Spring Greens...

As many photographers in the UK are well aware Spring is in full swing and the colours are starting to splash and saturate back across our landscape. In fact near me in Hertfordshire it's felt particularly 'summery' in the last few days, I still don't feel like we got an actual Winter, so it feels terrible to think Spring may be turning into Summer so soon!

Devoid of time for any distant travels with the camera recently I've been focusing on a particular area around Ivinghoe Beacon to keep my 'eye in' and look for interesting light and shapes especially. It's proved to be both challenging and enjoyable. Let's deal with the enjoyable first; being just 35 mins or so away from my house it's nasty but not brutal to be there for a 5.45am start, better still you can catch the last hour of light before sunset and get back for some well earned dinner.

However, and this is where the challenging part kicks in; the light at either end of the day has proved to give quite different results on the mainly green fields around the area. Some of you reading this may have seen my blog last week which had some early morning shots from a location just the other side of the Beacon, the intensity and vibrancy of the hues vary quite markedly from early am to late pm. Add to this the rather flat RAW files that we tend to capture and it's been a careful job to recreate what my eye saw at the time.

Let's compare these two images, both with a White Balance of around 5400k but the first taken at 06.33am and the second taken at 20.19pm...

06.33am (28/04/16) - 5450k WB

20.19pm (04/05/16) - 5318K WB

Quite different, right? Yes, and of course the White Balance is just one aspect to consider but it's useful to note they were very similar. In terms of processing in Lightroom; whilst I was actually adding a minor bit of vibrance (+7) and saturation (+5) in the early morning shot, along with the usual minor tonal adjustments (highlights, shadows, whites, blacks etc) to take the flatness out of the RAW file, I was actually taking it away in the evening shot (vibrance -10, saturation 0, and contrast -20).

What's important to say is that I feel I represented the colour palette I saw 'correctly' in both images, the early morning scene was paler with more yellow in the hues and the late evening grass was a much darker and richer green. The location was not exactly the same of course but the progression of the crop is similar in both places. Someone with far more knowledge than me could probably explain the cause of these variances in hue from a scientific point of view, but in some ways the reason why is secondary, the main challenge I had was dealing with it from a capture and processing point of view and wrestling with my internal doubts about how I could accurately represent the differences.

Sheep-tastic...

Sheep-tastic...

Those of you who've been out and about recently, especially in the South East will no doubt recognise these variances, In the past I've heard some photographers saying how Green was such a difficult colour to deal with...until this week I'd not really run into it, now I can wholeheartedly agree!

Last Days of Autumn...

Morning Glory...

Towards the back end of October I managed to get 90 minutes or so alone in Ashridge during what can only be described as a 'fog-fest'! As you know I'm partial to a bit of fog and mist and especially in woodland, it helps distinguish features and brings a sense of order to what can often be difficult vistas to distil.

Arriving at around sunrise I headed deep into the woods to an area I'd spotted on a previous casual walk a few days beforehand. Upon reaching my destination I spotted a group of deer, and a stag no less sitting around some trees, despite presumably seeing a fair amount of humans in this area these animals are very shy and despite my best attempts to remain un-noticed they soon sloped away into the dense woodland. Other than this brief encounter I was alone with the trees, the fog, and the cold...perfect!

I reflect on this morning as the peak of my local Autumnal explorations. Going into this time period I had thoughts of multiple mornings out exploring but reality always bites and I didn't get out as much as I would have liked. That said, the peace and tranquility of this morning in particular was very special. I find it's not just about the image making, it's a chance to start the day in a beautiful way, not far in miles from civilisation but far in mood. The images I make here are really for me to 'lock' in the feeling and atmosphere I experienced on the day, these types of images are very personal to me and it's probably a result of the freedom I have in using my photography primarily for personal reasons as opposed to any pre-determined or timeline driven commercial demands. To work under those conditions would surely illicit a different feeling, response and thus logically a different end result.

