Stanage Edge


Location: Stanage Edge in the Peak District

Camera Work: Nikon D80, ISO 100, 1/125sec., F 5.6, Focal Length 32mm
I exposed for the detail in the foreground rock face which was to be the subject of the shot. I assumed that the sky, which was an overcast flat grey, would pose no real problems that I couldn't resolve during RAW processing.

Technique: This was my first visit to Stanage (although I had walked much of the surrounding area), and I didn't really know what to expect. It has been described as the longest climbing wall in England so I had a vague idea in my head of capturing a climbers viewpoint (without actually having to do any climbing myself).


Post Capture: Well clearly the sky was all wrong, but as anticipated this just required an adjustment to the White Balance. Capture NX2 allows you to adjust white balance in one of 2 ways, either set the colour temperature or set the gray point I chose the latter and was quite surprised by the result. The flat gray cloud I was expecting turned out to be full of detail which I chose to bring out by reducing the exposure by 1.5 ev. Although this left the rock face looking underexposed I was able to restore detail by adjusting shadow protection to 50%.

Then, apart from adjusting the Black & White points (which I do routinely to improve print quality) all I had to do was crop to bring the rock face closer (to better show the steepness) and remove the flat featureless horizon to the left of High Neb.

Inspiration: The good old days when I was fit and agile enough to have climbed these wonderful rock faces. (I have to leave it to Andrew & Hannah now).

Style: Organised Landscape

The Roaches


Location: The Roaches in the Peak District

Camera Work: FinePix S9500 - RAW(16bit), ISO 200, exposure: 1/400sec f/5.6, focal length 17mm. Auto exposure


Technique: The weather was windy but clear. I planned to walk the entire edge taking snapshots of the various views as we walked (paying no particular attention to composition). On the return leg I then hoped to spend more time finding a good composition. As it happened Barbara was exhausted at the end of the first leg and we decided to take an easier route, along the road, back to the car. Fortunately this snapshot was taken just as the sun passed from behind a cloud to shine on the middle outcrop - there was no real time to plan the shot, moments later all three outcrops were in full sun and the moment was gone.




Post Capture: The Auto Exposure program made a complete mess of the sky and right hand horizon. I was unable to recover it so had no option but to crop. The only other required processing was to reduce the noise to an 'acceptable' level (something I found very irritating about the Finepix, when shooting RAW), and tweak curves to emphasise the sunshine on the rocks.

Inspiration: I wanted to capture the moment when the sun broke through and shone on the middle of the three outcrops. All previous (and future) visits to this place have been in gloomy, overcast conditions which frankly make this place slightly depressing. Very soon after this shot was taken the high winds blew in a hail storm and Barbara and I had to take cover while it blew over. This image attempts to capture that very brief moment when our spirits were lifted.

Style: snapshot Landscape

Simons Seat


Simons Seat, originally uploaded by Blagnys.



Posforth Gill, Simons Seat and the Strid at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail: Share GPS Tracks

Reflections In Green


Reflections In Green, originally uploaded by Blagnys.

Hunstanton Beach

Location: Hunstanton Beach on the North Norfolk coast

Camera Work: Nikon D80, RAW(12bit), ISO 200, Exposure: 1/200sec. F/13 Aperture Priority, Focal Length 105mm.


Technique: This is a favourite walk for Barbara & I. Its full of photo opportunities esp. when the tide is out. Today it was almost high tide and didn't really expect to capture anything. But at the end of the outward leg of our walk I was pleasantly surprised by this view. I always try to do something with this long line of groynes - but I've always been disappointed with the results. Today with the tide in, and those wonderful beams of light, there was some added drama. I just had to find the right viewpoint (quickly) to bring all the elements together. I was conscious of the 'clutter' on the left horizon and I needed to make the most of the line of groynes.


I had no option but to wade into the (shallow) sea and jump onto one of the boulders (covered in slippery wet weed). Then it was just a matter of waiting for the right wave to roll in.



Post Capture: In Nikon Capture NX2 RAW Processing I added; 50% Highlight Protection, 13% Shadow Protection and increased Saturation by 25%.


I then created a selection (with a large soft brush) over the sky and increased Contrast by 7% and reduced Brightness by 37%. This had the effect of giving me a much clearer (and brighter) horizon, thereby increasing the sense of perspective (by creating a separate layer of light over the dark sea). It also had a pleasing effect on the single cloud and served to emphasise the movement of the seagulls.


Finally I cropped the remaining unsightly clutter at the left of the frame.


Inspiration: I was trying to communicate the rhythm and movement of the tide and seagulls against the backdrop of a motionless but threatening sky - the line of waves draw your eyes in to the line of groynes being illuminated by the subtle rays of sunlight emerging from threatening clouds.


Style: Organised Landscape

P.S. Just minutes later the scene and the light changed to this (by the way it was only 1:30p.m.) .......



Whereas the earlier shot, authentically captures a cold January day this later shot with its golden horizon appears warmer despite the brooding clouds above. I am satisfied that the earlier shot captures the mood of the walk while the latter, even though more dramatic, fails completely.

