Posts tagged ‘North Yorkshire’
I’m going to start this with an important personal learning point:
If you’re going to wander across a high, moorland area, with an obvious aqueduct over a railway further down the slope then either:
1. Look where you’re stepping
2. Wear high, waterproof boots.
There; that’s the main thing to remember then.
More importantly… actually, come to think of it, not more importantly, since getting very wet feet is significant and much to be avoided. So: more importantly from the purely photographic point of view, tilt/shift lenses are very good for photographing things which could broadly be described as ‘fences at interesting angles‘. The image below, which I imagined as the spine of some prehistoric beast, albeit rather loosely I’ll concede, is of a strange old line of posts parallel to, and above, the Settle to Carlisle railway, just north of Dent station and high up on moorland in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales (which happen to be in Cumbria at this point, come to think of it). I’ll return to the overly-watered feet issue shortly.
A friend and I had explored this area a week before on a grand tour of the dales looking for potential locations. We weren’t expecting to do anything other than look that afternoon; the weather was pretty miserable. In particular, it was bitingly cold and standing around for more than a minute or two was not appealing. Fortunately, we did happen to drive up past Dent station, having given up on looking for interesting views of the river though Dentdale. (I’m sure there are some great places along there, but we were too cold to spend the time, and finding suitable places to stop along the road was not easy.) Up on the moor above the station, there are a couple of these fences, parallel to each other and to the railway in its cutting. (If anyone can explain what they were for, I’d love to know.) We went no more than 25m. from the road – I didn’t even get my camera out – but we noted it worth revisiting.
A few days later I detoured back here and spent a short time exploring in more detail, resulting in this image.
Maybe not desperately exciting, as photographs go, but I was very taken with the combination of the long, tufted grasses and the stark, heavily-weathered wood. Also, it was foggy that day, so I thought I could make something where the various stands of Forestry Commission trees would be hidden in the mist. As an aside, I’m starting to like rather low-key, muted colours and subtle shapes, as distinct from the bright, saturated ‘wow’ shots which lots of photo-sharing sites tend to be populated with. Not that there’s anything wrong with ‘wow’ shots, but it’s nice to do something less ‘shouting’ sometimesl. Anyway, I had pre-visualised a shot with the line of crossed posts forming a diagonal across the frame, then disappearing into the mist and over the horizon. As can be seen, that didn’t quite happen: the mist lifted a little by the time I’d finished fiddling with the swing on the lens and getting everything in good focus, but there’s still a definite fade into the fog towards the back of the image.
Even before I reached the stage of setting up the camera, I’d found the answer to a question. My photographer friend and I had debated, on the first visit, what exactly the point of the small bridge-like structure crossing the railway was. One of us had argued that it “can’t possibly be an aqueduct; it’s too small“. It is, indeed, small; not a large structure at all in terms of its diameter, though it extends, sensibly, across the whole of the not-insubstantial railway cutting. Just behind the camera position in the image, my leg disappeared deep into a decidedly wet area hidden amongst the tussocky moorland. It’s not visible – the grass is too long – but if you put your foot in it, it’s very much there, and considerably deeper than the height of my walking boots. In fact, the tripod is so close to it that I had to be fairly careful not to soak the other boot too. A hundred metres or so down the slope this wet area, or stream as I feel I’m now justified in calling it, crosses the railway on the tiny aqueduct. Question resolved, employing the hard, or at least wet, way.
Post-processing this image a few days later, having culled all but two of the subtly varied compositions I’d taken, I realised how tricky it is to check precise focus on an LCD screen when using a tilted lens – possible, but certainly somewhat demanding. The image here is not far off the RAW file. I’ve dodged and burned it a little to bring out the foreground grasses, and to fade the far part of the line of posts slightly to better conform to my vision of the image prior to taking it, but otherwise not much was needed.
This was my first attempt at using the PC-E lens, other than spending a couple of hours practising with understanding where the focal plane would be at various degrees of tilt or swing, indoors. What amazes me is how little movement is needed most of the time. This composition was achieved with slightly under one degree of leftward swing and a couple of millimetres of leftward shift. I made precisely the same composition with another 24mm lens and, even at f/16, the focus is not as good throughout the frame as it is with the tilt/shift. Whilst I don’t remotely think that this image justifies the investment in the lens, it convinced me that it has the potential to be very much ‘worth it’!