In the area I was exploring there is a huge tree that demanded some of my attention. Taking a successful image of something so tall and wide within a woodland is not exactly easy. Where do you position the trunk in the image? How much do you try and squeeze in towards the top, it's impossible to get it all in. With that in mind I centred the composition below and tried to use the foggy backdrop to let the rest of the woodland recede and bring forward the structure, size and reach of this impressive specimen:

See more images like this in my WOODLAND GALLERY


No. 28/32 #Project 32 - A touch of frost

Again it was another early morning trip to Ashridge, I'd been hoping for some mist but instead was met with a bitingly clean frost. I wanted to try and find a more intimate shot which highlighted the texture and crispness of the morning frost.

I actually explored a new area of the woods this time and as I walked through the path un-disturbed by the real world (mine had been the only car in the car park) I was shadowed on either side by a legion of squirrels and birds watching my every step. Ahead I spotted around 8 small deer and even though I stopped dead in my tracks they'd clearly heard me coming and scattered away into the undergrowth. I found an area of fallen trees that were heavily 'bitten' by the morning frost and tried to find a pleasing composition.

I played around with various angles and used different apertures to get a varied depth of field. At first I wanted to get the whole image in focus by using a small aperture, however due to my extreme proximity to the subject I was only getting around 75% of the shot in full focus, not wanting to get into image stacking and stitching I decided to go in the other direction. Using my widest aperture of f3.5 I tried to isolate the frosty leaf into focus and leave the foreground and background to disappear away, leaving focus on the leaf. There was a little chink of light just on that part of the branch which helped isolate the leaf further.

Click Here to see the full #Project 32 series

No. 27/32 #Project 32 - Ashridge Panorama

Ever since my first trip to Ashridge this image had been in the back of my head. I knew that the woodland would look great in the mist, and with the autumnal colours and the trees stripped bare it would all come together nicely.

Being sort of on my way to work I've made 3 or 4 visits here since September in the early hours of the morning, during these trips I'd narrowed down the exact place I thought the panorama would work best in. On this occasion I really was pushed for time and so the pre-planning I'd already done in my head kicked in and made the image possible. I'd been scoping the weather forecasts and I knew there was a pretty good chance of mist on this Saturday morning. I arrived and was encouraged by the first signs of a mist sitting in the woodland. After a high paced walk to the exact spot I'd planned it was a military operation of tripod up, camera out, checking the horizon was balanced and shooting away. I'd already dialled in the camera settings the night before knowing this would save me 30 seconds in the morning.

Click image for a larger view

The final image as you see it is 12 shots stitched together left to right, it's quite difficult to appreciate a panorama like this in full without seeing a large print of it, perhaps I'll bite the bullet and get that ordered for the house before long...

Click here to see the full #Project 32 series


No. 18/32 #Project 32

No. 18/32 Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire

No. 18/32 Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire

Another early start and I found myself alone in the woods at Ashridge. It's a large area of woodland in Hertfordshire and even in more sociable hours you can find plenty of quiet spots for a nice peaceful walk. I arrived at around 6.45am (15 mins before sunset) - I'd really been hoping for some early morning mist so that I could get a nice lonely, atmospheric shot of the textured solidity of the trees surrounded by the maliable softness of a morning mist. However, no such joy on this occasion (despite following the weather forecasts religiously!). 

There was a wonderful silence broken only by the crunch of my shoes on the fallen leaves, upon approaching my preferred shooting spot I caught sight of 5 deer gently moving through the woods. Although I stopped in my tracks they'd clearly spotted me and before I could even contemplate reaching for my camera they had drifted off into the endless maze of trees.

I find it a challenge to find any coherent compositions in woodland sometimes (can't see the wood for the trees!), although our own field of vision can make it look ordered the 'eye' of the camera sees differently and great care is needed to find a visual route for the viewer in the image. Just a bank of trees can be lacking in depth and provides a visual barrier to the eye as it tries to wander through the image. By using the fallen branch in the image above I'm trying to help lead the eye through the scene into the dense woodland beyond, there is something of a straight path that leads on from the branch and into the seemingly never ending woodland realm beyond. I did make one other image here that I was really happy with but I'm keeping that hidden for now as it's going to compliment another release I'll be making on the completion of Project 32.

Aside from the 5 deer (and 100+ squirrels!) I only saw 1 jogger in my 60 minutes at Ashridge, it was indeed a very peaceful way to start the day...

To see all the images in #Project 32 please click here