mikegreenimages

Mike Green's thoughts on landscape photography

Back on-line after a break

A brief note just to say that I’ve very much not given up on this web journal, in case it looked that way…

'Route 66 panorama'

I’ve been quiet because I was on a long trip in the south-west of the US – deserts, canyons and predatory wildlife in other words, as well as a 50C variation in temperature(!) – and I decided, before I left the UK, that I’d suspend my on-line activities for the duration of my travels.

I do now have lots of material to write about, starting early in the New Year, but before that I also have a rather extensive backlog of reading and viewing to do:

  • all the blogs I subscribe to;
  • three issues of ‘Great British Landscapes’;
  • and well over a thousand Flickr emails with new images from contacts and comments on my work.

I plan to get through the bulk of that before publishing anything here!

'Petrified Forest National Park'

Musings on: the value of thinking holistically

Books – photography books that is – cover an enormous range of subject matter: from fundamental techniques, right through to the philosophy of photography itself, as an art form. I’m perfectly happy to say that I’ve found all the types valuable. The popularity of such books, however, tends to be massively skewed towards the ‘how to’ type, concentrating on technique and location. Naturally, the availability of both types follows the market: people happily buy technique books, whatever their activity or interest, so there are vastly more technique / location books available than there are of the more thoughtful, perhaps introspective variety.

Anyone who’s read more than a couple of posts on this site will inevitably have noticed that I’m prone to a bit of musing on all the processes and approaches which surround the core, ‘make a picture’, aspect of photography, and less inclined towards camera technique. Consequently the latter type of book – the holistic ones, as I’m terming them – attract me more, both due to their relative scarcity and to their thought-provoking nature.

The photographer is the key component – think holistically

I’ve recently read David Ward’s ‘Landscape Beyond’, an excellent book, and one with which many people reading this will be familiar. It covers (in very broad terms indeed) the philosophy of photography and the approach David Ward takes to his work. An inspiring read, both the photographs and the discussion. I’ve also just re-read Bruce Percy’s most recent e-book ‘The Art of Self-Awareness – Developing a better photographic approach’, and it’s the combination of these books which provoked me to write this short article.

In my, perhaps still limited, understanding, people are far more likely to buy ‘technique’ books than the type represented by the two examples because they seem to offer a possible quick fix, a route to making better images through improved handling and use of the camera and through finding the ‘best bits’ of ‘good’ locations. All useful stuff, without doubt, but I’m increasingly thinking that the photographer’s overall vision (for want of a better term!) is more important than their ability to drive to a photogenic place and then to drive the camera well. Those latter two things are clearly vital, but they’re not what truly differentiates the final images, they’re merely prerequisites.

Bruce Percy’s book examines the creation of photographic art from an holistic perspective, taking technique as a building block – one which the reader can acquire elsewhere – and considering how the photographer’s thoughts, emotions, reactions to adversity and examination of motives can have an immense effect on the end result, that being a body of photographic work, rather than an individual image. I’m convinced that this is the key to the most important area of improvement we can work on as photographers: ourselves and our understanding of how we respond to the photographic process in its entirety.

By that ‘entirety’, I mean: starting with simply wanting to make images, through deciding when, where, how, with what equipment, and with what objective we create our work. The key component in this process is you, the photographer. Having self-awareness of how you relate to photography is patently fundamental to the end result, and to the progressive establishment of both a distinctive style and the ability to maintain standards and learn through successes and failures.

How to: be self-aware…

Thinking about this as I write, I could readily argue that Bruce’s new e-book is a ‘how to’ book; it’s ‘how to develop your photography through increased self-awareness’. In those terms, it’s an excellent read, since it may well lead to a change in thought processes, and hence to benefits long into the future.

The value of this book, then, and what makes it a remarkably good acquisition, is the way that it can subtly move one’s attitude towards one of approaching the process of creating landscape photographs holistically. This sort of discussion is not unique, but it’s rare, and as such it’s certainly very valuable.

