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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Magical Transformation


‘Hoar Frost’, Thurlby, Lincolnshire
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, EF24-105mm f/4 L IS USM @ 45mm, 1/60 sec @ f/16 ISO 400
Unfiltered.
Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 tripod, Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head.
Adobe Lightroom.

“A generous snow-fall provides scenic simplification, reshaping the familiar”

Magical Transformation

We’re often excited by scenes at first glimpse, only to realise that a distracting background blights our dream. One approach to minimising such distraction is to change our viewpoint; moving physically closer to our main subject (unlike just changing our lens), lifts it from the background by emphasising it’s relative size compared to background elements. We can then choose a more wide-angle lens to allow it a similar presence within the frame and the result of this combination of a closer viewpoint and wider angle of view, is an apparent diminution of the background. A deft trick, but in comparison, the weather can fabricate a profound metamorphosis.

For those of us with a penchant for minimalism, perhaps fog and mist are the strongest modifiers, their effects vary depending on our personal vantage point. When immersed in their clutches, background elements disappear altogether, replaced with a convenient gray or white backdrop; foreground subjects are lifted, their presence amplified, despite a paradoxically elegant dumbing down of saturation and contrast due to diffusion. When we are able to view their effects from unaffected, usually elevated viewpoints, the effects of mist and fog are very different but equally delightful. Viewed from the ‘outside’, reflected light brings clarity, colour and contrast to misty layered landscapes, dynamically differentiated and separated.

A generous snow-fall provides scenic simplification, reshaping the familiar; as with mist, backgrounds are homogenised, but snow is perhaps more sympathetic, diminishing backgrounds and removing their distracting contrasts without erasing them completely. An over-riding characteristic is that snow diminishes detail for the whole scene, coating it in a uniform thick white crystalline blanket.

I must have passed this beautiful tree a hundred times, often pre-visualising how I might one day attempt to capture it’s overwhelming beauty. But I always felt it needed a more appropriate ‘set’, and a talented make-over, in order to facilitate a performance worthy of such an arboreal superstar. On this particular morning, the temperature gauge in the car read minus 16 degrees as I turned the corner to be greeted by this view. Like snow, the hoar-frost had de-cluttered the scene, but unlike snow, textural detail had actually been amplified creating this magical transformation; transcending anything I had ever witnessed before.

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