Exmoor ramblings

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Posted: 21st April 2019

Location: Near Porlock, Exmoor

This was a morning of hope more than a precision planned photography session. I had in mind an area where I would park up, sort of. I also had a few subjects I wanted to photograph, sort of. I headed up from Porlock, Somerset on the coastal road, driving West towards Lynmouth. I was in the middle of a family trip and the Mrs had so kindly agreed for me to enjoy myself with my camera for a couple of hours, sort of. It was a fleeting mention the previous evening during Coronation street. Very tactful. I honestly believe she has finally accepted that when we’re away, my camera bag will follow. The sessions are still timed however.

It was a very early morning start driving, stopping, driving stopping. From my first parking location I headed towards the coastal view. There was no potential due to the view being obscured by hedges. A careful cock of the leg over the barbed wire didn’t prove to be successful, the views were there but lacking anything in foreground interest. I got back into my car and ventured to the next parking area.

Stop! A knarly tree that resembles something like those found up North. I decided to take a chance and see what I could find. The clock was ticking but still I was confident. I had to make a video with at least 1 photograph that I liked. This is the pressures of vlogging. Looking back at my past videos, I felt that I have posted images that I am not proud of displaying. It is with time however that I have discovered the importance of producing videos of landscape photography sessions. It is simply fact that not all sessions produce content in terms of a good photograph. Going forward I will stick with this mantra and continue with the story telling. That is what vlogging is about, it’s a video log. The photography will always come first however but to not film an outing without the camera is proving difficult.

The morning went on and the return to the Mrs alarm was getting closer and closer. I was still relaxed however as I always am when when producing my videos and searching for that composition that I am proud to be on my sensor. I was pleased to discover my first and second images. This was the icing on the cake. I returned later in the morning to a fine welcome of a devils stare. I had over ran by half an hour. The rest of the holiday was very enjoyable albeit the weather and I have fallen in love with the area, having been on a few occasions now. Porlock is a small village, set in a leafy valley, where the locals smile and say hello. I will no doubt continue my discovery of Exmoor and it’s surrounding areas in the future. Before I go, a thank you to my brother for allowing me to stay in your wonderful little cottage.

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Escape with Seascapes

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Published: 15th April 2019

Location: Porlock Weir, Somerset and Woolacombe beach, Devon

A recent family holiday brought me to venture back into the world of seascape photography. I visited the small village of Porlock in Somerset and enjoyed a quick morning session around a very confined area of Porlock Weir. My old friends, rain and wind, joined me intermittently and did their best to gate crash the party. I was not beaten however and used the large wooden sea defence to shield me and come away with some good audio for my accompanying video.

I kept things to a minimum with the photography, firstly choosing a large wooden groyne that was running into the sea. It was still high tide which helped with the composition, creating some nice negative space around the main feature that meandered into the frame. Hurleston point made for a balancing feature to the overall look of the photograph. I wanted to try a long exposure to smooth out the water but my old friends, stubborn as they were, joined the party and made it difficult for me.

I stayed for around an hour, working a small space and composed using the wooden sea defences and their lines. I wanted to also attempt some close up shots of the varying patterns of the pebbles and stones. Karl Mortimer had given me inspiration through his excellent work and proof that looking down is often equally as rewarding as looking up with the camera.

The Mrs had reminded me that I was on a family break through a text and hinted that i should return to the cottage shortly. To be honest I had enjoyed this short session and although I did not find the time to explore the wonderful array of pebble patterns, I was quite pleased with my little adventure. On to another day which would take further West into Devon and it’s wonderful rugged short lines.

Woolacombe beach is a gold mine for photographic opportunities with its natural lead in lines and contours from the rocks. It was still within an hour of high tide and areas of the shore line were quickly revealing itself. There was an interesting weather system present on the horizon and I had to work quick if I was to combine the foreground interest with the background. This was a highly enjoyable time and didn’t involve dipping my carbon tripod into the dreaded sea salt at all but the surface of the coastal rocks were treacherous, not helped by my attire of welling boots, although equipped with some rather good grips.

I managed to capture a couple of portrait orientated shots with the nicely moody clouds on the horizon. I found it easy to adjust the camera and compose, using the shapes of the foreground. The landscape was changing quickly and more and more rocks were appearing as the tide receded. Luck was on my side that morning with the weather and the landscape but to be honest, the place itself was that good, it made life fairly easy for me. My challenge was to select the best from such a variety of shapes and patterns on offer.

