Friday, 18 February 2011

Image of the Week - Second Severn Crossing

I hate great huge man made structures that are placed in our beautiful countryside, especially roads and motorways. Yes I know in the name of economic progress we need these monstrosities criss crossing the land, and indeed I use them to travel to places I photograph, but I still hate them. It's odd then that for reasons I really cannot fathom, I have a soft spot for bridges.

I remember the Second Crossing over the Severn estuary being built during the 1990's. It was with great fascination I watched how each section was constructed. After it was opened in 1996 I remember seeing the first photographs of it and again was fascinated.

So it was inevitable that at some point I would embark on a personal project to photograph it myself. Still incomplete (as most personal projects always are) I started my project just before I bought my large format camera and for several weeks during the winter months of November and December I regularity visited the bridge on the English side. I photographed it first on 6x7 medium format film, then moved to 4x5 large format and also 6x17 panoramic format. I have still yet to explore the Welsh side of the bridge but that will come in due course.

This then is my favourite image of the project so far. It was made on my Mamyia RB67 with a 127mm lens. The strong back light of the post sunset sky made for a tricky contrast against the dark foreground and dark clouds overhead. It was not an ideal situation and the slippery mud into which I and tripod were slowly sinking didn't help.

I was initially attracted by the colour of the light, but as I wrestled with camera, tripod and graduated filters (to balance the light and retain some detail in the foreground) the clouds overhead moved to reveal more of the dusk light. Eventually by the time I was ready to expose this frame, the clouds had moved into a position that almost exactly mirrored the dark foreground.

Despite the mud all over my clothes and camera bag, and my car breaking down in the middle of the roadworks on the approach to the M5 at Avonmouth on the way home, I was very happy that day.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Images of Wastwater, Lake District, Cumbria

After completing my images from my Lake District Wastwater visit last October I have put together a gallery of my favourite images from Wastwater.

These are only a few of many more images from Wastwater which can be found in my archive using the search facility.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Image of the Week - The Screes & Wastwater, Cumbria

The choice for an image this week was a tough call as, unusually, I was rather spoilt for choice of images from a batch of images made in Wastwater in the Lake District during the last family holiday in October.

I'd fallen in love with Wastwater the first time I visited and always wanted to take the family there. We visited the previous year, but thick fog obscured all but the shoreline that day. This day was very different and was perhaps one of the most beautiful days I can remember. A perfect day to visit such a dramatic location.

We'd planned to walk all the way round the lake and headed off in an anti-clockwise direction, little realising the challenge that awaited us along The Screes. Our first inkling of what lay ahead was from a friendly couple we met coming the other way. “The path disappears in a few yards and there's a rock scramble for a while.” they warned. “Your kids will love it!”

Well, two of our brood were soon off scrambling over the rocks and disappeared out of sight. The third however developed an irrational fear of anything that wasn't completely flat solid rock and progress slowed until she finally lay down, hugged a large boulder and refused to let go. In half an hour we'd moved about 20 meters or so and now with a stubborn teenager glued to a rock I noticed how low in the sky the sun was getting. It was time to admit defeat and turn back.

My disappointment soon turned into delight when I realised we were being treated to wonderful light over the lake and surrounding fells creating the most vivid colours. Being at the south western end of the lake we were in the prime position to enjoy the display as the sun set. Had we continued our walk we'd have been at the wrong end of the lake to see this display (or possibly still clinging to a rock in the dark.) Much as I love my large format camera, I was grateful of my digital camera today and as we slowly returned to the car I made a unusually (for me) large number of pictures.

As I said, I was rather spoilt for choice for a picture this week, but my final choice was this abstract view of The Screes reflected in the water. Wastwater is a well photographed location and there are few, if any, compositions that have not been photographed before. I work very hard to try to produce something different from a location but at such a popular place this can be a difficult task. This is the one picture of the location I do not recall seeing before and in my mind is possibly one of the more successful alternative pictures I have made.

I would have loved to have exposed this picture on a sheet of 4x5 inch Velvia transparency film but I suspect this might have been one of those images I would have overlooked if I had been in large format mode.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Image of the Week - Blake Rigg & Blea Tarn, Cumbria

I made this picture one fine morning last autumn while the family slept off the previous day's walk at our accommodation in Ambleside.

My plan was to improve on the pictures of Langdale Pikes over Blea Tarn I made the previous year but I arrived in plenty of time before the sunrise to give me time to find something new too. Unlike last years visit there was a constant breeze so little chance of a reflection in the water, but with a clear sky I was sure to see some sunlight this time. I set-up my camera and then, while waiting for the anticipated light, started to explore the shore for more pictures.

I settled on roughly the picture shown here. In the pre-dawn light I was drawn to the rocks scattered in the water but the darkness of Blake Rigg looming behind wasn't going to work. It needed more light. I knew that the rising sun would illuminate Langdale Pikes soon after sunrise due to it's position at the western end of the Great Langdale valley, but I wasn't so sure what to expect on Blake Rigg. Sunlight would inevitably fall onto the fell but I was unsure exactly when.

The very first warm tones at sunrise would be ideal but I already had Langdale Pikes earmarked for that moment. I considered abandoning my planned pictures but that would risk everything so I settled for using whatever light was available once I had completed my planned pictures. As it turned out I had plenty of time to reposition my camera for this picture and when sunlight finally reached Blake Rigg I was delighted to see the warm orange colour was still present. The warm light on the fell made a wonderful contrast to the the cool blue rocks and water below.

I did have to make one small compromise. A number of fellow photographers arrived on the scene moments before sunrise and chose to perch their tripods in a row a few meters in from the shore. They were directly between me and Blake Rigg so I had to rework the composition slightly to exclude them.

I attempted to make another picture as the sun rose further but it was by now a very busy with photographers jostling for position. It was impossible to set-up the large format camera quick enough before someone had placed their shadow across my composition. I managed a few handled digital pictures instead before retreating back to Ambleside for breakfast.