The Malvern Hills have been one of my favourite landscape photography locations in Worcestershire for quite some time. One of the best spots on the range of hills for sunrise is the Worcestershire Beacon. Being the highest point with an elevation of 425m the Worcestershire Beacon offers some of the most stunning 360° panoramic views. If you are lucky the light from the rising sun illuminates the adjacent hills as well as the surrounding landscape between Worcester and Tewksbury. Of course this all depends on what time of the year you visit and the elevation of the sun.
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Where Is the Worcestershire Beacon?
The Worcestershire Beacon is part of the Malvern Hills and is an area of outstanding natural beauty.
What can you see from the Worcestershire Beacon
On a clear day you can enjoy stunning views of the Severn Valley, rolling countryside of Herefordshire, elements of thirteen different counties, the flood plains of the River Seven, Welsh mountain peaks and the cathedrals of Worcester, Hereford and Gloucester.
I arrived at the Beacon Road car park in plenty of time for sunrise. Arriving around an our before the official sunrise time makes sure I have plenty of time to make my way up the hill and set up my gear. The walk from the car park to the Beacon summit is mainly via a tarmac path. It usually takes me anywhere between 30 and 45 minutes depending if I stop to take a break part way. The fact I am no olympian coupled with the path being quite steep in places and carrying a heavy camera bag full of camera gear means I benefit from the occasional break to catch my breath. If you are a seasoned hill walker, you may not need the same breaks and therefore will reach the summit a lot sooner than I can.
A Hint of Colour
Upon reaching the summit of the Worcestershire Beacon light levels have started to increase and the sky is beginning to fill with orange and red hues. It’s hard to deny feeling a little bit excited at this point as I have a good feeling that I am about to encounter an explosion of colour.
The Malvern Hills are very popular with walkers, runners and mountain bikers on weekends meaning there are a few early risers on the hills this morning. Who can blame them? After all, it’s a beautiful morning and viewing a stunning sunrise from the Worcestershire Beacon is one of the best ways I can think of to start the day.
Worcestershire Beacon Sunrise
With the sky now erupting in an explosion of colour I set up for my first composition. The highest point on the Worcestershire Beacon is quite rocky and there is also a decorative toposcope on top of a man made stepped plinth. The surrounding rocks make for good foreground interest although they do remain in shadow due to the light coming from behind. The jagged edges of the rock help to lead the eye towards the toposcope which is clearly the subject of my image. In regards to lighting, you will only find the sun in this position during the winter months. As we progress into spring and summer the sun moves further round to the left before exiting the frame in May/June. One point to mention however is that the sun exiting the frame within this timeline is only true if you are using a wide angle lens.
Revisiting An Older Composition
I have shot similar compositions of this scene in the past. Historically my compositions have been a lot tighter due to using an 18mm lens on my Nikon D7100 which is a crop sensor camera. For comparison 18mm on an APSC camera body is effectively 28.8mm which is no where near as wide as the 19mm that this image was shot at on my Nikon Z6 with 14-30mm wide angle lens. If you are interested in seeing the photos I have made previously with my crop sensor camera check out this post.
Same Location, Different View
Whilst composing the above image I couldn’t help but notice the icy puddle in-front of the rocky outcrop.
Frozen puddles usually have unique features such as interesting patterns, compelling textures and fine intricate details. Therefore I thought it would be a great idea to have a closer look.
One of the best advantages of a wide angle lens is that I can really emphasise the foreground in my image.
If we look at my next composition as an example. I have composed the image with my camera only a few inches from the ground and slightly in front of the puddle. Pointing the lens down slightly has elongated the puddle and allowed me to fill the bottom half of the image with my foreground subject.
A Change of Colour
In my experience red sky sunrises can diminish very quickly and that is exactly what happened this morning. If you have ever witnessed a sunrise you will understand the speed of the suns elevation. It takes a relatively short time for the sun to transition from completely out of view to fully visible as it crosses the horizon. You may have have also noticed how red hues subside as the suns elevation increases often leaving a wonderful orange glow on the horizon.
Identifying How You Can Improve
As I made my way down from the summit of the Worcestershire Beacon I came across this Gorse. Whilst I quite like the image I feel there are ways it can be be improved. I also think I made a few of mistakes or as I like to say identified things I would do differently next time. What you can’t see from the images is the cutting wind and the fact my fingers were going numb with how cold they are. To work quickly I decided to shoot the scene handheld. In hindsight I should have wore a pair of photography gloves and photographed the scene using my camera on top of my tripod. I like using a tripod as it helps to slow me down and forces me spend more time thinking about composing the scene and setting up an image.
Exposing for the extremely bright sky resulted in my foreground being placed into complete darkness. Luckily the Nikon Z6 NEF files are extremely good. In fact they are one of the best raw files I have had the pleasure of working with. The shadow recovery in Lightroom is unbelievable helping to bringing back fine details that would usually be lost. Something that I have never been able to successfully achieve without introducing noise or banding into the image with my older cameras. Shooting on my tripod would have given me the stability to use my ND graduated filter in order to balance the exposure or even the chance to bracket exposures and blend back together in post processing.
The End of Golden Hour
The best of this mornings light may have now passed however I still want to share a few images with you documenting the end of this mornings adventure.
As you will see from the next image there are several routes up to the top of the Worcestershire Beacon. Some steeper than others. In reality the image does not do the hill justice as the paths are a lot steeper than they appear. I guess that’s what shooting on a wide angle lens does for you.
The Malvern Hills ridge line is just over eight miles long and connects End Hill in the north to Chase End Hill in the south. To walk from one end to the other takes a minimum of 5 hours however there are several carparks along the range meaning shorter walks are possible.
By no means do I think I have mastered photographing the Worcestershire Beacon. I am sure there are several compositions I have missed and better photographs to be made. I am now looking forward to my next visit to the Malvern Hills where I hope to explore a different part of the range.
Have you visited the Malvern Hills? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know which hill is your favourite.
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