Barmouth – rediscovered

Mawddach Estuary
Mawddach Estuary

A couple of years ago I did an overnight wild camping trip to Barmouth, southern Snowdonia. This is a truly spectacular place that so far I’ve struggled to do justice to. On this occasion I messed up by arriving late and not being ready with a good location to camp and shoot. I was disappointed with the results and never bothered to sort and process them properly.

With the current weather driving me a little nuts (too much rain!) I’m looking through the catalogue and I’ve found these shots again. Here are a few that are better than I’d realised first time round. I think they give a reasonable idea of the natural beauty of this place.

Swaledale Flower Meadows – part 2

Swaledale
Swaledale

My last post had photos from a drizzly day in Swaledale. I camped overnight (in a campsite, not my usual bivvy bag) and set my alarm optimistically for 4am, hoping for clear skies at dawn. I was surprisingly asleep when it went off and I poked my head out. Hmmm… – mixed. However, enough clear areas to make it worth getting up for. Out I went, walked up the valley to find a good viewpoint.

Not the best sunrise I’ve ever seen but worth being out for.

Try something different

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I did a walk on wednesday starting at Castlerigg Stone Circle, near Keswick in the Lake District. The weather was perfect for walking – blue skies and sunshine – but completely uninspiring for photography, especially with hazy air. I gave up any idea of taking good shots so thought I’d try something different. I set the camera to record JPEG only and tried a variety of art effects that the Olympus provides. The idea was to constrain my choices and live with the results, good or bad.

There’s a long tradition of this in art and photography. Sometimes when you have complete freedom to do whatever you want it’s difficult to decide what you want. Giving yourself constraints can free you up. In photography perhaps we have too much freedom with digital cameras and zoom lenses. Take a film camera and a fixed prime lens and choose a particular film type. If this is all you have with you then you’re forced to work within these constraints.

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I didn’t go this far, of course. My Olympus OMD-EM10 has a zoom lens (I don’t own a prime lens for it) and you can’t leave all of its options at home. So you need a little self-discipline to put it on JPEG and leave it there.

The two art effects I found most interesting were soft-focus and high-grain black and white. The soft-focus option has an added “star effect” option, and the high-grain has an extra “pin-hole” option.

The big benefit of the electronic viewfinder, of course, is that you see all these effects in the viewfinder as you compose the scene.

At the moment it’s peak time for bluebells and wild garlic. I was lucky enough to find a beautiful clump of wild garlic raised up high next to a driveway, so that the flowers were on eye-level. When you see a carpet of wildflowers you might be tempted simply to point the camera and shoot but the results may be disappointing. You still need to find a strong subject and composition to make the most of the scene.

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I thought I’d get some good shots but was nervous about using JPEG and these scene effects. If the results didn’t work I wouldn’t be able to fix them. But the soft-focus effect I saw through the viewfinder gave me some creative energy. I might not have been so inspired to look for the shots if I had stuck to shooting raw.

Later on I found some nice areas of bluebells in the woods. The strong sunshine coming through created a high-contrast scene which I would normally have turned my nose up at. Having the camera on JPEG/soft-focus made it seem less like serious photography and freed me up to take the shots anyway. The results are far from perfect, with plenty of blown-out highlights that would normally make me reject the results, but I just don’t care and I like the results.

Borrowdale and Derwentwater

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Visiting the northern Lake District I’d intended to walk round the bottom end of Derwentwater but the lake had other ideas. Heavy rain had raised the level and the paths and fields were now under water. So I tried the other way and walked to the top of the classic climbing crag of Shepherd’s Crag. There I found both fantastic views and beautifully photogenic birch trees. Continue reading