Time was not my friend as I had to remind myself of my responsibilities of a Father and return back to base. Both Porlock but especially Woolacombe had proven what enjoyment could be had from seascape photography. The challenges were time and the importance to adapt to the changing environment. My dislike of sand and sea salt were not presented in either locations thankfully. I was fairly pleased with the result of both morning sessions and they certainly wetted my appetite to further add seascapes to my portfolio. I am within a few hours of the Yorkshire and Northumberland coastline and I will no doubt be hitting the shorelines very shortly.

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Improve photography/composition-part 1 of probably alot

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Published: 31st March 2019

Location: Blea Tarn & Lingmoor Fell

The day started at Blea Tarn, Lake District as part of my first introductory workshop with co host Chris Sale. This was a thank you session for our subscribers. A day of excellent views, banter and conversations of composition. Taking a decent photograph is as if not more important to getting the best photography gear. It’s about what you put on that sensor.

In this episode, I briefly touch on the importance and use of lines, whether it be man made or natural and how to place them in the frame. Lines in landscape photography is such a dynamic element and can often make or break a photograph. Foreground and background are also deal breakers but also the inclusion of a middle ground element that helps to guide the eye through the composition is equally as important in landscape photography.

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A Different view – Buttermere

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My creative side comes into strength when I am on my own.I find it is good to be free of any conversation and social interaction. What I have learnt however over the past year with landscape photography is the importance of the community spirit and having a craic with good like minded people who share a common interest. I love this art form.

This episode is filmed from Buttermere, situated in the North Western area of the Lake District. There are a couple of iconic shots from which are the lone tree at the Northern end and the pine trees at the Southern end. I believe a landscape photographers, it is important to experiment and venture away from the normal views. By shooting the iconic shots, we are basically allowing someone else to do the creativity for us when finding the composition.I try to find a different view and an alternative take on a scene.

I am joined by a couple of other landscape photographers which made this morning a thoroughly enjoyable occasion, some of which is captured on film. Having a craic is a good foundation to set you up for the times when thoughts of building up a good composition is needed. I didn’t take one single shot whilst both Darren J Spoonley and Diarmuid O’Donovan were with me. Memories of the morning however will keep with me for a long time

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Landscape Photography – Learning Composition

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I remember the first shot I took on my DSLR and it was a memorable one. It was a flashing rectangle of whiteness. The image was overexposed to a point where that bar thingy was heavily leaning to the right, leaving the left hand side empty. I had no idea what I had done. I also knew at that point that this new expensive toy was either returning to the shop or something that I was going to invest my time in. This story is about the time invested, in particular my progression of what makes a good image rather than the technical side.

I believe the technical side of photography is a class room learning environment, composition teaching however is the more practical and suited more to the outdoor environment which as a young spotty teenager was my preference at school. I am no academic, my strengths are more aimed to the creative and design side. My career however has not gone down either route. Landscape photography has been reserved as a past time and a hobby and one I love.

Lets talk about where I was and where I am now but rather than bombard this post with the written word, I am going to take you on this journey of composition progression with a selection of my images I’ve taken from my archives to the present date. My interest in landscape photography started in 2007 when I had a basic understanding of what made a good picture and also a lack of knowledge for what made it better.

An introduction to the rule of thirds – 2009

From an early stage of my learning process into this newly discovered art from, the main component of a good image was using the rule of thirds. Lets take a look at these shots that I took back in 2009.

Its fair to say that none of these images will be entered into any competition. They do however qualify for good examples of placing elements or objects on a third. The issue here however is that these objects are not guiding you into the rest of the scene. They are not allowing the eye to move on and around the frame. At the time however I believed they worked. As I type this article, I can see how extreme cropping of 2 of these images would result in better compositions. Can you spot them?

The rule of thirds is of course one of the best and most effective compositional tools to hand. It does however need to be used correctly and more often than not act as part of the image. Notice I used ‘more often than not…’ which is a get out clause to say that not all rules have to be followed of course. The fact is that this simple rule has been used in art form for hundreds of years and can be seen in pictures of master pieces, graphic designs such as logo’s and architecture.

Working with lines – 2010

I must admit that from an early stage in my compositional progression I became quickly familiar with the concept of using lead in lines. In these 2 examples shot in the Isle of Skye in 2010, lines are used in the bottom part of the frames which then lead the eye into the scene

The road in the first image takes you on a diagonal heading out of the frame but quickly angles into the third of the frame and the mountain beyond. The image would not have had as much impact without the left turn. The sheep of course are the main focus. The second image uses the waves and coastline to again bring the viewer in. The main subject of this image however is the sun and the lines take you away rather than towards the focal point. The suns rays helps as a counter object which again introduces additional lines to the composition.

