… Just don’t go according to plan.
I headed out to Bradgate Park in Leicestershire on Monday afternoon. It had been too long since I’d visited and I decided to take my tripod and have a stab at a panorama and maybe some focus stacked landscape shots.
It was a Monday afternoon in the summer holidays so I was expecting the place to be busy. And it was. The overflow car parks were in operation but I managed to get a spot quite near the entrance gate on the Newtown Linford car park. However, with a place this size (850 acres) I normally manage to find some isolation no matter how busy it is. The main tip here is just to set off away from the tarmac road which leads through the park to avoid the thronging crowds. So that’s what I did.
I was lugging way too much kit around with me. With my camera bag, tripod and big water bottle it came to over 10KG. I’ve written before about how liberated I feel when I shoot light. This was the opposite experience. Added to the weight I had the inconvenience of not having a way to strap my tripod to my camera bag so I was hand carrying that everywhere. I ended up with a rather sore thumb from the rubbing of the tripod leg I was gripping.
I’ve been watching way too many landscape photography vlogs on YouTube so I set out with that kind of shooting in mind. Slow, deliberate, planned. I had a composition in mind, something shot from the next hill to the east of the Old John tower, looking back at the landmark and using some of the rocky outcrops as a foreground.
The photo at the top of this post was taken just a little further to the left of where I took the snap above. I shot it as a stitched panorama at the 24mm end of my 10-24mm zoom.
I think watching all those vlogs had me in a frame of mind to be experimental. Yes, I’d shot panoramas before going back to film days (3 or 4 frames of film to end up with one image was quite costly back then) but I also decided to try composing using the screen on the back of my camera rather than the viewfinder. I never normally do this but with my camera secured on a tripod then why not? It might help quite a bit when the camera is in a low position and looking through the viewfinder will mean getting into an uncomfortable position, yes? Well, because in bright light it can be difficult to see the image on the LCD screen, that’s why not. However, I stuck with it – I was having an afternoon of experimentation after all. And I can say right now, I’ll be going back to the viewfinder 99% of the time.
So I shot my panorama and tried a few focus stacked images – focussing on the rock formation as my foreground and then on the hill in the background with a view to merging the exposures in Photoshop to have a sharp image from front to back. I’m not bothering to share the results here, suffice it to say that I wasn’t really happy with them.
The light was nothing special on Monday afternoon so after a while I decided to just sit on top of this hill for a while and take in the views. I’m a Leicestershire native and have been visiting Bradgate Park for longer than I can remember and yet, having felt that I’d explored the park thoroughly over the years, I realised that I’d never been up this particular hill before. So I sat there and vaped for a while, enjoying the peace and quiet and staring down towards Bradgate House where I could see all the crowds of people walking along the road like ants.
On my way back to the car park I decided to head back down to that road near the ruins of the house, even though that meant picking my way through the crowds. I managed to nab a couple of reasonable (and obligatory) deer shots as I went and then spotted a family of swans near one of the waterfalls on the River Lin, momentarily invaded by a crow. These were shot hand held with my 100-400mm lens.
The results from the afternoon were as follows :-
- Worn out from lugging all that kit around. On the up side, probably good exercise!
- A sore thumb from gripping that tripod all the time.
- A sense of frustration at not really having achieved what I set out to do.
- A determination to carry less equipment with me. Yes, having “everything” there can open up opportunities – but it can also remove them because you’re spending so long faffing about with bits of kit.
- Realisation that I could have shot that panorama hand held and likely got as good if not better results.
- Thoroughly enjoyed myself despite my perceived failures. It was great just to get out and see what I saw.