Sunrise at Doffcocker

Doffcocker Lodge Sunrise

Another walk around Doffcocker Lodge this morning. Instead of my usual 28mm f2.8 ais lens today I brought my 50mm f1.8D. The lead photo in today’s post is a crop from a 6 image stitch. The 50mm lens was not wide enough to get the landscape shot I was looking for, so another stitch job!

Sunrise over Doffcocker Lodge

The shot alongside is a single shot image with the 50mm lens. Such a different feel between a landscape and a portrait orientation. I suppose the thing that grabbed my attention today was the circular sun and it’s reflection on the water.

It was a hot and humid day yesterday, and today is supposed to be cooler. All the same, the sky looked hazy and I really wasn’t expecting to see the sun as a crisp ball as is visible in these photos.

The next photo, taken quite a bit later, is looking across the smaller lodge toward Winter Hill. Here you can see the sky isn’t crisp and clear, but hazy. You can also see in the close foreground the Himalayan Balsam. I’ve been quite amazed with the amount of balsam in the parks and waterways. It was introduced in the mid 1800s and I understand beekeepers are quite fond of it for the amount of nectar it produces for bees … but it is quite invasive and swamps the native plants.

Looking towards Winter Hill across Doffcocker Lodge. Notice all the Himalayan Balsam in the foreground.

Heading home I couldn’t help but notice the nettles and grasses – probably because the grass is quite long and I got rather wet from the morning dew. Nevertheless, these grasses are very pretty. Maybe I’ll go looking for grasses tomorrow … there’s certainly a large variety and their seed heads are most attractive. Nettles never seem to be popular either … probably because they can be painful, but they are a popular plant for butterflies.

Early morning dew on grass at Doffcocker, Bolton.
Stinging Nettle

A bit of Bokeh

Looking at Wikipedia, you read that in photography, bokeh is “the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens.” In general the out-of-focus area of an image is the background, and one of the best ways to make this out-of-focus whilst retaining focus on your subject is to open up the lens and shoot at a low f-stop. It seems a bit backwards, but the lower the f-stop the more open the lens and the better chance you have of making the background blur. Getting close to your subject and have the lens opened up will give you the best chance for a blurry background. The shot at the start of this post was taken at f2.8 with a 200mm lens in an attempt to isolate the bloom from the foliage behind.

A rose taken with an 85mm lens at f1.4

The rose image was taken with an 85mm lens wide open and this shot, taken outdoors, was a real challenge. When you open up the lens to make the background blurry, you also reduce the depth of focus. In the case of the rose, the gentle breeze in the back garden would cause the rose to move in and out of focus. Depth of focus on the 85mm at f1.4 is very shallow indeed. Hard to believe about 2m behind the rose is the door to the garden shed. This is one big advantage of blurring the background. Distracting objects behind your subject will disappear into a nice, soft, buttery blend of colour.

The last shot in this post was again taken with a 200mm lens at f2.8. Again, problems with the breeze made focus a challenge, but I liked the background colour, hence opening up the lens.

200mm at f2.8 to get a soft blurry background


Hoverfly in Japanese Anemone

Out in the backyard again with reversed 50mm lens and homemade diffuser I managed to grab a few shots of some hoverflies.

Hoverfly at rest on spent Japanese Anemone flower.

Depth of field is seriously small, and with the lens stopped down it’s not easy to focus. All the same it’s quite good fun when you capture a wee beastie in focus! A few clever people seem to be able to take multiple images, hand held, focused in different places along the body of the insect and then stack them together to get a photo where all the creature is in focus. As you may have guessed, I’m not that skilled!

I use my speedlight with a snoot/diffuser made from old yoghurt pots to illuminate the insect and freeze the action. I must admit that using the snoot/diffuser provides a much more even and less harsh light than using a bare speedlight.

Hoverfly … I’ve always been fascinated with their eyes!

I’ve always been intrigued by the eyes on flies and bees and not until recently did I realise they had more than two eyes. There’s the two big compound eyes that are very obvious, but on the top of their heads they have three more simple eyes. If you look carefully at the two photos above you might just be able to pick them out.

