Dark Sky Drives - Seeing Stars with the Family on Falcondale Life blog. With older children a night time adventure to see the stars in a dark sky park is a great idea for a roadtrip. How to plan and what to expect in some of the best dark sky viewing areas. North Pennines AONB, Forest of Galloway and ambitions to visit the dark sky park of county Kerry.This is a collaborative post.

Since our children have grown a bit older we are all happier on long car journeys. They can watch films or play Minecraft on the long roadtrips. When the roads get more scenic and winding, they are mature enough to appreciate the views. In recent years we have taken some long roadtrips through France and the American Midwest. We switched to a more fuel-efficient car and having saved such a lot on petrol we are able to travel further afield. We are stretching our imaginations about where we might go.

North Pennines Dark Skies

A short time ago we toured the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This vast and beautiful AONB is directly north of the Yorkshire Dales National park, and it’s about the same size. With no large towns and few settlements, the North Pennines AONB has perhaps the best views of the stars in England. There are 16 official Dark Sky Discovery Sites. Thanks to streetlamps in our towns, we don’t normally get to see the stars like this in their natural display.

Dark Sky Drives - Seeing Stars with the Family on Falcondale Life blog. With older children a night time adventure to see the stars in a dark sky park is a great idea for a roadtrip. How to plan and what to expect in some of the best dark sky viewing areas. North Pennines AONB

Forest of Galloway Dark Skies

When the children were younger we visited the Forest of Galloway in southern Scotland to experience that particular dark sky park. There I tried to take a long exposure photograph. Sadly I managed to forget how to set the shutter to “bulb”. I did get some 30 second long exposures but it really needed to be four times that long.

County Kerry Dark Skies

It is better to do this kind of roadtrip with slightly older children. Now Fizz and Belle are in secondary school, they are a perfect age to enjoy a night-time adventure in the dark. I know the Milky Way and millions of other stars are out there. We want to see them burning bright in a really black sky, just like our ancestors would have done. To do this we can plan a roadtrip to Kerry in the republic of Ireland where the skies are even darker. The International Dark Sky Reserve in Kerry is one of only three Gold Tier reserves on our entire planet, and the only one in Europe. This is the pinnacle of roadtrips for anyone keen on seeing stars. With a reputation for outstanding beauty in daylight, a trip to Kerry is appealing anyway.

Dark Sky Drives - Seeing Stars with the Family on Falcondale Life blog. With older children a night time adventure to see the stars in a dark sky park is a great idea for a roadtrip. How to plan and what to expect in some of the best dark sky viewing areas. Long exposure shot of stars in the Forest of Galloway, Scotland.

Tips for a dark sky family roadtrip

1. Check the phases of the moon on a calendar. Time your trip for when the moon is dark or new because moonlight will obscure a lot of stars.

2. Help your children to download an app onto a phone or tablet beforehand to identify the constellations. Or you could take a guide book.

3. Dark sky viewing areas are a long way off the main routes so be sure you have enough fuel. As with any roadtrip, make sure your car is properly insured – Chill Insurance are one company which has produced good information on cultural drives.

4. If you want to take photos make sure you practice beforehand and know how to put your tripod up in the dark. Set your camera to manual focus on infinity. Use a remote trigger or delay timer so that there is less camera shake.

5. Once parked, turn off your headlights. Don’t wave torches if there are other people there trying to enjoy the dark or take photos. Do put your parking money in the honesty box as the dark sky parks are all run on a charitable basis.

On our American roadtrip this year we saw another heavenly phenomenon – the total eclipse of the sun. Click the image below to read about it.

Dark Sky Drives - Seeing Stars with the Family on Falcondale Life blog. With older children a night time adventure to see the stars in a dark sky park is a great idea for a roadtrip. How to plan and what to expect in some of the best dark sky viewing areas. Solar eclipse - read more about our family's fascination with space.

