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Early rise landscapes

Getting up early can make all the difference if you want good landscape photos

| Landscape and Travel
An early rise is an important consideration if you want to ensure good landscape photographs
Words & Pictures George Standen
People often ask why I rise before 5 00am throughout the year, drive for miles in all weather, trek around the countryside, and generally return home shattered. I could give many answers, (peace, tranquillity, beauty, isolation,) to name but a few, or is the real reason, the search of the ultimate landscape photograph. Early rise landscapes: Early rise landscapes
Between Bala and Trawsfynydd Gwynedd, North Wales

I suppose anyone interested in landscape photography must have a love of the countryside, otherwise how can you get the best from your photography. You also need an understanding of the landscape, and also how light affects it. How changes occur throughout the year depending on the season. A particular location in the depths of winter will look quite different in the middle of June. The same can be said for different times of the day, and in particular, how urban landscapes take on a new meaning as the sun sets. The only way to understand and appreciate these changes is to visit a number of locations at different times of the year, and at various times of the day.

When planning a trip I rarely begin more than 24 hours in advance and will often go on impulse if the weather seems promising. February is one of my favourite times of the year, and if the weather's right I will be out most weekends.

After deciding on a location, I normally rise early and leave before the sun rises. I suppose I'm lucky, living in Cheshire, I can be in Wales in less than an hour, my favourite locations being Llangollen, Bala, and surrounding area. I also venture into Yorkshire and Derbyshire and have been rewarded with some good landscapes. However, I normally return to Wales again soon after. After deciding on the location, I will map out a route in a circle of approximately 10 miles and if time permits I will cover the route before 11 00am.

Early rise landscapes: Early rise landscapes
Near Llandegla, Gwynedd, North Wales

As 11 00am approaches, I'm normally on my way home as I find the light very flat and uninteresting later in the day. Some exceptions are made especially in the winter months when the sun's low or there is a promise of a good winter sunset.

After driving to the location I normally park the car and will walk to fully explore the area. On occasions you may notice scenes from the car, and even be lucky enough to stop and capture them on film. Unfortunately I find this is the exception rather than the rule and in order to fully understand the landscape you have to become part of it, which means walking. Early rise landscapes: Early rise landscapes
Near Macclesfield, Derbyshire

My equipment consists of a Canon EOS 600 body, Canon 50mm standard lens, 28-70mm and 70-210mm zoom lenses, various Cokin filters, Minolta Autometer III, and a Manfrotto tripod. My 28-70mm zoom lens is the workhorse of the outfit and is constantly attached to my camera. The quality of this lens is amazing. I've had Cibachromes printed up to 20x16in and the quality is superb. My Manfrotto tripod is used for every shot, and like any tripod although it's heavy, cumbersome, and awkward, I feel the benefits of using this piece of equipment outweighs other disadvantages. It slows you down, makes you stand back and evaluate the scene and, most important of all, prevents camera shake.

I regularly use filters and in particular grey and blue grad's to balance the contrast between the sky and the foreground and a polarising filter to reduce glare and deepen blue skies. To determine exposure, I normally use the camera in aperture priority and rely on the camera's six-zone evaluative metering system, which is brilliant. Early rise landscapes: Early rise landscapes
Near Llandegla, Clwyd, North Wales

I've found with experience, that using the camera's metering system and a graduated filter gives near perfect exposures in the majority of situations. I do from time to time bracket my exposures either side of the suggested reading, but find in the majority of cases that the first reading was the correct one.

In situation's of high contrast, I also use the camera's spot metering and take a reading of a mid tone or my hand held meter for an incident reading. The spot meter is also very handy to determine exposure for various parts of the landscape I may want to expose for. Early rise landscapes: Early rise landscapes
Bala Lake, Gwynedd, North Wales
Over the years I have tried many films and always return to Fujichrome ISO50 and ISO100. On dull days, especially during the winter months, the colours have more punch, but this can have its drawbacks if you are using some makes of grey graduated filter as you get a pink cast, which you either love or hate. Early rise landscapes: Early rise landscapes
Near Lake Bala, Gwynedd, North Wales

Film stock is a personal preference and each film has its own characteristics. The only way anyone will understand how various films react is to try them and analyse the results.
When the transparencies are returned they are scanned into Photoshop using a Minolta Scan Dual. Once adjustments are made using the Levels command the image is then cleaned up using the Clone tool to remove any dust marks etc, and to remove any unwanted items such as signs, posts etc.

The final stage is to apply Unsharp Mask to sharpen the image. I regularly print out the images and update my Web site, which can be viewed here

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