I should declare an ‘interest’: I’ve been on, and reviewed, one of Bruce Percy’s workshops and found it enormously valuable in my development. I also made a few suggestions prior to the published edition, when Bruce had initially finished the book but not finalised it. That said, I’m confident that I’d have been commenting on it in the absence of either of those things, and especially having just read both it and David Ward’s book in quick succession – both make eminently re-readable additions to my now growing photographic library, and in both cases it’s because they talk about the photographer, not the tools, and because this is not only a relative rarity but, I strongly suspect, the most important aspect of producing great images.

I recommend both books very highly. In the more-than-a-little-unlikely event that you don’t ‘learn’ anything definable from them, they’re both highly readable and entertaining, and in many respects the point is that you are provoked into thought, and hence the learning comes over time, from within.

‘Zip’: commended in Landscape Photographer of the Year 2011

I’m very pleased, and distinctly surprised, to be able to say that one of my images – ‘Zip’, my first Howgill Fells capture – has been commended in the 2011 Landscape Photographer of the Year competition (LPOTY, to avoid my having to type all that again).

Zip

My surprise is due to the fact that everything I’ve read about photography competitions suggests – well, usually states – that they favour rather more obviously appealing subject matter – things like sunshine, warmth and a view; or morning mist. I’m sure I’ve described the origin of ‘Zip’ before on this site: it was supposed to include mist, if not the other three items. Instead, I had a hard frost to work with; yet this turned out to be much more interesting – at least, it was to me, and also, it would seem, to the judges.

Are competitions a good thing?

I have to admit that I was a little reticent about entering in the first place – I’m not entirely convinced that any art can be meaningfully compared in a competitive sense; the process clearly involves a high level of subjectivity. Having said that, I was also sufficiently self-aware, when I was deliberating about making a submission, to know that I’d be very flattered to receive any kind of recognition in the competition. So, I was unashamedly pleased to be short-listed and am delighted to have an image in the 2011 book, displayed at the exhibition at the National Theatre during December and January, and in the Sunday Times magazine feature on 23rd October 2011. I was also reticent as I felt slightly presumptuous, as a relative beginner, in even thinking of submitting an image – fortunately my ‘what the hell’ instinct kicked in there…

One of my motivations – OK, perhaps I should say self-justifications! – for entering LPOTY was that I hoped to be encouraged, if I was fortunate enough to have any degree of success, to make more images. Right now, typing this a couple of days after receiving the email saying that ‘Zip’ was ‘commended’ and would be in both the exhibition and the book, and a few hours after seeing it in the Sunday Times, I’m definitely feeling inspired anew. With autumn here and winter not far off – my favourite times of year, especially for photography – feeling encouraged and inspired can only be a good thing!

It’s easy to be cynical about any competition which necessitates the comparison of any art form – and I assure you I can be pretty cynical about all sorts of things when I want to be – but there’s no denying that they:

  • draw attention to things that most people wouldn’t otherwise hear about, see or read;
  • provide great encouragement to those people who are fortunate enough to meet with the judges’ approval;
  • encourage people to enter the art, whatever it may be; to ‘have a go’.

Without doubt, this success means that I do feel greatly encouraged to try to produce more good work and I’m very happy that I decided to enter!

On the off-chance that any of the judges are reading this: thank you very much!

And to everyone who’s provided constructive critique and encouragement to me on Flickr et al in the past year, many thanks; it’s really very much appreciated and has helped me a great deal.

I’d better stop there!

Musings on: deleting images too soon

I deleted the image below – several times.

My usual practice, after copying the captured images from a memory card to my computer, is to flick through the files and delete those which don’t work, or which have technical flaws which I’m unwilling to accept. This one just looked bland, as did the five other versions I’d taken in quick succession as breaks in the cloud allowed sunshine to sweep across this valley. They all experienced the delete key and both, duplicated cards were formatted when I returned the SD card to the camera.
Triangles

A few weeks later, thinking over my Scotland trip, I recalled spending a couple of hours standing by the side of the road near the Rannoch Moor end of Loch Etive and imagining a gently-lit composition which highlighted the multiple triangles I could make out in this basin beneath Ben Starav and Glas Bheinn Mhor. I remembered visualising the image above – the raw material for which which I’d repeatedly deleted the day after capturing it. Considering it after so much time, I found it hard to believe that there really wasn’t something worthwhile in one of the captures.

