Revisiting a Location
Four images, four days, one location, one favourite. This short article is about revisiting a location and how that can make an impact on the final images that result. In this case I have have chosen to illustrate this with four photographs I have made of Curbar Edge in the Derbyshire Peak District. I am fortunate to live about 20 minutes away by car so am able to go there on a whim if I want to - which will depend on the weather and promise of the lighting at that very moment.
Curbar Edge is one of my favourite parts of the Derbyshire Peak District and given its easy access from home and the car park being at Curbar Gap (right between Curbar and Baslow Edges - not actually visible in the pictures here) means there's no long climb up. All this means I can visit often and even if the light does not work it is not a big wasted journey! From 2004 to 2007 I have visited Curbar some twenty or so times and although only four images are shown there are many hundreds more! I have pulled out four images that are very similar in viewpoint and composition, but very different in the final result.
The first image is the result of a photograph I had thought of long before I took it. Having walked along the Edge a good few times I could "see" a view along Curbar with Baslow Edge in the distance. The first problem was finding a suitable vantage point that took in a good stretch of the rocks without needing to have wings to see it! There are several rocky pieces that stick out and I ventured out to look at the view, initially without having a camera with me. Now I could actually see the view that I had imagined.
I returned soon with my camera, a Canon 20D and 17-85mm lens. The first image (2005-1481) was taken on 13th July 2005 with the lens at 17mm - which is the 35mm equivalent of 27mm. I feel the composition is OK, but the rock to the middle and left of the image dominates too much. I used a polarising filter to assist with the sky, but there's still something missing - the light is just about OK and the picture does not show the rockface in its best colours.
(2005-1481) Curbar Edge, 9.20pm 13th July 2005
The second picture (2006-0636) was taken on 23rd June 2006 with a Canon 5D and 24 - 105mm f4 L IS lens with the lens at 47mm. This picture just does not work. I should have used a wider lens to include more of Baslow Edge in the distance. The sky is just rubbish and you can see the shadow of the perch where I stood on the rockface. I also remember this day was quite windy and struggled to keep the camera steady on the tripod. Not a good result!
(2006-0636) Curbar Edge, 9.05pm 23rd June 2006
The third picture (2006-0820) is my all time favourite picture of Curbar Edge. Well, I like it anyway! This was taken on 3rd July 2006 with the Canon 5D and a 17 - 40mm f4 L lens at 24mm. I also used a polarising filter and ND grad. The composition was better than those above; I had moved out just slightly and tried to balance the view with the rock face on the left with Baslow Edge in the background. I could not get the moorland in the distance below the top of Baslow Edge so wanted to ensure it was not broken by the edge. There are also good lines - the fissures lead my eye from the left to the right in the view. The light was much, much better than previous attempts. As can be seen from the timestamp I waited longer until the sun was just below the distant horizon. This left a better light and the sky rather more interesting - but still very subtle effect rather than a big sunset taking away from the rock face.
The first time I printed this picture large was the first time I had ever printed any images from my Canon 5D larger than A4. I was absolutely blown away with the 19 x 13 print and the level of detail within it. The colours were to my mind just wonderful. It is quite possible, then, that this picture has some sentimental value driving its position as my favourite Curbar Edge picture. Please judge for yourself.
The final image here (2006-0943) was taken with precisely the same equipment as the above but the lens set at 27mm, almost the same as the previous image. The small difference in focal length and my precise position have weakened the balance of composition - there's insufficient space at the right hand side. I have also managed to cut off too much of the rocks in the bottom left and consequently it just is not quite right. However, the light just doesn't work! The distant Baslow Edge is too dark and the sky has no soul. I just don't like it.
(2006-0943) Curbar Edge, 9.20pm 16th July 2006
I do have many other images broadly similar to those above, but to include them and provide any narrative would be stretching the point. The point? I do not like manipulating the image although I am happy to tweak the white balance, gently adjust colours, remove camera sensor dust spots and crop images. For the above images I have performed no other manipulation at all; I do not believe I could have got the results in the third image in any other way. "Waiting for the light" is the title of more than one book or article that describe the wait to capture the perfect image, but I do believe it is rather apposite. Getting to know the subject is just so important to capturing the best image. Knowing how and when the light falls, precisely where the best viewpoints are and how to use your equipment to capture what you see are all important. When it is practical to do so, revisiting the same location will help all of these and you will capture the view you "see".
Obvious stuff really, but I just wanted to illustrate the point.