Framing – 2008 & 2009

Framing a scene is similar to composing. The 3 images below would have been improved by simply stepping back or using a wider focal length. It is clear what the subject is but in these examples, the subject needs to breath. Lets first look at the first image which was taken in Cadiz, Spain in 2008, approximately a year after I first started landscape photography. I can remember exactly what I was thinking, the boats lines would be used to lead the eye to that blob in the background. The boat is far too domineering, taking up around half of the frame and not creating any depth. The blues and oranges work together well but I imagine the scene would look better if I could have got above the boat and placed more of it in the lower third of the frame. Image 2 is a waterfall.

Looking at the third image taken in 2009 in Scotland, it is blatantly obvious what is wrong. Isn’t it? The colour palette works with the subtle greens and yellows. The trees branch is nicely positioned in the middle of the hill in the background. There is some nice detail in the clouds giving the shot some mood. The tree however has asked for a short back and sides and come away with a skin head. The top and right hand sides are missing and a there is no separation. Image 2 is a waterfall but imagine the potential if the surrounding foliage was included.

Clutter – 2007 & 2014

Reviewing the selected images below, if I am honest, I am not quite sure why I thought they worked. These are good examples of a scene that can be broken down into several sections, each disposing of elements that distract rather attract the viewer.

Lets look at Image#1 of Malham Tarn. The light is beautiful and the colours are very appealing but where does one rest their eyes. There is no clear evidence of using the rule of thirds with the foreground. The rocks are not balanced in the frame. A number of these rocks have been cut at the edges with no freedom to breath. This is a good example of the right elements but too many and in with no order.

Image#2 is an Autumn scene where again the colours of the deep oranges and blacks work very well. There are several cascades adding to the drama but there are too many, fighting for attention. There potentially several crops within the frame that could work better and be easier on the eye. See how many you can spot.

The last image is of the Southern end of Loch Lomond. This has a very sentimental impact on me as this was my first landscape photography holiday. Back then all that mattered was getting really low and include foreground interest. Similar to image#1, there are several rocks looking for attention and positioned too randomly. The image needs cleaning up. A better option would be to recompose and use the pool in the foreground and leave out the rocks to the left of that.

2019 – Gradually finding light

Some may argue that an image with light or part of is the key to a successful photograph. I agree, light is a very important factor but without the building bricks of a good composition it maybe a distraction. Look at it as the final touch, the icing on a nicely baked cake, the oak picture frame of a mounted piece of art. It’s often that factor that brings the makes the image pop. If you follow my You Tube channel you will find in past videos that I have attempted to either compose with splashes if light in the frame to add interest or the light itself if the main area of focus.

The concept of light being such an important element has only recently hit me within the last few years and I still find that a lot of my images today are lacking that that added ingredient. This is due to my inflexible shooting opportunities. Unlike a number of professionals, I cannot always plan to shoot due to being in full time employment. It is important to take advantage of my times with the camera and act on opportunities to capture that fleeting light. I often find the best sunrises are on other days. Days when I am doing other things. There have been times however and there will be more.

I am still hooked to this day and glad it wasn’t a passing phase like my stamp collecting and plane spotting were. I have since learnt that that bar thingy is one of the most important tools I have and I am glad to report that there is no longer a flashing rectangle of whiteness on the back of my LCD screen. Please have a look at my ever changing portfolio for my on going progression into this art I love.

One Shot/Great Mell Fell

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Posted: 10th March 2019

Location: Glenridding & Great Mell Fell, Lake District

In this episode, I visit a fell that has been on the cards for some time now. Not only have I not ticked this relatively small fell of my list but I have heard good stories and potential compositions to be found. Great Mell Fell in The Lake District did not disappoint.

I start off the day with a trip to Glenridding, in particular a shop selling mountaineering and outdoor adventure equipment, Catstycam.com. They have kindly reserved me a photography book by one of my favourite landscape photographers, James Bell. ‘Capture Lakeland’ is his first edition and is such a wonderful display of James’s photographic talent and knowledge of my favourite National Park.

I meet up with Mali Davies, one of You Tubes biggest landscape photography characters and one I have had the pleasure of knowing for a good year now. The trip was never going to be dull with this man besides me and his enthusiasm and excitement of the art is a pleasure to be part of.

Great Mell Fell has lots of potential with its weathered trees and rolling fells as backgrounds but I found it daunting on this first visit. Places like this make me feel overwhelmed as there is so much potential and in the right light, plenty of portfolio images are on offer. One shot is all it took to make me happy that day and set me up for a revisit. The session was ended with one of those great moments where the last thing I wanted to do was to run around looking for a composition. A sunset to remember.