Lake Trasimeno













Location: Lake Trasimeno, Italy

Camera Work: Nikon D80, ISO 200, RAW(12bit), Focal Length 58mm, F13, 1/500 sec.

Technique: I'd always wanted to produce one of those atmospheric landscape shots where all you see are the blue silhouettes of distant fields and mountains. Well here in Trasimeno the haze was perfect for just such a shot. (Haze is the scattering of light by fine particles in the atmosphere - the effect on a landscape is to make it appear paler at a distance, so that colour, contrast and definition gradually drain away into the distance). The conditions lasted all day so I had plenty of time to compose the shot. I walked the banks and took dozens of photos from all angles. I even to shots that I would later be able to stitch together to form panoramic views. To achieve the effect I wanted however, all I had to do was remove the polarizing filter (which I usually have semi-permanently fixed to my lens), and keep the island in the shot to add depth.






Post Capture: In Capture NX2 - I could have changed the white balance to give a cooler/bluer cast, but opted to leave it alone and instead tweak the saturation and contrast during the RAW conversion (after all its the colour and contrast that the haze changes - all I wanted to do was make minor adjustments to the degree of haze, if that makes sense).

I then just levelled the horizon and cropped.

I was tempted to reduce the colour noise but after further experimentation I chose to stick with the noise.

Inspiration: There was no real emotional response to the scene other than some excitement at being able at long last to satisfy a long held ambition to produce such a shot - similar to all those seen in pictorial calendars, books, etc.
Another long standing ambition is to get myself out of bed early enough to climb a mountain and witness a temperature inversion e.g. http://www.lake-district.gov.uk/txtonly/ullswater-large.jpg but that's something for another day.

Style: organised Landscape

Posforth Gill in the Valley of Desolation

Location: Posforth Gill in the Valley of Desolation, Wharfedale

Camera Work: Nikon D80, RAW(12bit), ISO 100, 1/80sec, F5, 20mm Focal Length

Technique: It was a snowy day in March and we were surrounded by dense woodland and steep rock faces - in short the light was very poor. I knew that I had to show the full drop of the falls and that would mean including some sky thereby making exposure difficult. I therefore decided to expose for the rock face and adjust for the highlights in the sky and water at the post processing stage.

I walked all around the base of the falls and eventually selected this composition - with the falls and pool in the left third of the frame. I also wanted the rocks and pebbles in the foreground to appear sharp, i.e. depth of field was important to me. I don't like the blurred water effect that has become so fashionable - I don't think it adds anything to fast flowing water - so I needed to keep the shutter speed reasonably high. I wasn't using my VR lens so I decided to go with 1/80th and fortunately by focusing 1/3rd of the way into the picture I was able to keep everything sharp.

Finally I walked around a bit more and decided to include the fallen tree in the shot - this drew the eyes away from the water and up towards the quite colourful rock face.

The final image doesn't really give one any idea of the scale of the falls - that tree root stands a good 8 - 10 feet high. I did consider putting Andrew into the shot (which does give a better impression of scale as you can see) but he wasn't really a willing model so I gave up on that idea.



Post Capture: At first glance I didn't think anything other than default RAW processing was required, but on closer inspection the falls and the small area of sky above the falls was overexposed. Also because it was a very damp and dull day, the colours in the rock face especially, needed a bit of a pull. So.....

...In Nikon Capture NX2 I changed to RAW processing Picture Control from Standard to Vivid to make the colours in the rock face more vibrant. I then reduced the exposure 1ev (for the sky) and used D Lighting to compensate for the increased shadow introduced, while leaving the now reduced highlights in the waterfall and sky alone.

Inspiration: I don't really get on very well with waterfalls in England - most I've seen hardly merit the term. But, this fall is a reasonable height and the area is quite spooky - the Valley of Desolation. I could almost visualise the area being used by stone age hunters to corner their quarry here before going in for the kill, or driving it over the sides of the cliff.

I don't know if I've captured that feeling but when I printed this up to A2 size, framed and hung it, Barbara protested that she could clearly see screaming faces in the falls and an old bearded man looking over them in the boulders at the top, between the two falls.

Style: Organised Landscape

Route:

Posforth Gill, Simons Seat and the Strid at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:GPS Geotagging

Early April in The Langdales



Location: The Langdale Peaks taken from Baysbrown campsite

Camera Work: ISO 200, 1/300 sec., F2.8, focal length 21.6mm, RAW(16bit)
Exposed using Auto Landscape program (I didn't trust myself to expose correctly in this difficult light).

Technique: This was taken during a short break camping and walking holiday, with Andrew. We had just finished pitching our tent when I noticed the light shining across the ridge from behind a rapidly approaching bank of storm clouds. I had no time to plan the shot. I just picked up the camera, set it to the Auto Landscape program and clicked.



