A short walk plus a Horse in Southborough

These were all taken a few months ago in infrared, but I missed a beautiful dawn this morning due to holiday torpor so nothing current to report.

Happy Christmas to you all:

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What’s wrong with this picture part 3 – the end?

In an earlier couple of posts here and here I wrestled with a particularly stubborn tree which refused to pose correctly. More correctly, I struggled to work out the best way of photographing it. I ended up feeling that the problem was mainly one of clutter- too many other things were getting in the way of a striking image:

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So this morning, with a simpler sky and more importantly a pair of boots I climbed into the field and put the tree in between me and the sun and got this:

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It’s not perfect- a wider lens would give me the whole tree, but for now, job done.

But then as I turned to go I saw this one:

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An equally beautiful old tree with an equally annoying set of distracting foliage nearby which makes getting the right shot equally hard.

I stepped back further:

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And then further still:

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Somehow I feel this is not over- sorry!

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What’s wrong with this picture? Part 2

A couple of days ago I posted about my struggles with a particular view of Eridge Green and a tree that refused to pose properly:

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I wasn’t pleased then with the flaring of the sun and the difficulty I faced with bringing out definition in the base of the tree.

Since writing the post, I’ve thought a bit more about this image and what holds it back. I mentioned then how one of the things I try to do in a picture is to help the viewer to know where to look- you can do this by creating a composition that is simple without too many distractions as I did when I moved from having a number of trees in the image to just the one above. You can also make the picture easy to navigate by working in three dimensions as I tried to do when I moved from a shot with no foreground to featuring the tree up front.

Another issue that I feel stops this one from working is to do with light, contrast and colour. Our eyes are naturally drawn in images to the brightest, most contrasty bits and frequently those where the colours are warmest. In the image I posted above, the sun has all of those features and so wars for our attention with the tree, making it all a bit too much of a muddle.

So I needed to go back and in fact did so yesterday. This time I wanted to avoid shooting into the sun unless I could get it right behind the tree. Less contrast away from the tree would allow me to focus on it instead.

As I approached through Eridge Green I could see that it was quite a different kind of morning with some amazing clouds rather than bright sun and also frost which is both cold in reality and in colour:

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These were promising conditions for the kind of image I wanted- there is nothing like the sun from the earlier shot to draw us away from the tree down below and the mist that wraps around it makes it stand out even more.

When I got to the location itself, I was able straight away to get something that seemed to me to be an improvement:

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This is from exactly the same spot as before, but because the sun is so much dimmer it isn’t fighting with the tree for attention and the trunk is more contrasty with what is behind. The warmth of the mist is still a bit distracting, but if I am being kind to myself, I could say that it points viewers towards the tree. The lovely bright band of cloud at the top certainly has the same effect of being a giant arrow in the sky- I wish I could say I put it there on purpose.

Here’s another angle:

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I’m reasonably pleased with this also. It is a bit more muddled with the different trees warring for our attention, but it is an attempt to exploit a strange “rule” of composition- our love of odd numbers. For some reason that I’ve never seen adequately explained, viewers would rather see things on their own, in threes or fives rather than in twos or fours. I have three main trees here, but the middle one is too indistinct and furthermore I should have got into the field to change my viewpoint and preferably get the three trees in a more interesting 3d formation rather than neatly lined up like this.

Here’s a final one which gets the 3d more:

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This also possibly has the advantage that I’ve got my main tree more in front of the light so it gets its own contrast, but still the composition isn’t quite there with the middle tree too out of view.

There’s no escaping the fact that I need to get on some boots and stop fearing the muddy field.

To be continued?

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What’s wrong with this picture?

So far on this blog, I’ve not really touched on technique. I know if you go looking on the net, you will find all kinds of people who are very good at explaining how their images work in ways that are really useful to those of us trying to improve. I’ve genuinely found such advice essential as I have been learning, but I want to try a different approach here, which also works for me.

In this post I am going to try to learn from my mistakes, so please be forgiving about these pictures. I intend to be extremely self critical about photos that I know basically look quite nice in order to consider how I could have got them to be stunning.

A few weeks ago, I discovered a new viewpoint close to one of my favourite spots in Eridge Green:

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I said then that I was not satisfied with the picture, so a couple of days ago I went back with the intention of getting a better one. I feel I failed, but I do think that exploring what I’m getting wrong will help me to get the picture I want in time.

First of all, what was wrong with the picture above? Well essentially it is all background with nothing interesting up front. I tend to prefer a landscape to work in three dimensions- something in the foreground, something else in the middle and then a background will draw the viewer into the view. This really just has distance.

So I went back and tried again:

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What’s wrong with this, then?

Well the sky is less interesting for a start, although the sun partly makes up for it. In this picture’s favour, it does have trees gradually becoming more distant, but they are not well composed- the one in the foreground, which is potentially the most interesting, is cut off and placed at the side and the result is that the viewer does not really know where to look. The image ends up being too complicated. A good picture should lead our eyes rather than leaving us to search all around for a route through it.

So a third try was needed:

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This is better because it is simpler. There is some unfortunate flare in the lens which is not as even and attractive as mist and might in fact be some smudges on the glass. I’m also not entirely happy about the bottom of the tree- the original picture was so dark down there that I struggled to bring out contrast in the development. I do like the ridges on the hill and the rays of the sun which I was able to capture by narrowing the aperture of the camera (unfortunately this is also what makes the lens flare worse.)

The truth is that I feel the whole picture would have been better if I had got closer down to the level of the trunk and created more of a distinct silhouette with the sun behind. So why didn’t I? Mainly because I was on my way to work and couldn’t get my relatively smart clothes all muddy by first climbing over a fence and then trudging down through the field!

I’ll get it right another day.

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Too late?

I know a lot of my pictures of my route to work have been of the dawn, but if getting up that early seems a chore in itself, look at what I am missing half an hour earlier before the sun actually rose.

This was the view from my window when I got up this morning:

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Half an hour later, by the time I got to my favourite of the rock houses, much of that glorious colour was gone as the sun rose over town:

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As often though, my slight frustration forced me to adapt my viewpoint to concentrate not on the house, or the rock, but on the tree behind it:

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And then there were three…

I’ve posted quite a few pictures already of the rock houses on the common (here and here.)

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In my earlier posts, I have always talked about two houses, but locals will know there are of course three. The truth is that the one that you come to first when you come up from the town centre has always been the hardest to photograph. For a start it has an unsightly lamppost just by it on one side and lacks such an appealing backdrop from the top, but still, like the others, it is a beautiful, dignified building with a stupidly large rock chucked in front of it.

I felt after my last return to this location, it had to be worth a re-match. I got a couple of shots which sort of work by trying to keep the less interesting parts of the background out of shot:

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…but still, I feel I haven’t quite got there. I turned back into town with a bit of frustration and then as often happens when I am thinking photographs, found something in front of me which was ever bit as photogenic- this lovely window and window-box of one of the old buildings facing the common:

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