Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Stop, stare, appreciate, consider, compose, capture

10th December 2007

As long as I have taking treks through the countryside, a camera or two have come too to capture any of the glorious sights that have awaited me. Digital and film SLR’s have been my staple for most of those treks. From a photography point of view though, the idea of being a walker with a camera does place some constraints on the quality of the photography.

Let’s take landscape photography as an example since the capture of scenic delights is a likely occupation for the avid hillwalker. A high quality landscape image demands a high level of sharpness and that means that tripods are a staple need. Carrying one adds weight and using one slows you down, an advantage for when it comes to making considered images but a nuisance for the impatient too. A monopod with a spirit level is an option but tripods reign supreme.

Continuing the landscaper theme, times of day are another consideration. Golden hours around dawn and dusk come to mind and they in themselves place additional demands on those of us who use public transport. It’s not so bad in winter but summer is another story and thoughts of bivvying and camping come to mind; both of which are journeys that I have yet to undertake, let alone reach an advanced stage on their respective trajectories. Maybe, trots into the local hills from my home would be a good starting point.

Then, there’s the weather. Some sun really helps but clear blue skies are not necessarily the be all and end all that some might think them to be. In fact, having a lot of cloud in the sky with an unobscured sun can produce far more interesting results than a day with a clear blue sky. I certainly find the sun/cloud combination intriguing and enjoy being out in those conditions.

Next up for consideration is the whole area of planning and getting to know an area to find out what it offers. This is where the hillwalking habit really comes into its own. A first visit would allow one to get a deeper appreciation of a location and its photographic opportunities. Noting down what is found and making a number of documentary photos would help too. Apart from the lack of note taking, that is probably the stage that I usually reach. thinking about it, it is from there that I need to progress. Returning to the noted opportunity spots would follow and a spot of scouting for foreground interest would ensue. That might be the point when I start taking out my rarely used Mandrotto tripod in anger or other visits might be needed, especially when the weather doesn’t play ball or my photographic vision isn’t yet what it should be; hopefully, practice and reviewing photos, both others’ and mine, should help the latter.

Time is another commodity of which good photography demands its fair share. There’s a big difference between a standard bimble though the countryside and a trot with a photographic objective. The latter needs a few walks beforehand to get to know the area and plenty of time planned in for one or more stops along the way. That certainly means some adjustments to the way that I do things and 2008 might be a good time to start. I’ll hopefully continue to ply my way along long distance trails but walking with a more avowedly photographic purpose sounds like a good way to make me revisit places where I already have been. Now, I must find a way for that Mandrotto to travel into the great outdoors…

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