Marple Locks

Between locks 8 and 9 on the Peak Forest Canal at Marple

We’d walked along the Macclesfield Canal a wee while back, and today we headed along the Peak Forest Canal and down the 16 locks starting in Marple. It was lovely. Very picturesque and a great short walk with plenty of photo opportunities. We walked from lock 16 down to lock 1, enjoyed looking at The Marple Aqueduct, and then returned along the same path back to Marple.

Marple Aqueduct with railway viaduct beyond
Marple Aqueduct with railway viaduct beyond

The Aqueduct was opened in 1800 and is the tallest masonary arched aqueduct in the country. The River Goyt, over which the canal passes, is about 100 feet below. Adjacent to the aqueduct is the railway viaduct built by the MS&L Railway (Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway) in 1863.

Walking alongside the canal and enjoying how peaceful and relaxing it was made it hard to believe this was a hive of activity in the transport of freight from the quarries and mills in the area. There are large areas between the locks to accommodate many canal boats and you could imagine long queues of boats ascending and descending the locks. Now, there’s just the occasional pleasure craft.

Marple Aqueduct
Marple Aqueduct

I took my 16-35mm lens, which was ideal when trying to capture all of the viaduct. I must admit I was most impressed with the aqueduct. It never ceases to amaze me how these magnificent structures were created with hard labour and, by today’s standards, basic tools. Not only were these building well built, but they were most elegant, often quite beautiful and seem to fit or belong in their setting. The little cottages alongside the canal are rather lovely too. Definitely worth a visit.

Lock keepers cottage
Lock keepers cottage on the Peak Forest Canal

Bradshaw Brook

Jumbles Reservoir

We often enjoy a walk around the reservoir at Jumbles, but today we took a wee detour down Bradshaw Brook towards Rigby Lane and then back up to Shady Lane. The circuit around the reservoir is quite popular, but the track alongside the brook was peaceful and most enjoyable. The lead photo is a familiar view of the reservoir to most locals and visitors alike, but head along the brook and the scenery is quite different.

Bradshaw Brook near Jumbles

The brook is bordered by lovely established trees on both banks and it is a totally different scene to that of the circuit around the reservoir.

Bradshaw Brook heading towards Rigby Lane

I must admit that it felt more like we were in a rain forest than strolling down an English stream. Very green and lush, and peaceful with just the sound of the water and the birds.

On reaching Rigby Lane we headed over the brook via the bridge then back up the opposite bank of the brook where we enjoyed a better view of the weir. From here it was a short walk back up onto Turton Road and then down Shady Lane. Most pleasant.

Weir on Bradshaw Brook.

Middlewood Way

Rather a lovely walk today heading down the old railway and then back along the Macclesfield Canal. The railway stops now at Rose Hill Station in Marple, but used to continue all the way to Macclesfield. Today, this stretch of line from Rose Hill Station to Macclesfield is a lovely path on which you can walk, cycle or ride your horse.

Commemorative Plaque along the railway

There seems to be many of these old railways dotted around the northwest of England. You can’t help but wonder if they’d not been scrapped would we have less traffic on the roads? I suspect our love affair with the car would have still made certain lines redundant, but I do sometimes wonder. It’s interesting that in many cases the area has developed its population quite significantly since the demise of the railway making its viability rather more positive than when it was scrapped. Oh well, we can at least enjoy the walk along the route.

Macclesfield Canal

We walked down the old railway from Rose Hill Station down to the Nelson Pit visitor centre where we crossed over to the Macclesfield Canal to do a circular walk back to Rosehill Station. It was lovely. There were a few people about, but most people behaved and observed social distancing.

Bridge Number 9 on the Macclesfield Canal

There’s plenty to see as you walk along the towpath with some lovely bridges. All up it was about an 8 mile circuit, but mostly flat and quite easy going. Definitely a lovely walk and somewhere we’ll return. If you want to find out more click here for a PDF of the route.

Worsley and the Bridgewater Canal

Entrance to dry dock at Worsley

Well, what a treat! Very close to Manchester, yet feeling like we were miles away. Lovely old buildings, and rather peaceful considering how close it is to the M61 motorway.

The canal was opened back in 1761 and is one of, if not the very first cut canal in the world. There’s some glorious old timber framed buildings in Worsley of which the Packet House is a fine example. This is the building from which tickets were purchased to travel along the canal. Both coal barges and passenger boats travelled along the canal. Check out the Bridgewater Canal at Worsley webpage for more details.