I thought I’d write a little about this image since it’s actually pretty current – one of my most recent – and hence I can recall in detail how it came about. I also rather like it, which is a good enough reason in itself. It’s a shot of the very bottom of the highest single-drop waterfall in England – or so several sources say, including Wikipedia. Well, more precisely, the Wikipedia entry says that it is ‘claimed to be…’ the highest, etc…. so I’ll go with that. As an aside, it’s not, unless you exclude underground falls. I’ve spent a fair bit of time caving and this, at 30m. is considerably smaller than many subterranean drops! Nonetheless, wherever it falls in the list of ‘big falls’, it’s impressively high for England, and very much free-falling. It’s even been photographed as a free-standing column of ice in the, now distant, past. Sadly, it hasn’t frozen in recent years. I’m an ice climber, hence the interest in the harder form of water, and it would be a great little ascent if it ever froze again.
I was looking for something new to photograph one Sunday afternoon: there’s a limit to how many times I can amble up onto the various limestone pavements around here in search of new lighting conditions to photograph hawthorn trees (splendid as they are in their combination of tenacious wood and craggy rock). Add to that the unreasonably clear, blue sky – not exactly my favourite climatic conditions for photography – and I found myself spending an hour or so scouring web sites and maps looking for something both different and with no need for more than a tiny bit of the blue stuff at the top, or ideally none at all. Coming across the photo of the frozen Hardraw Falls, and never having been there, combined with it not being overly far away, I headed off, armed only with the knowledge that “it’s in Hardraw, and you get to it through a pub” – taking the map would have been helpful too: I had failed to realise that you only get to it through the pub; the Green Dragon Inn, to be precise, which is a lovely old place (dating back to the 13th century!) and whose web site is more confident in asserting the relative height of the falls. i.e. ‘it is the highest in England‘. Odd that! And very possibly true.
So, without a map, but with a very clear idea of where the drop was in relation to the road, I spent the first half hour or so on site in an abortive but very pleasant walk somewhat upstream of, and extremely close to, the falls, after which I made my way back into Hardraw, duly entered the pub, paid the £2 entry fee (fair enough, they maintain the paths, and it’s certainly worth the money) and walked back to very nearly where I’d been before, only around 30m. lower and in the narrow gorge into which the water plummets. Part of the plan had involved the fact that it hadn’t rained much for a few days – this happens in Yorkshire once in a while – and I hoped that the fall would be light and misty, rather than the raging torrent so often pictured. I’d visualised a transparent stream of water and some long exposure patterns when it touched down. I’d also imagined a fair few visitors: as it transpired there was just one family, and they left with some alacrity when I arrived and started fiddling with my tripod – and I don’t think I so much as glared at them! After that, I had the place to myself for an hour; not something I imagine to be common in summer, judging by the large number of paths and picnic tables which grace the few hundred metres from the inn to the falls end of the gorge.
As the image shows, the conditions were exactly what I’d hoped for: not-an-excessive-amount of wonderfully transparent water was conveniently landing on some attractive boulders at the bottom, both allowing the rocks behind to show through and producing a nice spray on the rocks. I still managed to spend over an hour there though. I’d imagined that a long exposure would be what I wanted, so I took several. Examining the results, I could see that the water became far from transparent when exposed for ten seconds plus – obvious in retrospect really … I’d also assumed that the way to photograph the ‘highest single fall in all England’ would be to show it from top to bottom, but in practice this wasn’t where the interest lay for me, it being, somewhat inevitably, a long, thin stream of water with a lot of rather confused and dark rock surrounding it. My captures gradually moved in closer and closer to the foot of the falls, and became shorter and shorter, until I reached the one shown here, which is the tightest, fastest shot of all. I ended up with about thirty images, most of which I was able to cull ruthlessly later that evening after a brief glance – their sin being having no visibility of the background rocks. I also took a variety of polarised and non-polarised shots – this one is polarised, but not a great deal as I wanted to retain the sheen on the rocks.
The only post-processing on this final image, other than conversion from RAW using DxO Optics Pro, is a little dodging and burning to bring out the red areas in the rocks surrounding the stream, and to partially quell a couple of over-bright rocks which are located away from the central area and were distracting.
