Thursday, 7 July 2011

Derwent Water - the prettiest lake

Much as I enjoy the drama of Wastwater, I do find Derwent Water the prettiest of all the lakes here in the Lake District. My only regret is that its over an hour away, so as I'm spoilt for choice with Grasmere and Rydal around the half way point I don't get up to Derwent Water as often as I'd like.

I had to be up there at 6pm last Friday so decided to make more of the day be setting off early, giving me an extra hour and a half to enjoy the Keswick end of the lake and Friars Crag. This is a near level walk from a large carpark near the Theatre By The Lake, and its excellent views over the lake mean it is always popular. My intention was to photograph the overly complex tangle of roots that hold the trees to the rocky crag - but these have now been covered over by a compacted gravel path for safer walking. Understandable, but a disappointment for me!

Working out a composition proved quite difficult. Overhanging trees area favourite foreground interest - and quite fascinating to work with. The typical usage is to use the tree as a fringe to the top of the photograph - I like to use the background as a fringe to the bottom of the image. When using a standard or wide angle lens the trees are very close to the camera. This means that slight movements cause huge changes in the foreground/background relationship.

Working out the composition without the tripod is the only practical way to establish a viewpoint. Initially, I walk around simply looking, studying the way the trees fit to the background. Standing tall, crouching low, leaning over a bit - moving and moving, then refining the spot. Once relatively happy the camera comes into play, checking the viewpoint through the lens - different zooms - minor tweaks. Eventually the spot is found and the tripod set up to match the camera position - then final tweaks.

I tried some long exposures from here, but the tree movement was frustratingly slight and the clouds didn't flow sympathetically in the frame - so the final photograph is 500th second at f8. The distance to the tree gave no real dof problems. PP was relatively straightforward, the key being to maintain the feeling of depth in the image. I processed it using three layers - two different black and white conversions using CS5 as the blue component needed to be played down in some areas, but held in others. The tricky part being to blend the two conversions seamlessly.

Time waiting for the light: Once more I seem to be in a rush. As I knew the light would not be changing any time soon I didn't wait long. The cloud shadow was changing in the distance, so it was important to wait for good separation on Castle Crag - the small peak in the lower centre. The real changes in the light weren't due for a further 3 hours - but I'm due back up there tomorrow, so I'm hopeful for something different.

Friars Crag, Derwent Water
Processing tip
Trees that bleed off the edges of a print can create a serrated edge resembling rodent damage - it can be quite distrating. On this image I created a final layer to dull the highlights at the top of the photograph, then blended this with a simple graduated mask so as to avoid bright white highlights running into the upper frame which would draw the viewer's attention from the main subject.

Compositional tip
Complex and chaotic shots of trees filling a frame can produce some great results. I've found the weakest compositional aspect to be in the top corners. Watch out for branches which cut diagonally across the corners creating a small triangle - these invariably draw attention and can distract from the overall melee.

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