Autumn began well this year. October was settled, warm and still. Ideal conditions for doing autumnal photographs at Bridehead gardens at Littlebredy in Dorset. The garden is one of those hidden gems of Dorset which is not well known to those who are not local. Within it there is a man made lake and from it flows the river Bride, which cascades down a man made waterfall over the lake's dam. A maple tree sits next to the waterfall and during autumn the its leaves carpet the area around it. Due to the weather being so calm during October this year, the leaves scattered evenly across the lawn making a colourful foreground. Due to its location the sun never shines on this area during the autumn and winter months due to it being shaded by a wall of trees. This makes getting an exposure quite tricky as the sky behind the Maple tree is so much brighter. Use of a 2 stop ND grad was required across the top half of the image to even out the light levels to get a proper exposure. An exposure of a couple of seconds was then used to capture the image, which then gave the water tumbling down the waterfall a milky look.
Yesterday's solar eclipse was one of those events which everyone wanted to watch, but the fickle British weather always has the last say. I made my way to Glastonbury Tor as did many hundreds of others who climbed to the top to watch. I set up on the side road which runs along the base of the Tor to the North West. 8:25, no view of the sun. Doubts start going through my mind that the clouds are not going to break. Just before 9am a roar comes from the crowds at the top of the Tor. It's the sun, or a glimpse of it trying its best to shine through the thick murk above us. As 9:25 approaches the sun is still shrouded by the high murk, but can be clearly seen through it, which happens to be a blessing in disguise at no filters are needed to correct the exposure. Shooting with two cameras, D800 with 70-300mm lens and D5100 on a 400mm lens with 2x converter, I have both bases covered. One for close-ups of the sun and another for getting a view of the Tor with the eclipsed sun above. By 9:45 the sun is emerging from behind the moon and the clouds and it is too bright to do any more, but I know I have the shot I wanted in the bag.
The views from the summit of Y Garn at 947m must rate as some of the best in Wales. The walk up from Llyn Idwal is steep and slow going and with icy paths and a gusty headwinds hard work. On this particular January day the cloud base was hiding the summits but I was hopeful of some clearer periods. On my assent I was rewarded with a small window where the cloud lifted from the summit of Tryfan. The main problem was the path was very busy with large groups of walkers. Fortunately the conditions held long enough for them to clear from view and for me to capture what I think is my best shot of the day. Soon after the clouds descended and covered the surrounding peaks. Continuing the walk, I reached the summit which was completely covered in cloud. It looked grim so I made the decision to head down towards Llyn y Cwn which is a small lake above the Devils Kitchen. On the way down there were brief periods where the cloud broke and I took the opportunity to grab a quick shot from the ridge. Soon after the clouds closed in again and I moved on. On reaching Llyn Y Cwn it was mid afternoon. I ruled out the decent of the Glyder's due to the cloud hanging on the peaks and that time was against me, so I made the descent down the spectacular devils staircase and back to the car past Llyn Idwal. This was not the end of my photographic day. Once back at the car there was enough time to drive to the viewpoint on the A498 which looks across Llyn Gwynant to capture the sunset. A good finish to a long day.
The view of St Catherine's Chapel viewed from the B3157 coast road at Abbotsbury Hill has to be one of the most famous in the country. Tourists flock to the hill to see the panoramic view of the chapel with its backdrop of The Fleet, Chesil Beach and the Isle of Portland in the distance. It is also one of those must have pictures for every visiting photographer. This means getting a picture that is unique is quite difficult.
Over the years I have shot this view from different vantage points from Abbotsbury Hill with wide angles to 300mm telephoto lenses, but have always thought the compositions were too busy.
Having recently purchased an old Nikon 500mm F4 AFS lens, I returned to try to capture an image which is not possible for most photographers. It has been a bit of a learning curve to photograph using such a long lens for landscape photography as problems which you would never be an issue with shorter lenses show their ugly face. Camera shake is a problem with this length of lens. The slightest breeze can impart enough vibration on the lens to make images unusable due to blurring. Also the mirror on the camera causes vibrations which blurs the images. This can be solved by introducing extra support to aid the tripod by attaching a monopod to the camera base so the camera body is not left hanging in the air from the lens and helps dampen any vibrations. I also shoot with the mirror in the up position on the camera and have a 3 second exposure delay after the shutter button is pressed to allow the vibrations to cease before the shutter fires.
Another problem is the atmosphere. The further the subject is away from the camera the more distortion is caused due to the movements of the gasses in the air. Straight edges turn into wiggly lines and the further away your subject, the worse it gets, and with some elements of a picture which could be many miles away, this rippling effect is a problem. To mitigate this you have to be choosy when it comes to the time day and time of year you shoot. Summer is when the atmosphere is at its most active due to the warmer temperatures and a stronger sun heating it and is best avoided. I have found it is best to shoot during the cooler late autumn, winter and early spring months during the morning and late afternoons.
