Choose the right sea­son

To cap­ture a scene at its best, be pre­pared to plan 12 months or more ahead…

NPhoto - - Feature -

Just like com­edy and bak­ing a cake, suc­cess­ful land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy is all about tim­ing. You’ll have fuller, more in­ter­est­ing wa­ter­fall shots after a pe­riod of heavy rain­fall, for in­stance, and tim­ing a visit to the coast to co­in­cide with the rise or fall of the tide is a key con­sid­er­a­tion for seascapes. Choos­ing the right sea­son to cap­ture a view is ob­vi­ously cru­cial; although some places will look good year round, the colours of spring or au­tumn can add in­ter­est to many land­scapes. Even coastal pho­tog­ra­phy can ben­e­fit from be­ing planned with sea­sonal de­tails in mind, as Ross Hod­dinott’s shot of The Rumps, near Polzeath, in Corn­wall, proves.

“This is a view­point I’ve known about for years and that I’ve pho­tographed be­fore, but I’d al­ways wanted to cap­ture it in just the right light. Fore­ground in­ter­est can be lack­ing along this stretch of the north Cor­nish coast and my pre­vi­ous ef­forts from this spot had lacked the depth needed to make a great shot,” says Ross.

He de­cided to plan his next visit more care­fully, not only to re­alise the qual­ity and di­rec­tion of light that would add depth to the shot, but also to en­sure that his trip co­in­cided with a time when the clifftops were car­peted with flow­ers.

“I knew from past vis­its – and from con­sult­ing The Pho­tog­ra­pher’s Ephe­meris [http://pho­toephemeris. com] – that the sun would be set­ting in a lovely po­si­tion, to bathe the coast­line with warm, low light dur­ing late spring. I also knew that cow pars­ley grew along this stretch of the coast path, but the win­dow of op­por­tu­nity to pho­to­graph the flow­ers in bloom would be short. To en­sure I didn’t miss it, I vis­ited this lo­ca­tion a cou­ple of times dur­ing the weeks prior to tak­ing this photo to check what stage the plants were at. Once they were flow­er­ing, I just had to wait for the right forecast – a sunny, but still evening.”

Ross had this beau­ti­ful shot in mind for a cou­ple of years, but due to other com­mit­ments and un­suit­able weather, he hadn’t had an op­por­tu­nity to re­turn. “Hav­ing planned the shot in my head – and then recced the lo­ca­tion in the days lead­ing up to the shot – I thank­fully had good con­di­tions on my very first at­tempt with my cam­era. I ar­rived nearly two hours be­fore sunset to en­sure that I had suf­fi­cient time to iden­tify the very best com­po­si­tion prior to the best light. De­spite it be­ing a still evening, there was a slight breeze. I didn’t want the tall plants to be wind-blown and blurred in my shots, so I had to time my shots care­fully, wait­ing for any sub­ject move­ment to die down be­fore trig­ger­ing the shut­ter. I used the widest set­ting on my 17-35mm lens and got close to the flow­ers in my fore­ground. To en­sure front-to-back sharp­ness I had to cal­cu­late and ap­ply the hy­per­fo­cal dis­tance (page 114). I used a po­lar­is­ing fil­ter to give the colours a boost, and a grad­u­ated ND fil­ter to bal­ance the light. The cloud and warm sun­light com­ple­mented the scene beau­ti­fully – on this oc­ca­sion, I man­aged to cap­ture the shot I had planned and pre-vi­su­alised.”

Use an ul­tra-wide an­gle zoom, such as the Nikon 14-24mm pic­tured here, or one of the wide-an­gle primes fea­tured in this is­sue’s Big Test (p. 112), to en­able you to in­clude a swathe of fore­ground de­tail, as in Ross’s shot

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