Category Archives: Landscape Trips

Torridon with Ian Cameron


The wellies are now dry.

At the end of January I went up to the west highlands around Torridon on a tour with Ian Cameron.  Ian lives over on the Moray Coast (East coast) of Scotland, so this area is fairly close for him and he’s explored it for a number of years now.    If you are going to somewhere for the first time, it really pays to have someone who really knows the area show you around.

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Landscape Photographer of the Year 2014

I know we probably shouldn’t be viewing photography as a competitive sport and you know, as long as you’re shooting what you like it’s all good and so on, but, well, what can I say?  I don’t mind a bit of validation now and then!    So I am absolutely delighted to be able to say two of my images have made it into the 2014 book, and the free exhibition on at Waterloo Station in London from 1st December until 31st of January 2015.

The first one (left) I took in January 2012 of Llyn Idwal in North Wales.  The sun is just struggling above the snow capped ridge at noon on this winter’s day, and lake was just completely still.  I’ve never seen it like this, either before or since.   The rocks above and below the surface provide great foreground detail, and by aiming a wide angle lens down into the water, we can see through the surface.  As the angle gets shallower, as the water surface gets further away, the reflection of the mountains and sky takes over.    The image on the right, was an opportunistic shot taken on a weekend

Llyn Idwal

Changeable Weather

trip with friends to the Lake District.  We had just driven along the road seen in the picture, and I saw this scene in the rear view mirror.  I stopped around the corner at the next park and viewing point and walked back to this point and set up my tripod.  The clouds were moving fast across the sky that afternoon, and so, even though this was taken in the middle of the day, the clouds provided that dynamic element to the light – both from the dramatic and  moody backdrop, and the pools of light across the valley.

Calgary to Vancouver! (episode 2– Lake Louise )


…and this one’s for Jeff from Minnesota Smile  Hope the rest of your trip was as fantastic as ours.

Image - Google 2014

This was probably the most up market hotel we stayed in during our trip – the Fairmont “Chateau”.  It looked more like Castle Colditz to me tbh, or an NCP car park with glazing – see below.  Very nice © 2014 Jane Melloninside,  but I somehow doubt the designers had seen too many French Chateaux…

It also had the north-east shore of the lake inside the hotel grounds, and although I had no idea at the time, it was best opportunity I had to put some real effort into a landscape shot.  I mean – if the lake is right outside your hotel, there’s no excuse really…

We only had one night at the Fairmont and arrived early in the evening having spent most of the afternoon at Moraine Lake.  We dropped the bags and went down to the lake.  There’s a slipway in the middle of the lake shore that faces the back of the hotel, and this pretty much aligns with the view down the entire length of the lake.  I wanted some foreground though, and I didn’t want to to park myself in everyone’s way either, so I climbed out onto the large round boulders to the right of the slipway.  The first task is to work out the focal length, and position of the camera.  I usually start with the 28-300mm super-zoom on the camera, and look for frames in the distance at the long end and wind it back in to 28mm and look for horizontal and vertical frames with foreground.  I did know pretty much what shot I was going to take of this though, having done this wide-angle-see-through-foreground-water technique a few times and I knew this was a job for the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8

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Calgary to Vancouver! (episode 1–Banff and Moraine Lake)

This was a family trip, and that’s my excuse for not getting too many “serious” landscapes Smile with tongue out however as with any location, you would need to really explore it in detail, find the shots and then visit again and again at the right times of day, and year to get the best results, so even if this was a photo trip, good landscape would be a fortunate event.  This is why I take landscape workshops once in a while btw – its not that I need anyone to show me how to operate the camera, make exposure or focus – I’ve got a number of techniques down pretty well now for gathering the data.  Having someone that knows the location on the trip though – now that’s worth investing in.  Mind you, I did get lucky with the light on a couple of occasions and a few half decent landscapes did drop out..

IMG_0940So, the Griswald Lloyd family Vacation from the flatlands of Calgary through the Rocky Mountains, Scooby Doo world, some surreal Stepford-esque fake Swiss Towns to the very pleasant seaside-town-grown-big that is Vancouver.  Our land-ship for this trip, due to general ineptitude at Avis was the Dodge Grand Caravan you can see on the right.  Big, build quality and design from the 80’s and an engine that would struggle to pull the skin off a custard.  The old style hydraulic slushbox was as ancient as the styling, and would take 3 days to sort out a change of gear.  An absolute pain to drive on the open road, it would slow down on the hills until you pressed so much on the throttle pedal it eventually changed down and then gradually picked up speed.  As imagesoon as you backed off though it would change up and start slowing down again… I’m not sure the steering wheel was actually connected to anything either.  It was big though, and with the 3rd row of seats folded away into the floor, our 3 large suitcases went in the back easily.