Fortunately, several aspects of my file protection set-up cater for ‘deliberate, over zealous deletion’, rather than mechanical failure, accident, or software issues. In this particular case, every ingested RAW file is copied to two internal drives on my laptop, one of which I work on – deleting ruthlessly – and one of which I never touch, but which is itself copied to several other places on my network.

I’m glad I do this!

This may not be an especially spectacular image, but, having experimented with various DxO processing options for it and finally produced something quite similar to my visualisation, I do now like it, and I’m pleased to have stress tested the ‘idiot operator’ provisions in my backup strategy too.

Either don’t delete anything, or make sure you put an ‘I changed my mind’ solution in place

Let’s leave aside whether you like the image in question; that’s not the point. I like it, and you may change your mind on some of yours too. I’m sure we all capture the occasional image which, at first glance, is inadequate in some way, but which proves worth working on sometime later. I urge you to think of a mechanism to make sure that you can!

Of course, one reliable solution is to simply not delete anything, but I find it useful in my work-flow to reduce the RAW captures to a manageable few in the folders I’m working on; so, for me, deleting is good. That said, it’s fortunate that I foresaw the flaw in this approach some while ago and put in place a mechanism to avoid the obvious problem with this method of working.

I’m not saying that any of this is terribly clever – I’m merely suggesting that if you haven’t allowed for ‘over-zealous deletion’ in some manner, by making copies of everything very early on in your work-flow, do consider it. You never know when you might want to revisit an image-capturing session and make really sure that there was nothing in it worth working on.

An alternative to multiple, ideally automated, backups is not to review images too soon after capture. I know many people like to leave their files alone for a few weeks and then view them with more objective eyes. In this instance, the RAW files fell way short of what I’d envisioned and I more or less deleted them in a fit of pique; perhaps, had I left them a few weeks, I would have been more generous?

Whichever you do, make some provision to enable yourself to rectify the sort of initial mistake I made!

For anyone interested, I’ve written a page describing my overall work-flow and file protection set-up (also linked from the menu bar at the top). If you’d like to comment on this little story, and perhaps argue that I was foolish and ‘got lucky’, please feel free, though I may at least attempt to refute the suggestion with the view that working out the sort of foolishness I might be guilty of in future, and guarding against it through automation, ameliorates the fault to a large degree…

Musings on: the problem with multi-tasking

When I first started making photographs in what some people would call a ‘serious’ manner – going out with intent to photograph, rather than merely having a camera with me to capture memories – I took my camera and all my photographic kit with me every time I went out walking. I’ve stopped doing that, and this article is about why, and in what way that’s a good idea from the perspective of my future photography.

This post was inspired directly by a very good article from Richard Childs on his WordPress site; well worth a read. Richard’s post led me to recognise that I’ve been modifying my behaviour in capturing photographs over the last few months. It’s about – I’m paraphrasing wildly here – the disadvantages of combining two things:

  • the enjoyment of being out in the countryside;
  • and the enjoyment of making images.

As with so many combined activities, each can reduce enjoyment of the other. In particular, for me, going out to make photographs can definitely detract from certain aspects of the experience of being up a hill or mountain, or wandering in an area of woodland. Richard offers a solution to this problem and I have a slightly different one. That is, I do at the moment. Over time, everything changes and no doubt my current approach may evolve further.

Why doesn’t combining the above work well for me?

A considerable part of my enjoyment in the outdoors is being very aware of everything going on around me: the sounds; the change in wind direction and speed; signs of weather systems moving in or clearing; and the landscape being revealed as I move through it, whether due to change in position or change in the weather. I could list more, but I’m sure you get the idea: I have found that I like to feel involved and part of the landscape, and to do that well I need to be aware of everything that’s happening.

