Starlings Masterclass


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Autumn Colour

November 2009 |

The very end of October, my deadline for this month’s Masterclass – is, I reckon the key time for autumn colour, and I’ll always try to find time to get to one of my favourite ‘woodlandy’ haunts. Sadly, I think this has been a rubbish autumn, with earlier than usual proper frosts and major storms combining to strip the leaves off well before I’ve had my fill of the spectacle.

I settled in the end for the Eden Valley – the number of people around during half term week in the centre of the Lakes sends me nuts. If you ever want spend all day talking, just, set up a tripod in a busy spot, you’ll soon have company.

With my deadline imminent, I went on a day without particularly good light, but with a useful mix of sun and cloud but, most importantly for the photography, a day with little wind. Such a relief after the persistent October gales.

As usual, I took my tripod and my 2 Nikon D200 SLRs, one with the 17-55mm zoom lens attached, the other with the 105 lens. Also in my camera rucksack I packed spare batteries, memory cards and a flask and rations – I don’t normally break up photo sessions by going to a café or pub, however much I’d love to!

I parked just beyond the River Eden bridge at Armathwaite, and spent a few hours toodling about on the east side of the river Although the autumn colours were limited, it was a great spot to be, and a rewarding place for a photographic poke around. The half term crowds were totally absent. I haven’t included photos here, but the ruined mill by the weir, along with the sandstone cliffs, reached from above by a steeply descending path, further along from the weir, are really great for textural interest. If the river is particularly low, it’s fun to pick a way back along the river from the little sandy beach to see the carved faces in the rock.

Just as I was leaving I glanced back up the river, and saw this fleeting moment of sun (image 1), which provided lovely moody evening light. Rather than spending time getting my tripod sorted, I popped my camera on a little bean bag, using the bridge’s parapet as a handy support. My cable release was, as usual, attached to the camera. I focused on the far distance but, using an aperture of f 16 meant that the closer trees were still in focus. Exposure was tricky, so I took a number of rapid shots at different settings, in the expectation that at least one should work.

My visit followed a day or two after one of October’s major rainstorms, and salmon were jumping at the old weir (Image 2). I’m no wildlife photographer and spent an enjoyable, even if highly frustrating, couple of hours trying to photograph this. Out of about 15 attempts, only a couple worked. Most of the photos just showed disappearing tails – I simply wasn’t quick enough. (Advice welcomed!!) I hand held the camera and used my 105mm lens. I could have used my longer lens but I wanted some context, and an ISO rating of 400 so that my shutter speed of 1/2500th of a second was easily fast enough to catch the action. Unfortunately my reactions struggled to match it!