Bolton Abbey April Retrospective

This weekend would have been our second workshop of the season and our first visit of the year to Bolton Abbey.  Although the trees aren’t showing that much foliage at this time of year, I love this first spring visit as it’s usually the best time to catch the bluebells in Strid Wood.

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Bolton Abbey, April 2016

We always kick off (after out introductory talk over coffee) at the viewpoint across the River Wharfe to the priory ruins.  This is the steepest hill of the day – but it’s quite short and the view is worth it and there are a couple of viewpoints through the trees across to the abbey – either at an angle or face on – so it’s a good place to set cameras up on tripods and get used to exposure controls and reading the histogram.

Capturing Moving Water Details at The Strid
Photographing moving water details at The Strid, 2015-2017

In Strid Wood we spend some time at a quiet spot beside the river under a canopy of trees where it’s generally quite dark and there are nice reflections in the still water so we can practice some long exposure images before heading off to The Strid itself.

Mossy Rock at The Strid Bolton Abbey
Mossy Rock and Peaty Water at The Strid

The Strid is always our lunch stop, so we can sit and eat our sandwiches while admiring the raging torrent of the River Wharfe somehow squeezing itself through a narrow rocky fissure before settling down to photograph the every-changing waterscape in front of us.  It’s always great fun here and our groups come away with some amazing images!

Photographing bluebells in April 2014
Photographing bluebells in April 2014

Further upstream from The Strid there are sometimes some nice bluebells on the way up to the top car park of the Bolton Abbey estate but we’ve only had luck with them here on one workshop – we much prefer the bank of bluebells on the return walk on the other side of the river.  There was a particularly nice crop in 2014!

Having a go at some intentional camera movement, April 2016
Having a go at some intentional camera movement, April 2016

Not far from the bluebells there’s a great area of parallel birch tree trunks where we have some fun making ICM (intentional camera movement) images from the path.  It’s a change from the more formal tripod use for a few minutes, and takes a bit of getting used to – but it can produce some amazing abstract images with a bit of spring vegetation behind the tree trunks…

Demonstration Intentional Camera Movement Image
Demonstration Intentional Camera Movement Image, April 2018

At the end of the day, we return to the ruins of Bolton Priory and spend some time working with reflections down by the stepping stones if the conditions are right before finishing off at the viewpoint near the start of our walk on the opposite side of the river from the morning view of the priory – showing how the direction of light changes from one end of the day to the other.

Some lovely light on Bolton Abbey at the end of the day
Some lovely light on Bolton Abbey at the end of the day, April 2018

If we’re lucky we get some nice early evening light here as the sun descends.  It appears it was a warm day in 2018 judging by the shirt sleeves and the crowds – though the sky was nicer on a cooler day for our 2017 visit (featured image, top).

We can’t wait to get back to Bolton Abbey for our spring bluebells visit next year, which will be on Saturday 24th April 2021.  It’s open for bookings on the website now if you’d like to join us!

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