that would be easy to work. The aluminium of a drinks can would be ideal. I will grudgingly admit that you can scrape by with using a soft drink can but the best results will always be obtained from a beer can… 😉

Having drank my beer and rinsed out the can I used a can opener to take off the top end and then a pair of scissors were employed to snip out a panel from the can. Looking at the interior space of my specially acquired body cap I thought a roughly 2cm square of the metal would do the trick.

The next thing I needed to do was to find the centre of the body cap as I would need to drill a hole through it. I marked out three chords over the circle and then drawing lines at 90 degrees from the middle of each I marked the centre of the body cap. You may want to look up a proper explanation of this method of finding the centre of a circle if you want to have a go at this yourself. I don’t think I did a very good job of it.

Marking the centre
Marking the centre, ready tp drill a hole.

I used a 6mm drill bit and it was handy to have one with a point on it like this as I could use that to poke a small centre point hole before I actually drilled the main hole. Once the hole was made I used some 600 grit “wet and dry” paper to smooth the edges of the hole leaving something looking like this :-

hole drilled
6mm hole drilled through the body cap.

The next task was to make the actual pinhole through the square of aluminium taken from the beer can. I held a needle using a pair of pliers and pushed down through the metal. I had read that it’s best not to poke a hole right the way through but just push down enough to make a dimple and then sand the dimple down to form the actual hole. I guess I pushed down too hard and made an actual hole. Oh well, nothing about pinholes is really an exact science so I decided to go with it. I then used the 600 grit wet and dry paper again to sand down both sides of the aluminium. Once I was satisfied it was all smooth I washed it under the tap and then used some rubbing alcohol to make sure that everything was really clean.

Pinhole made, sanded and cleaned.

Next I used some gaffer tape to secure the aluminium within the body cap, ensuring that the pinhole was positioned at the centre of the larger hole in the body cap. The end result is shown below :-

Pinhole ready
Pinhole taped into place.

I might want to paint that little bit of uncovered aluminium with some black paint to stop light bouncing around too much but this will do for now. Pinholes are all about serendipity so a bit of bouncing light doesn’t bother me too much. The pinhole is shown mounted on my X-T1 at the top of this post.

Having spent maybe 45 minutes to an hour making the pinhole this afternoon I wanted to pop out and try shooting with it. I took my tripod as the pinhole creates really quite a small aperture and I was sure that the end results would be blurry enough without adding camera shake to the equation. I was right on that score. The photos I took were quite a bit softer than I expected. I think maybe I need to try to make a smaller hole. Buy hey, this is all part of the fun and if I want to put a different pinhole into the body cap then it won’t be too difficult as it’s only taped into place.

I decided to go with the flow and edited this photo in Analog Efex to add some “distressing” – dust, dirt and a wet-plate look. When I feel like having another go I’ll see if I can make a smaller pinhole.

Wistow Church.
Wistow Church, Leicestershire shot using my pinhole.


Edit : Evening of Sunday 19th March.

I just had to try creating another pinhole. With the body cap already prepared it took much less time. All I had to do was cut some more aluminium, make the hole, sand it down, clean it and stick it in place. I took a quick test shot of the kitchen table using the new hole and it appears to be sharper. I won’t really be able to tell properly until I get out and shoot somewhere with it.

Keeping It Local

Alley next to Sainsbury’s, Wigston Magna, Leicestershire. Fujifilm X100T. The Sainsbury’s store is to the right of this shot and occupies the land which was the site of Bell Street School.

I was born and have always lived in the same house in the suburban sprawl which lies between the “village” of Wigston Magna and the city boundary of Leicester. Despite having quite a rich history Wigston is perhaps not the most photogenic of places. Sadly many of its more interesting and attractive buildings were lost to the town planners of the 1960s and 1970s. However at the heart of Wigston are still some of the lanes which people of the village have used since medieval days.

I don’t often venture out with my camera so close to home (something I will talk more about at the end of this post) but today I decided to walk the old lanes and alleys of Wigston Magna with my Fujifilm X100T. At this time of year the sun never really gets very far above the horizon here so I had some extreme lighting to contend with but I think it was worth an hour or so of my Saturday and it was good to get out in the sun at all.

Plaque set in the pathway at the centre of the medieval lanes of Wigston, the junction of Chapel Lane and Long Lane. Fujifilm X100T.


People still frequently use the lanes. Here two shoppers on their way home along the northern section of Long Lane. Fujifilm X100T – with characteristic lens flare 🙂

Chapel Lane leading down from Long Street by the side of the United Reformed Church to meet Long Lane down near the allotments. I need to get back here on the next foggy night we get. Fujifilm X100T.

Un-named stretch of alley between Blunt’s Lane and Moat Street. I’m tempted to christen it Chapel Lane South until I can discover otherwise. Fujifilm X100T.


