In a stupendous example of failing to plan, after my talk on Friday evening and short cycle around Edinburg on Saturday morning, I was scratching my head as to what to do. Should I stay in Scotland, find somewhere to stay, do a little exploring on or off the bike with a view to doing some more cycling on Sunday before a long drive south on Sunday afternoon? Or should I get the bulk of the driving out of the way and head back to Yorkshire, find a campsite and spend most of Sunday cycling? Munching through an impromptu lunch in a Sainsbury’s carpark just south of the Scottish capital, I decided upon option two. I stayed clear of the motorways and , to a certain extent, replicated the general direction of my 2009 cycle along the Pennine Cycleway. By late afternoon I was in The Yorkshire Dales and had found the rather wonderful Gordale:
It’s over the hill from the somewhat more well-known and substantially more frequented Malhamdale but is equally, if not more, magnificent as the panorama above reveals. You can just about spot the campsite in the bottom of the valley where I parked up, erected the tent and, over a few glasses of red, watched the sun set over the hills.
I woke on Sunday with a long cycle in mind. We’ll come to that in a second because the valley and the prospect of a view across the Yorkshire Dales from its lofty limestone pavement was far too tempting. So, after a short climb, I found myself perching over the rocks and admiring the green vista before me:
There was no wind to speak of, and the clouds were of the white, non-threatening variety. I stopped, I stared and took some photographs. At this point there’s a slight tangent to the story. Back to Yorkshire in a few moments…
Digital cameras, I have discovered, can be a bit of a let down. My camera-owning history is similar to that of many people who have lived through both the analogue and non-analogues ages. I started with a cheap instant when I was probably about 12 years old and purchased my first SLR a few years later. It worked well and I took some great photos. The digital age arrived in the 1990s, or at least in did for me as I bought my first model: a small, silver Canon that slid into my pocket in a way that otters slide into pools of water. The pixel race of the next 20 years soon meant that upgrades were frequently required and a series of successors was to follow – often Canons – before the mobile phone took over the mantle of being my default camera. Not only was it otter-like in its ability to be stored away, it brought with it that all-important ability of ‘sharing’. The social media age had arrived; everything that could be photographed was being photographed and, much to the sighing displeasure of every professional photographer on the planet, made freely available for all to see and often use. I am as ‘guilty’ (if not more so) as the next person in embracing the digital photo-sharing world that we now inhabit. Yet in my defence, I never abandoned the SLR, or as it had been renamed, the DSLR. Before setting off to cycle from Tarifa to Nordkapp in 2015, I upgraded to a Canon EOS 100D. One of the most – if not the most – compact DSLRs on the market. It served its purpose well, and combined with the efforts on the iPhone 7, the adventure from Europe’s southernmost to northernmost points was recorded in glorious detail for this website and even the subsequent book. Yet the 100D never quite gave me the results I could see elsewhere. The colours, the clarity, the depth of field… Technically, my photographic efforts were very good, but not quite as good as I was striving for. I could compose my photos well, edit them, crop them, occasionally digitally manipulate them, but I couldn’t quite squeeze out of that compact DLSR the raw images that I was keen to capture. Last week, I decided to bite the financial bullet and, once again, upgrade. I am now the owner of a Canon EOS 80D and I think I may have found what I have been looking for. For those who are interested, here’s the full specification. For those who aren’t, the results of my first ‘expedition’ with the EOS 80D can be found in this very post. At which point, it’s back to Yorkshire and some flora and fauna:
The image of the sheep with its worryingly angled come-and-get-me head demonstrates the ability of the camera to capture the colours. Here it is again, unfiltered, as taken:
The green, yellow, red and blue colours are beautiful. The detail is magnificent. The depth of field astounding. On with the cycling…
In another slight aside, you may remember that I’m trying to cycle as many of the routes of the National Cycle Network in Yorkshire as I can this year. I’m not making rapid progress but my cycle around the Dales last weekend did help me tick off half of one of the routes: The Yorkshire Dales Cycleway, regional route 10. You can see that regional route 10 comes in two loops, one either side of Settle:
Alas my own route wasn’t quite spot on what it should have been as I didn’t have my maps with me (and there weren’t that many signs to follow) but here’s what I recorded on Strava:
I detoured to Malham Tarn – why is the tarn not on the route I wonder??? – and earlier, when setting off from Malham, took a ‘wrong’ turning at Kirby Malham on a more direct route to Settle rather than cycling as far as Airton. It was soon corrected when the two routes coalesced only a couple of kilometres to the west of Kirby Malham. 37 km and over 750 metres of ascent, including some comically steep hills (yes, I pushed) so not the greatest of rides in terms of distance but perfect for stretching the legs and, err… firing off the new Canon:
Not that I have abandoned all other forms of digital capture. The image stabilising capabilities of the iPhone are hard to beat, especially when you are videoing traffic jams, Yorkshire style, while continuing to cycle:
And the panoramic feature of the iPhone impossible to replicate with even the best DSLR. Here was the scene outside the wonderful 3 Peaks Cycles in Settle:
The young woman behind the counter tried to help me get the back brake working again – I think I may have been over-generous with my oiling of the chain in recent weeks and it has contaminated the hub brake pads – and although we weren’t completely successful, she then advised me at length on routes. I paid the establishment for her time and effort via a great coffee and a sublime avocado / carrot cake. Worth the trip just for that.
A good day of cycling. A great way to celebrate one’s birthday.