1-2-1 A day in the Lakes

Lake District Landscape Photography course

1-2-1s up to 3-2-1s

All of my Lake District Landscape Photography Training and Courses over the last 12 months or so have been for individuals, or a very small group of pals. Because this is about YOUR photography rather than mine I tend not to take many photos myself as my primary role is helping YOU to capture the best YOU can from your equipment as you learn throughout the day. I work with individuals or up to 3 pals at a time so we can travel around in just one car

Here though, this day out was all about ME !!!

What I set out to do was go to several places and shoot pretty much as a course attendee would, so tackling several different subjects requiring several different skill-sets. On this day in July 2016 I was lucky to have a local Landscape tog with me whom I spent most of the day with, and who took me to a couple of spots that were new to me too. So, like most of my course attendees do, I arrived at a couple of places with no ‘baggage’ as to how others have shot these places, and I had the opportunity to tackle each in my own sweet way. What was also interesting to me was that we had two Professional Landscape Photographers at the same places & at the same time, and yet we shot in different ways with different techniques too, putting our own vision into the shots we were taking; there really are many ways to skin this particular ‘cat’ !!!

This creative nature of Landscape Photography is something I enjoy immensely when teaching others as I get to see ‘through your eyes’ too, and while we’re looking at the same subject we are not ‘seeing’ it in the same way; that’s part of the fascination of this most rewarding (and frustrating at times!) subject

I also find that many Landscapers have learnt that everything needs to be shot at f8-f16 for maximum front to back sharpness, (Depth of Field – DoF – is the apparent amount of things in focus, and such as f16 means pretty much everything will be sharp whereas at less than this (down to f1.8 ish) you are controlling what’s in sharp focus as a means of telling your viewer what to look at), and they’ve learnt that wideangle lenses are best for Landscapes too. What follows may surprise a few as many shots are on a medium telephoto and I often use f1.8 too! Spending a day with me often clears away the ‘baggage’ you’ve learnt from camera clubs or olde-style books

Anyway – to the story & photos

I actually arrived in the Lakes on the Monday evening of 11th July, where I went straight to Buttermere. I had intended to shoot there for a few hours, stay overnight in my car-mper, and rise very early before dawn as the forecast was for clear skies and I was hoping for some astro-photography over the lake

What follows are the photos I took in the order I took them, with explanations where appropriate…

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First shot – the iconic Lone Tree of Buttermere. Photographed 2.93 gizillion times by others, give or take a few, so the challenge was to shoot it in a different way. Probably not something that’s never been done before, but some way that’s rarely done but with the simple fact that my shot will be unique as no-one else is there shooting it today. I opted for a FoV of 48mm, f8 and 15 second exposure thanks to my 10-stop filter

48mm FoV to give as natural a perspective as possible as its close to the effective focal length we see with our eyes. f8 as although its focused on the tree itself I knew there would be sufficient DoF to have the far hills sharp enough too, and as a bonus f8 is this lens’ sweet spot for max sharpness. 15-seconds as I wanted the sky to form streaks through movement, I wanted the leaves on the tree to show movement yet knowing the trunk wouldn’t and I wanted the grasses at its base to blur too.

This one simple 15-second shot took 7 attempts over 20 minutes until I was happy!

Why? Because I wanted the sky behind the top part of the tree to be brighter, making the tree itself stand out more (what’s known as ‘separation’), and I also wanted the grasses to blur well too, but the wind was very blustery and on two attempts it stopped blowing the instant I pressed the shutter! So I had to wait 20 mins until the sky and wind came together to give me the shot I had in my head001Buttermere

 

Still staying with this tree and still wanting to find something ‘new’ about it. I noticed the water level was higher than my last visit and had created a pool. I then decided to crop off the top of the tree and have that missing element reflected in the water instead. Still blurring the grasses too002Buttermere

 

Same tree, now shot with my 35mm giving a FoV equivalent of 52mm, but now I’m able to shoot wide open at just f1.8 or, as here, at f2.8 with a much sharper lens than my mid-range zoom would be at the same settings. Remarkable how much DoF there is at f2.8 isn’t it. Here I’m using both the grass and the tree above me to frame the image. Using branches at the top of an image is a good way to hide a crappy sky, but here its just for separation again by it being so OoF003Buttermere

 

