Firstly let me start by wishing you all a very happy and prosperous new year. I have a feeling that 2022 is going to be an amazing year for photography.
I really do love photographing the Sheepwalks. In fact I would go as far as saying it’s my favourite place in the Black Country to spend a few hours making landscape photographs. I usually visit The Sheepwalks early doors as its an excellent place to relax, watch a sunrise and drink a flask of coffee. Unbelievably I have never visited The Sheepwalks for a sunset shoot. That was until the afternoon of 4th December. This post also contains another first for this location. I would love to tell you more however, there would be no fun in me telling you all the details in the first paragraph so you will just have to continue reading to find out what this was for yourself.
If you are interested in reading more about The Sheepwalks be sure to check out this post where I share information on this wonderful Staffordshire location and also a few images from a previous visit.
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Should You Plan Landscape Photography?
I consider myself to be more of a turn up and see what I can find type of guy and that’s exactly what I did on this occasion. That said if I am looking to capture a particular image I will spend time researching a location. This includes scouting the shot and visiting at different times of day to see how the light can change and react. This is a topic I have added to my content plan where I will discuss planning in more detail in a future post. Now there’s a reason to sign up for my updates to ensure you get an alert when I make that post.
Location, Location, Location
Deciding to go out this afternoon was pretty much a spur of the moment decision. I knew I wanted to stay local and I also knew I didn’t want to go to a local woodland. Shooting sunset on The Sheepwalks was therefore a natural choice and I could hear the Staffordshire countryside calling my name. There was a couple of hours to sunset. This is plenty of time to make the precarious drive along the narrow lanes followed by the short walk to the top of the hill. All being well with a little bit of time to spare.
The peak of the small hill is only a brief walk from where I park my car. That all sound well and good, however first we have to do a little climbing.
As you can see from this photograph the step of the stile is quite high and the top beam of the stile is considerably higher. Getting your leg over so to speak can be quite a challenge, especially for us “old un’s”
For those of you that dow spake the Black Country dialect an “old un” can be considered someone who is not a “young un” In other words someone of the older generation. A person who possibly suffers with reduced mobility or not be as agile as they once were.
Luckily for me, some kind person has realised the problem existed and has provided a solution in the form of a little wooden green box. Thank you!
Time To Grab An Image
According to the photography app PhotoPills sunset today is at 15:56. Did you know that’s one of the earliest sunsets we have encountered in 2021? Anyway, after negotiating “Everest” (That’s the name I have given the stile) and making my way to the top of the hill the sun had began its descent. It’s time to make some photos!
As I mentioned earlier I usually visit The Sheepwalks for sunrise. I am quite familiar with the direction and position of the sun when it rises. Although I have never shot sunset on The Sheepwalks I had a fair idea of the sun’s position when it sets. I have also studied the sun’s position at sunset on PhotoPills, albeit this was during the summer months where the sun’s position is a lot further round to the west or the right of the tree as we look at the image below.
A Golden Silhouette
A Golden Silhouette II
One of the things I have learnt over the recent years is that you never know how an image could or will be used in the future. For the sake of an extra frame its worth rotating your camera from a portrait orientation into a landscape orientation or vice versa. I pretty much shoot all my landscape photographs from a tripod. The simplest way of rotating the camera is with an L Bracket. An L Bracket is one of the best accessories I have purchased that has actually helped to speed up my workflow and make sure I capture those special images in both orientations. If you want to know more about L Brackets have a read of a recent post I wrote where I share the 5 Best Accessories For Landscape Photography
Checking Your Image on Location
Before moving, I always have a quick look at the image on the back of the camera. The main things I check at this stage are the composition and the histogram for clipping. If I see clipping I may reshoot the image.
What is Clipping?
Clipping in basic terms is when the intensity of light falls beyond the minimum or maximum intensity that can be rendered and recorded on the camera sensor.
- When we clip the whites it’s usually due to over exposure. We often refer to this as “blown out highlights”. The clipped area will be rendered as pure white pixels with no detail.
- Clipping due to underexposure will appear as pure black pixels. Again these pixels will have no detail.
- It is usually very difficult if not impossible to recover any detail in clipped pixels within post processing.
Most cameras produced today will have some form of highlight and shadow warning so it’s worth reading your manual and familiarising yourself with these functions.
Never Delete an Image On Location
I find it quite difficult to tell if an image is good in the field. I’ve previously recorded images that look amazing on the back of the camera to reject them when I see them on a larger screen. The same can be said with images that look poor on the back of the camera and turn out to be keepers. I guess the learning here is to never delete anything on location and always wait until you get the image back home where if can be viewed on a larger screen.
Anyway. My opening shots are in the bag and I feel pretty pleased with myself.
Alone on The Sheepwalks
The Sheepwalks, as lovely as they are can be a lonely place at times. It’s very rare you see more than a handful of people up here. In fact on the majority of my visits I’ve been totally alone. I think this is one of the reasons I like it so much. There’s no stresses of daily life and it feels like it’s possible to disappear into what feels like a different world.
I’ve recently purchased a new 10 Stop ND Filter and thought this may be the perfect opportunity to have a play. The wind had picked up and the clouds were now moving with pace from right to left.
My camera was still sat upon my tripod from the previous image. I recomposed my frame by panning the camera to the left, screwed my 10 stop filter onto the front of my lens and shot the following long exposure.
I have been pretty lucky with this one as the image could have been a lot worse. All I was thinking about on location was the movement in the clouds. I had totally forgotten the wind would affect the tree canopy and grasses in my foreground. Although there is some movement I don’t think it ruins or detracts from the image.
A few weeks ago I shot a very similar image at sunrise. The main difference here is the position of the sun. At sunrise the sun is pretty much over your left shoulder where as at sunset its just to the left of the two trees.
I have overlayed the sunrise and sunset images on top of each other below. Just slide the central bar from side to side to see the difference.
My First Time-lapse on The Sheepwalks
Timelapse photography is something I want to do more of. I have shot the odd time-lapse on my iPhone but never really anything serious. If you watch the clouds you will notice the way they move is pretty spectacular. Although everything moves in the same direction as the wind the different layers of cloud move at different speeds.
The wind had really picked up at this point and I could feel moisture in the air. It was only a matter of time before the downpour started and I had everything crossed that I would make it back to the car before it did.
My Nikon Z6 has a Time-lapse movie mode. This mode really helps to simplify the process of making a time-lapse. The camera automatically stitches all the individual images together and converts them to movie file. Quite a neat feature if you ask me. The tradeoff for this simplicity however is you don’t have the same level of control during post processing. As time goes on I may need that extra control but for now I am quite happy for the camera to do its thing.
The sun had now crossed the horizon with temperature and light levels beginning to fall. The wind speed had also really picked up and was going to make things difficult. Usually I can press the shutter step back and let the camera do its thing. No chance! I had to stand side on using my body as best as I could to shield the wind from the camera. If I had moved away the tripod would most certainly have blown over.
Incase your wondering this 5 second clip took 10 minutes to shoot. 10 minutes which felt like an hour. I don’t think I have ever been so cold. It was absolutely freezing!
Blue Hour on The Sheepwalks
As the sun crosses the horizon most people usually pack up and go home. I always try to hang around for half an hour or so as sometimes the proceeding glow in the sky can often be better than the sunset itself. Blue hour true to its name is the short window of time between sunset and twilight where everything turns a wonderful shade of blue.
I hope you have enjoyed this mini adventure. Take care and stay safe!
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