Scales Moor feels like a bleak place before dawn in winter, especially so when a bitter wind is streaming down from the north. Cold aside with a dusting of overnight snow coating the bare wind scoured Karst, it was still a truly inspirational landscape.
A quick check of the map using a sunset/sunrise calculator the night before suggested that the sun would rise just to the right of Ingleborough and this morning in the pre-dawn I could see the sky was lightening just where I predicted. For the main image I wanted to use the shape of the Karst formations as the main focus of interest with the fissures leading the eye towards the mountain of Ingleborough. Ideally I wanted to obtain the maximum depth of field possible and stopped down to f22 on my 18-40mm wide-angle lens. Also to give me the greatest control, I prefer shooting on manual and as the sun was not yet visible, I had to wait until it was close to rising before I set the shutter speed and choose the correct graduated filter to retain some detail in the foreground
The colour in the sky was increasing in intensity and I removed my gloves to fit the filter holder only to find the wind sucked the heat from my hands in seconds. With numb fingers it was nigh on impossible to do such a fiddly job and I dropped the holder, which simply broke in two. There was little I could do to carry out a repair in these conditions, so with the sun almost visible and the sky now suffused with red and yellow bands of soft light, I began taking a series of shots bracketing up to 2 stops either side of the meter reading planning to merge them in photoshop later. A quick check on the camera screen and it was clear that all of the initial shots were very soft. Typically as is often the case when everything appears to be against you it is simply a case of stopping, thinking and working out how to solve the problems. The slow shutter speed coupled with such a strong wind meant that even on a tripod with mirror lock and a remote release there was some movement. By reducing the aperture setting from f22 to f14 I was able to use a faster shutter speed and despite the compromise in depth of field was able to get shots that were acceptably sharp. Importantly, as I like to avoid sitting in front of a computer screen I decided to try using the 0.6 graduated filter hand held. Confident that hand holding the filter had worked and that I had some acceptable images I began to relax a little and enjoy the picture making process. The result was the image below.
Fortunately creating the next image was not so fraught with problems. The attraction here was the shape of the limestone rocks coupled with a lone tree that despite the inhospitable conditions was able to survive here. The composition I felt emphasised the bleak nature of this landscape in winter. Again I set up the camera using the fissures between the rocks to lead the eye into the picture and as the sky was now much lighter I used a polarising filter to saturate the pale blue of the sky and highlight the clouds more.
Despite the conditions, the cold fingers and the broken filter holder I was happy that I had managed to create some images that while not perfect, I still felt captured the feeling of such a bleak cold landscape. People often say you must suffer for your art - sometimes it's true.
Text/Images - Copyright David Forster