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Embleton Bay

Castles, sun and wind

In April Northumberland was invaded again, by a friendly group of picture hunting members of the RPS, for a long weekend in the White Swan Hotel in the charming old town of Alnwick. Northumberland was at its best.

Embleton Bay by Jane Black

Northumberland is the most northerly county in England. It is known for having one hundred castles and peel towers many of which still survive today. These were built for protection from invasion during several centuries from the Vikings to the Scots.

On Friday the 20th of April Northumberland was invaded again, this time by a friendly group of picture hunting members of the RPS who took up residence for a long weekend in the White Swan Hotel in the charming old town of Alnwick. The sun was shining from a very blue sky. It was warm and along the approach road there were many daffodils. Northumberland was at its best. Leaving the A1 to approach Alnwick you pass the lion monument and enter the town through an ancient stone arch once part of the protective wall. The White Swan Hotel has been extensively modernised but 300 years ago it was a Coaching Inn on the route from London to Edinburgh. The dining room is unique and is decorated out with the original panelling, mirrors, ceiling and stained glass from RMS Olympic, sister ship to the Titanic.

The well organised and detailed programme began immediately with a welcome drink in the bar followed by the routine of lectures before dinner and after dinner time to see the work of some of our friends. 

For those enjoying early morning photography an expert was waiting in the entrance hall the following day at 6.00am to provide guidance up and down the coast. Another guide led a tour around Alnwick, and just a short walk away free tickets allowed exploration of Alnwick Castle and Garden. This large and dramatic castle is the home of the Percy family, the Dukes of Northumberland.
It was a most enjoyable, well organised, interesting weekend. Sincere thanks must go to Andreas Klatt and his wife Sue who worked extremely hard to achieve this.

We first met in the bar of the White Swan. Welcome drinks of choice set us up for a talk by Paul Mitchell FRPS entitled “Confessions of a Landscape Photographer”. Paul took us through his journey in creativity, sharing with us some excellent images as well as tips for improving our style. This was followed by dinner and the AGM. 

Paul had invited all of the weekend’s participants to an early morning walk along the river with views of Alnwick Castle on the far side. Initially it was a little cloudy, but in its perverse way the sun broke through to give the castle a golden glow just as we were leaving. 

After breakfast the workshop group departed for the coast and the other weekenders were able to spend the rest of the day at leisure. A walking tour around Alnwick led to the castle with its fine collection of Canalettos, Van Dykes and Turners. The castle overlooks the River Aln and extensive parkland designed by Capability Brown, whereas the Duchess of Northumberland has recreated the wonderful Alnwick Garden with a famous poison garden and water cascade. The more adventurous took to the hills and surrounding attractions of Northumbria.

For the workshop Paul was joined by local photographer, well County Durham based, Jeff Teasdale ARPS, and a group of about twelve of us went off to the coast. Our first port of call was Embleton Bay with its sand dunes, second world war beach defences and a fine view of the remains of Dunstanburgh Castle. 

Our next call was at Howdiemont Sands which has interesting rock formations, rock pools and the remnants of a WW1 submarine. The last stopping point of the day was at Alnmouth itself which provided an additional opportunity for architectural photography as well as for an icecream and a pint. Paul and Jeff were both very helpful throughout the day with suggestions of topics, exposures and tricks and techniques they had developed during their illustrious careers.

Before dinner there was a very interesting and entertaining talk by Philip Joyce ARPS covering mainly street life. Connecting tales and anecdotes made for a well rounded presentation. One person left to watch the football. His team was beaten – oh such retribution for leaving such a good talk.

After dinner there was a show and tell session where a number of people presented. Most notably John Shepherd FRPS with his images of plants as they would have been painted by Victorian naturalists. These were of outstanding quality. Peter Rees FRPS showed and read from a self-published book in which he has paired his photographs with his poetry.

Bright and early on Sunday we were left to our own devices with some members opting for adventures further afield, exploring the Cheviot Hills, visiting the Farne Islands to see the birds and seals, and crossing to Holy Island to see Lindisfarne Priory and the scaffolded Castle.

On Sunday evening Jeff Teasdale returned to show us how we really should take photographs of the Northumbrian coastline – greeted with much pleasure and cries of “How did I miss that yesterday!”. After another excellent dinner we rounded off the weekend with a look at the Sunday Challenge results, pictures taken by the more forthcoming of us over the time of our stay.

Altogether a really enjoyable weekend, magnificently organised to many thanks from everyone who attended before our homeward trek to far flung reaches such as Devon and Guernsey.