Home Newsletter Locations Diary



Current Newsletter

January 2012    Photographers Resource - Monthly    Edition 97

Canals and Waterways in Wintertime

Falkirk Wheel, Stirlingshire, Scotland. Also see our Falkirk Wheel Gallery

Joining the Forth & Clyde Canal and Union Canal

Image taken with Nikon D100, with 12-25mm lens @ 24mm, ISO 320, 1/400th, F10
In This Issue:-
  • Editorial

  • Feature - Canals and Waterways in Wintertime

  • Photographic Feature - Project for the Year

  • Photographers Diary

  • January Wildlife Diary

Welcome to 2012, and we wish you a happy and prosperous new year.  For the UK this should be a colourful year with not only all our usual flora and fauna breaking out from spring onwards, but we have two major events taking place later this year. The country will be celebrating the Queens Diamond Jubilee at the end of May into June, with lots of pomp and ceremony and for this year only we have an extra bank holiday. Then in July and August we are hosts to the 2012 Olympic Games. So no doubt it will be another eventful year.

However we don't have to wait until the summer to get some colour as we start off the year with colourful events, with fireworks to welcome in the New Year, and during this month there are various Fire Festivals taking place, particularly in Scotland. At the end of this month is the Big Garden Watch weekend when we get to look out for our colourful garden birds and count up how many we see, for the largest RSPB survey of UK garden birds.

Another colourful part of our country and one that is quite close to many of us, are our Canals and Waterways. Canal boats in particular are very colourful, in their red, greens, yellows, whites and highly decorated, and although not as many will be on the move at this time of year, there will be many moored up along our canals. In some areas there are marinas where people live on their boats all year round and so a walk along a canal at this time will not only have a haze or mist off the water, but there will also be smoke coming from heating systems on the boats and adding a different perspective to our photos. Take a look at our piece below for more on this and links to various pages we have.

January is also the time when people put together their lists of resolutions, and perhaps one of these for you might be to get out and about amongst our countryside with your camera and take more fantastic images. It is a good time to get out and about and

Let's explain how this newsletter and resource works

Each month we have a newsletter or magazine and this comes out on or about the 1st of the month. The newsletter links to a number of new articles, tables of information and detailed location guides, amongst other things.

One of the most popular features is a monthly diary covering interesting and unusual things on, around the UK, in the two months ahead.

Everything that appears, or ever has, is indexed in a number of ways, alphabetically, by topic, by county, and often linked into sections. Many of the sections have their own front doorways so people with specific interests have direct access through these doors to their area of interest.

You can also get back to see every newsletter, from the beginning, via our recent editions link.

All of our links are coded showing you if it's an external link or one of our own pages and when it is, the type of page it is. You will find a key to the most popular ones at the bottom of the contents panel on the left and clicking on any of the symbols will bring up a full list. Holding your mouse over one of these symbols tells you what it means.

If this is your first visit, click here to find out how you might best use this site to help you find what you are looking for.

take photos, on  a misty frosty morning atmosphere is added to the landscape, on a sunny day the light levels cast just the right amount of shadow on leaf bare trees and make them more three dimensional. Clear sunny days everything looks crisp and even the horizon is clear with no haze from the sun. Because there is less green, what colour there is is more defined and becomes a prominent part of the image. If you live or get a chance to be near the coast seas are more dramatic, especially when there is a little wind. However,  if the cold or weather is not quite to your liking then you could use this time to come up with ideas for a photographic project this year. Take a look at the photographic feature below for some ideas of what you might want to consider.


Canals and Waterways in Wintertime

As we move into 2012 and January the weather outside has not made up its mind on whether it wants to be mild and sunny, or cold and snowy. In the end it went for mild and we didn't get a white Christmas, but January is only just here and things could change as we go into the first part of the new year. When the winds are high, coastal locations have the most dramatic landscapes, and as long as you remember to keep safe, can provide a good photo opportunity if you happen to live nearby. For those of us who are more landlocked there are other water opportunities, probably not as dramatic but still colourful, atmospheric, and a chance to get a glimpse of some wildlife this time of year. I'm thinking of our rivers and canals.

