A Day in the Dales

24 01 2016

Just got back from a hectic week or so in the UK on business.

Most of my time was spent a stone’s throw from Heathrow at the Stockley Park HQ of Canon Europe. As I wandered between the two Canon offices in the business park, I realised that I’d actually visited the Apple offices there years before in a previous life. At the time they were pushing their server business to us as a reseller. Seems like another world… definitely pre-iPod!

On the Thursday I got to drive to Reigate, which was an experience. In the 15 or so years I’ve been away, it would seem that small town England has been designated as a car-park. Every place I visited was blighted with cars parked on both sides of the street, leaving the narrowest of channels for everything else. Cars, lorries and buses. These streets are essentially just tarmacked-over cart tracks. Add to that the ubiquitous roadworks and even the shortest of journeys can take a disproportionately long (and unpredictable) time. I didn’t mind though. I was in the great company of a Dutch colleague who shared my dubious sense of humour and the time passed quickly. I really enjoyed getting used to driving on the left again. In a manual car. A diesel no less. It behaves very differently to a petrol car and is unforgiving if you skip a gear on the way up. Not enough revs, it seems. Thankfully muscle memory still seems to operate even at my age, and I didn’t come close to making any potentially fatal errors of lane selection. Or stalling! I only came close to getting in the wrong side of the car once too. Conversely, since I got home I have tried depressing the non-existent clutch in my automatic several times. I have to say though, the electronic hand-brake was a bit of a bugger to get used to. Unlike our manual HR-V it doesn’t automatically engage when you come to a complete foot brake stop, so if you don’t apply it (like in the old days) your car rolls back. Great for perfect hill starts though. Not sure what happens if your battery goes flat when you’re parked on a hill though…

It was also great to see so much variety of cars on the road too. Things are so limited here in Canada with the huge pressure from the US manufacturers. I had a Citroën Picasso C4.

Citroën Picasso

Citroën Picasso

Everything was electronic – not just the hand-brake. I think the speedo was broken though. Surely diesel cars don’t do 90 mph do they? (145 km/hr in new money). The wipers came on when they felt the windscreen was a little moist. The headlights came on when they thought it was dark enough. Pretty much everything except the expected GPS. “SatNav” as it’s known over there is a chargeable option on hire cars. I wasn’t going to pay for what my phone offered for free.

The Canon UK office in Reigate had a retro red LED display in reception to show visitors how much power they were saving by using solar panels on the roof. Great idea… presumably by someone who doesn’t actually live in the UK. It rains about the same as in BC. The numbers say it all really…

Solar Energy in Canon UK, Reigate

Solar Energy in Canon UK, Reigate

Yup: solar energy only works in places where the sun shines… they could have saved power by just painting zeros on a piece of cardboard.

After performing my duties in the office I took the opportunity to visit my parents in Yorkshire for a day, so I headed north and somehow beat most of the Friday night exodus from London on the M1. After a peaceful night’s sleep we drove to Malham on Saturday morning, visiting the cove there. I hadn’t been since I was a kid. It was incredible how peaceful the Dales are. As a National Park, the building and therefore traffic is restricted and it shows. It was just like I remembered it 40 years ago. Every other vehicle you see is STILL a Land Rover Defender! And not for show, either. These 4x4s earn their keep on the many farms.

As we entered the village, visitors cars were already parking along the side of the road (see above!), which indicated the National Park car-park closer to the village centre was likely already full. The view over the drystone wall to the hills in the west were stunning. This was a very typical view – sheep behind ancient drystone walls, gently rolling hills occasionally broken by limestone scars… and a sprinkling of snow on “the tops.” The tops in this case being Kirkby Fell.

West from Malham

West from Malham

One of the first things you pass as you enter the village from the South is the Wesleyan Methodist chapel, built in 1866. Just for context, that’s when the Colony of British Columbia and the Colony of Vancouver Island were united as British Columbia, with the capital at Victoria. 20 years before the town of Granville was incorporated as “The City of Vancouver”.

It was a typical functional building, a style familiar from my childhood and still common in many rural areas of Yorkshire. (Built to last, as they say!)

Malham chapel

Malham chapel

As we walked through the village we came to the little traffic island with a road sign dating from years past. This “fingerpost” style was made redundant in the ’60s as part of the Worboys committee review. Note at the the top it says “Yorks W.R.” for Yorkshire – West Riding. The Riding has long since been dissolved in favour of simply West Yorkshire. As I left the country 15 years ago, the debate lingered on about whether the political entity of “Humberside” was still philosophically part of Yorkshire… wars have been fought over less.

