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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Data, Data, Data


‘Helvelyn Sunrise’, Thirlmere Reservoir, Cumbria
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L USM @ 28mm, 1/6 sec @ f/22, ISO 50
LEE 2-stop ND, 3-stop ND and 2-stop ND Grad filters.
Manfrotto 441 tripod, Manfrotto 322RC2 Heavy Duty Grip Ball Head.
Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

“I have learned not to be presumptive where mist is concerned.”

Data, Data, Data

I awoke before dawn on a particularly misty morning in the Lake District. As I peered out of my hotel window, up into the almost black void above Grasmere, the air was still, the sky was clear, and my breath turned to mist in the cold winter air.

As twilight beckoned, the excitement was palpable. I thought there may be a good chance of capturing some images of mist over Thirlmere reservoir, but I have learned not to be presumptive where mist is concerned; I have always found it very difficult to predict. I was not disappointed, on my arrival the whole reservoir was mirror-still and bathed in thick mist, but as time passed, it began to slowly clear. During an hour of photographing one of the most heavenly spectacles I have ever witnessed, the mist slowly cleared and clouds slowly emerged. As the sun made it’s appearance above the majestic Helvellyn ridge, this last remaining strip of mist remained.

It can be difficult to concentrate on craft when faced with such an overwhelmingly beautiful scene, but it is precisely such conditions that demand we do not make mistakes and return home with perfect results. Success depends on us refining our craft to the extent that it becomes second nature. In situations like this, the practical workflow that leads to technically perfect image capture should really function at an almost subconscious level, leaving conscious capacity for aesthetic concerns. While on location my personal mantra is data, data, data. I never want to return home from a magical morning like this with disappointing results. Storage is cheap, so I bracket everything and shoot voraciously. The other benefit of such an automated workflow is that it allows a more immersive experience of the location being photographed.

I chose a viewpoint that included these rocks to counter-balance the strip of bright mist and the sun’s rays appearing over Helvellyn. Shooting towards the sun ensured a simple silhouetted composition emphasising the more essential elements of the scene. A neutral-density graduated filter was chosen to ensure that the sky appeared slightly brighter than it’s reflection in the water.

Back in the studio, I rendered the image to optimally emphasise the mist and to try and authentically recreate the essence of this spectacular scene as I remembered it.

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