What To Photograph During The Middle Of The Day

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Leaf on Rock - Dove Dale
Conventional wisdom has it that you should only take landscape photographs one hour either side of Sun Rise and Sun Set. This is because the light is ‘better’; i.e. it is not too high or harsh and doesn't create to dark a shadow. That is why you rarely see a professional landscape photographer at work ; whilst we are out pursuing that winning photo the rest of the world are tucked up in bed fast asleep until that alarm bell rings to wake you up.

So when Steve B asked if I could meet up last Sunday to do some landscape photography in the Peak District during the day it created a bit of dilemma. Mr B was attending a wedding near Leek and although he went to the ceremony and was invited to the evening do he was free for the rest of the day. Yes I could meet up, but serious landscape photography in the middle of the day? Not possible. Fortunately Steve also provided the answer : photographing rivers and waterfalls.

That suggestion though led to the next challenge, where to photograph a river / waterfall in the Peak District, specifically somewhere not too far from Leek. The White Peak area is named after the limestone rock it is formed on. Basically the area is a high plateau into which valleys and dales are cut . The Peak District is not short of water, it has been shaped by water over millions of years, its just that most of it is underground. There are a few beautiful rivers, but they are usually on flattish ground and so not many waterfalls. A quick internet search revealed only half a dozen or so, and they had all been photographed from every conceivable angle.

It was decided to try Dove Dale, arguably the most beautiful dale in the Peak District and also the most popular, especially on a Bank Holiday weekend. This dale is cut deep into a narrow gorge formed by the water dissolving the calcium carbonate through cracks in the rock. Over millions of years a cave system formed. It was worn deeper and deeper and wider and wider until the ceiling of the cave could no longer support its own weight and collapsed in on itself to form an open dale. What remains is a beautiful unspoiled trout river, set at the bottom of steeply wooded slopes, travelling over man made weirs, passing caves and rock columns, natural arches and those dramatic sheer cliffs.

We didn’t have time to walk all the three or four miles of the dale from Thorpe to Mill Dale so we went up a mile or so to the wooden bridge at Ilam Rock. Unfortunately being the height of summer, the foliage on the trees obscured the best of the views and the river was somewhat genteel. We decided to split up and each chose our own specific weir to photograph which we each though provided the best opportunity.

Knowing we were going to photograph water I wore my wellies as it means I can enter the water and not have to stay on the bank. Steve as he was going to a wedding didn’t pack his wellies. To take the photographs I used my darkest Neutral Density filter with my ISO sensor on it lowest setting. The lens aperture was closed towards the smaller end at f18 which achieves a long exposure that makes the white water appear ‘silky’. After a few general river shots that weren’t really working for me it was time to try something else. I noticed a few of the rocks in the river had greenery on them that seemed very vibrant under the shade of the trees. I swapped my 17-40mm lens for my 24-105mm and focused on a single rock or group of rocks. I had what I wanted : A single sharp object that grab attention and the rest of the photograph blurred by the movement of the water, creating swirling patterns of light. My intention is to give the impression of the light and shade on the river, movement and stillness, warmth and coolness. The photograph shown here is of a single leaf pressed onto a rock whilst the crystal clear water smoothly glided over and around it. Tell me what you think.

When we met up again, Steve also had the same idea, although our interpretations were quite different. We made our way back to the car but stopped every now and again to photograph places that looked better on the way downstream with a change in the light and different angle.

I'll be back to Dove Dale in the middle of winter. Again to photograph landscapes during the middle of the day. But this time being midwinter sun it almost the same as being up at the crack of dawn. I hope take photographs of a frosty bare valley to show the dramatic wildness of the valley. You'll be the first to see the results here.

So the moral of today’s Blog is that it is possible to photograph landscape in the middle of a bright sunny day. You just have to choose your subject so that light is just right.
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