Note also the 6 digit number at the lower part of the ring (you might need to click on the photo to expand it in order to see clearly)… this is an Ordnance Survey grid reference added as an experiment in West Yorkshire road signs to help the lost traveller to figure out where he was. The Ordnance Survey was a mapping project originally undertaken to help with the placing of guns (yup – a survey for ordnance) in Scotland in the wake of the Jacobite rebellion in 1745. It is now a comprehensive mapping scheme for the entire UK. Sometimes prefixed by a letter code (SD in this case) so you know which map or “sheet” to look for the grid reference on, it identifies your location to within a few metres.

Fingerpost - Malham

Fingerpost – Malham

Malham’s sign gives a reference of 900628 which gridreferencefinder.com confirms is where it claims to be. The extra accuracy of modern satellite mapping allows a 10 figure version of a grid reference to be given if you’re REALLY specific. Of course “just up the road from the Buck Inn in Malham” worked pretty well too!

GridReferenceFinder.com: Malham

GridReferenceFinder.com: Malham

As we headed NW on the Cove Road out of the village towards the Pennine Way footpath, we were rewarded with more stunning views (to the East this time) of the typical sheep enclosures in much of the Dales – the mosaic of drystone walls.

Shorkley Hill to the NE of Malham village

Shorkley Hill to the NE of Malham village

Panorama to the East and Shorkley Hill

Panorama to the East and Shorkley Hill

The cove was already visible as part of a broader limestone feature. It’s to the right in the photo below. From this distance though it was just a temptation. The winter sun was bright and the air crisp. A challenge to avoid shadows in the photos!

Malham Cove from the start of the path.

Malham Cove from the start of the path.

Time for some artsy photography now. To the left of the path was a road. Beyond that was a field with a small barn called – logically enough – High Barn. SD896633 just for “reference” :). Separating all these features were drystone walls. The layered effect struck me as worthy of capture. You can see we’re steadily gaining height and we’re right at the snowline, such as it is, after the light sprinkling.

High Barn, Malham

High Barn, Malham

The path we were on from the village to the cove was actually part of the Pennine Way. We were only walking a half mile or so of it, but it stretches 267 miles up the backbone of Britain. It used to be on my “to do” list, but I guess that’s no longer realistic.

It's way we do things in the Pennines

It’s the way we do things in the Pennines

As we got closer, the cove became more dominant and the black streaks it’s famous for become more noticeable. In Charles Kingsley’s Victorian book The Water-Babies these are attributed to the main character Tom (a boy chimney sweep) clambering down and leaving soot marks.

Tom's sooty marks on the face of Malham Cove

Tom’s sooty marks on the face of Malham Cove

At 80m high it’s very popular with climbers, but not on this chilly winter’s day. There was ice around and my father learnt to his cost that even a small amount is enough to lose one’s balance very suddenly. As we progressed towards the cove itself the sheep seemed pretty nonchalant at our intrusion. I inexplicably had a sudden desire for lamb shank and new potatoes…

Shaun? Is that you?

Shaun? Is that you?

Limestone is very hard-wearing, but glaciers make short work of it over the millennia. Slabs of it had been used to bridge the small beck flowing from the foot of the cove, and pools of water had frozen in the hollows making a most interesting effect.

Ice in the limestone footbridge

Ice in the limestone footbridge

The power of the glaciers to move huge chunks of rock around and wear away at the rock face defies imagination. I am always calmed in the face of such natural, slow-moving power.

One scoop of lime or two?

One scoop of lime or two?

Mother and daughter?

Mother and daughter?

Finally we were there and the sheer scale was apparent. It seems that during the harsh rains at Christmas which caused much flooding in the area, this long defunct waterfall once more gushed and was briefly the UK’s highest “single fall” waterfall once more. The sheer power could only be imagined on this lovely sunny day though.

The foot of Malham Cove

The foot of Malham Cove

The pleasant stroll back offered even more views of this lovely, relaxing place. I could feel the vitality of it soaking into my bones. So calming. Time stops in such places.

Wall with a view

Wall with a view

Back in the village I was surprised to see an emergency defibrillator on the wall of a building. There was a push-button key lock on it, and in an emergency you call 999 and tell them the unit number and they give you the code to open it and hopefully revive someone who’s heart has stopped. Plainly there’s quite a risk from hiking in these parts! The pub however seemed very welcoming to hikers – boots and all! “A warm Yorkshire welcome” says the sign… indeed! Shame about the missing apostrophe on the sandwich-board sign though. 😦

AED on the wall... just in case!

AED on the wall… just in case!

My two favourite beers in one place! Timmy Taylor's and Theakston's

My two favourite beers in one place! Timmy Taylor’s and Theakston’s

All welcome... boots included!

All welcome… boots included!

Just for context, here’s a snap from Google Maps to show the village (and thankfully it IS still a village – there is little development allowed) to the South, the cove to the North. See the pattern of drystone walls – they’re pretty much everywhere in the lower Dales. The limestone terraces are quite clear even on this satellite image.