This sounds great for photography! After all, if I’m so aware of my surroundings, then I am presumably more likely to notice potential compositions. That’s true, it is good …. for photography, but not for walking and the whole outdoors experience; and hence, perhaps, in the longer term, not for photography either if it puts me off going out walking as much.

The problem – well, my problem – is that I do notice things, and then I stop, for a long time, work out a composition, then wait for the light to do whatever I think it might be going to do… All perfectly fine, except that if I have any kind of objective other than capturing images – getting to the top of a series of hills on a circular route perhaps – I either don’t have time to stop for long enough to make a good job of the composition, or I choose to do so and then don’t have time to finish the walk….

The image below, for example: I remember the immediate area around this small water flow in great detail, but I have near-zero recollection of approaching it, what the weather was doing, or how the surroundings looked. Given that this is in the valley between Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag, at the top of Glencoe, a spectacular setting, that seems a bit of a waste in some respects, though I was pleased with the image.
Claw

Now that’s not necessarily a problem on the odd occasion, but when it’s repeated on every walk – and that is what was happening to me earlier this year – it starts to mean that I’m not really doing ‘decent’ walks any more, I’m doing truncated versions of them. Great for photography, somewhat less so for the whole ‘going for a planned walk’ thing. Not only that, but in order to cater for unplanned images, I feel that I need to take all my photographic equipment with me. That adds weight and means that I plan shorter walks, another detriment to the walking part of the day.

And then there’s the disconnection from the landscape which I suffer when setting up a shot and concentrating on the photographic part of the combined activity: I lose the all-important awareness of what’s happening around me; my experience reduces to the image I’m making at the expense of everything else. After such a combined walking and photography trip, what I recall tends to be the composition and capturing of images, not the walking. Over time I’ve found that every trip has that photograph-biased character and that I’m not appreciating being out in the countryside quite as much as I used to.

So, I’m clearly not great at multi-tasking; fair enough! That said, I have a strong suspicion that many people aren’t, that it’s not just me. Yes, I can do multiple things at once, but I’m pretty sure they all suffer in comparison to giving each my full attention, and, by observation, I think this is true of the majority of people. Take the example of watching television or listening to a radio programme whilst reading or writing an email, if you’ve done that: did you miss bits of the programme, or write less coherently than usual in the email? If not, congratulations. If you did have that problem, think what it means for creative activities such as photography, or meditative ones such as walking. To me it implies that something will inevitably be lost from either or both experiences.

My take on this is that over time, were I to carry on like this, my ‘being outdoors for the sake of it’ activity would be diminished by the urge to take photographs, I’d start to resent the intrusion of photography into walking, and then not only would the walking suffer, but the photography would too, in that I’d do less, or hurry things. Since I want to do both, I had to come up with some kind of plan to avoid that happening.

A simple solution?

To address the issue, I’ve adopted the approach of not taking the camera equipment on things which I deem as walks. Conversely, I’m actively thinking of the walking part of photographic outings as merely the means of getting there, so my trips either have the objective of taking photographs, or of doing a good walk, but not both – it avoids later disappointment!

Of course, that’s a little absolutist and what I’m really doing when on ‘proper walks’ is making mental notes of places which I think are worth re-visiting with a camera on a dedicated, photographic outing; but I don’t spend any time working out the composition – I just note it as having image potential and move on, or return to watching the landscape and weather unfold for its own sake, rather than with the objective of capturing it in a photograph. I’m not about to completely divorce ‘going for a walk’ from taking photographs, but I am going to make sure that I make at least some outings purely for the sake of being out there, and don’t allow the photography to take over completely.