Our first stop was Banff, a small town mainly comprised of hotels and shopping malls.  Banff is a good looking town – the buildings are all sympathetically designed and mostly, the hotel parking is underground.  We visited Sulphur Mountain via the gondola, and the Vermillion Lakes.





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Jurassic Coast


I was due in Poole on Wednesday morning so decided to drive down the day before and visit the coast for some landscapary before checking into the hotel.  It’s a 4.5 hour drive from my house and I plumbed the Durdle Door car park into the sat-nav.  Was all going well until I got within about 5 miles, at which point, the radio announced that the path down to the beach in Lulcroft bay had, well, fallen off.  That’s right, just as I get within a few miles of the place, the cliff fell apart, taking the steps down to the beach with it.  Oh well.

I changed course and, navigating by the sun, I headed south until I ran out of land and parked.  I had arrived in Kimmeridge bay, a few miles to the east of Durdle door.  It was about 4 hours to sunset so plenty of time to go down the path to the “beach” and look for some shots.  The beach is covered in large smooth, round boulders.  The cliffs have very obvious strata, which continue under the boulders on the beach, and as they are not quite horizontal, huge flat plates of harder rock jut out of the ground at a shallow angle.  This has created some spectacular rocky ridges out into the bay, and it looked like I was on for some sidelight from the sun in a couple of hours time.

The tides are a little weird in this area, with a double dip before it comes in properly, but from the looks of the graph on the tides planner, it looked like the rocky outcroppings would still be visible when the light arrived.  If they were covered, I figured the water would be up to the nice round boulders and I’d do those instead.  Went back up to the car park and brought the gear down, scoped out 3 compositions, put the main bag down out of the way of all 3 shots and set up on the first one, got the composition in, focus set and filter holder attached to the 14-24mm Nikkor.

Made the shots mainly using a 3 stop hard grad to control the sun and it’s reflection, and bracketed 5 stops (2 up and 2 down).   Adjusted the shot to include more sky when these wonderful clouds arrived.

Now, I checked the ISO, WB, exposure comp, and formatted the card, however what thunder-thumbs forgot was that the 14-24mm has round blades on it’s diaphragm and so renders the sun as a general mush.  Rounded aperture blades make nicer out of focus areas as the specular highlights are more circular.  However you don’t tend to shoot selective focus so close in like this and you don’t get nice sun-stars when the lens is stopped down.  I should have used the old 20mm AIS that has 7 straight blades.  Next time..  I did try cropping the sun out but I do prefer this one.  I might use the tighter crop for competitions as judges always pick up on highlights near the edge of the frame.




Landscape capture workflow


Some soap-box philosophy

Let me start by saying I don’t view my camera as a Polaroid instant camera.  That is, I don’t accept the efforts of the tiny processor and limited software inside it in producing a finished landscape image.   I see this sort of idea bandied about in print magazines and on forums across the intertubes:  “get it right in camera” they say.  What absolute rubbish.  What magic does it add to use the camera’s limited post-capture  processing as opposed to the might of Photoshop, Lightroom, Photomatix, Oloneo et al to produce the finished image?  It’s still processed by software.

“Don’t tamper with the image” is another axiom.  This is only important if you’re making a documentary.  Landscape photography is all about mood, emotion etc.  Who cares if the sky was really that colour?  Your camera doesn’t see what you see.  Your eyes cope with around 11 stops of light.  Your DSLR only around 5.   If you used a focal length much below or above 50mm, you are not capturing the field of view your eyes do, and the image will be distorted versus the one your eyes supplied to your brain.  Plus, if you shoot jpeg, your camera processed the image for colour, sharpening, contrast just the same as you might do in Photoshop – the only difference is that the settings were decided by the software engineers at Nikon/Canon et al a long time before you took the picture.  My point is – you already altered the scene by using a camera and not your eyes, and my advice (which can take or ignore of course) is that you get over this and liberate yourself from this restricted thinking.  Move forward to capture the mood of the scene – the emotion it evoked when you saw it.

I treat my camera as a data gathering device.  Nothing more.  I don’t use any of the post capture processing such as “Active D-Lighting”, “Magic pixie pixel improvement” or “picture control”.  I capture the raw data.  Even white balance and colour space are just tags in the image.  Specifying “ProPhoto” doesn’t capture any more data in the raw file.  Setting the white balance doesn’t affect what is captured – this tag just tells the viewing software how to render the colours in the picture.

OK I’ll now put away my handy fold-up soap box.

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I recently went up through the highlands to the Isle of Eigg.  More on this trip later.  For now I’ve compiled a short video with my selection of the images I made.  There is a also a gallery