My LPOTY Rejects

My Landscape Photographer of the Year (LPOTY) Images

I was persuaded by my friend Doug Chinnery to finally enter some images for the Landscape Photographer of the Year (LPOTY) competition this year, otherwise known as Take-A-View.  I’ve often admired the pictures that end up in the book they publish each year but have never bothered to enter. Like probably every other photographer though, I wouldn’t mind seeing one of my own pictures in the book.

Sadly that’s not be as all 11 of my entries fell at the first hurdle. Now they have they have announced the winner (and congratulations to Tony Bennett) I though I may as well show which images I entered. They are all images I really like, and of which I’m quite proud of, but obviously not LPOTY material. My favourite is the “After the Winter Storm” on Rannoch Moor depicting a partially frozen Rive Etive leading up to a beautiful snow covered Stob Dearg of Buachaille Etive Mòr. I had high hopes for this image as it’s easily the best shot I’ve taken this year. It may not have found favour with the LPOTY judges but at least it’s been a big hit on Flickr. For now that will have to do.

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New Gallery Pictures


Updated UK Landscape Gallery

I’ve at long last added several more images to my UK Landscape portfolio, which I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time. I’ve recreated a complete new set of jpeg files for the whole UK Landscape Gallery, which I thought didn’t quite look their best when viewed on-screen in a web browser, and the watermark logo wasn’t rendered so hot on some either.

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Drive By Shooting in the Snow

Shooting in a Blizzard

Sometimes in photography all that learned technique and acquired methodology just goes out the window and you just have to tailor your photography to the conditions in front of you. Well Friday was one of just one those of days. When much of the UK was beset with heavy snow falls, high winds, blizzards, drifting snow, and the weather forecasters were spouting amber warnings and impressing upon us not to venture out unless absolutely necessary, two photographers did just that and headed off into the Derbyshire Peak district to experiment.

Winnats Pass, Castleton, Derbyshire

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Autumn Reflections

Sometimes good photographs come just by chance and that was certainly the case with this one. I’d been up in the Lake District and was out shooting with Doug Chinnery in Borrowdale. We’d just been to the quarry featured in the Joe Cornish DVD With Landscape In Mind, and although a wonderful location, somehow I didn’t feel that I bagged any particular inspiring shots, even though the location, light and autumn foliage had been spectacular. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, it just doesn’t seem to work. We’d probably spent the best part of a couple of hours at the quarry and the late afternoon autumnal glow was beginning to subside. Badly in need of a decent cup of tea we headed back down the path towards the village of Grange.

We had just descended the hill and arrived along the banks of the Derwent river, when suddenly these gorgeous golden-orange reflections from the birch tress opposite flooded across the water. That cup of tea would have to wait. I was drawn to the stones amongst the reflections so waded out into the river with my tripod; thank god for my wellies. It was obvious the light wasn’t going to last long, so I shot with the EF 24-105mm f/4.0 lens on my camera, but perhaps not the best choice but it would have to do. I took a few frames in portrait mode but they just didn’t work. Then I spotted a pattern of five stones amongst the reflections so waded a little further. I hastily put on a polarizer, ND (soft) grad upside down to balance the brightness and shot a couple of frames, but 5 stones weren’t working. I re-framed on just four stones; I just liked the way seemed to balance the foreground even though even numbers are not supposed to work. I shot just one frame then the light started to fade. I shot several more frames but the moment had gone and the glow subsided but that one frame was my shot of the day.

From my first shot to the frame above was just 5 minutes. I used a small aperture of F/22 to lengthen the exposure and smooth out the water, but that only resulted in a 2.5 second exposure. I would have liked much longer and wanted to put on a 4-stop ND but if I had I would have missed the shot. Lucky for me I didn’t.

