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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Clint Eastwood


‘Threave Castle’, Kelton Mains, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L @ 43mm, 1 second @ f/11, ISO 50
Unfiltered.
Manfrotto 057C4 tripod, Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head.
Adobe Lightroom.

“A good man always knows his limitations…” Clint Eastwood as Harry Callaghan (Dirty Harry)

Clint Eastwood

I made this image of Threave Castle reflected in the River Dee, on a beautiful late August evening; at this time of year, the sun sets directly behind the castle creating a fiery medieval backdrop. I was attracted to the scene because of the strong sense of narrative, and of course, the wonderful reflected twilight hues, I’m always hopelessly attracted to big colourful skies and reflections. I had to move in close to the river side because there were large bushes just out of shot on both sides, but this meant walking down the river-bank and onto a wooden landing stage, which significantly lowered my viewpoint. The Manfrotto 057C4 tripod is big, it extends to over 2 metres and is ideal for situations like this where extra height is needed to hone compositions by visually lowering foreground elements like this boat relative to the background. I made some vertical aspect shots with a strip of reflecting river separating the boat and castle elements, but this landscape aspect image was more visually balanced with some overlap. Visual linking of foreground and background objects, whether implied, due to relating but separated shapes or ‘actual’ like this, offers a welcome visual continuum. Such compositional ‘placement’ decisions are always best made instinctively, rather than by arbitrary adherence to perceived expectation.

In Adobe Lightroom, I introduced two ‘graduated filters’: one from the top to graduate the sky above the castle, and the other from the bottom to mirror it along the bottom of the scene below the boat. Rather than using these software graduated filters to darken the top and bottom of the image, I used them to subtly decrease the colour temperature compensation to make the upper and lower parts of the image more blue. This complements and therefore emphasises the central orange band.

My one criticism of this image is the modern nature of the boat. I can’t help feeling that the image would be strengthened if this was a weathered old wooden rowing boat with no motor and no modern-day plastic fenders. If that were the case, the image would become timeless. Although I could probably spend time manipulating the image towards these ideals using Photoshop, for me, that would be going too far, it would cross a line, become dishonest, and it might be technically tricky too. I’m reminded of the words of Dirty Harry; “a good man always knows his limitations”.

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