Do read Richard’s article for a subtly different take on this. I’m not convinced that what he proposes would work for me, but, fortunately, everyone’s different. The main point here is to ask yourself whether more specialisation (‘go for a walk’ versus ‘go out to make photographs’) is a good idea or not; whether the net effect, to you, of combining two activities is to enhance them both, or whether one adversely affects the other (and it can be either way around!).

It’s something that I’m sure is worth thinking about. The more things I do in all sorts of areas – not just photography and walking – the more I feel that I achieve more rewarding results when I concentrate on doing one thing at a time and doing it well. Incidentally, this series of thought ties in directly with my earlier musing on who to go out making photographs with, in which I reached similar conclusions on a different aspect of combining activities.

In summary: it would seem that I’m doing the same with my approach to all aspects of making landscape photographs as I endeavour to do in my actual images: simplifying.

Addendum

Julian Barkway has near-simultaneously published a blog article on a related theme which is also well worth reading. It brings out another facet of this area but is also, essentially, about not letting the making of photographs spoil your enjoyment of being out in the countryside. Clearly, this is a popular theme and one which it really is worth having a think about from your own perspective!

Musings on: an absence of sky

For several months now, I’ve made practically no images with sky in them. Only today, whilst flicking through my Flickr stream, have I noticed that. Interesting. At least, it’s interesting to me; in part due to the whole ‘failure to notice the trend’ aspect.

More significantly, I think it demonstrates that sky is far from essential in landscape photographs. Yes, many people, when they hear the term ‘landscape photography’, imagine a large vista: something prominent in the foreground; something pretty in the middle distance; and perhaps some hills or mountains against a dramatic sky to make up the top of the frame. Nothing wrong with that: I like, and make, photographs of that sort too, but for the moment I seem to be drawn to make what are often, it seems, called ‘intimate landscape photographs’. More precisely, or perhaps less precisely, I’m making images which, whether of a detail or of a large part of a scene, are abstracted from reality to some degree by the omission of sky, and by composing and processing for patterns, rather than for representation of the scene.

Midge-fest

I’ll sidestep the exact definition of ‘intimate landscape’, which tends to mean relatively small things, from what I’ve seen and read: I’m talking here simply about excluding the sky. The image above certainly qualifies as an ‘intimate landscape’, and I couldn’t have included sky even if I’d wanted to – the camera was pointing down to make the composition, quite apart from there being a wall of rock behind it. The shot below, however, could easily have included sky as a portrait format composition, but it added nothing and spoiled what I hoped would be a slightly claustrophobic and ‘dark’ feel to the tree, the fence, and the converging lines centred on the trunk.

Glen Etive woodland

So why is excluding the sky often good?

I’ve been in Scotland, the Glencoe area, for the last couple of weeks. Without doubt it’s a fabulous place, one of my favourites (though I think the open spaces of the far north-west of Scotland are better still). Everywhere you look there are dramatic mountains and wonderful, panoramic views; yet I didn’t include sky in a single frame! I’ve been trying to work out why this was, and the following are my ideas to date.

  1. I was there on a walking trip, not a photographic one, so I didn’t have the time to wait for light, nor to get to places suited to the ‘big vista’ style of shot whilst by myself.
  2. The ‘big’ landscapes, the ones with dramatic sky, tend to rely on just that: lots happening in the sky. It was grey and overcast on most days. Lovely, even light, but no drama.
  3. Without late or early light on the hills to emphasise the colour and contours, photographs tend to rely on pattern, and if that’s the case, what’s the point of including a grey sky, or of including a sky at all? (I was not alone, and photographing at dusk and dawn tends to be a wee bit intrusive in those circumstances!)
  4. Summer: now that’s a big issue. There was a hint of autumn about, but essentially the landscape was green and grey, vegetation or rock – not too thrilling really. Once autumn gets going, multi-coloured landscapes can draw out shapes and patterns on hillsides – the colours can be patterns in their own right. At the moment, there’s simply too much green around for my liking.
  5. As soon as sky is included, there’s a constraint. The inclusion of sky imparts an unavoidable feeling of ‘representation’, to me; it removes the idea of abstraction and imposes a “this is a picture of a landscape” feeling on the viewer; certainly, it does to this viewer.

