Night Photography West Yorkshire

In recent months I’ve been spending more time on night photography. It’s a difficult discipline, but one that can undoubtedly give very rewarding results – but you have to put the work in! This image was taken at my local haunt of St. Aidans Nature Reserve, between Leeds and Castleford. Clear skies are great for cityscapes, but when shooting wide scenes like this it’s tough to balance the exposure correctly. From experience I decided the best conditions would be partial cloud which would create movement in the sky and hopefully some colour too.

Alllerton Bywater, near Castleford, England. 5th October 2016. Disused dragline and lake at night, with moving clouds and stars, site of former opencast coal mine, now a flourisihing nature reserve.
Allerton Bywater, near Castleford, England. 5th October 2016. Disused dragline and lake at night, with moving clouds and stars, site of former opencast coal mine, now a flourishing nature reserve.

Much of the difficulty in night photography is technical – as well as not forgetting anything crucial (missing one piece of equipment can ruin a photo session –  I know.!). I had already scouted a good viewpoint for this image and arrived in darkness, around 7.30pm on an October’s night. First I took a test shot – this is for two reasons 1. To ensure sharp focus  and 2. To make sure the composition is how I want it. Setting the ISO at 12800 and a wide aperture of f4 I could get a ‘quick’ test shot at about 5 seconds. Focusing can be tricky – I set the focus to infinity which proved to work perfectly; my test shot was sharp. I then set my exposure for my proper image on a lower ISO for minimal noise. I chose an ISO of 400 and aperture of f8. Again using experience I estimated an exposure time of seven and a half minutes; of course you can always do the exposure maths to work it out! With the camera on my tripod and a remote release I set the exposure to bulb mode, pressed the button then timed it on my phone.

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Photographing Autumn Woodlands

Photographing Autumn Woodlands

It’s during late October and early November that I try to squeeze in an autumn woodland shoot. For my style of photography I find this time to be the best as it usually coincides with more gaps in the trees and more leaf litter on the woodland floor. This particular woodland in West Yorkshire is one that I have visited once before – back in the days of film! When visiting a relatively new location I find that it pays to keep an open mind and not be too rigid in your picture-taking.

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The majority of the afternoon consisted of overcast conditions which suited me fine – it made things much simpler and I could record wide scenes without too much contrast.

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The low light inevitably meant slow shutter speeds and this was perfect for creating movement in the water. I personally love the effect of these long shutter speeds.

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For all the images I used a polarising filter. The effect can be surprisingly striking: even in heavily overcast conditions a quick twist of the filter and the colours really leap out – with both greens and oranges becoming equally vibrant.

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This was particularly true when photographing this magnificent beech tree by the water’s edge. I kept checking the effect of the filter, rotating it a few times to make sure it was having maximum effect. Exposure wise, the meter was fairly accurate. If anything I underexposed slightly for some shots.

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As a professional photographer I often have specific markets in mind and whilst this is generally a good thing, it can stifle creativity. When I finally checked on the time I realised I’d been in the wood for nearly 2 hours. My first thought was how quickly the time had flown, but then something else gradually dawned on me. In all that time – I hadn’t really thought about the picture-taking. Sure, I’d considered the composition and all the technicalities of maximising sharpness and depth of field, but in all that time I hadn’t consciously thought about what I was photographing or why. Everything I had been doing was simply guided by instinct; intuition. All those little tweaks of position, angle; the play of light – they were all done with feel – as I strived to create something that satisfied me, and nobody else. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is when we achieve our most rewarding images.

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Now that I felt I was getting ‘under the skin’ of this special place I turned my attention towards the water and let my instincts work on creating more abstract images.

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The leaf colour by the water was stunning and I worked on some closer images using this clean backdrop.

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The leaves were barely staying still due to the light breeze so I deliberately used a slower shutter speed to create movement and much more abstract image of autumn colour.

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Another abstract but this time allowing the scum on the water to record as streaks whilst the autumn trees remained still.

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My last shots of the day were of the weir surrounded by autumn colour. By this point the light was failing and it was becoming too dull for good rendition of the colours.

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This woodland is a truly stunning location for autumn colours and I’ll be adding it to my list of Photography Workshops for 2016. More courses can be viewed at Nature Photography Courses

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