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Workshop Report – Bolton Abbey April 2022

Bolton Abbey Photography Workshop

Our second workshop of the year brought about the long awaited return to Bolton Abbey in spring, after two years of missing out on the bluebells! A day of sunny intervals made the light challenging at times but we had some nice spells of cloud cover for photographing in Strid Wood and some good sunlight for photographing the abbey.

We started the day with our usual introduction to exposure and a look at some images to get some subject, light and compositional ideas. Having finished this over welcome tea and coffee at The Tea Cottage we set out, crossing the river and up to the top abbey viewpoint.

Photographing Bolton Abbey in Spring
Photographing Bolton Abbey in Spring from the top viewpoint

Here the light was rather overcast, so studies of the priory ruins surrounded by fresh spring foliage without the white sky worked best. Over a decade or more of running our workshops the birch trees have shot up rather a lot so there’s a narrower window through which to photograph the abbey! However, by shuffling tripods around into the prime spot everyone achieved a nice portrait of the ruins.

Photographing by the River Wharfe
Photographing by the River Wharfe in Strid Wood

From the abbey, we hiked along the top footpath and along the river into Strid Wood itself. The low river level enticed us down to the water’s edge for some angles that we can’t usually reach before moving a few steps further along to our usual reflections stop.

Working with reflections in the River Wharfe on the Bolton Abbey in Spring workshop
Working with reflections by the River Wharfe in Strid Wood

Here, under the canopy of the denser woodland either side of the inlet it was darker, making exposures longer. This was ideal for making abstract images using the rocks, tree reflections and pebbles on the river bed. With only a few leaves on the trees, images were near monochrome save for the browns of the riverbed rocks and hints of blue from gaps in the clouds.

Reflections in the River Wharfe
Example reflections in the River Wharfe image in Strid Wood

After the reflections, we headed further upstream to The Strid to sit by the mighty torrent for lunch before setting up tripods on the rocks for some moving water photography.

Photographing The Strid on the Bolton Abbey in Spring workshop
Photographing moving water details at The Strid

Here, the clouds started to break up and the sun shone through, which was nice but made photographing the water quite tricky! Fortunately, the breezy conditions kept the clouds moving quickly and we had a few fleeting moments of ideal light as a cloud moved across the sun. The waterfall in The Strid looked great with the lower river level and there was a good amount of peaty colour in the water too. In fact, it was the lowest we’ve seen the River Wharfe on the workshops – with some of the moss on top of the rock in the stream drying out completely!

Photographing Simon's Seat
Photographing Simon’s Seat in the distance

From The Strid we continued along the river, enjoying views of Barden Tower in the distance. At the footbridge we crossed the river, enjoying the warmth of the spring sunshine. Before re-entering the woods, we stopped to have a look over the wall towards Simon’s Seat. The light looked rather flat on it at first, but we waited patiently and some lovely cloud shadows moved across with sunlight picking out the trees in front of it nicely.

At the viewpoint above The Strid
Photographing The Strid from above on the return path

Back in the woods, where the path is higher above the river, we stopped briefly at a couple of viewpoints with views through the trees down to the River Wharfe. The narrow corridor through the trees down to The Strid worked quite well, and at Harrison’s Ford Seat we could have a rest in the shelter and admire the view.

Enjoying the view at Harrison's Ford Seat
Contemplating the view at Harrison’s Ford Seat

Here we waited for a while for the sun to pop through the clouds and pick out the fresh foliage in the distance, which worked nicely as a backdrop to the skeletal tree to the right of the river. From Harrison’s Ford Seat, we followed the slowly descending path through an increasingly dense crop of bluebells…

Photographing bluebells in Strid Wood on the Bolton Abbey in Spring workshop
At the bank of bluebells in Strid Wood

Back down by the river, we followed the narrow loop path to the old bird feeder where there’s a spectacular bank of bluebells heading up through the trees. There were quite a few new fallen trees and branches, so longer lenses were the order of the day to pick out a nice composition of tree trunks amongst the flowers. The sun came and went, with some nice moments of bright diffused light which was ideal of the bluebells. It was doubly nice to be back at this spot after a two year gap as it was one of the best crops of bluebells we’ve seen on our workshops!

Making ICM images in Strid Wood
Making abstract tree trunk images with intentional camera movement

Just along the riverside path from the bluebells we had a tripod-free stop to experiment with intentional camera movement (ICM). There’s a lovely area of parallel tree trunks here of various colours making an ideal subject for this technique.

Example ICM image
Example intentional camera movement image

Unfortunately, the storms have claimed one or two of the trees which made it harder to find an ideal viewpoint. However, we still found a nice group of parallel trunks with dark and light bark and some with orange lichen which work very nicely when panning the camera vertically.

Photographing Bolton Abbey in Spring at the end of the day
Photographing Bolton Abbey in Spring at the end of the workshop

We left the woods for the final time and returned along the lower path by the river to the ruins of Bolton Abbey. By this time, it was a lovely sunny afternoon so we skipped stopping at the stepping stones to head straight up to the viewpoint back up by the Tea Cottage. From here, the priory ruins are lit nicely by the descending afternoon sun. A lovely way to round off a very enjoyable Bolton Abbey in Spring workshop!

Despite the changeable light, we’d found one or two great images. With care taken over exposures and histograms, some of these were brought to life in our post-processing session the following day, which was very pleasing!

If you’d like to join us for a workshop in Strid Wood, we’ll be back for the wild garlic flowers next month and for our final workshop for spectacular autumn colour in November.

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