in focus

a morning’s work

A misty sunrise at Rockford Common

People often ask about my work, and the process I go through to capture an image. This image of the rising sun at Rockford Common is a prime example of my preferred method of working.

Many landscape images you see are versions, or even attempted exact copies, of another photographer’s work. When you look into these often iconic images, you will find thousands of versions of the same view, from the same spot, but not with the same “wow” factor. It also surprises me how many images you see that are taken within a few yards of a car park. While this is no bad thing, my preference is to capture something new, that I’ve not seen hundreds of times before. Ok, I too have several iconic images in my library, but when you live so close to places like Corfe Castle and Durdle Door it’s difficult not to!

So, back to Rockford Common. Having checked three different weather forecasts on an almost hourly basis for a few days, it appeared there was a good chance of mist developing on this particular morning. Time to clean filters, charge batteries, format memory cards and check in with a landscaper buddy. He was free, so we agreed to meet in the middle of nowhere two hours before sunrise!

Now, if you’ve never walked in the New Forest before sunrise, it is dark! Very dark!! Head and hand torches switched on, we set off to find our landscape. Having parked in the valley, I knew we needed to gain height to get the image I had in my head – the sun rising through the mist, with heather and trees in the frame somewhere. I had driven through this part of the New Forest before, and knew there was a track that headed up the hill – but I had no idea where it went!

After much huffing and puffing, we reached the crest and surveyed our surroundings. Thankfully, by now, there was some light appearing in the sky, and we could pick out distant silhouetted trees. Out came the iPhones, and The Photographer’s Ephemeris consulted (a great App for showing where and when the sun will rise). My initial hunches were confirmed, and we needed to move further West to make the most of the rising sun.

Having spotted a group of trees in the right direction, we headed off, eagerly anticipating the view awaiting us. On arrival, we had a strong track, leading towards the position the sun would rise from, with a choice of small copse of trees or individual trees to choose from. Having consulted the Ephemeris again, I chose a position that would classically bring the track in from bottom left, and lead the eye past a lone tree to the rising sun.

Composition made, aperture selected, hyperfocally focussed, all I needed was the sun to rise…

The mist was thicker than anticipated, and was having the effect of multiplying the light from the sun – and we were struggling to balance the exposure of the foreground and sky. By adding extra Neutral Density Graduated filters, I was able to bring it under control, and match the exposure of the sky to that of the track and immediate foreground.

It was one of those rare occassions when you trip the shutter and know you have a pleasing image before it’s appeared on the LCD!

Exposure information:
1/4 sec at f/11, ISO100

Filters used:
0.9, 0.6 and 0.3 Neutral Density Graduated

Post processing:
RAW file processed in Adobe Lightroom with small Exposure tweak and Contrast boost.

To see a larger version of this image, please click here.


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