black hill cats back

Black Hill Walk Herefordshire

A beautiful spring weekend was forecast and the decision was where to go for a photo walk.  At quite some distance from my base in Pershore I really wanted to visit the Black Hill in Herefordshire and wanted good weather for this challenging walk.

Plenty of places to go for a photo walk being based on the border between Gloucestershire and Worcestershire and not far for Herefordshire.   Herefordshire has some beautiful hilly countryside and is the least populated county in England.  A journey to the Black hill in Herefordshire from Pershore was well over 50 miles but well worth the trip.

Groping in the Dark

Although sunrise and sunset are the best times for landscape photography these times are best reserved for locations you know and or have already scouted else you could be groping around in the dark.   I was as much excited about a long walk in the spring sunshine and admiring the views as well as hopefully getting some good photos, but the bright sunshine was going to be a problem for getting good exposures.

The Cats Back

I used Black Hill walk out of the AAs 50 walks in Herefordshire and Worcestershire as my guide and found the free parking picnic area with out too much trouble at the bottom of the Black hill.   The Black Hill rises in front of you like a giant tidal wave as you approach and you think Wow!  Its almost a little intimidating, like am I going to be safe up there?

black hill cats back
flying my plane 1/30 sec, f/11, ISO 100, 32mm

For the first few miles along the  Black Hill you make an initial steep ascent and then walk along a rocky spine called the Cats back.   It reminded me a little like the Malverns, but higher, more remote a lot less visitors and you have views of the Black Mountains in Powys Wales to the west.   Its really quite thrilling walking along the Black Hill for the first time.

Black Hill Herefordshire
black hill Herefordshire 1/100 sec, f/11 ISO 100, 18mm

A bit further along the Cats Back on the Black Hill you come to moor lands in this upland where there are wild horses and ponies and you really get to feel the remoteness of the Black Hill.

trig point black hill
black hill trig point 1/25 sec, f/8.0, ISO 100, 18mm

You know you are on the right track on the Black Hill when you reach the Trig point.  Trig points were all the rage with the Ordnance survey before satellites were invented. On top of the black hill the map and instructions were pretty easy to follow, you are unlikely to get lost.

Offas Dyke Path

Through more moor land with signs of melting snow to a way marker at Offas Dyke path and then a steep ascent to the highest point in Herefordshire.  Its then a three mile walk along Offas Dyke Path before a steep descent down the Black Hill.

Offas Dyke path black hill
Offas Dyke Path 1/40 sec f/11 ISO 320 18mm

Offas Dyke Path marks the boundary between England and Wales the counties of Herefordshire and Powys.    The wind bites on the open upland of Offas Dyke Path and you can feel quite isolated.  Post processing the photo of Offas dyke above realised I had left the ISO on auto whereas should have been 100 ISO giving me longer exposure of around 1/15 sec, but looks tack sharp with no noise.  There was a problem of some strong gusts of wind on top of the Black Hill making long exposures with filters challenging.

black hill black mountains
black hill herefordshire 1/10 sec f/11 ISO 100 18mm

To the west off of Offas path were some views into Wales, Powys and the peaks of the black mountains.

Using a Polariser and Blocking

I was using a polariser to bring out the clouds in the blue sky.  Blocking can occur in the shadow areas when using a polariser with a wide angle lens, you can see in the image above of the Black hill the blue sky is darker in the top left corner.  This has and can be corrected post processing in Lightroom using the Graduated Filter tool. In camera though blocking can be corrected by not turning the polariser to its dark extreme.   In the bright sunshine though it can be hard to spot these errors in the field.

For these shots it was not necessary to use ND filters on the sky, if anything the opposite as the sunlight reflecting off the yellow grass was brighter.  It pays to regulary spot meter the different areas of the frame.  To make this easier I intend to purchase a separate light meter and not keep changing the settings in camera.

Shielding from the wind and sun

I often pack a storm proof umbrella in the side pouch of my day pack.  This makes a great sun block when you need to see what is going on on the LCD screen of your camera, can also double as a lens shield against sun flare.  But not much use if the wind is strong and blowing in the wrong direction.  It pays to determine which way the wind is blowing simply by throwing a blade of grass into the air.  You can then use your body as a wind shield being careful not to allow your shadow to intrude into the frame.

Although it felt cool on top of the Black Hill and all along Offas Dyke way, should have applied some sunshield too to my head, was a little red and sore once I made it back home.

Olchon Valley

Along Offas way you reach a pile of stones a take a grassy path left down into the Olchon valley of Herefordshire heading back towards the car park which you can see in the distance.

Olchon valley black hill
Olchon Valley 1/5 sec F/11 ISO 100 18mm

Some wonderful views open up south east of the Olchon valley in Herefordshire.  Its shielded from the wind mid afternoon on this side of the Black Hill after disturbing a few free roaming hill sheep found a nice spot to just rest and admire the beautiful views, feel the warm sunshine and relish in the peace and quiet, good to be alive.  Was a little hazy and on a morning with excellent visibility would be great spot for a sunrise photo.

black hill up
black hill lone tree f/11 ISO 100, 18mm HDR -+2

At the bottom of the Olchon valley looking back up could see how the Black hill maybe got its name?  Late afternoon the west side of the Black Hill is thrown in shadow.  The lone silver birch amid dead bracken makes a good point of interest or focal point leading your eyes into the frame then up the dark shadow of the black hill.  Due to the high contrast of the scene 3 exposures were taken two stops apart and later combined using HDR in Lightroom.

A great walk along the Black hill of Herefordshire, make it back to the car park legs aching and stop off in a pub in Longtown for some food and a pint.

Black Hill Herefordshire