Getting to know a place...

Blog - Phil-osophy on Landscape Photography > Getting to know a place...
12/08/2013 - 13:11

“To know fully even one field or one land is a lifetime's experience. In the world of poetic experience it is depth that counts, not width. A gap in a hedge, a smooth rock surfacing a narrow lane, a view of a woody meadow, the stream at the junction of four small fields - these are as much as a man can fully experience.”


 Patrick Kavanagh (Irish Poet and Writer, 1904-1967)




In making repeated visits to a location, we can get to know more about its potential for light in different conditions/ seasons and times of day.



There is something to be said for doing this with locations that are near to where you live, as with subtle changes to the weather on a given day may give you more of a chance to react to ‘unfolding opportunities’ – rather than cycling/ driving to a more spectacular location some distance away.



In my case, I am lucky enough to be a stone’s-throw away from a ridged hill that on its northern slope offers views across a rural valley to the southern slopes of Dartmoor National Park. It offers a variety of ‘points of view’  of the bucolic landscape below – including ancient ‘Green Lanes’ (old drover’s road tracks), distant church spires, rolling fields, and distant high moorland with views of Haytor’s  twin granite summits.




The cooler months bring the enchanting charms of inverted cloud bases, with the odd farm and church spire appearing between the snaking mists. These opportunities arise infrequently, but if the sun is vaguely apparent through the veil of mist  from my home, then I have a chance of photographing the mists hanging in the valley from one of several elevated spots on the ridge nearby (though this depends in itself how thick the inverted cloud is of course... many times, I just can’t get quite high enough above the mists). When the factors all come into harmony then it can be a magical sight to witness.








Early mornings in this valley offer the chance of mists in the Autumn, Winter and early Spring.




The Salutation of the Dawn

'The Salutation of the Dawn'









I don't ask for the meaning...

'I don't ask for the meaning'




Evening light seems to work best in or approaching the ‘golden hour’ for much of the year – even with the significant variations in the sun’s path towards where it sinks, the foreground valley is wide enough to let light grace the valley floor until quite late in the day. In Late Spring  & summer however, the sun sets ‘behind’ the southern slopes of Dartmoor, so sunset light will no longer bathe the floor of the immediate valley.




The Whispers of Truth

'The Whispers of Truth'




Jackman's Journey

'Jackman's Journey'









The sky in the photo below was made a few minutes after the sun had set beyond the Dartmoor hills on a summer’s evening in early August. The pleasantly lit clouds, for a few moments, reflected the steeply projected ‘afterglow’ light.  A pretty sky and a nice ‘point of view, though it for me doesn’t quite say what I want to say about the view. For me this one suggests that early mornings and golden evening light are my favored times for making photos in this valley.






Doing research on viewpoint possibilities (try and work some out for yourself, rather than just going to the classic spots that countless others have photographed from maybe?) by use of Ordnance Survey Maps (or equivalent in your country), Google Earth, Geograph UK, etc.



Also using the brilliant Photographer’s Ephemeris (free for p.c. or an affordable App. for your smartphone) is recommended – it will show you the paths of the sun and moon for any location, anywhere in the world on any given day.


The other thing to do is check a decent weather forecast regularly (e.g. The Met Office for UK photographers) and learn as much as you can about different types of weather – it will really help you to get an idea of ‘what might happen’.



Active weather in particular can offer wonderful transient light opportunities of ‘puddles of light’ and shadows flickering across the landscape.



Approaching or clearing storm fronts can offer dramatic chiaroscuro scenarios and if the rain has just stopped and the sunlight is returning, then the air will be wonderfully haze-free, vegetation verdant and offer some of the best conditions for striking photos of the wider landscape.


The Layer Cake

'The Layer Cake'


Much of this advice (especially on research and evaluation of: weather, landforms and the path of the sun) can be applied to locations we wish to explore further afield and linked into my recent article on 'Transient Light & Mindfulness' it can offer a considered approach that may well improve your chances of success of making emotive photographs of the landscape.


As always, I encourage you to share your thoughts on this blog post


Thanks for taking the time to read it,




Add a Comment


Email (not displayed):