A moment away from that tree at last, and wanting to allow viewers with local knowledge to be able to identify where the shot is taken from and of what, without it being too in-your-face; so I’ve chosen to focus on the line of grasses using my 85mm (FoV 127mm equivalent) wide open at f1.8. The telephoto effect is one of foreshortening the apparent distance twixt grass and hill, while the f1.8 allows the distant hill to be well OoF. I was shooting over some very close rocks while laid in the floor to have the grass’ flowering heads showing against the dark background of the far trees, if I’d shot from any higher and them being light they’d have disappeared into the shiny water004Buttermere summer - David Goodier Photography 1 - WEB

 

A simple Summer in the Lakes depiction using the same lens, settings and for the same reason as the previous shot005Buttermere meadow flowers - David Goodier Photography 1 - WEB

 

One of my mantras is ‘Look behind you’, and I drill this into everyone who spends any time with me on a shoot. Its so easy to get lost into the shot you’re trying to capture in front of you that you can miss better ones behind. Here I’d spun around to check the clouds and noticed this wee fella crossing a bridge to a large tree about 50 yards away. So I walked towards the tree in hope of seeing him. As I got really close he popped around from the back of the tree and just sat looking at me. As this was shot with my 85mm you can guess how close I got!006Red squirrel at Buttermere - David Goodier Photography 1 - WEB

 

Another Look behind you shot, one of the type I call ‘fillers’. By itself its not a great shot but it does show lovely side light moving across the hills giving shape through shade. A ‘filler’ shot is one that gives an impression of the views at that time and is useful for talks or slideshows, where it helps tell the story without being a WOW image by itself007Buttermere summer - David Goodier Photography 2 - WEB

One of the required qualities of any Landscaper is patience! As you can see the cloud cover and types has changed from the first image of this tree, and I’m now starting to ‘see’ the image I had in my head initially where I wanted the tree lit and the background not, its taken close to two hours of hanging around for this to happen

008Buttermere

 

10 minutes later and I have yet another version of this tree, almost a ‘negative’ of the previous one as now the tree is almost a silhouette to the lit background. The base of the tree and the lake is all completely in shade at this point, hence its boring and there’s no point having it in the shot. I’ve again opted for my 85mm and at f1.8 for foreshortening affect and for its limited DoF placing all the emphasis on the tree009Buttermere

 

Another ‘filler’ shot showing light playing on the hills, and if you look quick enough you may not notice the wires in the foreground! 85mm and again at f1.8010Buttermere summer - David Goodier Photography 3 - WEB

 

Could this be the prettiest of breed sheep? Stood close to where I parked the car and crying out for a photo

85mm f1.8011Buttermere summer - David Goodier Photography 4 - WEB

 

Look behind you again, and from my car’s position there’s this great old signpost; I just moved around a bit to have that waterfall in too, and crop out the ‘modern’ bits of cars that were in the foreground

85mm f1.8012Buttermere signpost - David Goodier Photography 1 - WEB

 

Still at the car (so 3 completely different shots just by turning around) and still with the 85mm at f1.8, the next shot I switched to the 35mm and still shot at f1.8; changing focal length even from the same position gives a very different look to the image doesn’t it

85mm f1.8013Buttermere church in summer - David Goodier Photography 1 - WEB

35mm f1.8014Buttermere church in summer - David Goodier Photography 2 - WEB

 

My final shot of the evening was sunset over Crummock Water, not the most colourful but strong cloud shapes makes this another useful ‘filler’ shot

26mm f4015Crummock Water sunset - David Goodier Photography 1 - WEB

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A day in the Lakes

This next set were all shot in the same day, and that’s despite FOUR venues we visited where I decided not to bother taking a photo at all, so yes, it was a busy day and quite typical of what we could get up to on a 1-2-1 (2-2-1, 3-2-1) if you’d like to spend the day with me

Pre-dawn at one of my favourite spots, Castlerigg Stone Circle

Its a favourite of mine because if there is sun there’s a shot to be had, and if there’s no sun, well there’s still a shot to be had! It also doesn’t matter whether its a windy day or not, but a windy day with clouds again gives great opportunities. Its a place that most seem to shoot very wide, even doing panoramas to get the whole thing in. To me though, unless that pano is for your Facebook Header, which needs a long/thin banner, then like most panos it only really works if printed BIG; and by BIG I mean at least a metre wide and preferably two