Untold Morsels

 

Favourite family cycling routes, Devon's Tarka Trail on Falcondale Life blog. A family bike ride on a traffic free cycle path in north Devon, with stops for views over the rivers and good cafes. Recommended route maps and cycle equipment. Inspiring UK family travel and photography.*This post contains affiliate links*

As a family we are pretty keen on easy bike rides together. There are enough other things in life where we disagree, but a bike ride is quite a leveller. We don’t like traffic or hills very much so when we had an autumn break in North Devon, we thought the Tarka Trail looked ideal. It’s a former railway line and is part of national cycle route 3.

Barnstaple to Instow

We didn’t do all of the Tarka Trail, but started in Barnstaple where we parked at the leisure centre. Heading south, we wound our way through the town on the marked route with just one rather hairy road-crossing. Once on the path proper, it wasn’t long before we had some lovely views of the estuary. Fremlington Quay has a charming cafe in the old railway station which was jam packed. It took an incredibly long time for us to get to the front of the queue. We rather wished we had taken a packed lunch, but we did enjoy our food. After such a long break early on, we gave up trying to rush and took our time to stop and admire the views.

The views on this path are really good. So often with cycle paths on old railway lines the views are obscured by cuttings and overgrown hedgerows. There are some sections like this on the Tarka Trail but they are quite brief. We saw sandbanks teeming with seabirds, boats, bridges, pretty villages and even two starling murmerations. We had frequent views of the rivers Taw and then the Torridge but on the first day we stopped a way south of Instow and turned around.

Favourite family cycling routes, Devon's Tarka Trail on Falcondale Life blog. A family bike ride on a traffic free cycle path in north Devon, with stops for views over the rivers and good cafes.

Instow to Bideford

At Instow we found a hip beach café with deck chairs just behind the sand dunes. It’s worth walking up over the dune for a super view of Appledore across the river. On the second day we parked just near this café and carried on our way south.

The scenery changed a little coming into Bideford and there’s a long rise up to the old railway station which is right in the town amongst terraced houses. Old carriages give the impression that the station has only just been abandoned.

Bideford to Great Torrington

Leaving Bideford it gets a bit harder to see the river for a while as it’s more overgrown. Then the trail crosses the river Torridge on an impressive iron bridge. Back amongst dense trees for a while the trail then passes under a few tunnels.

Favourite family cycling routes, Devon's Tarka Trail on Falcondale Life blog. A family bike ride on a traffic free cycle path in north Devon, with stops for views over the rivers and good cafes.

Before long the trail crosses and then re-crosses the river Torridge near Beam house. Here, catch a view of the aqueduct with five arches, which used to carry the Rolle canal. This is where Tarka the otter was born, and that’s how the trail got its name.

Nearby is an information board about the Rolle canal which we found quite fascinating. Apparently the canal had a steep incline which caught our attention because how can boats go uphill? Using a water wheel, the boats were cranked up a slope. It was quite the local spectacle and drew crowds to watch, but was destroyed with the coming of the railway.

Just north of Great Torrington is Puffing Billy café where we finally stopped and turned around. It’s another charming converted railway station, this time with a carriage outside.

Favourite family cycling routes, Devon's Tarka Trail on Falcondale Life blog. A family bike ride on a traffic free cycle path in north Devon, with stops for views over the rivers and good cafes.

Plan your Tarka Trail Bike Ride

Devon council has these pdf maps of the Tarka Trail available for download – northern section and southern section. Print them off before you go then you don’t have to worry about phone signal while you’re cycling.

Investing in a bike carrier for our car was one of our best family decisions and we always have something to do together on holiday. Tilting towball bike carriers like this one http://amzn.to/2A3OqeU are really convenient as you don’t have to lift the bikes up high. You can also shop my other top picks on this page.

Favourite family cycling routes, Devon's Tarka Trail on Falcondale Life blog. A family bike ride on a traffic free cycle path in north Devon, with stops for views over the rivers and good cafes.

Favourite family cycling routes, Devon's Tarka Trail on Falcondale Life blog. A family bike ride on a traffic free cycle path in north Devon, with stops for views over the rivers and good cafes.

Favourite family cycling routes, Devon's Tarka Trail on Falcondale Life blog. A family bike ride on a traffic free cycle path in north Devon, with stops for views over the rivers and good cafes.

Favourite family cycling routes, Devon's Tarka Trail on Falcondale Life blog. A family bike ride on a traffic free cycle path in north Devon, with stops for views over the rivers and good cafes.

