The naked pier

This was my first visit to England’s north-west coast since resettling in Manchester. I chose the resort of Southport on the Merseyside coast, famed for its long, graceful pier.

The day was anything but promising, with a chill wind and a thick cover of cloud. It looked likely to be a day of moody photographs, with flat skies and little sunlight. But something else happened. The tide gradually ebbed away, leaving beautiful expanses of sand and the pier entirely exposed.

The colour palette was grey and a pale blue, giving a serenity you wouldn’t expect from a busy seaside resort. I’ll just have to go back when the sky is screaming blue and the sunshine is cascading down…

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Northern Spring

It’s my first major shift of season since moving to Manchester. And yes, it turns out they experience Spring here in the north of England too. The mornings and evenings are getting lighter, and blooms are everywhere. I’ve found a spectacular show of flowers in a place a short walk from here in Castlefield.

St John’s Gardens is carpeted in a stunning show of daffodils and crocuses. This quiet spot is very close to the bustling thoroughfare of Deansgate in the handsome, imposing city centre. Armed with just my macro lens, this was irresistible…

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Desert sea

Qatar isn’t all about its ultra-modern, glittering capital city Doha. In fact, you don’t have to travel far to explore the desert wilderness of this Arabian country. A popular excursion is taking a jeep to the wastes for some exhilarating ‘dune bashing’, a spot of camel riding and to see this small country’s hidden gem.

The Khor al Adaid – or Inland Sea – is a channel of the Arabian Gulf which cuts deep into the desert. It’s a sparkling blue body of water separating Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Aside from the odd jeep, it’s calm, quiet and mostly unspoilt. There are no high-rise resorts here. You’re likely to be offered this trip in Qatar – my advice is to go and take your camera with you.

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Sculpted landscape

I’ve taken my first trip across the Pennines, from the urban might of Manchester to the open countryside of Yorkshire. The piece of landscape I chose is an unusual wonder – a park peppered with beautiful and beguiling sculptures. Work from the greats including Henry Moore and Antony Gormley appear around every corner.

That morning at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the ground was covered in frost and a mist hung in the hills and trees, and the park’s lake was delicately frozen. The sun eventually cut through the eery gloom to create some delightful scenes. For a lad from the urban heart of a great northern city, it’s heartening to be able to escape to the wilderness with ease.

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Islamic beauty

Qatar is a new country full of contemporary buildings created with its staggering oil wealth. The country’s largest mosque in the capital Doha is a new build, while Katara Cultural Village, boasting lavish gold and blue mosques, is also an architectural newcomer. Doha’s Pearl, a large complex built on reclaimed land, is a recent addition as well.

But these new structures are steeped in tradition, with stylish, beautiful lines and curves. Intricate designs stay pure to Islam and do not depict human or animal forms. Instead of being sterile, these are pleasing on the eye and photographically pure and balanced.

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