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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Black and Grey


‘Three Trees’, Upper Padley, Derbyshire
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM @ 200mm, 1/4 sec @ f/10 ISO 100
Unfiltered.
Manfrotto 441 tripod, Manfrotto 322RC2 Heavy Duty Grip Ball Head.
Adobe Lightroom.

“Light is the life-blood of the landscape photographer, without it we would be unable to photograph anything.”

Black and Grey

It can be so deflating, when we make a special effort to venture out with high expectations before dawn, only to be greeted by flat, depressing, uninteresting, light. Sometimes it can seem like all the odds are stacked against us; but the most prolific and productive landscape photographers have a closely guarded secret, one that keeps them creating compelling imagery, day after day, regardless of the conditions.

Light is the life-blood of the landscape photographer, without it we would be unable to photograph anything. It’s certainly true that we need good light to make good photographs, but the description of what constitutes ‘good light’ might not meet with initial expectations. The ‘secret’ is, there are actually very few conditions in which it is impossible to make compelling landscape photographs; at least for those of us engaged in creative landscape photography, for whom artistic rendition, rather than literal representation, reigns supreme. Once we start to experiment, making images in ‘poor’ conditions, then we suddenly discover that some of our most evocative images can be made at such times.

This month’s image was made in particularly poor conditions, a cold, dull and overcast winter morning in the Peak District. There was minimal contrast, desaturated colours and no textural interest. Ever hopeful, I searched for a simple composition that would provide an image with some artistic potential for post-processing.

I was attracted to this group of trees at the top of a bank near the roadside. They were all the same height and equally spaced, creating subliminal order within a generally chaotic scene. I was excited by some fanciful anthropomorphic characteristics of the composition; I imagined that the tree on the right was turning away, jilted, as the tree on the left took the hand of his partner for the last dance. The image was processed in Lightroom by sliding both Blacks and Contrast all the way up to 100, then converting to Black & White and fine tuning the Exposure to obtain the desired level of light grey for the background.

The sky behind the hill provided an uncluttered homogenous backdrop, perfect for this final rendering in black and white, simplified not only by the complete removal of colour, but also by limitation to just two tones; black and light grey, rather than white, to maintain a connection with the drab grey reality of the actual scene.

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