Having been inspired by images of many visiting speakers, I have long had a desire to visit the Peak District and make my own impressions of this beautiful landscape. My plans were delayed on account of Covid, however I had plenty of time to research the area so that I could make the most of my stay and visit as many places I could.
When planning for a trip, one of my first steps will be to scour Flickr for images of the area. This helps me identify possible locations and decide where I should base myself. That done, I will purchase an OS map. I mark on the map the beauty spots I have picked out so far. I will then do a search on walks in that area. Countryfile Magazine is a great resource for discovering beautiful walks and it came up trumps with a variety. I enjoy this approach because even though there are photographer’s guides for a lot of areas, including the Peak District, I do not want to use the guide as a tick list. I want to see more and perhaps find my own locations and come up with something original.
Once I have booked my accommodation (sometimes a campsite and other times an AirBnB) I continue with my research and create a list of sunrise, sunset and daytime locations. I do not firm up an itinerary because any final decision will be based on the weather. I always depart early in the morning so that I can make the most of every day; on my trip to the Peak District I left home at 4am so that I could visit my first destination in the morning light.
I found Dovedale was on route to Buxton where I was staying, so that seemed like a good choice. However the go-to view at Dovedale is the river, with the stepping stones and Thorpe Cloud reflected in the water so I was looking for something else and so I explored the area on foot and found some pleasing compositions.
My photo shoots
Rather than give a day by day account of my sojourn, suffice to say it proved an excellent recce. The reason I say that is because I could not control the weather. I was looking for mixed weather; cloud, mist or rain with the sun breaking through. However the problem with planning ahead rather than being spontaneous is that you have to make the most of however each day presents itself.
During my 5 days I had wall to wall sunshine and cloudless skies except for my very first day. Every day I would pull up my various weather apps, checking temperatures, cloud cover, precipitation and every day offered the same picture – featureless skies. There are ways around this, one of which is to compose images without the sky so I took plenty of those.
The weather was at its hottest so my other approach was to go out very early in the morning to find magic in the golden hour and again in the evening around 6pm until just after sunset. During the day I either laid low indoors away from the searing heat, making plans or writing up my diary to keep a tab on where I had been or I would choose a shady location to go walking.
Some of the issues
The other aspect I did not plan for was the drought so I did find myself visiting stretches of the river or waterfalls that had run dry. I suppose the one consolation is that my worry about exploring the rough terrain of the Peak District on my own, where there would be a high risk of slipping, was reduced by the fact that the ground was bone dry.
The other aspect of planning a trip is I always need to allow 2 or 3 full days after the trip to process my images. I start the download as soon as I walk back into the house and then leave that running sometimes for hours, while I unpack and get straight. I then rate the images in Lightroom. I can often feel they are rubbish and find it helps to walk away and go back to them the next day when I am kinder to myself.
I filter the top rated and then flag the images I want to work on. It is a time consuming process and, after days of walking, it is frustrating to be sedentary. However, I like to work on them while they are fresh in my mind because then I am more likely to remember the true colours and get the white balance right and remember exactly what made me take the picture in the first place. This helps a great deal with processing choices.
One of my images of Chee Dale
I will just share one of my images. This brings back lovely memories of one of my favourite walks going from Miller’s Dale to Wye Dale along the Monsal trail. It offered a lot of interest with its disused lime kilns, long cool tunnels and a plethora of wild flowers following a nice flat route and then crossing over a foot bridge to return along much rougher ground, over tree roots and stepping stones, climbing up steep wooded paths and descending back down to the river.
The great part is that this section was all in delicious shade and those cloudless skies high above the tree canopy did not matter. With the sun gleaming on the foliage I found my polarising filter indispensable as the light bounced off the leaves and the water.
The final image
This image is from the original RAW file without any processing. I did reasonably well in camera however there are a few issues.
- Lens flare – which I had to clone out very gradually with a soft brush in Photoshop.
- Slipping horizon – the image is ever so slightly at an angle – I normally use a tripod and the spirit level on my camera but this is slightly out. I was able to use the point to point ruler on the water level in the distance to straighten this
- Bright boulder on bottom right – I tried using a soft grey layer and brush to reduce the brightness but decide that this was still a distraction so I cropped it.
- Other distractions – I asked myself whether the outer regions of the woodland really added to that image or whether there were other distractions and this led me to a further crop
- Distracting detail in the foliage – whilst the polarising filter had helped a great deal I felt that the detail in the foliage distracted the eye away from the river and the reason I had stopped to take the image in the first place. I wanted to draw the eye back down onto the dappled light on the water so I needed to reduce the detail in the greenery. I used a mask and blurred a bit of the foliage in an Orton effect.
I hope you will agree that these steps have simplified the image and given it a clearer focal point. It can be hard to take criticism on the images one holds dear but sometimes it really pays to listen and there is so often an even better image imbedded in the original – one of the many valuable lessons I have learnt during my 4 years at Bracknell Camera Club.
Now it’s time to plan my next trip.