Canon 500D – Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L II lens @150mm
f/6.3 – 1/1600sec – ISO 100 – hand held
This picture was taken standing up to my knees in the cold waters of Bassenthwaite Lake, Near Keswick in Cumbria England.
The Lake District is a very beautiful part of the country and this is where I do most of my landscape photography. However, as anyone who has ever visited the Lake District will know, it often rains and consequently many of my photographic opportunities are ruined by the weather.
On this April morning as I set off early I was hopeful that I might get some photographs where the water in the Lakes was completely flat thus enabling me to get some perfect reflections – something that had eluded me so far. There didn’t seem to be much wind and the sky looked clear. But, yet again when I arrived at the north end of the lake there was just enough of a breeze to deny me my picture-perfect reflection.
But, there was some mist!
I love the atmosphere that mist in a photograph produces and I was so excited now at the prospect of capturing a Lake District scene with mist present – something else that had eluded me.
Unfortunately the photos weren’t really happening – I was ‘in’ the mist and the light was low and all the photos looked dull and grey. Arh!! Changing my camera settings didn’t really improve the situation and even a long exposure shot on the tripod produced poor results. This was not going well!
I decided to wander south along the edge of the lake, well actually in the lake, to see if anything interesting turned up. I had to wade out deeper than I would have liked to get past some undergrowth and now my boots were full of water. However, I could now see a couple of boats moored out in the lake. I took a few shots while slowly wandering ever closer to them. They provided an interesting focal point but with the water not being completely flat and the lighting being low, all the pictures I got were very dull.
I was a little disappointed. The composition looked really good. It was just the light that was lacking – the age-old adage – it’s all about the lighting.
I decided to turn back and head for home but as I did something quite amazing started to happen. The sun came out over the hills on the other side of the lake and “wow” the effect was startling! The light level improved (obviously) but more than that, the sun lit up the mist producing an amazing vision. It was as if the mist had been set on fire – a beautiful sight to behold.
I was so excited – the view looked breath taking. I was also rather nervous – I had in front of me a fantastic picture and really, really didn’t want to muck things up! I frantically took several shots in case the beautiful scene disappeared but then started to think about things more logically! Check the settings. The light was quite good but not great but I choose an ISO of 100 to try to keep the picture quality as good as possible.
I generally shoot in Av mode as I like to control the depth of field. Usually, when I shoot landscapes I would choose f11 to achieve best depth of field but as I was hand holding the camera and the light levels weren’t great, the shutter speed was too slow and the shots were coming out a little blurred.
Think again! Did I really need ISO 100? Ideally yes. Did I need f11 – well perhaps not! In fact the more shots I took, the more it seemed appropriate to try to throw the background out of focus to make the boat stand out more and to create as “mystical” an appearance as possible behind the boat. With this in mind I opted for f2.8 but as the light level increased I was able to increase the f value a little and this shot was taken at f6.3.
Having got some nice shots under my belt I calmed down from my moments of excited panic and started to think more about composition. I was conscious that the sun was now stating to burn off the mist and that this view would not be there for much longer. I didn’t really have the time to examine each shot in camera after taking it and so I took numerous photos varying the setting and the composition a little each time.
All of this seemed to happen so fast and within no more than five minutes the sun had burnt off all the mist, the view was gone and I was left standing in the lake with wet, cold feet not really believing what I had just briefly witnessed. Now all I wanted to do was to get back home as soon as possible and see what I had captured!
I use Lightroom 3 for post-processing. I find that it is much more straightforward to use and more intuitive to use than Photoshop and for the vast majority of my photographs is more than adequate.
I had taken so many photographs that narrowing them all down and picking the best one was difficult. Again though, I find Lightroom very helpful in this regard with the number of tools and options it has available to help make that final selection.
This photograph required very little work in Lightroom. No cropping was required. I increased the exposure very slightly using the histogram as my guide to ensure no areas became ‘blown out’ or over-exposed. I then increased the clarity a little to produce a little more definition in the mist. And finally I very slightly boosted the saturation. I needed to be careful here – I just wanted to give the picture that bit more colour without going too far and making it look too orange.
I was very pleased with the final result (and very relieved I had successfully captured that brief moment of natural beauty).
I guess the first thing I would say here is ‘persevere’. I have made many trips to the Lake District only to find that I am beaten by the weather. I have used these ‘bad-weather days’ to look around for good locations for future photographs and so I know exactly where I want to go when the condition are more suitable. Perseverance is the key and eventually you will be around to capture something wonderful.
Unlike my initial response, don’t behave like a ‘headless chicken’. I met an experienced photographer once who told me that it’s very easy when the conditions are just right to fly frantically around trying to take pictures of everything as quickly as possible and ultimately you end up with nothing that is any good. Once you have found a great location with great lighting, stay calm, check your setting carefully and stay there until you have ‘nailed the shot’.
Finally, and perhaps controversially, don’t be afraid to use software other than Photoshop. Photoshop is undoubtedly a very powerful and useful software programme and it seems as if nearly everyone uses it. But for me, I found it cumbersome to use and so moved over to Lightroom, which I suits me much better.