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Lakeside Muse

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Location: Grasmere, Lake District

In my previous outings with the camera, I had been subjected to very poor weather conditions and especially suffered from a bad case of wind. This day was different, at last I was in calm and tranquil surroundings where the ambience was of lakeside geese and other cries of birds at dawn. I was at the lake side of Grasmere in the central Lake District and the morning colours were putting on a wonderful display.

I was due to meet a fellow landscape photographer, video maker and good friend, Chris Sale at around 6:30am. I wasn’t going to miss the morning colour show without videoing and attempting to get a shot of this beautiful scene developing around me. Sorry Chris but your’e going to have to wait! It was one of those occasions however where I have learnt that just enjoying the occasion was more beneficial than racing around trying to get a composition. This morning however I was lucky and faced with a classic composition of a reflected lake where the elements were nicely balanced. The sky added the interest with some wonderful cloud formations never to be captured again.

The morning developed into a session where the surroundings were so beautiful yet frustrating at the same time as finding a composition that was different than the usual was proving difficult. There was no reason however to not enjoy such a peaceful morning and felt gifted to be there. The occasion was spoilt when I stumbled on a plastic bottle left behind in the grasses that surround the lake side. Through my adventures of exploring the Lake District, I had come across various pieces of litter that some inconsiderate person, for want of better words, had lazily discarded and thought better of taking it with them. We have a beautiful place at a finger tips which is free to roam and enjoy. We are the envy of many people in the world who are not lucky enough to have such beautiful landscapes yet for some and yes the minority, it is too much to keep it tidy.

We were blessed that morning with some beautiful and conditions and surroundings and felt lucky to be there. This is why I do it.

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In search of a composition

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Location: near Dale Head/ Dale Head tarn, Lake District

It is not easy being a landscape photographer. Not everything false into place and aligns just as you want it to. The important thing to remember however is that it is more likely it will not work out and accept it. The allure of finding the right combination of all the elements in one place is what grips us and keeps us going.

I continue my adventure from the Dale Head area and explore the area around Dale Head Tarn. I find there are numerous elements and options to play with and making the decision to include them or not is very important. The key is to build a composition which allows the eye to move around the scene and avoid being static. It is important to create diagonals and balance. This sounds good in writing but nature teases us and makes it difficult.

I am lately opting to use my wide angle lens in favour of my telephoto. A lens that was predominant in making my images in 2018. Through looking at social media and being influenced by other photographers, I am definitely opting to create images with greater depth, including foreground, middle ground and background. Positioning of the elements that pleases the eye  is not an easy task and the use of natures lines is a test that will continue.

This episode not only includes images with depth but also a final classic image of a mountain vista using my telephoto. That image did not involve much demanding search. It was a scene that fell into place and just worked. Occasionally it happens and it is those occasions that again, keeps the landscape photographer continuing their journeys.

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This is why I do it

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Location: Dale Head, Lake District

January had been a challenging month for me due to work commitments so I had been looking forward to this day for a while. Leading up to the day, there was still doubt as the Mrs was on the back of suffering from Women Flu (thankfully not as bad as Man Flu) and child care was limited. I got the nod however and off I ventured to The Lake Distrist, heading to Honister slate mine in the North Western region of the area with the plan to hike to Dale Head.

I had been hit by the dreaded wind on my last few vlogging/photography adventures and this day was no exception. Wind is my worst enemy when trying to record audio, despite my external microphone been clothed with a dead cat. A dead Mammoth wouldn’t have helped me much here as it was blowing a hooly. The low lying clouds looked good and I managed to find a good foreground for my first image but the visibility became poor as I continued to climb up to my destination.

I wanted to make the most of the foggy conditions and searched for some landscape features which wood make for some interesting compositions. I wanted to use the conditions which are favourable in woodland photography, using seperation to add interest. I was unable to find anything however at the time but the remnants of slate mining within the area would no doubt be cause for a return at a later date.

I finally experienced Winter as I approached the summit of Dale Head at 753 metres. There was a faint covering of snow which added a certain appeal to the surrounding landscape. I was looking forward to the views of Newlands Valley which I had read to be some of the finest in the Lake District. The low lying clag had other thoughts for me however and the scene at the time was a mass of white. There were occasional signs as time moved on of the valley below and faint splashes of light began to appear. I walked along the ridge, heading East and the clouds slowly moved along and the valley below me started to form a truly wonderful sight. Eventually the scene had developed into a masterpiece of viewing, draped with sporadic cloud and the ridges on either side hit by light, forming a breath taking moment. I felt a comforting warmth inside me and this was a moment where I felt privileged to be alive and lucky enough to witness.

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