I tend to buy most of my camera gear and accessories from Norwich based online retailer Wex Photographic, who run a Twitter based competition to discover their 'Photographer of the Year'. Its essentially a weekly competition, where you are invited to submit (on a monday) your best photograph from the previous 7 days. The top three images are given points and the photographer responsible for the image then takes his or her place on the leaderboard. This repeats for 52weeks, after which a winner (the photographer with the most points) is declared, and they receive £1500 worth of Wex vouchers.
I thought I'd give it a go.......
My first attempt failed to place, but I did receive an email from Wex asking me to share some further information about the image in the form of a blog, which is what i am here to do now.
Following a really busy week at work, I decided to treat myself to an overnight jaunt to either the Peak District or Lakes. Dog sitter arranged and beagle despatched, I set off up the M6. I got to Stafford Services, checked the weather and set the Sat-Nav for Cumbria. The plan was to spend the evening around Keswick and Derwent water, then sleep in the car near Ullswater and shoot the Duke of Portland Boat shed at dawn.
As is often the case, things didn't quite pan out as i'd expected. Yes I did wander around Derwent water, and yes I did wake up on the banks of Ullswater, but a last minute decision to head to Buttermere was the what the trip will be remembered for most.
My entry photograph (the one above) is one of many that were taken at around 8am on that morning around Buttermere. I had been to this lake 3 times previously over the last 6 months, only to find it as choppy as the North sea. So when I drove around the last bend, and the lake came into view, I knew I was in for a treat.
Not knowing how long the lake would remain still and mirror like , I started shooting as quick as possible with a wide 16-35mm lens, getting as much of the scene as I could into a single exposure.
Now I for one am guilty of standing still when I'm on location, assuming that the viewpoint in front of me must be the best. So on this occasion, I decided to break the habit, and be a bit more mobile, try swapping lenses, different compositions and try to make the most of what was in front of me.
I generally carry 3 lenses along with my Canon 5d Mark3. The 16-35, 24-70 (both f/2.8 L series lenses) and the 70-200 f/4 L series telephoto lens. This covers me for most things I shoot.
The Buttermere pines, the fishing hut, waterfalls and small groups of trees, all with perfect reflections would have been enough to keep me snapping all day. But I was working quickly as things were starting to wake up, and movement wasn't far away.
The Photograph that I used as my entry, was one of the last taken that morning. I had the 24-70mm lens fitted to the camera, and I was heading back towards a bench that looked a perfect place for a luke warm coffee from the flask, made the day before. Dry stone walls have an extraordinary appeal to landscape photographers. They're random and crooked and full of shadow and detail, and they can be used as excellent leading lines into a picture. I had walked passed this one and made a note to take a closer look on the way back. As ever, I was shooting with the camera attached to a tripod, but at this point the banks are a lot steeper, and as I was getting closer to the edge of the water, the more I was struggling to keep my feet, and the tripod on dry(ish) land. The shot was hurriedly composed and taken. Quickly checking the live view to make sure it was sharp and the histogram looked good, I scrambling back up the bank onto firmer land. For those of you interested in the technical aspects, the exif details are ISO50, 27mm, f/9.0 at 1/13sec. A 0.3 soft graduated filter was used to prevent the bright sky over exposing.
This set of photographs needed relatively little post production. The RAW files were imported into Lightroom, where the dust spots were removed, the contrast was tweaked, detail was recovered from the shadows, and the sharpness slightly enhanced, ready to print. If it took me any more than 5 minutes to process this image, I would be surprised.
As for a difficulty rating, I'd say it was fairly low, maybe a 6 or 7. The effort was more about getting to the location in time to catch the conditions. Processing was kept realistic, and other than a tripod and a grad filter, no special equipment was required. As with most good photographs, light and composition are king, without those you're lost. But adding complications would not in this case have made for a better end result.
By the time I had taken the photograph of the bench and sat down on it, the ripples had grown too strong and the reflections were gone. That in itself was quite magical to watch, Almost like a domino effect started from a slight gust of wind, or a paddling duck maybe.
So, was worth the 360mile round trip and uncomfortable night sleeping in the back of the landrover? Would I do it again? Hell yes, in fact I already have, and I might do it again tomorrow.
I wonder if one of those shots might be my next #wexmondays entry???
You can find out more about the competition here http://www.wexphotographic.com/blog/have-you-got-what-it-takes-to-be-the-wex-photographer-of-the-year-2015 Have a go, its open to all.
For those interested in following me on twitter, you will find me @davefphotos