A walk along a riverbank or canal towpath on a crisp January morning, so wrap up warm, will provide many photo opportunities from mist hovering above the waterline, to possibly a wildlife encounter. If you're quiet and lucky enough, a sight of a water vole 'ratty', getting a winter feed or collecting new bedding might be your highlight. There could be ducks or swans gliding along the water leaving a ripple trail as they gracefully make their way. Or even their behinds as they dip below the water to find food. Look out for Heron's too feeding within the shallower waters of the river bed, see if you can photograph them as they take off and fly away once they spot you.

Heron in a Canal Mill Pond

Grey Heron

Many of our rivers end up at the sea and their estuaries will be teeming with wading birds getting a feed in the muddy sands before the tide comes back in. Some of our rivers have special phenomenon such as the Severn Bore on the River Severn in Gloucestershire. This takes place all year round, although some are better and bigger than others. The River Severn has the second largest tidal range in the world, which is approximately 15 metres, and at certain combinations of the tides, the rising water is funnelled up the estuary into a wave that

travels rapidly upstream against the river current. It travels a distance of around 25 miles between Awre and Gloucester. In January this is expected to happen from the 24th to 26th, although a small specimen compared to some. On these special dates you may see people attempting to surf along the bore wave which can be up to two metres high, but many are smaller than this.

On the canals as well as wildlife there are also physical structures such as locks and two good examples of these are Hatton Locks in Worcestershire and The Staircase at Devizes in Wiltshire, where there are multiple lock flights and water overflows that may have wildlife activity on them. The canals will also have colourful boats moored up, some may even be lived in and therefore have lights on and smoke coming from their heating sources. If they are habited you may also be able to soak up the smells of their breakfast or mid day meal as you wander past. On a weekend some may also be moving about. There may also be other structures alongside such as Windmills, Watermills, pumping stations, toll cottages, viaducts as well as many bridges and open countryside. For other ideas on what you might find on a canal walk to photograph take a look at Canals for Photographers, which also looks at some techniques it might be worth brushing up on before your visit.

Rivers and Canals are peaceful and clam places and there are many throughout the UK, and any one of us is not far from one or the other, or both. Within our Canals and Waterways Section we have many listed such as the Major Canals and Waterways, Major Canal Features, Canal Tunnels, as well as many individual location guides of some we have visited.

Devizes Staircase Locks, Wiltshire

Devizes Locks Gallery

Photographic Feature

Project for the Year Ahead

It doesn't have to be one, you could set a number of smaller projects for different parts of the year. You may have a holiday planned in the summer, in the UK or abroad, so this may be one. You may have a big family event taking place like a wedding, anniversary, birth of a child etc and this could be another or you may be visiting the Olympics or thinking about going to London for the Queens Diamond Jubilee or you may just feel like doing something different, something you haven't done before or taking on a challenge. You may not have even thought about what you are going to do this year and so taking time out this month to think about what it is you might want to achieve, whether it be improving your camera skills, or visiting something special or photographing something specific, January is probably a good time to start making a list and doing the planning.

As with any major event in life if you are able to plan and take time to think about what you want to achieve, it is more likely to happen. If you are planning a major event or holiday you will have an end date of when it is to take place and along the way to this there will be many tasks that need to be carried out to get to the end goal. It can be just the same with a photographic project, planning ahead will make sure you have the right kit and skills to carry out the project in hand.

Let us take as an example that later in the year you would like to go on a holiday of a lifetime, perhaps a wildlife or safari type holiday. Your initial task will be to sort out when, how long for and with which company you are going to go with. Once these decisions are made then you can book the holiday and time off work, now you have the end date. Between now and when you eventually go off on this holiday of a lifetime there will be other tasks to carry out such as getting the right inoculations for the country you are visiting, making sure your passport is up to date, getting the correct currency, sorting out how to get to the airport, making sure you have the right clothing for the environment you will be going into as well as making sure you have the right photographic equipment and more. But if your plan is to also come back with a load of photographic memories of your trip, then with enough time beforehand you can prepare yourself photographically.