Google Maps: Malham, Yorkshire

Google Maps: Malham, Yorkshire

It was now time for lunch, so we headed up the road to the NW to drop down via Langcliffe  into Settle. Even this gentle increase in elevation was enough to take us above the snowline, and we briefly stopped to take a few photos of the stark beauty that is The Yorkshire Dales.

Sheep pen on the moor near Malham Tarn

Sheep pen on the moor near Malham Tarn

Panorama back towards Malham from up on the moor

Panorama back towards Malham from up on the moor

Stile over the wall to keep the sheep in. Hikers can't forget to close it like they can with a gate!

Stile over the wall to keep the sheep in. Hikers can’t forget to close it like they can with a gate!

Long and winding road back to Malham from up on the moor

Long and winding road back to Malham from up on the moor

One more stop on the road to Langcliffe and Settle. Here we were looking to the North-West and could clearly see the magnificent Pen-y-Ghent to the North. It was a great way to end the trip out and I felt totally revitalised after only a few short hours in this amazing place. You’ll likely need to click on the first pano. shot to make it clear enough to see Pen-y-ghent on the far right. It was about 5 miles away.

Pano looking North from Langcliffe road. Pen-y-Ghent to the far right in the ditance

Pano looking North from Langcliffe road. Pen-y-Ghent to the far right in the distance

Just chillin... as sheep on the moor are wont to do.

Just chillin… as sheep on the moors are wont to do.

Pen-y-ghent looking as magnificent as ever it did.

Pen-y-ghent looking as magnificent as ever it did.

Once we were home, I treated the folks to pork pie with egg. For no other reason than I’ve never seen it here in BC and it reminded me of my childhood. If you fancy it yourself, try the BBC recipe here.

Pork pie with an egg in the middle... perfect end to the day

Pork pie with an egg in the middle… perfect end to the day

Boredom and lavender

9 11 2012

So I’ve been grumpy of late. I used to be Doc, but the suit doesn’t fit any more, and I always thought Sneezy was a bit of a hypochondriac.

I had a drink with an old work colleague last night, and he shared the news that his wife is due to have a baby. As a father of three myself (“one of each” as I like to quip), I commiserated with him, and we had a pleasant evening “shooting the shit” as is the male preference on such occasions.

But in all seriousness, this was great news, and it made me realise how much I’ve been missing my old colleagues from my previous job. Not that my new colleagues are bad, you understand. I just haven’t reached that “depth” with them yet.

Luckily when I got home I was cheered up by my self-administered cure. I’d recently engaged in web-retail therapy, and my brand new “toy” had arrived. I was now the proud owner of my first red-lined Canon lens. Yup I own an L-series 100mm macro lens. So now what?

Well – like a kid with a new bag of marbles, I just had to start taking pictures. Of anything. Anything at all. Several times. Even if it complained. Or in the case of the dog – growled. As with any new lens, it’ll take me a while to get the best out of it. Well – the best I can get out of it that is!

For now, I used it as an excuse to get out my tripod, my remote release (no – that’s not a sex toy), and take photos of random detritus – a surprising amount of which seems to inhabit our house. And then I remembered the lavender tea my number two offspring had asked me to buy on our summer trip to Victoria. Mmm… I can almost smell it from the photo. Or maybe it’s on my fingers. Or in my head. I’m still on the hunt for things to photograph up close and personal. Perhaps a piece of Wedgewood next…

The downside became apparent as I looked through my “test images”. The dog! Her shed hair is EVERYWHERE, and at these resolutions you can see it in the most surprising places – like in a pine cone! Still getting used to the depth of field (as with any new lens), but here’s my first attempts…

Painting with light

15 09 2012

A few weeks ago we had some visitors from the UK. As is expected when you live in the Lower Mainland, we took them to Whistler (largely to stop them complaining about how cheap everything was compared to the UK.) It was a long day, and quite dark by the time we headed home along Highway 99. I had taken literally hundreds of photos during the day, and was suddenly struck with the patterns the headlights were making, and out came the trusty Canon again. (I wasn’t driving – don’t worry. Actually – my wife was, so perhaps you should!)

Obviously I was using relatively long exposures and rejoicing in the randomness of the suspension bounce on the lines being painted by the photons on the CCD. Exposures were in the one second range. Let me know what you think. (Unless you don’t like them, then keep it to yourself.  :))

A tale of two cities. Well three, I suppose

13 05 2012

So today I got back home from a week in Europe. I was attending a trade show in Düsseldorf, Germany, but staying in a hotel in Venlo in the Netherlands. I already posted photos of the lovely hotel I was staying in. If you missed them, look here.