Post Capture: The Auto program failed to do the scene any justice:

  • all detail in the storm clouds was washed out, and
  • the vibrant colours of the dry braken and heathers is completely lost
In Photoshop I had to:

  • adjust the White, Black and Grey points to restore the colours, and
  • adjust shadow, highlights, mid tones and tweak the saturation to restore the cloud detail.
Unfortunately the image also suffers from so much colour noise that it's almost unrecoverable, except when viewed from a distance. I found it impossible to reconcile the blurring of noise removal with an acceptable level of sharpness.

To date post processing to recover this picture has been a succession of NO moments, but I'll persevere.

Inspiration: The sheer beauty of the pictures nature can paint with a single ray of light on a three dimensional canvas

Style: Landscape snapshot


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Holkham Summer - Storm Front

Location: Holkham Bay on the North Norfolk Coast

Camera Work: ISO 200, F14, 1/320 sec, 18mm Focal Length RAW(12bit)

Technique: I came to this location with no preconceived plans - just a pleasant summers day walk with Barbara on the beach. However, half way through the walk the weather began to change and a massive storm front started to roll in from the North Sea. The clouds in themselves were dramatic but for just a short while a small break appeared enabling the bright sun to break through and create a reflection of the clouds in the surface water on the beach. I knew the exposure would be difficult, but I took a chance and based the exposure on the brightest part of the clouds. - to avoid blowing the highlights. I also needed good depth of field to keep the detail in the reflection.

Post Capture: Exposing for the clouds worked well but in doing so I lost much of the impact from the reflections in the surface water. Some work was required in Nikon Capture NX2. I first adjusted the saturation of the beach to overcome that washed out look and increase the separation between the colours of the reflected white and dark clouds. I then created two separate layers; one for the sky and another for the beach and adjusted the contrast and brightness to achieve the desired effect.

Inspiration: No matter how many people visit this place, Holkham Bay is so vast, esp. when the tide is out, you can always experience that feeling of quiet & solitude.

Style: Minimalist Landscape - This photograph is an unusual one for me. The vision was to create something more impressionistic - here the break in the clouds and the reflection on the golden sands is reminiscent of one of Turner's great Landscapes.


The Creative Act

The never ending struggle is how to capture the emotion that inspires me. So that I can feel that emotion again when I look at the photograph. But perhaps more difficult - so that I can communicate the promise of that landscape to someone else (esp. my family). I want the photograph to inspire my children to visit the place and perhaps, if the conditions are right, relive my emotions.

To be perfectly honest - to date all of my successful pictures have been lucky snapshots. Although I have some technical ability, invariably the moment is often so fleeting that I don't yet have the instinctive reactions to be able to apply correct techniques in the short time available. More often than not the creative act is in the post processing of the image.

Even when time permits, for example those moody peaceful landscapes that put you into a meditative mood. Well I'd rather just sit and soak up the atmosphere rather than loose the moment by racking my brain trying to capture the mood in the camera. A bird in the hand. I suppose the issue is, that I need a long time to tune into exactly what it is, that I am seeing, that has generated my emotional response.

So I take snapshots and spend hours trying to recreate the mood in Photoshop or Capture NX. Is that wrong? No. I think that's simply the difference between the amateur and the professional. (The professional has no option but to steal himself away from the moment to capture it - his living depends on it).

When you think about it this is exactly what the Landscape painter has done for 100's of years. He has 'post processed' the scene. He has exaggerated shadows to create texture and depth. He's introduced interesting foreground objects to create depth, etc., etc..

Inspiration


Inspiration comes slowly and quietly - prime it with a
little solitude and idleness

I claim to be a landscape photographer. So why landscape and not wildlife or portraiture, etc. I certainly like doing portraits and get a great deal of satisfaction from them?

Well I suppose it's all down to what originally inspired me to capture landscape images in the first place. I can remember it clearly .......

It was on my very first trip to the Lake District (35+ years ago) as Barbara drove me from Grasmere to Thirlmere on the busy A591. First the diminutive Helm Crag dominated the view. This was quickly replaced by the face of Steel Fell (high and sheer) then, on the left Seat Sandle and on the right Dollywagon Pike as we continued our drive on through Dunmail Raise Pass.

The view from the car was breathtaking. There are many finer views in the Lake District, and many would say that this view is grey and boring, but nonetheless for the first time visitor (a city boy who had never experienced the mountains), to be presented with this sheer face rising from a green valley floor - it was and still is my inspiration. Sadly on all subsequent visits I have been driving and have never even attempted to take a picture. Perhaps I'm a little afraid that it will never stand up to the picture I take home with me in my minds eye.

Thirty plus years on and I still rack my brain, wondering how that sense of awe could ever be captured in a flat two dimensional photograph. The trouble is that each landscape presents a new struggle and to date there have been very few YES moments. But its a struggle I enjoy tremendously.

Of course not all landscapes are awe inspiring, but if I take a photograph its because I am inspired by natures ability to generate an emotional reaction in me. For example a common reaction for me is the wish to capture the sense of solitude I often feel, or I'm sometimes motivated to supplement the photo with a short poem, (see gallery/slideshow).

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