To start check out your camera kit, think about where you are going and what you are likely to want to take photos of, how much do you want to carry with you, so is your camera a compact or will you make do with your smartphone, or do you have a DSLR with all the right lenses. Your personal goals and preferences will determine what you take with you, and planning ahead can help you to decide what your goals are and give you enough time to get any additional equipment that you need, as well as to take time out beforehand to brush up your skills by practicing the different techniques you think you may need. If you need to brush up on skills then don't forget to check out the photography articles within this website, there is a wealth of information already here and more will be added during the coming months.

Practising wildlife photography skills at home is not difficult, okay you won't have the same bright sun and if your luck is anything like mine, it could even rain and therefore you are trying to photograph through mist, but you have wildlife in your back garden with birds, insects, pond life if you have a pond etc. One way to practice photographing larger more exotic wildlife is to visit one of the many wildlife parks we have like the West Midland Safari Park in Worcestershire, or Woburn Safari Park in Buckinghamshire and with many around the UK there will be one not far from you. Okay you won't be in an open top vehicle, you'll be in your car with windows shut but this will have it's own challenges for you to overcome, like photographing through a window, positioning yourself so there isn't too much clutter behind the subject that is distracting, having the sun coming straight at you, getting reflections in ponds and puddles and with the help of the articles on this website, such as filters, depth of field, etc you can overcome most of these and be prepared.

It may also be worth thinking about, in this planning stage, what you are going to do with the many images you collect on this holiday of a lifetime. How are you going to remember this trip, are you going to just keep a pack of images on your computer's hard drive and never look at them, or are you going to print some of them out and frame them, or onto canvas to hang on your wall, if so is your system fully colour managed to achieve this when you return, or perhaps you would like to put some of them into a coffee table photo book that your friends and relations can browse through when they visit.

If you aren't planning a major trip and are struggling to come up with an idea for photographic project this year then take a look at our articles, A Project for the Year and Possible Year Projects for some ideas or at least to get you thinking about what it is you might want to achieve.

The Photographers Diary

The February diary is now in the 'next month' slot with January moved to in the 'this month'. Both months have a lot of opportunities for everyone.  Some highlights that are of particular interest for January are:-

We start off 2012 with a big bang, with various New Years Celebrations taking place around the country and involving fireworks. New Years Day is also pretty busy for some, with parades such as the one in London, and Bath Tub races in Poole Quay in Dorset.

There are also the more unusual traditional events taking place this month. In Scotland on the 2nd you have the New Years Day BA Game on the Orkney Isles, play by men and boys, and at the end of the month on Shetland you have the Lerwick Up Helly Aa, where a replica Viking longship is paraded through the streets to the waters edge where it is set alight and fireworks are let off on the 31st.  In England there is the Game of Haxey Hood in Lincolnshire on the 6th when a 2ft long leather cylinder is thrown into a group of pub regulars who attempt to get it across the fields to their local pub. On the 7th there is Wassailing in Bolney Sussex.


Ice Sculpting Festival 2011   Photo by David Fisher

If you want to see a display of colourful canal boats, amongst loads of others then you could visit the London International Boat Show which runs at Docklands, London from the 6th to 15th. And staying with a water theme with a difference, but still in London on the 13th and 14th at Canada Square Park there is the Ice Sculpting Festival where eight teams of sculptors from around the world carve their interpretation of this years chosen theme, 'Team Spirit'.

The 21st sees the Aviemore Sled Dog Rally in Glenmore Forest Park, where tams of dog and men compete in events in the forest setting.