Packet House,Bridgewater Canal, Worsley
Packet House,Bridgewater Canal, Worsley

It was a lovely walk along the towpath through Worsley Woods and then back through the town of Worsley. I took just my 28mm lens and that was perfect for the walk. Not too heavy or cumbersome so I could enjoy the walk, but just the right focal length for the views and scenes along the way.

Boathouse, canal boat and very special bridge in the background.

I like the story behind the old bridge you can just pick out in the background of the shot above. Called the Alphabet Bridge due to the number of planks making up the span (26) and the way local school children practiced their alphabet on their way to school.

Hunting and fishing lodge, Worsley

The above photo looks across Warke Reservoir to the hunting and fishing lodge built for the 1st Earl of Ellesmere.

A trip to the seaside!

We’ve not been to the sea for months, so, for a change, we headed out to Lytham and Lytham St. Anne’s. We arrived at Lytham first and parked the car near the windmill. It didn’t take long for the carpark to fill up and we’d have been struggling to find a park if we’d been just a little later. As you can see from the photo’, the sky was a bit threatening, but thankfully we didn’t get any rain whilst we were here.

The windmill at Lytham.

Built originally back in 1805 as a corn mill this building has quite a bit of history attached to it. January 1st 1919 apparently had the sails spinning out of control in a gale. Sparks from the brakes caused a fire and the windmill was derelict for a few years until used for a variety of purposes. Only comparatively recently has some restoration work been carried out to return this building to the appearance you see now.

Sea view near Lytham

Heading away from the windmill towards St. Anne’s is a very pleasant flat walk, but the sea remains somewhat distant and looked rather grey and uninviting. However, by the time we got to St. Anne’s the sun was out and things looked much more summery and bright as you can see in the first photo and the shot below of the pier.

St. Anne’s Pier

The beach at St. Anne’s was lovely. There seemed to be a lot of people about going off the amount of traffic on the road, but the beach was so large there was plenty of space for everyone … and it is a proper sandy beach. Very nice indeed … and … if you were feeling adventurous, you could even have a donkey ride on the sand.

Donkeys on the beach

Up early

I’ve been enjoying early morning walks around Doffcocker, Barrow Bridge and The Woodland Trust’s Smithills Estate. It’s easy to think of Bolton as a largish conurbation with few green spaces. Driving around there’s a significant number of terraced houses with no gardens … and even houses with space for a garden seem to prefer concrete onto which they can park their cars. So, when you get to the outskirts of the town and stroll down some of the footpaths it’s a real joy to see natural scenes bathed in the golden light of the rising sun. Not wishing to be over burdened with heavy camera gear I usually just take an old manual focus, manual aperture 28mm lens with me. The lens is old, and worth very little, but it’s light and just suits me fine. It takes a little longer to get the shot as focus and exposure are all manually done, but it’s quite enjoyable and gives me an excuse to have a breather before setting off walking so:e more! Below are a couple of shots of a pond near Old Hall Lane in Doffcocker.

Old Hall Lane Lake
Old Hall Lane Lake
Early morning on Old Hall Lane
Early morning on Old Hall Lane

In the backyard

Quite a pleasant day today with quite a few insects enjoying the nectar on garden flowers. The photo above is of a Hoverfly I hadn’t noticed before. This particular fly seems more black and white that the usual yellow and white varieties I usually see. Shot with a reversed 50mm lens and using a diffused snoot to get some extra light onto the creature. With the lens reversed the viewfinder is very dark, so quite a challenge focussing!

I’ll post a few photos of the wee beasties below. The first two photos below are taken with a reversed 50mm lens and a speedlight to get a bit of extra light. If you can identify any of them please leave the details in the comments. I’ve just called them “small hoverfly”, “thin hoverfly” and “Coming in for the nectar”.

Small Hoverfly
Thin Hoverfly
Coming in for the nectar

This last photo was taken with a 28mm lens and then cropped to get in close. I must admit to being very impressed with this lens. It’s a manual focus Nikkor 28mm f2.8 ais I found on eBay and it’s become a firm favourite.