Wanting to hone my landscape photography skills more and the prospect of discovering new places to explore, I asked my wife Kirsty to get me a landscape photography course for Christmas. There is literally so much choice out there, I did a bit of research, but in the end turned to another photographer whose work is extremely good for a recommendation, Jeanie Lazenby. I met Jeanie http://www.jeanielazenby.co.uk/ on a cold morning at the top of Mam Tor in the peak district, photographing a sunrise. Her experience and knowledge were very good and judging by her willingness to share information on photography, as well as her photo community connections, I knew she would know someone who would not let me down.
Jeanie recommended Phil Buckle, http://www.philbucklephotography.co.uk. I went to his website and found his work absolutely jaw dropping, instantly thinking i’m not going to be able to afford this kind of workshop from a photographer of his level, I was pleasantly surprised, he generously offers a full day one to one workshop for only £165. Im going to try and share all the locations we visited and the techniques we used, but I would highly advise taking Phil up on one of his excellent courses. It was a cold January morning, the air was still and there was not a cloud in the sky. Phil met me just outside of Keswick and took us to our first stop, Castlerigg Stone Circle.
After getting over my first faux pas of the day, not being able to find my wellies, Phil forgave me and we parked up next to the Stone circle and took a short walk up the hill. First instruction gear down, cameras still in bags, Phil said the worst mistake is arriving at a location and setting up your tripod. He said if you set your tripod up you kind of limit yourself to that spot before you have even had a chance to appreciate the scene. Phil wanted me to plan my shot, take the scene in, look for the right angles and height. I quickly found out he was right. One step right or left made all the difference. Finally I was allowed to get my camera out! – I was so excited, but not to shoot with yet, Phil got me to look down the view finder and find the right angle and position. Once I had it, it was time to set the tripod up and lock in the shot.
First things I had to check, was the camera in RAW mode, was the ISO as low as it could naturally go, aperture priority mode set with f/11 dialed in, I focused on the one of the stones and switched to manual focus, checking for sharpness and I had vibration reduction set to off as I was using my tripod. Next Phil asked me to turn live view on, I had never really thought to use live view for landscape photography, but where it really came in useful was to move the focus to the desired location without having to move my tripod – Obvious now I think about it. Phil mentioned we were only going to use exposure compensation to control the exposure of the shot, he said it was always better to overexpose than to under. I took my first shot as a test, and checked for exposure clipping and the histogram.
As expected it was under exposed, Phil got me to increase my exposure compensation which would slow my shutter speed down and thus capture more light. Unfortunately the sky was pretty uninteresting and the sun was still not quite up, so the conditions kept changing. To bring out more detail we added a 2 stop hard filter for the sky to balance up the exposure, between the darker ground and lighter sky. For my final image at this location I had gotten a histogram I was happy with, though a combination of filters and exposure compensation. Apologies for not having the histograms from the camera – these were from lightroom. As you can see the colours a separated more and the contrast is increased.
We then went to our second location, The Old Concrete Jetty, looking over Isthmus Bay. Again rather than jumping straight in and setting up the equipment we looked at the scene to appreciate what might make a good photo. Same recipe as the first photo, get the exposure correct using the histogram, then to achieve a good balance with the sky we used a 3 stop hard filter. Once we had achieved a baseline image, we wanted to make the water even stiller than it was, using a big stopper filter. The idea being the shot is baselined/balanced – but the big stopper flattens the water. Some other tips are not to let the reflections bridge the foreground interest and ensure there wasn’t too much sky. We also made sure the pier was sharp – zooming in on live view to check.
The things I really liked about this location, was just how quiet and tranquil it was. We were there for some time and literally didn’t see a soul. I also really love how you can just about make out a crescent moon in the top left of the image. These is one of Phil’s “go-to” locations in Keswick, he joked about how a fellow photographer said he always shoots the same places, Phil explained, as weather conditions, water level and seasons change the variables make every photo different(I completely agree), and to truly master a shot or appreciate a location you need to understand every detail though practice. I likened this to how my wife says I only cook the same few dishes, to which I say, Isn’t that good? don’t they get better each time?
The next image was looking directly down the jetty, it was imperative to achieve a balanced shot, the jetty needed to be dead center with even amounts of water on each side and level. Phil pointed out not all landscape photos have to be landscape, it’s always worth trying a different perspective
The last image at this location was looking across to a little boat house on the opposite bank using a telephoto lens. The light was nicely catching the roof of the boat house that provided a hint of colour.
On to our next location Calfclose Bay. Looking over to Borrowdale there was some beautiful light falling into the valley.
I think being a photographer you never really assume anything, as anything can and will happen. This shot was setup nicely looking over to Borrowdale, the water was so still. I was waiting a little bit longer for the Sun to light up the other side of the valley when this paddle boarder appeared from the right of the photo. At the time I wasn’t quite sure if this had detracted from the subject, but in all honestly I think he makes the photo! I think this kind of thing must happen a lot to Phil, as recently he caught a Lady in a red dress who was brave enough to venture into the water
It was getting to around mid-day when the light was not at it’s best, so Phil suggested we move to our next location do some long exposure waterfall shots. While not your typical landscape photography subjects, it was still a skill I wanted to get better at.
As the day grew nearer to close(I really didn’t want it to end, as I had learnt so much from Phil) – We made our way to Ullswater
I had an awesome day with Phil – his patience, clear tuition, area knowledge and expertise were outstanding. He asked me what I wanted to get out of the day – I said I wanted to at least get one image I’d be happy to put on my wall at home – I wasnt expecting to get more than 10 ! If you want to check out more of Phil’s work it can be found here website / 500 px / Facebook