One of the challenges of Landscape Photography at Castlerigg Stone Circle is actually that its so popular with those damned tourists, and even worse, photographers! This means that at most times of the day there’s a chance of several people being in your shot if you try to capture it all, or much of it, in one shot. I’ve shot here when there’s been 30ish Hippy-types with tents and hundreds of beer-cans scattered about, yet captured some good shots with no evidence of them in my shots simply by focusing on smaller compositions and individual stones; that and ‘hiding’ people behind stones works well too. I’ve also shot here when there’s been close to 20 photographers there too, and once all stood in a long line so as not to get in each others’ shot (which is nice of them) but they all got the same boring shot

Anyway, pre-dawn here can give some interesting images and especially when mist flows like rivers of milk over the hillsides, today though was not the greatest of days to start with. But I shot a few regardless. The following set of Castlerigg Stone Circle were all shot within 35 minutes, but starting at 5:09 a.m.

85mm f1.8

016Castlerigg Stone Circle - David Goodier Photography 1 - WEB

 

Dawn has broken, but not yet hit the stones, but there are still decent shots to be had

85mm f1.8017Castlerigg Stone Circle - David Goodier Photography 3 - WEB

 

Then as the sun peeks above the trees you get these next few

85mm f1.8018Castlerigg Stone Circle - David Goodier Photography 2 - WEB

 

35mm f1.8019Castlerigg Stone Circle - David Goodier Photography 6 - WEB

 

35mm f4 – here I’ve gone up a few stops to f4 as I wanted more details in the mountain and clouds, but not as much as f8 would have given020Castlerigg Stone Circle - David Goodier Photography 5 - WEB

 

35mm f1.8021Castlerigg Stone Circle - David Goodier Photography 4 - WEB

 

After a lovely morning with the Sun finally hitting the stones I then moved to Rydal Water, as it was close to where I was meeting my colleague, Carmen, for our day out together. As I arrived at Rydal Water it was totally flat and with a beautiful mist laying on the surface, parking here is not easy without a lengthy walk and sadly the mist had burnt off by the time I got back. This first shot was taken at 6:39 a.m. and is again a ‘filler’ rather than a great shot in itself

35mm f5.6 with the focus point being on the edge of where the reflection meets the sky in the water, at the centre of the image, this time I want front to back sharpness and f5.6 gives me that handheld

022Rydal Water sunrise - David Goodier Photography 4 - WEB

 

Moving along the shoreline I liked this tree, but it was difficult to find a good angle on it, then the ducks added interest to create another ‘filler’ shot

Still at 35mm and f5.6

023Rydal Water sunrise - David Goodier Photography 5 - WEB

 

One of the things that many people seem to forget about Landscape Photography is that everything in front of you is ‘Landscape’, and if the wide vista isn’t working then its a great idea to look for much smaller details that still define the landscape. This shape and structure of shots like this could be a huge tree jutting out of a rocky outcrop, or as here a small flowering plant growing on the stone wall; both are valid as Landscape Photography

35mm f1.8 (these lenses focus pretty close!), and here I found a flower growing towards me such that it was on the same plane of focus as the stone, meaning both could be nicely in focus even though the chosen aperture is giving only a few millimeters of sharpness, which then nicely allowed the foreground and background to fall quickly OoF giving that separation to my main subject024Rydal Water sunrise - David Goodier Photography 2 - WEB

35mm f5.6 with the point of focus being the lily pads in the foreground

025Rydal Water sunrise - David Goodier Photography 3 - WEB

 

After a pasty & coffee from Greggs, Ambleside, yummy breakfast, I then met up with Carmen and she took me to Cathedral Cavern, part of a disused slate quarry. The water you see in the first shot has fish in it, including at least two Goldfish! The cavern itself also has a resident cheeky Robin, and if you have anything to eat there it comes begging; so much so it tried to land on my camera when it saw me eating crisps! Oh, and it doesn’t like Chicken flavour crisps, so take bread and it’ll eat from your hand apparently

The shots here are quite technical in nature as its pretty dark in here despite the hole to the sky, so it calls for long exposures on a tripod. In this first shot we’re actually looking into the gloom and the column is lit by light coming in from the hole lighting its base but quickly falling off as you look higher. If you had a neutral density grad filter you could use it upside-down here to even out the light somewhat, but as I generally think filters (other than full NDs) are a waste of money I was more than happy to dodge & burn later for a more controlled effect in post