For the image of St Catherine's Chapel above, which I took a couple of days ago at about 2:30-3pm in the the afternoon had been long in the planning. I had waited weeks for the conditions to be perfect as this winter has been one of the wettest and windiest for many years and this image needed to be taken when the visibility was at its best and with a low sun off to the side of the camera at about 90 degrees. Using the 500mm, I have been able to crop out a lot of the clutter and just focus on St Catherine's Chapel, The Fleet and Chesil Beach. I have also cropped the image to a 2x1 ratio which I feel helps draw the viewers attention through the picture.
This was not the last picture of the day as I then headed to Portland Bill to capture the sunset to cap off a good days shooting which had started in the morning at Sidmouth.
Cheddar Gorge. Camera Nikon D800 with Sigma 24-70 f2.8 DG HSM lens.
Don't look down!
This view of a snow coated Cheddar Gorge with the winding road at the bottom, has to be one of the most knee trembling pics I have ever taken.
Thank you Nikon for live view, as I could never have got the camera close enough to the edge safely and be able to compose the image without it. The tripod was at full height with its legs almost on the edge of the cliff, With me holding onto it and the camera a good arms length away.
Langdale in the Lake District with a fresh covering of snow is an awesome sight. Despite the surrounding mountains comparitively low height, it has a very alpine feel and is a magnet for visitors. In winter conditions essentially there is only one way in or out as the pass out over Blea Tarn is usually iced up and impassable to motor vehicles.
For those adventurous souls, a walk up to the top of the Langdale Pikes is a must as they offers excellent views, an option of winter scrambling and a pint at the Hikers Bar at the Old Dungeon-Ghyll Hotel when you comeback down again. A good day out by anybody's standards.
The peaks of Corn Du and Pen-Y-Fan in the Brecon Beacons in Wales are probably the easiest peaks of nearly 3000ft to reach in the whole of the UK. In under an hour it is possible to trek from the car park on the A470 to the summit even in winter, though care must be taken as the path can become very icy. This comparitavely easy ascent must make it one of if not the most popular walks in south wales.
On a cold wintery saturday morning I decided to drive from my home in Dorset to capture the rare event of good snow conditions in the Brecon Beacons. Arriving early at the car park, only a few other hardy souls were there for an early morning trek to the top. Conditions were perfect, light winds and a clear sky with only a few patches of cloud. On the walk up the rising sun illuminated the mountains behind me. A couple of pics of these and I was off up again. Ahead of me I could see the cloud building on the peaks. Not good. By the time I reached the top thick cloud has shrouded everything. Time for plan B.
With the visibility so bad, decided to move on to Pen-Y-Fans smaller neighbour Cribyn. Cribyn being a few hundred feet lower the cloud was just brushing the summit. From the vantage point I had decended to it was just a matter of waiting for a brief clear slot when the summit was clear of cloud. Once I had got my shot I moved on to the summit of Cribyn and waited for the conditions to clear again. By this time it was nearly 12pm and the few hardy souls which had ventured up early in the morning had now grown to many dozens. Looking back towards Pen-Y-Fan, Almost a continuous stream of people were now on the path between Corn Du and Pen-Y-Fan. With the cloud now clearing from Pen-Y-Fan, I found a vantage point on Cribyn to show off the grandeur of South Wales highest mountain.
Mountains in winter always look more imposing and hostile and Pen-Y-Fan is no exception. The SAS get lost up here. With the shots in the bag I decided it was time to make the long trek back to the car, stopping off on the way to take in the breathtaking view from Pen-Y-Fan.
On my descent back to the car I grabbed a last few shots of the neighbouring mountains illuminated by the warm glow of the setting sun, a scene which made me feel like I could be standing somewhere in the Arctic, not in South Wales.
It's cold. Britain freezes and is covered by a blanket of snow, apart from a few exceptions. Here in South and West Dorset we were not hit as hard as other parts of the counry. In Weymouth and Portland the snow had melted not long after it had stopped falling. In North Dorset there is a lot more snow with the area around Shaftsbury hardest hit. Shaftsbury's Gold Hill, famous for the Hovis advert, is a popular spot for adults and children to taboggan with sometimes large crowds gathering at the top of the cobbled street watching the action and cheering on as participants try to avoid ending up under a parked car at the bottom. Not only is Gold Hill good for tobogganing in winter, it is also quite breathtaking location at sunset for pictures when covered in a blanket of the white stuff. It is quite tricky to get a shot sometimes with all the tabogganers but with a bit of organisation and co-operation the tabogganers will wait at the top to give us photographers the chance to get that magic moment.
The Cobb, Lyme Regis being battered by heavy seas. Nikon D700 & 80-200mm lens.
November 2009 has been a wild month for weather in the UK. High winds, frequent and heavy spells of rain interspersed with some clear sunny spells, great for dramatic pictures of stormy seas lashing the coast.
Dorset is blessed with great locations for capturing these events. Lyme Regis, Portland Bill, West Bay all give the photographer, who is willing to risk his expensive camera equipment getting a soaking, the chance to capture images showing the power of the sea trying its hardest to destroy what man has put in its way. But respect has to be given to mother nature as the devastation in Cumbria from the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in the UK shows, by keeping a safe distance and not taking risks which could put the emergency services in danger if you get into trouble.