A friend said, long since, that the stories which go with pictures add to the enjoyment, so I think I’ll start writing a little bit more about some of them. Some photos I took in Devon last summer are a good case in point. Taken on their own and individually, they’re quite pleasant. If you’re looking a little closer, they’re “good” photos. But there’s more to them than necessarily meets the eye, and the best of them took about half-an-hour to get just right.
After visiting a nearby National Trust property, we drove around the lanes looking for a suitable spot to stop and either give me the chance to fly my drone, or to enjoy the local countryside. I noticed a local river on the sat-nav and thought I’d stop there to take photos. The narrow lane leading down to the bridge turned out to be lined with cars and the picturesque stone bridge at the bottom of the hill turned out to be accompanied by a little pub and river-side beer garden.
I decided that now would be as good a time as any to try out a new tripod for a long exposure of the rushing water. I’m rarely embarrassed when it comes to photography, so I decided that because the weather was hot, the right shot could be achieved from the middle of the river. While Jo settled down with half a pint of cider, I rolled my trousers up to my knees and waded into the gently-moving water, cursing as the rocks dug into my soft feet. (I returned for a second attempt a little while later, sporting rubber shoes which made the traverse a lot easier.)
Finding the right spot took a little consideration. Under the amused gaze of the pub’s patrons, I spent a good half-hour wading about, knee-deep in the river, finding both the right spot and the right angle for classic landscape views and for a couple of wider, panoramic views.
This first shot was pretty good. I like that there are kids playing in the river near the bridge and that the trees enter the left side of the photo in the foreground. But I wasn’t 100% sure about the water in the foreground – the rocks were slightly too submerged for my liking – and we can’t quite see enough of the pub. So I moved back about ten metres and re-composed the scene.
I prefer this angle, as we can now see the pub properly and there are some nice semi-submerged rocks in the foreground which break up the expanse of blurred water. But the bottom left corner is too empty. How to deal with this (without adding trees later using Photoshop)? By lowering the camera on the tripod until it was just a few centimetres above the water, and by shooting two shots side by side.
By lowering the camera, the angle to the water is more oblique and so we can see more of the pale rocks on the bottom of the river, which add some nice colour to the foreground. And the wider angle allowed me to get back some riverside greenery – nicely blurred – to anchor the left side of the scene.
Stitching the two shots together in post-processing has given me the end result, which gets a 4.5 out of 5. If I’d fitted a gradient filter to darken down the slightly over-exposed sky, which was too blown-out to recover completely in post-processing, it’d be a top-notch five.