Favourite family cycling routes, Devon's Tarka Trail on Falcondale Life blog. A family bike ride on a traffic free cycle path in north Devon, with stops for views over the rivers and good cafes.

Favourite family cycling routes, Devon's Tarka Trail on Falcondale Life blog. A family bike ride on a traffic free cycle path in north Devon, with stops for views over the rivers and good cafes.

 

Suitcases and Sandcastles

As a family we are fairly keen on cycling, but we are soft. We like short, flat rides in good weather. We prefer to cycle when we are on holiday and where there is no traffic. As a result we have researched a lot of cycle paths around the UK and a few in France and America.

The Tarka Trail in north Devon ended up on my cycling wishlist some time ago. It’s a former railway line which mainly runs by the river Torridge. It’s a beautiful part of the country with some cafes here and there to break up the effort.

Cycling is one of the reasons I have my very small camera, the Sony RX100iii. I wear it around my neck and over one shoulder so it doesn’t bang about. It’s so light I can wear it there all day. The only problem with taking photos on a family bike ride is that I am always the slowest cyclist so I frequently get left behind if I stop to take photos. I really hate that! So for this shot I tried to be even faster and just used my phone. I am happy with the photo but I still got left behind.

I do think that my absolute favourite photos to take are shots with a body of water like this. Whether it’s a river or a lake or the sea, or just a big puddle I am always inspired by reflections and glistening surfaces. I also like waves and waterfalls and the impression of movement. With water I am easy to please!

There were some nice views of the river Torridge along this bike trail. I’ll write more about the Tarka trail and family cycling in a forthcoming blog post.

Pic of the week - Tarka Trail on Falcondale Life blog. View of the river Torridge on a family cycle path in North Devon. Photography and travel blog.

Read more about photographing reflections, or see my tips for using a camera phone at the beach.

Want to see my camera or car bike rack recommendations? Take a look at my Resources page.

Photalife

Five Simple Ways to Brighten a Photo with Lightroom on Falcondale Life blog. A simple demonstration of a few of the Lightroom brightening functions to add light to a shot with high contrast. Cathedral Quarry in the Lake District. Editing tips and Lightroom functions explained. What to do if my photo is too dark.Lately, the most common question I get asked about photography is how to brighten a photo before publishing. You can do this in any editing program, even an app on your phone, but the results may not be great. A simple app will just add light to the whole photo, including the parts that are already bright enough. I use Lightroom on the PC but you may think it looks quite complex to use.

This is a simple demonstration of a few of the Lightroom brightening functions. It should help you pick the right one for your photo.

The Original Photo

Five Simple Ways to Brighten a Photo with Lightroom on Falcondale Life blog. A simple demonstration of a few of the Lightroom brightening functions to add light to a shot with high contrast. Cathedral Quarry in the Lake District.Here’s the original photo I’m using today; a digital negative of Cathedral Quarry in the Lake District. A photo of this place featured in my recent Pic of the Week blog post. It’s a very high contrast photo. My aim in editing is to show it more as the eye could see it when we were there, with more detail.

The cave opening is far too bright and quite over-exposed, but as long as we bring out the texture inside the cave it’s not going to dominate so much.

I’m going to edit the photo several times in different ways, always starting from this original shot.

1. Fill Light

Five Simple Ways to Brighten a Photo with Lightroom on Falcondale Life blog. A simple demonstration of a few of the Lightroom brightening functions to add light to a shot with high contrast. Cathedral Quarry in the Lake District.

Five Simple Ways to Brighten a Photo with Lightroom on Falcondale Life blog. A simple demonstration of a few of the Lightroom brightening functions to add light to a shot with high contrast. Cathedral Quarry in the Lake District.

In my last blog post about Lightroom I showed how to “fill light”. This second image has filled light by a factor of 75%. Verdict: I think it’s obvious why this is one of my favourite Lightroom functions. Dark areas are brightened without blowing out more light areas. It also leaves some nice contrasting blackness.

