Return to the Land – Yorkshire Landscapes…

Landscape Photography – Yorkshire’s Perfect!

Landscape is many photographers’ first subject – accessible, healthy, gregarious and unpredictable.

That was the attraction – a weekend diversion to new and interesting places. A whole world of dales and lakes to discover. From Teesdale in the north to the Peak district in the south, Leeds is just a couple of hours from the lot.

Much of the noughties was spent in these idyllic locations – capturing them in bright sunshine, dull clouds and frozen snow.

For me, the challenge of photography is always to improve, to get better shots than last time, to find something new. Returning to familiar locations with my first DSLR, then my first set of ND grad filters and polariser, then trying my first Canon 5D, or the ultra wide Canon 17-40 L  lens all kept the interest going, and the results improved time upon time, peaking in 2008, when I created a book of Yorkshire landscapes.

After that point, I found I was gradually getting diminishing returns on these trips – bad weather would blight them, nothing new really jumped out, and my architecture and people photography was taking off. So landscape became a rare outing – just the occasional trip to the Lakes or Yorkshire Coast and that was it.

So meeting up with Richard Spurdens, himself a former landscaper, to revisit the Malham and Settle area was a real blast from the past.

The usual December “dodgy weather” almost gave us cause to cancel, but instead the clouds broke to create some of the most dramatic sky-scapes I’ve ever photographed.

Traditional landscapers research locations, where the sun rises on a particular day, where to be set up at sunrise to capture the perfect light and set off at ungodly hours to capture it.

I picked Richard up at 11:15AM, had a coffee and hit the Airton at around 12:30 – not really conforming to stereotype.

I practice “peripatetic photography” – which is basically driving and pulling over when you see something good. Another sin in the Landscape Photographer’s handbook – which states you must park up and walk all day to get the perfect shot. We stopped perhaps a dozen times before settling down for a half hour at the beautiful Scalebar Force.

From there to capture the sunset at the now infamous tree on Malham Rakes, where I used “Live View” on the Canon 5D Mark 2 for the first time. Quite enlightening really – being able to zoom in 10 times and manually sharpen the image AND also see a histogram of how the image will appear at the current exposure settings is a large jump from the tried and tested techniques mastered with the original 5D.

Failing light and black clouds sent us packing to Malham tarn – Yorkshire’s highest lake, and that day, coldest. Frozen around the edges, it created a captivating foreground to counter the featureless sky.

Editing the shots has been a delight, making the most of the dramatic “god rays” over Pendle Hill and sheep, plucking detail out of the darkness and showing the dales off at its stunning best.

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