I spent a little time on the Canon booth. Mainly drooling over the high end cameras and lenses on show, but also in awe at some of the industrial uses their printing equipment can be put to. I also checked out some packaging software vendors and was amazed at the complexity of designs that are possible with rigid packaging such as corrugated cardboard. I was in an amusing conversation with my Canadian born boss and a Southern UK employee. At one point I used the idiom “as bent as a nine-bob note”, which caused the Brit to ask how I knew such an obscure English term.

I looked him in the eye, as my first assumption was that this was a subtle ironic joke. Realising it wasn’t, I pointed out I was plainly a Yorkshireman, and though having been absent from said hallowed ground for a few years, was still fairly well acquainted with the language. He was amazed, and claimed that he’d assumed I was a “proper” Canadian from my accent. This made my boss laugh, as to his ear I sounded exactly like the Southerner. This made both myself and my British colleague give him the Paddington “extra hard stare”, and we all left in separate directions.

Around 6:30pm we headed out of Düsseldorf for London on a Lufthansa flight. The generously proportioned lady next to me complained bitterly about the tea being served with cream rather than milk. Having had it served to me that way several times in Canada, and also in the Netherlands and Germany, I gave her the polite version of “suck it up, Buttercup”, with my mind following with something along the lines of “if you like everything the way it is in the UK… why not just stay there?”

We over-nighted in the Park Inn at Heathrow, to catch the morning flight back home today. I was treated to a proper “Full English” breakfast, which incidentally, is never eaten by English folk except on holiday or at hotels. It turned out the hotel was temporary home to no less than 14 rugby teams, which I have to say behaved so impeccibly I would never have known. On leaving for the airport, I noticed one of the groups there was from Yorkshire. Small world.

I managed to sneak a quick trip to WH Smiths at the airport, and snagged a bag of Twiglets, Cheese and Onion crisps and a packet of Jaffa Cakes. I love BC dearly, but some things I do still miss from the UK. On the plane home, a middle-aged couple sat next to me turned out to be originally from Doncaster. We all agreed it was a good place to be from. They now lived in Nanaimo, here in BC… and the world noticeably shrank a little more.


Canon 100mm Thermos Lens Mug – LensMug.net

27 03 2012


What will they think of next? No – PLEASE don’t answer that…

Canon 100mm Thermos Lens Mug – LensMug.net.

Light, Camera, Action!

25 03 2012

So Second Born takes her driving test on Thursday. She drives way better than First Born (who already has her license!) and is calm and measured (unlike a certain parent).

Anyway, she’s just got back from a 2 week trip to Panama, so we thought we’d have a drive around and reacquaint her with the car. She’s the artistic one in the family, and she’d expressed an interest in my older Canon film camera. I found a roll of ISO 200, and there’s a vague chance it might not have gone off, so we loaded for sunsets and set off for Crescent Beach. I took along my DSLR, and set it all up for grainy, high contrast B&W just for a bit of fun. By the time we hit the beach though, she’d already burnt through the 24 exposures on the film, and so I let her muck about with the DSLR too.

Between us we had some fun, got to know each other again after the break, and she got to practice her driving to boot.

I hope you enjoy some of the results… the ones you like are almost certainly by her!

Well if I can do it, ANYONE can…

18 03 2012

OK, so I don’t claim these are actually that good at all, but I proved to myself that I could, in principle, capture the image of an ink drop in water.

Should I ever want to do it “properly”, I learned enough things this afternoon to do it w-a-a-a-y better next time. Allow me to share, and save you some time…

I took the Red Bubble set up as pretty much the starting place. A couple of things I learned though…

1) Don’t have the water container too close to the monitor… a round container acts like a lens, and you can actually see the pixel grid on the monitor, get interference patterns, etc. Probably better to get a more even light source. Outside on a sunny day? at least have the container sufficiently far infront of the monitor that the light is diffuse.

2) You might even be better with a flat-sided glass container. Perhaps an IKEA vase. This avoids the curved lens effect.

3) Use distilled water, or boiled water, and a very clean glass container. Otherwise you get little bubbles stuck to the insides, and the AF can lock onto them. (I wiped them off with a clean cloth.)

4) (Thanks to Bijou for this tip.) Focus is a pig, due to the moving ink. In the end, I used a fork in the middle of the container to give something nice for the AF to lock onto in roughly the place the ink would be, then switched to Manual to stop the camera hunting around.

5) I actually used food colouring – it seems to spread better than writing ink… and comes in a better range of colours.

6) Finally, I used the software “remote control” tool for my Canon, and set the ISO speed high, to allow the shutter speed/multi-shot to be pretty rapid whilst keeping the DoF as long as possible, by mucking with the light sources.

Above all… have some fun. If they don’t come out that good, so what? If you enjoyed the attempt, and didn’t spill water in either your fancy DSLR or your keyboard, who cares?

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