Sunday, 10 July 2011

Returning to Derwent Water

A week on, a chance for a return visit to Derwent Water. I was due to meet with friends at 11pm, which meant I had the best of the evening light alone on the shores of the lake.

Earlier this week I'd been catching up with Joe Cornish's website. I had the pleasure of attending one of Joe's landscape workshops last September, a most enjoyable, inspiring and informative three days based in Whitby (highly recommended). His site has been completely revamped since I last looked so well worth catching up with some of his latest work. Among the latest was tree photograph that I'd not seen before - Hawes End on Derwent Water. A splendid specimen right on the water's edge with an amazing tangle of roots typical of a lakeside tree - a touch of Cornish frost around the foreground. So although I fancied returning to Friars Crag to reconsider last week's images, I decided instead to drive round to Hawes End and see what was on offer.

The road is narrow on the west side of the lake, with few parking bays. One advantage of arriving late on a wet rainy Friday is having the place to myself. I parked near the zig zags and walked down to the shore from there. First up is the landing jetty for the lake's ferry boats. A nice shaded spot with large mature trees, their branches reaching low to the ground. Conditions were awkward with constant rain, so I ended up working one handed, or wedging a large umbrella between my chin and shoulder for two handed operations.

Word of warning - MIDGES CAN KILL be prepared and either wrap up in midge-proof clothing or coat yourself in chemicals to keep them at bay. The rain helped keep them at bay, but I was still nibbled thoroughly.

Hawes End Jetty, Derwent Water
This photograph may as well be full colour, the scene was almost monochromatic. Raindrops splashing in the water.

The next tree along the shore bowed even lower to the ground. I'm not sure if the growth of the tree had adapted to the higher water levels of the lake, the leading edge being parallel to the ground. the exposure proved slightly tricky, requiring a two stop graduated neutral density filter to the sky even though I was only after a graphic silhouette. 

Branches, Hawes End, Derwent Water
There was something happening to the left which influenced this composition, but I can't remember what. It must have been something pretty ugly as the branches to the left need more space, though the rock in the water to the right is an important element in the overall composition. I could have done with having my ultrawide lens which would have opened up some interesting options. A subject to return to at a later date.

The shore at Hawes End is dominated by trees and great round boulders - presumably having rolled down the fell, Cat Bells, above this area. The kind of boulder that would really hurt if it landed on your toe.
Blencathra from Hawes End, Derwent Water
Blencathra forms a nice backdrop across the lake from here. I was balanced on some slimy rocks for this photogarph, using my tripod as a crutch while walking out (wellies would have been useful though I may have disturbed the otherwise flat water!). The sunlight was fading fast, lights starting to come on in Keswick. A big bonus, the rain had finally stopped, so I was able to leave the umbrella. 

A final image for the evening taken from a similar location to the previous photograph. There are infinite permutations for the rocks along the shoreline, and to be honest, they all looked pretty good! The tricky part here is the relationship with the left edge of the image. I couldn't find an angle to keep this clean and simple, but felt this composition worked well. This collection of stones are far smaller than the previous shot, allowing the mountain to take control of the final photographic composition and become the main subject. An important aspect of the composition is the spot of light from a house in the background neatly reflected in the water.  From time to time I combine the original colour photograph with my finished black and white conversion, and in this case the result worked out pretty well with deep inky darks and pleasant highlights. The colour balance of the final light of the day had shifted into the blue hour, giving a classic duotone print appearance.

Last light on Blencathra from Hawes End, Derwent Water
I need to get into the habit of carrying my head torch on shoots in the dying light!

Compositional tip - composing square photographs
When composing for a square image using a rectangular viewfinder it is often easier to use the camera in vertical format.

I'm not completely sure why (and it doesn't always work) but I find it easier to visualise where the boundaries are. The final square composition should really be in the centre of the rectangle to optimise the lens performance and minimise distortions. There is one undeniable advantage to using the camera in vertical orientation. It avoids certain distortion issues of cropping from a wide shot. If a shot is cropped to a square from a wide rectangle the square should really come from the centre of the frame. If the square is taken from either end and not the centre some unsightly distortions can occur.

Although it won't make a difference for a lot of subjects, there can be tell-tail clues from some subjects which just look plain wrong, such as reflections not aligning as expected with the source. With a vertical original shot this doesn't happen.

Here's a subtle example of the effect. This is the right hand end of a landscape shot. The trees on the right should be vertical, but they clearly slope outwards at the top. A shift lens or technical camera would be the best way to correct them, though it could be done with software, preferably before the crop.

Tree roots, Hawes End, Derwent Water
Below is the corrected version using Transform - Skew. Its a poor man's workround after the event type solution. As the shot wasn't composed with the correction in mind, it seemed like the best option to minimise the resultant crop as any correction cuts into the image. Had I corrected it before the crop I could have used Filter > Lens correction, which is preferable - though maybe losing the ragged clouds on the top edge is a bonus in this instance?

Tree Roots, Hawes End, Derwent Water
Vertical perspective corrected

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