2. Brightness or Exposure

Five Simple Ways to Brighten a Photo with Lightroom on Falcondale Life blog. A simple demonstration of a few of the Lightroom brightening functions to add light to a shot with high contrast. Cathedral Quarry in the Lake District.

Instead, in this next photo I have used the brightness slider and increased the brightness all the way (+150). This is exactly the same as increasing the exposure by two stops using the exposure slider. Verdict: Many areas have been brightened in quite a natural way but the cave opening is now bigger and whiter. Also hotspots of brightness have appeared in other areas. There’s more grain.

3. Auto Tone

Five Simple Ways to Brighten a Photo with Lightroom on Falcondale Life blog. A simple demonstration of a few of the Lightroom brightening functions to add light to a shot with high contrast. Cathedral Quarry in the Lake District.

The next alternative is to use the auto tone function. It’s just one click, and Lightroom makes its best guess. Verdict: This has a nice natural look and nothing is overdone. However it’s simply too dark and not enough has been changed.

4. Adjust Tone Curve

Five Simple Ways to Brighten a Photo with Lightroom on Falcondale Life blog. A simple demonstration of a few of the Lightroom brightening functions to add light to a shot with high contrast. Cathedral Quarry in the Lake District.

Five Simple Ways to Brighten a Photo with Lightroom on Falcondale Life blog. A simple demonstration of a few of the Lightroom brightening functions to add light to a shot with high contrast. Lightromm tone curve

In this version I have manually adjusted the tone curve. I’ve increased the darks and reduced the highlights. You can see the numbers I’ve entered in the screenshot. Verdict: The very blackest areas of the image are not affected by editing with the tone curve, and there are too many of them.

5. Brighten a Photo with Two Lightroom Functions Together

Five Simple Ways to Brighten a Photo with Lightroom on Falcondale Life blog. A simple demonstration of a few of the Lightroom brightening functions to add light to a shot with high contrast. Cathedral Quarry in the Lake District.

None of the previous versions is really good enough. To brighten a photo it’s always better to do more than one change to get a nice edit. So for the last shot, to keep it really simple I’ve just done two things. First I did “auto tone” and then I used a bit of fill light, just 50%. This is an acceptable result I think.

Personally I would go on to do a lot of other tiny tweaks to the sharpness, grain, colour and the dynamics. However I want to keep it really simple in this demonstration to give you a chance to try to brighten a photo yourself.

What are you main struggles with editing photos? Comment below or get in touch to let me know.

Cathedral Quarry in Little Langdale is a stunning manmade cave. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the Lake District. We went here on my last walk before I was given the news that I had to stop hiking to save my sore foot. I really hope I can go back one day.

The tough thing about this cavern is doing it justice in a photo. It’s very dark, but the openings are large and very bright. It’s too far from the car park for me to carry a tripod so I don’t think I would attempt an HDR shot. At times like this I feel it’s probably worth abandoning technical perfection. Instead just try to capture the feeling of the place. There’s no denying that the feeling of the place was of light shining into darkness.

I’m going to edit this photo a few different ways in a forthcoming blog post, to show what happens in Lightroom when you try to achieve the same thing in different ways. Subscribe to this blog by email (in the sidebar) so you don’t miss it!

Pic of the week - Cathedral Quarry in the Lake District. This manmade cave is vast and impressive. It's also hard to photograph the high contrast light and shadow.

If you are looking at this on a decent size screen you will see it is a bit soft. It’s actually mostly NOT motion blur from being handheld in the dark. In fact most of the apparent softness has been introduced through hard and excessive processing. I did shoot RAW but with the smaller camera I take hiking the sensor just is very small. That means the RAW file isn’t big and doesn’t give as much information to work with as I would get with my DSLR. I think the solution is probably to stick with the smaller camera (which is fab), get help to carry my tripod and use a very low ISO and slow shutter speed. If I’m choosing between handheld DSLR or the Sony RX100M3 on a tripod, I would take the Sony and tripod.

On the other hand, if – like most people – you are looking at this image on a phone, it will look fine! It will give you a good idea of the impressive size of this cavern. I would love to get a better photo of Cathedral Quarry. A good shot would be nice to enlarge and hang on the wall.

Have you ever visited this part of the Lake District?

Photalife