It is often the case, with photography as with other disciplines, that we overlook the places closest to us. They seem less interesting, less exotic than far-flung locations. In my case my home town of Wigston is rather unlovely and yet there are still photographic opportunities if I go out and find them. But it’s not just a case of overlooking what is closest to me. As I found today and on previous occasions when I have shot so close to home I seem to feel more self-conscious and conspicuous when I’m within a short stroll of home. I don’t think it’s because I feel I might meet somebody I know, that would actually be quite a nice thing to happen. It’s not that everyone knows everybody else in a town of this size either, Wigston has a population of over 30,000 so I’m as much of a stranger to most of them as I would be anywhere else. Maybe in my case it’s because the place where I live just isn’t really all that photogenic so I feel that people will be questioning my motives for walking around the place taking photographs. As I write I do feel that this latter reason maybe hits the nail on the head. If I was in some picturesque corner of The Cotswolds then people wouldn’t even stop to wonder what I might be pointing my lens at. As it was I took my rather unobtrusive Fujifilm X100T along for this walk and that was all but I still felt like I stood out like a sore thumb. I’d be interested to hear what others think about this.


Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill summit panorama
The summit of Beacon Hill, Leicestershire. 20th March 2016. Stitched panorama shot with Fuji X-Pro2 and 18mm f2 lens at f8. Click for a slightly larger version.

Leicestershire is a “green and rolling” area of England. It doesn’t have the breathtaking splendour of Cumbria or Derbyshire and consequently the highest point in the county stands at just 912 feet (278 meters) above sea level (Bardon Hill). However 700 million years ago Leicestershire was volcanically active and to the north west of the city of Leicester traces of this Precambrian past are still in evidence around Charnwood Forest. It was in this area that the fossils known as Charnia were first discovered (and named after their location and discoverer). Before this discovery it was thought that the Precambrian era was devoid of a fossil record.

One part of this region which is easily accessible to the public is Beacon Hill, the second highest point in the county of Leicestershire at 814 feet (248 meters) above sea level. The hill features many outcroppings of Precambrian volcanic rock and was the site of a Bronze Age hill fort. Now it is a part of “Beacon Hill Country Park“. On a clear day there are excellent views all around so it’s a place I often visit when I need to “clear out the cobwebs”, take a walk up the hill, stand at the top, admire the views, take a few photos.

This is exactly what I set out to do on Sunday 20th March 2016. The weather was reasonable and I decided to head to Beacon Hill, primarily to shoot a panorama of the rocky outcrops at the summit. I wanted to see how Adobe’s new “boundary warp” feature in their panorama stitching module of Lightroom (and Photoshop) worked. The result is at the head of this post. I did also think I might shoot a time lapse, however the clouds were moving quite slowly and although I did take a 240 shot sequence it didn’t really amount to anything worth watching.

beacon hill march 2016-1
Threatening clouds. Beacon Hill, Leicestershire. 20th March 2016.

However I was glad to have a chance to get out there and shoot at all. There are two car parks at Beacon Hill, one just below the summit and one right at the bottom of the hill. I had planned to park up at the top car park, not out of laziness (honest!) but because as I approached along the road I could see the light was lovely over the summit area and I just wanted to get to work on it as soon as I could. However the top car park was fenced off and closed with a notice saying it would reopen the next day. So I continued along the road and down the hill to the lower car park – only to find a huge queue of cars backed up because the payment barrier wasn’t working. I drove on for a while trying to think where else I could head to as an alternative. By the time I’d turned around I’d decided I’d head to Bradgate Park which is not far away and would also offer some good panorama shooting scenery. But then as I passed the lower car park for Beacon Hill again on my way to Bradgate I noticed that the payment barrier was fixed and I could return to my original plan.

As the afternoon wore on the clouds became darker and more dramatic but there was still some pleasant early spring sunshine to enjoy so carried on snapping away. It was at this point that I happened to turn and face to the west and saw shafts of sunlight striking down out of the clouds right behind the trig point on the summit. There was a curious lighter patch in the clouds which seemed to fit the trig point so that it stood out in silhouette and I needed no further prompting.

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Trig point at the summit of Beacon Hill, Leicesteshire.

I think I’d like to work on this image a bit more, bring out some more detail in the clouds, particularly the area to the right of the shot which just looks a bit too solid and heavy.

By now the afternoon was wearing on and the cloud cover was becoming more complete. There was still this dramatic patch of light bursting through the clouds to the west so before I headed back down the hill and home I tried to work a little more with that. I found another outcropping of rock a little way down from the summit which had one small tree clinging to the side of it and shot that in silhouette with the rays of sunlight bursting out behind.

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Tenacious Tree. Beacon Hill, Leicestershire.