Aviemore Sled Dog Rally Photo by Julia Ballarin

At the end of the month it is the Chinese New Year, 2012 being the Year of the Dragon, and the Chinese communities within many of our larger cities such as Liverpool, Southampton, and London will have parades and other events taking place to mark the new year.

January is in no way a quiet month there is still plenty to get out and see and photograph so take a look at our diary for a full list of what is available for you.

Wildlife Photography In January

After a mild holiday period it might be that many of us think about getting out and about over the coming month to see what wildlife we can capture. With few leaves on the trees in woodlands, bright but low level natural light and lots of wildlife activity around our coastlines and inland waterways there should be something to see and photograph. Even in our gardens we will have visitors throughout this month grateful for the odd morsel of food we have left out for them. Driving through the Cotswolds down the endless country lanes there are Pheasants in the fields and only the other day I spotted a Grey Squirrels, on the side of the road, having a good feast on some food he had previously hidden, a good tactic as there is little left on the trees this time of year.


Mute Swan

Driving past the lakes of the Cotswold Water Parks a glance out of the window there are swans and other wildfowl cruising on the water surface, or with their heads underwater seeing what tasty morsels they can find to keep them going through the coming days. This time of year wintering waterfowl are at their peak in numbers and around our coastlines you will see birds such as Lapwing, or large flocks of Knot swooping and darting along the shoreline as they feed and come in from the approaching tide. While up some of our estuaries there are large numbers of Avocets, and the RSPB throughout January and February run special excursions in Devon so


that you can see them. Our canals and ponds are also a good place to see wildlife, look out for Common Frogs congregating in large numbers and making their purring calls inviting any females nearby to join them.

If you get a chance to visit a woodland then listen out for the Song Thrush singing to show it's territory boundaries, or a woodpecker drumming against a tree trying to get its dinner of insects. If you are lucky enough to see a woodpecker, and it has a red breast it is likely to be the Great Spotted as they are more common and in more places around the UK. If you happen to see a Grey Squirrels, look out to see if there are more, you may see them chasing each other as this time of year is when the courtship reaches fever pitch. Out in the countryside or near an orchard with fallen fruit you may come across a Fieldfare or Redwing feeding.

Native birds who have stayed through the winter months and regularly visit our gardens will be grateful for any food you leave out for them. Those that will visit on sunnier days will include Blackbirds, Greenfinches, Great Tits as well as the Robin. Whilst these birds will be taking you up on your dining offer they will also be marking their territories for the coming year, and the Great Tit along with the Blue Tit will also be on the look out for nesting sites and boxes ready for their spring brood. At the end of January is the RSBP Big Garden Watch Weekend, 28th and 29th, where we can all take part in checking out and counting the bird species we see in our gardens and parks for an hour on either day, and submit our results on their website.

Normally at this time of year most plants are underground and getting ready for spring, however with our unseasonable milder winter some have been tricked into thinking it's time to come up now. I have already seen in some parks and gardens the yellow daffodil at different stages, some the leaves have appeared whilst others are out in full bloom. Normally towards the end of the month, Snowdrops start to make an appearance through the woodlands floors, but there are already signs of them pushing their way through. Although many of the colourful plants will be waiting to show their heads, there is still plenty of variegated green plants on offer such as lichen and ferns as well as some woodland fungi.

For more on wildlife available and the January nature highlights to photograph this month, take a look at Wildlife Photography in January.



Summary of Articles Included In This Issue

Wildlife Photography in January

Great Spotted

Grey Squirrels



Wildlife Photography

Photographing Fireworks

A Project for the Year

Possible Year Projects


Canals for Photographers

Depth of Field

Colour Managed Workflow

Producing a Photo Book  


Canals and Waterways Section


Lists Included This Issue


Fire Festivals

Wildlife Parks

Multiple lock flights

Major Canals and Waterways

Major Canal Features

Canal Tunnels

Locations Guides Added This Issue

Hatton Locks, Worcestershire  

The Staircase, Devizes, Wiltshire

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Denbighshire


Home Newsletter Locations Diary