Big Stopper Shocker

The Ultimate 10 Stop Filter

Remains of the old Swanage Pier

Old Pier remains at Swanage – © John R Birch

I’ve owned a Lee Big Stopper 10-stop filter for almost 2½ years now and have become quite a fan of long exposures and the effects that this filter can produce. It’s become a staple accessory to many a photographers kit bag and it opens additional artistic opportunities to a landscape photographers day once those golden hours have disappeared. Prior to the Big Stopper I used a B+W 10 stop filter, which is of the screw-in type,

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A Windy Day in Derbyshire

Photographic Location & WORKSHOP

Derbyshire (Sep 2010) 1060

Last week I was a budding participant on one of Doug Chinnery’s landscape photographic workshops. Doug is a professional photographer that just so happens to live not far from where I live and whom I met at my local photographic club in Worksop last year. I was much impressed by Doug, not just his superb photography, but with his down-to-earth approach and willingness to share his knowledge with fellow photographers, something that many other expert photographers’ seem almost reluctant to do.Derbyshire (Sep 2010) 1005

Sadly for our foray into the Hathersage area of Derbyshire that day we weren’t blessed with good weather and my 5:00am pickup in the dark for sunrise seemed somewhat in vain. Our rendezvous with two other fellow photographers just below Higger Tor ended up in a rather hasty retreat to Grindleford station for some shelter from the rain and wind, and chat about photography and a welcome cup of coffee. With no abate in the weather one member decided to call Derbyshire (Sep 2010) 1028it a day. However after fuelling up with a hearty, full English breakfast in Hathersage a second attempt was made at Higger Tor, but high winds prevented any photography on the top and grey skies and eventual rain brought that sessions to a close.

Doug then took us down to an area of birch trees above Lawrence Field well away from the windy tops and by now patches of dappled sunlight were starting to appear. This was quite different photography from what I’d normally attempt and to beDerbyshire (Sep 2010) 1036 honest I was well out of my comfort zone here. However Doug encouraged us to shoot tree trunks, grassy tussocks and I even and a few (albeit unsuccessful) attempts at some macro photography.

After a lengthy spell there it was off back down to the rather quirky, but excellent Grindleford Station Cafe for some hot chocolate and cake. Whilst gorging ourselves on some inordinately well proportioned slabs of date and walnut cake, Doug took the opportunity to download our CF cards direct to his iPad and proceeded to present us slideshows of our efforts. This was really useful as we got to see each others work and discussed what worked and what didn’t. The iPad is a really neat device, has a great screen and is ideally suited for viewing and backing up RAW files in the field. It beats devices like the Epson P-7000 viewer hands down in my opinion, and there are already RAW editing apps around too (that’s another gadget to add to my wish list). It’s a pity they don’t make one with more than 64Gb memory, but I guess that will come eventually.

Derbyshire (Sep 2010) 1139 By that time the weather was beginning to look quite sunny so we went to Padley Gorge and spent a couple of hours trying out all sorts of shots. What a great place it is and believe it or not it was the first time I’d been there. The leaves are just starting to turn, so it’s not quite the best time, yet but there’s not doubt I’ll be returning here soon. One of the classic shots is off a large old mill stone underneath an oak tree. I tried many compositions of but none that really worked when viewed on my monitor back home. The sunlight was quite strong and I ended up with many many shots with burned out highlights. I should have waited till the the sun was hidden by the clouds. If you want to see how it should be shot check out Doug’s version here. I did however get a rather nice but querky shot of a curtain of moss/weed behind a small water fall which made an almost abstract image.

Derbyshire (Sep 2010) 1162We decided to set off for Stanage Edge for sunset, but spotted some fantastic light and sunbeams (Crepuscular rays as Dough pointed out!) over the hope Valley on our way. We stopped on Fiddlers Elbow road off the A6187 about 3/4 of the way up to Higger Tor but sadly the sunbeams and gorgeous light did not reappear.

My favourite image of the day is the one at the top of this blog of a small gap in the wall and out of focus trees behind. Nothing spectacular or compositionally great but juts one I like. Maybe I’ll attempt it again well the autumn leave are in full colour and use a slightly wider aperture blur the background even more.

View Derbyshire Photo Workshop in a larger map

I can’t say I came away with any memorable images, but I certainly came back with many new locations to try, an improved compositional knowledge and a list of new subjects to try. If you’re a budding photographer and want to take your skills to the next level and learn more then workshops are a great way forward, and fun too.

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