The day began with a change of weather with icy conditions coming down from the north accompanied by sleet and rain.  So no one was more surprised than I that a total of thirteen people arrived in the Wyming Brook carpark.   After a bit of hanging about we eventually realised that we’d assembled as two groups at either end of the car-park, so our group was waiting for people who were already there!  We regathered and made our way across the stepping stones and down the rocky stream side which was a little extra slippy because of the wet and fallen leaves.  Nevertheless we all stayed on our feet and made it safely back to our cars later that afternoon.

So did I capture anything I could put into a photographic competition? As far as competitions are concerned it is atmospheric landscapes that tend to do well.  Thinking about this area of landscape photography, we’ve all seen milky water and autumn stream-side shots in calendars and magazines – they are ten a penny and all too familiar.  That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take them for ourselves and learn a bit more about photography on the way. So my initial reaction, when looking through my images, was that I had a few nice shots of the kind that would be useful if illustrating a web-based article like this, or maybe even a Wildlife Trust leaflet about the area, but nothing that I’d enter into a competition.  

 I remembered something I’d read about the way Joe Cornish works, which is to take a small point and shoot out on his walks in order to notebook potential sites where he will return later with his full kit.  No doubt even then he’s out there as the light breaks or back out as the sun sets, and maybe also in mist and snow, in order to get the best light for a particular image.  So I feel that what I came back with after my two hours at Wyming Brook was a set of notebook shots that might help me focus on areas to explore further.  That doesn’t mean that I wasted my afternoon as I  enjoyed being out there hugely and I learnt a lot.

 What did I learn from yesterday?

Watch out for people appearing unexpectedly!

I guess the first thing that I learnt is that when there are a lot of people around,  choosing a focus for my composition became a lot more of a problem as fellow photographers tended to pop up everywhere like elves in a garden centre, perhaps not fishing but certainly with a tripod.  So quite a few of my images have people poking out from between leaves and branches.

Sometimes I like people in my images as it gives a sense of scale, but it’s not always what I want!

Think about what it is that you want to capture

I visited the area the previous week as I’d muddled up the dates and it was a brilliant day.  So I had some ideas of what I might focus on.   Autumn Colour  First was the autumn colour of the trees and leaves. Brilliant yellows and oranges greeted us along the route of the stream and one of the plus sides of less sunlight is the way that colour can appear much stronger in more subdued light.  However woods are messy places and leaves, sticks and emerging saplings can all get in the way, as they did for me yesterday.  Sometimes I was aware of them and at other times not, as I know I have a tendency to focus on particular visual elements to the exclusion of others.  I think this wasn’t entirely helped for me by the interplay within my head of capturing the colours and the stream.  So if I have one message to myself it’s `keep it simple’ and focus on one main compositional element at a time.  

Slow shutter-speed water photography Almost equally important to me was the rushing nature of the stream.  I have done a bit of slow shutter speed photography in the past when along the coast but very little along a fast flowing stream bed.  I knew in my head that I wanted to focus on some close-up images of the water rushing along as well as interesting compositions along the the route. I think one of the most useful exercises that I carried out during the afternoon was to take four shots of water with the same framing so I could decide how much soft focus blur I was happy with.

I actually took the last one in this sequence first as my ISO was set to 100, which is what I’d been using for previous shots,  I realised that if I wanted to reduce the time the shutter was open, and therefore get less blur, I’d need to increase the ISO and change the aperture (I was working on aperture priority when I set these up).  Out of the set I think I prefer the 1/6th second exposure but you may not.  It’s always worth experimenting if you have the time, to work out which gives you the most satisfying result.

Memorable Space  Towards the bottom of the hill there is a spot that has the `feel’ of a magnificent cathedral where the arched branches of some very tall conifer trees form the roof of the space.  I had this idea that I wanted to capture this canopy in `high-key’ with the light streaming through the branches, rather like a stained glass window.  I’m not sure I succeeded as by the time I got there the light had gone  and was fairly flat – it was a dark spot anyway.  And six of my colleagues had gathered there, so I treated it as an opportunity to take a few people shots instead.  I guess there will always be another time and a wider angle lens!

I wish I’d also taken close-up photos of plant life along the stream side and allowed the background to go out of focus by creating a shallower depth of field.   On a number of occasions yesterday I ended up with immediate foreground objects that were both out of focus and not very photogenic.  By the time I spotted the out of focus nettle in the foreground I’d actually taken several shots.  Even then  I couldn’t do much about it without a pair of secateurs.

However, on my visit the previous week, when I didn’t have a tripod and had to use a bridge as camera support,  I did spent a bit of time trying to make the fern a significant part of the composition and I like the way the water snakes  around the rocks here.

So all in all I had a very enjoyable afternoon and the weather perked up, though it was still cold which affected some of our group more than others (like Tracey whose hands went blue).  Many thanks to Nick for arranging and coordinating the event.  I didn’t take many photos of the group but thought I’d finish this account with a few.

Click on the photo below to unleash a very short slideshow.