Freebrough Hill, nr. Moorsholm, North Yorkshire Moors, Christmas Eve.
I'm back up north for Christmas with my family, great times! I always try to get out in the landscape I know better than any other when I'm here, usually before dawn , and this year the story is no different.
What has been different this time has been my luck; morning after morning of spectacularly colourful skies (saying that, I'm writing this at 7.30am and I think today is going to be a traditionally British shade of grey*). I've had much more fun and success this time around too, much of it down to preparation.
Earlier this year three friends and I, with the aid of a fantastic support crew, formed Team Spacehopper and took part in Oxfam's Trailtrekker challenge, a 100km trek over the Yorkshire Dales which must be completed in less than 30hrs (we managed 25). In preparation for this we all had to buy kit. Lots of it. So I am all stocked up with boots, warm socks, fleece jacket, waterproof and windproof jacket, gloves, hats, torches, leftover flapjack... you get the picture. And what a difference that makes! To be able to stand still, comfortably warm, on a freezing morning waiting for the sun is still a novelty, but not one I'm going to get sick of. Above all else the windproof jacket has to be the winner. It gave me time and let me focus on capturing some pretty tricky light.
I chose this spot near to Freebrough Hill, right on the eastern edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, as I knew I would be able to see more of the sky than at my usual seaside haunts. I wasn't to be disappointed. Purple turned to red turned to pink turned to yellow... and then I turned around and the whole of the Western sky was going through a similar transformation. My luck was in.
I wanted to use Freebrough Hill itself as a silhouette against the sky. I've tried to find ways of including it in the frame in the past, but I've always felt a little disappointed. Although it's interesting, it's just not interesting enough. And it has a busy road right next to it. Leaving it in shadow against a beautiful sky worked a treat, though, and it meant I got to make full use of the amazing Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8 L IS II USM I hired for the Christmas break. A super fast and super sharp lens, have a go if you get chance, you won't be disappointed.
I always thought Freebrough was a bronze age burial mound. I never questioned it. However, a search on Google only hinted a such a past. Turns out it's an entirely natural feature, an Oolitic cap, no less:
"Clark, in his list of moated minds or burhs, records 'Freeborough, near Moorshole.– A high artificial mound.' Freebrough Hill on Moorsolm Moor - rising to 821 feet, it is of entirely natural geological formation, an Oolitic cap left behind whilst glaciers eroded the surrounding softer rocks. This remarkable conical hill is natural although anyone having seen it will understand the confusion. I suspect it had spiritual significance for pre-Iron Age peoples but its isolated and windswept position would make it an unlikely place for habitation. "
Next, I went for a shot of the hill in a wider context:
The challenges with this shot were two fold:
1. Balancing the light in the sky with that from the land required 0.9 and 0.6 soft grad ND filters and even then I played it safe and took three bracketed shots one stop apart.
2. Just out of shot to the East, left, is the busy road moor road (sorry for spoiling any illusion of wilderness!) which curls it's way past Freebrough Hill. It took some time to find a spot that included the hill and some foreground interest, but no road. In fact, I didn't manage it - if you have keen eyes you may be able to spot where it crept into the frame....
The frost covered heather seemed to glow under these purple skies, complementing each other beautifully. I left the scene with a warm sense of satisfaction and decided to make the short journey over to Commondale.
Three and a half hours, one muddy siding, one hungover brother and one good Samaritan later:
|Just another day in the office...|
|Ready for anything. Except getting the car stuck.|
So, having the right clothing and camera kit is of utmost importance. It turns out that rope may be added to my kit list in the future. And patience. I'm just glad I had my mobile with me!
Read more about the Oxfam Trailtrekker and our experiences here:
* What looked like it was going to be a grey start to the day turned out to be another beautiful, colourful, sunrise. Salmon pinks and oranges. I feel a little disappointed that I didn't head out, let's hope tomorrow plays ball.
All photographs copyright Mark Bowler 2011. All rights reserved.