What I needed here though was that useful separation again, but with the back of the cavern getting increasingly darker that was not possible with ambient light alone, so I introduced a speedlight to add light onto the wall behind the column and hence give me that separation I was after

These shots did indeed need a wide lens, and now I’m using my Tokina 11-16mm at 11mm

f8, 1/5th sec and 800 ISO – why 800 ISO and not simply a longer shutter speed you may wonder, and the answer is simply that the speedlight was already on full power and at 100 ISO it simply wasn’t powerful enough to give the effect I wanted. I didn’t want to compromise either my DoF, so I stuck to f8, nor the fact that this lens is sharpest at f8, altering the shutter speed has no effect on the flash so the only parameter left was the ISO. Increasing the ISO from 100 to 800 effectively made the flash brighter in the image, but the shutter speed then had to be shorter to balance the ambient. This ambient v flash balance for OCF is extremely useful and I conduct training days on that too, details here… Strobist Off-Camera Flash Workshop

026Cathedral Caverns - David Goodier photography 1 - WEB

 

Now I’m as far back as I can go up against the wall shooting towards the hole and daylight, hence the exposure range is too great for any camera to handle in a single image. I chose to use a range of exposures and blend them together. There are two common ways to do this, one using ‘Exposure Blending’ and there are plenty of tutorials online for this, but for simplicity I chose to use the ‘Photo Merge / HDR’ in Lightroom; which did a pretty good job of creating the single High Dynamic Range (HDR) image I wanted as my starting point

11mm f8 100ISO and 4 exposures used ranging from 1/10th second to 6 seconds027Cathedral Caverns - David Goodier photography 2 - WEB

 

This time I’ve moved back into the entrance tunnel that brings you into the cavern, and I’m using the same multi-exposure HDR technique as the previous image

11mm f8 100ISO but up to 25 seconds now as the tunnel is much darker and hence I need a bigger range of exposures to merge them028Cathedral Caverns - David Goodier photography 3 - WEB

 

A fairly short walk from Cathedral Cavern is another icon called Slaters Bridge, an ancient bridge crossing the River Brathay. And herein lies another of my mantras “Don’t shoot something you’ll only delete later”

The fact is that on the day we went the light was poor, so while I enjoyed the scene it wasn’t worth photographing for me at this time. Carmen though took a few photos using her NDs and ND Grads too showing that we don’t all ‘see’ the same things, and after a short while we moved on and quickly came upon this patch of river that was totally calm – and deep too. A family had just been swimming in it

Water this flat demands reflection shots, even moreso when there is a pretty house acting as a point of interest too, so a few snaps were in order

26mm f5.6

029Near Slater

 

17mm f5.6, while leaning over the bank with 3ft deep water below me lol030Near Slater

 

17mm f8 focused on the close lily pads and holding the camera out in front of me over the water so as to avoid the grasses being in the shot031Near Slater

 

Another Look behind you moment for another ‘filler’

17mm f8

032Near Slater

 

At this point in the day, midday, we had to move on and stop shooting for a while. Ah – midday Sun – you may think as most books tell you NOT to shoot at or close to midday (which is crap IMO), but no, we needed FOOD. Our food stop was a NT pub, Sticklebarn, with a nearby waterfall, we had a look but didn’t take any photos here either on my same “Don’t shoot something you’ll only delete later” basis. And so after a very pleasant lunch (and a pint) we returned to where we’d left my car at Grasmere and set off for the northern Lakes, first stopping at Thirlmere

Thirlmere is one of those lakes that always seems to have huge potential for a photo but rarely IME delivers on its promises. Today was no exception, as the sky was greyed over and there was no obvious composition. After 20 mins or so the cloud cover had changed into ‘storm brewing’ mode and I managed just one shot worthy of processing before moving on. This shot was taken at just 3:24 p.m. and deliberately underexposed to create mood. This is NOT a toned B&W image, its actually a colour photo – that’s how grey it had become

85mm f5.6 – f5.6 now as I want more DoF to add detail into the water & clouds

033Thirlmere stormy weather - David Goodier Photography 1 - WEB

 

