I was sitting at my computer last Sunday evening when I heard a rumble of Thunder. I had been watching the weather closely all afternoon following a warning for potential thunderstorms, but wasn't expecting anything for at least another hour. I grabbed my camera gear and headed off down to a place on the harbour which I thought might be good for photographing lightning. As I walked down the Quay the sky behind me was black and another rumble of Thunder gave me hope that I might get a result. Unfortunately after 20 minutes or so it wasn't to be as the storm passed by and didn't produce any lightning. I checked the weather Apps on my phone again to see if there might be more on the way but it didn't look good so I packed up my gear and headed up to the top of Harras Moor (the highest point in Whitehaven), to see what conditions looked like further inland. 


I looked toward Ennerdale and there was a blanket of low lying mist clinging to the fells which had been left behind as the raincloud moved away in the distance. I thought that there would be some possible photo opportunities so I drove to Kirkland, a small village near Ennerdale to see what I could find. 

By the time I got there conditions were changing very quickly and I struggled to find a decent composition. What looked to be a good opportunity for some atmospheric images was quickly turning into a dull flat landscape as the mist cleared away. I managed to grab a couple of shots although the results were not what I would call great, more a record of the conditions as I saw them. I decided to hang around that area to see what would develop as according to the weather Apps on my phone, there was another potential storm heading my way . However, after a few moments the clouds started to break behind me and some nice colour and light began to appear in the sky.

Determined that I was going to get something out of the trip, I jumped back in the car and headed half a mile or so up the road to a location where I thought I might get some better shots. There are some really nice gnarly trees lined up through the middle of a field that I have photographed on a couple of occasions before, thinking I could use them as a subject against the colourful sky. 

After a frantic few minutes looking at various options with the different trees and hoping that the colour would hold on, I found a composition I was happy with and finally got a shot. It was not the photograph I had been looking for when I left the house, nor is it an image that will win any awards, but it highlights how persistence pays off with landscape photography.

We always rely on the weather to play ball when taking taking photographs of the landscape and it pays to utilise modern technology to put yourself in the right place at the right time. However, on some occasions you just have to see what develops and take what you can from a given situation. The results may not be as good as a well planned composition taken in perfect conditions, but for me it is better to go home with something in the bag after making the effort to go out in the first place. In addition, I now have another location which I know I can return to at sunset, when I can give myself more time to compose a better shot. There were a few other options here which I didn't have time to explore due to the short time I was there. I will definitely be back soon when the weather looks right.

Plan B

The weather forecast for this morning suggested that there was a chance of thunderstorms. So I set off to work an hour early, just on the off-chance that there might be an opportunity to get some lightning shots. It turned out to be rather foggy instead so I was forced to revert to plan B.

 Irton Park III

Irton Park III

I headed up to an area of woodland which I am very familiar with (having spent many nights camping there when I was younger), safe in the knowledge that I could get some decent compositions without having to venture too far. By the time I arrived I only had around 30 minutes before I needed to head off to work, so I took my tripod and camera with 70-200mm lens and set off down the track into the woods. 

Woodland photography is not easy to get right and I have struggled to get many decent images over the years. However, in the short time I had this morning I managed to get a few images that I am really happy with, in particular the one shown here. The misty conditions with no wind were perfect for this location.

The Forestry Commission have cleared out a lot of the trees in this area which has left sections of open spaces, dotted with solitary trees and newly grown ferns. These open spaces allowed me to compose my shots from further away, keeping the composition simple without too many other distractions such as branches etc. It can be very difficult to compose a shot in amongst the trees as there is usually a branch or tree that gets in the way and just doesn't make the image work. The other benefit of shooting trees from distance is that it is easier to keep them vertical. Had I been standing closer with a wider angle lens, I would have needed to tilt the camera up which results in converging verticals (everything appears to be leaning backward). 

Overall this morning turned out well, despite being very short of time. It is always worth keeping places in mind for different conditions and ALWAYS have a plan B!

Raw Power

My first blog entry will be a relatively short one. I just wanted to demonstrate just how much you can push a RAW file in Photoshop or Lightroom. The 2 images seen here are actually the same shot, before and after processing. 


The dark (almost completely black) image is one that I took accidentally at Ennerdale in The Lake District. I was shooting long exposures using a remote shutter release and accidentally closed the shutter a few seconds into what should have been a 2 minute exposure. I decided to have a play with the file just to see what I could do with it and the result was quite surprising. As you can see, the second image is somewhat different to the first and while the results aren’t perfect, it is a useable image. Had I taken the image in jpeg it would have been completely unusable as you can’t push the processing anywhere near as much as with RAW files. 

Obviously when using your camera it is far better to get the correct exposure at the time of capture, but I think this clearly demonstrates how much you can recover from a RAW file which is underexposed. The same cannot be said for an overexposed image however. If the highlights are blown, there is no recovering them and your image will be unusable. Recovering shadow details in high contrast scenes is one example of where you might need more extreme processing. Shooting in RAW will allow you to correctly expose for the highlights, knowing that you can easily pull back details from underexposed shadow areas.