What did I learn from this? Take a map! To be honest, this is not exactly a new idea; probably don’t forget to take a map, is better… something I know very well, but which I should put into practice with more determination. Also, I shall no longer assume that long exposures of moving water are necessarily ‘best’. The longer ones are pretty, but this, with the curtain of water showing the whole of the background rock area, is much more pleasing and better balanced, if arguably less eye-catching. Still, I’m beginning to prefer ‘interesting‘, to ‘dramatic‘, and there’s far more interest when something unexpected is revealed!
Here’s a link to a large version of the image. Do please comment if you think I could improve it.
These blog things, they came about as on-line diaries, so I think I’ll start with that approach, except that I’ll write a few short items about how I made particular images – diaries of images; and, for want of a better starting point, I’ll talk about the one I’ve used as a banner.
I’ve entitled this image various things over the year or so it’s existed, and in its various forms. Now, I just tend to call it ‘Twisleton hawthorn’, it being arguably the most prominent and interesting tree on Twisleton Scar End, in the Yorkshire Dales, and also being a hawthorn. The other titles have tended to have the word ‘stormy’ in them, since it was; very! Seconds after I took this image, the skies did that ‘opening’ thing you hear about and I was rapidly rather damp. The other reason I thought I’d describe the making of this image is that it was one of the first ‘good’ photographs I took after moving from taking holiday snapshots, and pictures high up on glaciated mountains, to buying a dSLR and attempting to make something a little more than snaps. I’d taken a couple of other nice images a few days earlier (the first one on my Flickr stream), but those were pure luck: the light happened to be good one morning, and I had coincidentally woken up early (not that the latter is at all common, so I was doubly lucky!).
So, this was the very first time I’d gone out, newly-acquired camera kit in hand, looking for something I could make a good image from. That was the wrong term at the time though: I thought of it as ‘going out to take a photo’. I wasn’t remotely considering the possibilities of post-processing it once I’d ‘taken it’, and I wasn’t thinking of ‘capturing light’ or ‘making an image’. As a direct result of that, this photo has improved through its various incarnations as I’ve learned how to process files better – at least, I think it has… That, I feel, will be another theme of this blog: my development in technique and approach, as I progressed through the stages of making images and, I hope, of my continued progression. I started by just heading out with a camera, and now I tend to try to pre-visualise images and then go out looking for landscapes which I can use to make what I’m looking for.
Back to this image then. I’d headed up onto Twisleton Scar End, somewhere I’m reasonably sure I’d never been before, since I knew that there were both limestone pavement and a few trees up there, and thought that they must be good to ‘take photos of’. Having wandered around looking at all the trees, taking the odd shot (well, quite a lot of odd shots in fact; none of them terribly good), I decided that this tree was the best of the bunch. I’d then taken endless images of it from all directions, none of which looked especially gripping on the LCD screen of my Nikon D90. I proved myself right there; they weren’t.
Then, just as I had put everything back in the bag, turned away from the tree, and started to walk back down to the car across the tricky limestone pavement, the sun suddenly emerged from the cloud behind which it had been lurking and made me flinch away from the glare. Doing so, I could see that the rather drab tree I’d spent the previous half hour looking at was now glowing with light; completely transformed! Now, a year or so later, I know how suddenly things change, and I know how much difference that makes to an image; then, despite years on high mountains, I didn’t appreciate either the drama or the speed with which this can happen. I attribute this lack of realisation before to the fact that, slogging up some alpine peak, I’ve tended to focus rather more on where my feet and axe are going than on the delicate play of light on the snow and other, more artistic, features of the terrain!
I quickly pulled the camera out, half knelt down, rested an elbow on a knee for stability, and took half a dozen shots before the rain started and the sun disappeared again. This was the best. More precisely, this was the one which was in focus and didn’t show much camera movement! Taken as a jpeg, it was quite dramatic, but not as good as I’d hoped. It’s improved since then; I’ve reprocessed it around three or four times, going back and tweaking the files each time I learnt something new about post-processing. The best version is that I’ve posted here I think; I like the extra foreground compared to the more elongated version necessary for the blog banner.
This has been a thoroughly educational image for me. Whilst taking it, I learnt the importance of predicting the light and of using a tripod. Since then, I’ve learnt how much difference can be made from careful processing, as well as the fact that having a RAW format version in the first place would have helped a great deal. I’m rather hoping I won’t modify it again from now on, but there’s always the option. Do comment to let me know if you think it could be improved!
A larger version of this image can be seen here on my Flickr stream.