That final point is the major item to me: sky can be useful, even essential, but it shrieks ‘picture!’. That’s not to say that absence of sky avoids the idea of ‘picture’, but it certainly can do so. I’m more interested in creating images which convey how I feel about the landscape, or how I see it, rather than in representing how it truly looks (something of a challenge in any case, in a two-dimensional image). I think I’ve written, in a previous article, that I like abstract art, and I feel that my attraction to form and pattern, whether created by water flowing in a stream or by clefts in hillsides (or even by clouds, potentially…..), makes including sky with land, in the conventional manner, decreasingly appealing to me.

Considering the other points, excluding sky is a rather good technique to avoid the issues associated with many of them. In particular, on a dull day, or at least one with a grey, evenly luminous cloud cover, the fact that everything is uniformly lit is a distinct benefit in this type of ‘no sky’ image-making. The colours can be successfully drawn out or muted, as required, in post-processing, as can the tonality, via dodging and burning, to emphasise existing shapes and patterns. When using this approach to post-processing, it’s far better to start with a neutral, evenly lit capture than one which is strongly influenced by the light and constrained by the need to produce a ‘natural-looking’ sky. Dull days are great for this: they provide an even, low contrast illumination which allows the camera to capture lots of detail and gives huge flexibility, during post-processing, in deciding how that detail is best used.

Necessarily greater creativity, and more likelihood of unique images

Another very strong argument in favour of the ‘zero sky’ approach is that it’s more likely to produce unique images. Everyone sees the details in a landscape differently, whether those details are the juxtaposition of a couple of rocks and a piece of heather, or whether it’s a pattern on a hillside. Seeing things differently leads to capturing different compositions and making more varied images from them – this can only be good! The image below, repeated from an earlier post, is a good example I think. The skyline is just above the top of the frame, but the sky added nothing to the shot. In fact, I’d argue strongly that the sky would have ruined this, taking away from the graphic, pattern-centric effect of the sweep of the waterfall and the multi-coloured, right hand slope.

Curve

Of course, I’m not remotely advocating that sky should not be included as a principle. All I’m really saying is that it should only be included where it adds something to the final image, or where the goal of the image is to be representational. For the moment, I foresee the majority of my images only including solid or liquid subject matter; equally, I foresee that current preference changing over time and according to circumstances….

For more, arguably better, examples of excluding sky – which are certainly not ‘intimate’ in any way – see my previous post, a couple of the images in which are on a very large scale but feature solely ground and water.

As always, I’d be very interested to hear your views on this, whether supportive or contradictory.

Musings on: Google Earth visualisation (and the need to pay more attention!)

If you’ve been reading this web journal in the last couple of months, you may have seen my previous item on using a combination of Google Earth’s ground level view and The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) to visualise compositions prior to going to a location. This is another recommendation for playing around with the former, even when you know a location relatively well, or think you do.

The following is a shot planned purely with my recollection of having been to this spot before, without a camera. Returning to make it did, however, create the opportunity for the others in this post.

CautleySpout: detail 1

I’m planning a trip up to Glencoe and Rannoch Moor at the moment, a place I know relatively well, but only from the perspective of climbing there in winter a few times on routes like Curved Ridge, on Buachaille Etive Mor, and the Aonach Eagach ridge. So, having a scan around with Google Earth and using TPE to plot some times for possible capture sites seemed like a good idea. Whilst doing so, I noticed a few views that, whilst I must have been in a position to see them before, I’d not recognised as having photographic potential. In my defence, I’d not looked for possible images before….. even so, I was surprised at just how little I knew the area visually. Perhaps I spend a lot more time looking at my crampon and ice axe placements than I imagine I do (and, quite possibly, that’s not at all a bad thing!).

The Howgills again

This recognition led me to wonder whether I’d been equally lacking in observational acuity in other, supposedly familiar, areas. In short: yes, I had.

