I have this hopelessly romantic notion that ‘spirit of place’ is a metaphysical reality; that as humans we can be in a place and somehow communicate with our surroundings, allow ourselves to feel the emotion that’s wrapped up in the ‘spiritual energy’ of any given location.
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A Muted Pastel Canvas


‘Boathouse’, Ullswater, Cumbria
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, EF24-70mm f/2.8L @ 28mm, 3.2 seconds @ f/16 ISO 50
LEE 3-stop ND + 1-stop ND Grad filters.
Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 tripod, Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head.
Adobe Lightroom.

“The wonderful thing about fog, is that it completely transforms the landscape. Backgrounds are obscured and as a result, despite the associated low contrast and muted diffuse light, foreground details are emphasised.”

A Muted Pastel Canvas

There can be few places in the UK that have such a rich concentration of idilic scenes within a comparatively small area as Cumbria. Whatever the weather, there is usually an image to be made within a few miles of wherever you happen to be. My image this month was made in thick fog on a cold and still October morning.

In conditions like this with diminutive contrast, the dynamic range of the scene is easily contained within the capability of the sensor; the histogram on our camera LCD is rendered as a relatively narrow peak. I spent some time visualising various possibilities and then mounted the camera on the tripod. I then used the geared three-way head to fine tune the composition using a hot-shoe spirit-level to ensure a level horizon; although in this fog you would never know otherwise.

With the camera set to my favoured aperture-priority (AV) mode I made an initial test exposure. The automatic metering resulted in an underexposed result, so I used positive exposure compensation to push the histogram over to the right as far as possible without clipping any of the RGB channels. The foggy left side of the image was slightly too bright and distracting, so I positioned a 1-stop neutral density graduated filter diagonally across the front of the lens to slightly darken the lighter left side.

At the native ISO of 100 and an aperture of f/16, the indicated exposure was 0.2 seconds. There was no wind to sway the trees and the lake was relatively still, but there were occasional ripples, so to ensure minimal distracting detail in the water, I lowered the ISO to 50 and attached a three-stop neutral density filter to force selection of a slower exposure time of 3.2 seconds. Lowering the ISO from the native value of 100 down to 50 on a Canon 1Ds3 results in a reduction of dynamic range which wasn’t a problem with a low contrast image like this, but it is worth avoiding ISO 50 when photographing high-contrast scenes if possible, to ensure optimum quality.

The wonderful thing about fog, is that it completely transforms the landscape. Backgrounds are obscured and as a result, despite the associated low contrast and muted diffuse light, foreground details are emphasised. The Boathouse and it’s arboreal companions were given focus of attention in a muted pastel canvas.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.