Get to know the lo­cals

Noth­ing beats a bit of lo­cal knowl­edge – but that doesn’t mean you have to give up if you don’t live within spit­ting dis­tance of a great scenic lo­ca­tion…

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Not all of us are lucky enough to live a short car trip from a prime land­scape lo­ca­tion, and that means per­sis­tence is key when it comes to cap­tur­ing it at its most in­ter­est­ing. It might take sev­eral sea­sons, nu­mer­ous B&B stopovers and dis­heart­en­ing re­turn jour­neys be­fore you get close to pho­tograph­ing it in the con­di­tions you had in mind. Per­sis­tence is a trait shared by all of this is­sue’s fea­tured land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers, but Jeremy Walker takes the prize: he’d been mak­ing the long trip from his West Coun­try base to Dol­wyd­de­lan Cas­tle in Snow­do­nia Na­tional Park for over 30 years be­fore he fi­nally got the misty scene he’d been wait­ing for.

“I first saw this cas­tle in 1982 when I was in my first term in col­lege,” ex­plain Jeremy. “I’d al­ways thought it would be bril­liant with mist around it; you can get on a hill­side above this tower and look down on it, and you’d have mist in the val­ley, the cas­tle stick­ing up out of the mist with the sun ris­ing in the back­ground… fan­tas­tic. I’d been try­ing to get that shot ever since 1982 and it was 2015 be­fore I fi­nally man­aged to nail it. Prior to then, I’d been back about twice a year, ev­ery

year, since I first saw it. I’d go back in Septem­ber or Oc­to­ber, dur­ing the sea­son of au­tumn mist and mel­low fruit­ful­ness, and no joy. Then I’d go back in win­ter, in the cold and the frost as, of course, there’s bound to be mist. But no joy. I’d keep go­ing back year after year and never get it.

“And then, in the mid­dle of sum­mer in 2015, I had some clients who wanted to do a work­shop in North Wales. I just said it’s the wrong time of year to go, it’s go­ing to be full of tourists, the sun’s not go­ing to be right, the days will be too long. But it was the only time they could do it, so I went up a few days be­fore and stayed in the farm­house B&B just be­low the cas­tle. I woke up at about 4 o’clock one morn­ing to see mist form­ing in the val­ley, so I just grabbed my kit and legged it to the top of the hill be­hind the cas­tle. And – lo and be­hold – the val­ley filled with mist.

“It hap­pened the next day too, and it was even bet­ter. I was able to come away with a va­ri­ety of shots be­cause I’d got used to the lo­ca­tion so much over the years that ev­ery­thing was sec­ond na­ture. There wasn’t a path up the hill, but I knew the best way to scram­ble up through the un­der­growth and I knew ex­actly where I wanted to stand; I also knew there would be some tele­graph poles in the shot from this view­point, but, of course, I was pre­pared to take those out any­way.

“Later, I got chat­ting to the lo­cal farmer, and he said, ‘Oh yeah, ev­ery year around lamb­ing time we get mist in the val­ley…’ So ba­si­cally, it turns out I’d just been go­ing at the wrong time of year for over 30 years! The moral of the story is do your re­search and speak to the lo­cals, the guys who are out there ev­ery day, even if they’re not pho­tog­ra­phers.”

Although you may be able to pre­dict when mist is likely to oc­cur with in­sight from lo­cals, con­di­tions can change from minute to minute. Vis­i­bil­ity will vary: some­times it’ll be dense and cover fo­cal points that you want to in­clude, while at other times the wind or the sun will make it dis­ap­pear com­pletely. You’ll need to scout the lo­ca­tion and be pre­pared for any­thing.

Know­ing a lo­ca­tion and pre-vi­su­al­is­ing your shot means that you can quickly get into po­si­tion when the right con­di­tions do ap­pear…

When mist takes up a large area of the frame, be pre­pared to dial in some ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion of around +1 EV in or­der to ren­der it bright in the fi­nal im­age

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