I’ve been intending to make the image at the top of this item for several months now, as part of my project to photograph the Howgill Fells; what I hadn’t been intending was to make the other images shown here. That was essentially since I didn’t know – more correctly, I had never noticed – that they might exist. Fortunately, I spent ten minutes with Google Earth before I set off and found that the unexciting valley up which I intended to walk, at the head of which lies the waterfall, does have some vantage points with ‘big picture’ potential.

Some crinkly land

Google Earth capture

This Google Earth screen capture is of a crinkled area on the south side of the valley. Yes, I could have seen this (just about!) by looking more attentively whilst walking up the path to the falls, but I hadn’t – not in several visits. This area is only five minutes from the parking spot, and I’ve been focussed, previously, on the head of the valley and the cascade itself. Also, and importantly, it doesn’t look like this from the path; it looks like this from a point a few hundred metres up the hillside to the north, over very wet ground on this occasion. I only went up there because I knew it had potential, from ‘technological visualisation’; otherwise, I’d have stayed on the considerably easier ground of the well-hardened path.

Crinkled land

Once again, I’m impressed with the degree of accuracy of the ground level view representation of the terrain. It’s not identical, but it’s remarkably close – note the tree and wall at the bottom right of the frame in the computer-generated image and the actual one! Yes, the runnels are not perfect, but the general cross shape is pretty clear in the Google graphic; more than enough to see that there was ‘something there’. I’m very pleased with this since it’s a microcosm of how the whole Howgill Fells range looks from the air; uncannily so, in fact.

Cautley Spout

The crinkled area was the first thing I noticed in my brief planning period at home. The second was more significant. No doubt there are many fine images of Cautley Spout from a distance; however, I’d not seen any and had assumed that the watercourse must be difficult to ‘use’ well in a composition. Rotating the Google Earth view around 90 degrees at the same, elevated point the previous visualisation was made from, I saw the following.

Cautley Spout

Not terribly exciting perhaps, but I like graphic patterns in landscapes, and I thought I could see potential for an image. The waterfall is the vertical part of the sweeping crease running from the top left. The dark area to the left is some black, craggy rock, and I knew that I would find the concave hillside on the right striped with assorted heather, bracken and rocks. Knowing this, I thought I could make a worthwhile composition from this point, or somewhere nearby. The result was the following two images.

Cautley Spout


Cautley Spout

Now, I’m not claiming that any of these shots are especially good, but I’m happy with them. I’m particularly pleased since I’d more or less written off the idea of including any images of ‘Cautley Spout from a distance’ in the project. At the very least, these provide some context to the more intimate landscape shots I’d initially gone to the valley to capture.

Incidentally, for some context, the very top photograph, and the one immediately below this text, were taken in the bowl just above the obvious, large, vertical drop in the centre of the image above; somewhat alarmingly close to the lip, in fact. I wasn’t entirely happy with the light in the valley that evening, so I may well go back and make similar compositions for the final images to be included in the project. If I don’t, however, these are effectively ‘bonus’ shots which I only discovered through technological experimentation. Clearly, I’d like to think that I’d have noticed them without technical assistance, but who knows!

The very last shot had no technical help though; I made it largely to demonstrate just how wet it’s been around here recently, as can be seen from the standing water amongst the bracken. It also illustrates that my camera does do colour other than earth tones :-)

Cautley Spout


A wee bit damp

In conclusion: once again, I do unreservedly recommend examining what can be done with Google Earth and, in particular, ground level view, but my main, personal learning point from this is that I need to:

  • be aware of possibilities all the time;
  • look around and envision scenes as photographs;
  • and yomp up hillsides to change the perspective, and to see if an otherwise insignificant feature presents something more enticing from a higher vantage point.

Seems to be moderately hard work, this landscape photography game…. !

If you’ve used Google Earth to plan shots, I’d be very interested to hear comments on your experience, and any tips!

Note: Google Earth screenshots are copyright Google, unsurprisingly.