As a slight drizzle began to fall we parked up in Keswick and went for coffee. For the final part of my day with Carmen we were to head north to the seaside, just north of Allonby, for some sunset shots. Carmen had a 1-2-1 training session of her own booked so while she attended to her trainee I did my own thing. As we were on a sandy beach on a windy day only 1 lens was used to avoid the need to change potentially filling the camera with sand, so I took my mid-range zoom, 17-55mm and my trusty 10-stopper for a few long exposure shots. We were actually waiting for the oyster beds to reveal themselves as they make for superb foreground shapes, but the tide was just too high on this occasion

19mm f8 15 seconds with the 10-stopper034Solway coast sunset at Allonby - David Goodier Photography 2 - WEB

 

Here I’ve taken to create something a little more arty and in doing so break two ‘Rules’ at once where I’ve placed the subject in the centre of the frame and the horizon central too. ‘Rules’ in Landscape Photography are really more like ‘hints as to what people like’, in that there are no Rules at all really and if you create something you like then that’s fine, whatever it is

20mm f7.1 15seconds

035Solway coast sunset at Allonby - David Goodier Photography 3 - WEB

 

While milky burred water is somewhat in fashion at the moment there’s still plenty off shots to be had capturing the sea at higher speeds too. For me, this shot was all about the detail of the stony foreground, the intense sky and the groyne remnants pointing up towards it, what I needed was something to help take the viewer’s eye through the image from front to back, and so I waited for waves to create an interesting shape to act as my lead-in-lines. After several attempts, and pretty wet shorts too, I caught this one which I feel best matches what I ‘saw’ in my mind. I’m also always drawn to the lone figure standing in the waters’ edge, which to me hints at a range of possible feelings. People can often add to Landscape photos

34mm f8 1/250th

036Solway coast sunset at Allonby - David Goodier Photography 4 - WEB

 

And seconds after the one above I turned around (remember that mantra?) to see a break in the clouds allowing the Sun to pick out the village further along the coast. Another filler shot really but pleasant enough

35mm f8 1/500th

037Solway coast sunset at Allonby - David Goodier Photography 7 - WEB

I found myself quite fascinated by these extremely tall posts and kinda wanted to use them as a barrier to the far distant hills, which is actually Scotland. The image is based on 3 stripes, one of the foreground and sea, one of hills and bright sky and a final one of moody clouds, and luckily the Sun came out right in front of me to rim-light the posts. I then chose a fast shutter speed to capture movement in the water too and especially the splash against the 3rd post. Some purists would argue that I should have stepped back to have a 7th post in shot as odd numbers are more attractive, but having tried it at the time as both a 5 post and a 7 post image I have to say that 6 just worked best for me

40mm f8 1/320th

038Solway coast sunset at Allonby - David Goodier Photography 5 - WEB

 

For my penultimate shot I was still attracted by my 6 posts, but here I’m trying for a totally different and calmer look to the image, so the 10-stopper came out

38mm f8 10seconds

039Solway coast sunset at Allonby - David Goodier Photography 6 - WEB

 

And finally, it was clear that the clouds were too dense for an amazing horizon wide sunset, but as I walked back along the beach I was looking for foreground interest and I found both these rocks and a large pool of water, effectively extending the sea in front of me right up to my feet again. This image is all about colour and texture and was my final keeper of the day, shot at 9:21 p.m.

28mm f8 1/200th

040Solway coast sunset at Allonby - David Goodier Photography 1 - WEB

 

In Summary

So there you have it, hopefully that all made sense as an insight into both how I see and then capture images from the scenes laid out in front of me

And hopefully too you’ll be inspired to get yourself off to the Lakes for your own day’s varied shoot

If you’d like to spend a day with me too for tuition on some or all of the techniques and types of venue you’ve seen here then please get in touch CONTACT ME

With every one of my 1-2-1 days, or up to 3-2-1 if you have some interested mates, I also include post-shoot critique of your photos of the day and also hints as to processing too

All of these photos have been initially processed for basic corrections in Lightroom and the ‘polish’ to my liking was added using Nik Software, which is a plugin that is (or was!!!) available FREE from Google here… Nik Software collection

Aside from the Red Squirrel shot, ALL of these photos are uncropped apart from leveling in some cases as I don’t like to throw away any of those expensive pixels we all pay for

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the above, and maybe spending the day with you in my fav place in the World helping you to both ‘see’ better and shoot better too

Cheers

Dave

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