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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‘Sunrise’


‘Brandlehow Blue’, Brandlehow Bay, Derwentwater, Cumbria
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, EF24-70mm f/2.8L @ 35mm, 30 seconds @ f/11 ISO 100
LEE filters: 10-stop neutral-density and 2-stop neutral-density graduated filters.
Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 tripod, Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head.
Adobe Lightroom.

“the Sun doesn’t always rise at ‘sunrise’”

‘Sunrise’

Landscape photography provides us with a limitless journey of discovery. In such a technically rich and artistically varied creative world, sometimes, as the saying goes, it can be difficult to ‘see the wood for the trees’. Seemingly the simplest discoveries can have the most profound impact on our practice. One such revelation for me, was that the Sun doesn’t always rise at ‘sunrise’.

On a relatively clear morning like this, Brandlehow Bay, on the west side of Derwentwater, is a perfect location to experience the subtleties of changing interplay between light and land. The Cumbrian topography separates two events which always coincide for those of us more acquainted with coastal locations. The pastel strokes of twilight that paint the sky surrounding ‘official‘ sunrise as the sun appears over the ‘eastern’ horizon are long gone by the time the sun makes an entrance here. The surrounding fells shield Brandlehow Bay from the sun’s direct rays, and ambient light remains diffuse for a considerable time following day-break.

On this particular morning, I enjoyed ninety minutes of this diffuse illumination following ‘sunrise’, providing an entirely different feel to the scene; soulful, placid calm images. Until the elevation of the sun exceeded that of the Central Fells, all the light was reflected light, borrowed from the sky above me, acting as a huge diffusing reflector.

Eventually, ninety minutes after daybreak, the sun appeared over the top of High Seat and suddenly floodlit the jetty with intense direct light, filling the scene with dramatic contrast and saturated colour. The light was so bright, that correctly exposing the jetty allowed for some underexposure of the background and supersaturation of these beautiful blues.

With the camera locked into place on a solid tripod, I positioned the tops of the posts level with the opposite shoreline and attached a neutral-density graduated filter to hold back the sun-drenched cloudless sky. A 10-stop neutral density filter altered my required exposure from 1/30th second to 30 seconds, allowing me to calm the texture of the lake without removing it completely. For the final touch, I waded into the lake and drenched the foreground rocks to make them shine and provide a little visual balance for the sunlit jetty.

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