Mark Lucock 

Fine Art Nature & Landscape Photography


 

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Tutorial                                                                                                                                     

Creating a sense of movement in a landscape:

Learn how this image was rendered?

Equipment:

 - 5x4 inch view camera suited to extreme wide-angle perspective with front tilt

 - Fuji QuickLoadTM film holder loaded with ISO 50 Velvia film

 - Sekonic spot lightmeter

 - Small 18% grey card

 - Rodenstock wide-angle lens

 - 2.5 stop concentric ND graduated filter

 - Heavy duty Benbo tripod

 - Cable release

 - Stop watch

 - Horseman 8x loupe

 - Ground glass/ fresnel focusing screen  

 - Focusing bellows/dark cloth

 - Umbrella

 

Image attributes:

- Sense of movement in water provides a powerful dynamic to image

- Front tilt ensured near to far sharpness, a very dense 2.5 stop concentric ND grad filter, extremely small aperture (f32), slow ISO 50 film, and overcast/rainy day all conspired to yield the very long shutter speed (8 seconds) needed to create this sense of movement. Dull overcast days are best for this kind of photography - sunny days are the very worst due to high contrast

- High resolution file from huge transparency

Stainforth Force, River Ribble, Yorkshire Dales National Park, UK Mark Lucock

Stainforth is a tiny hamlet about two miles north of Settle on the south-western flanks of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is therefore at the epicentre of some fine photogenic scenery: 3 miles to the south east is beautiful Scalebor Force, to the east is Malham with its cove, Gordale Scar and Janets Foss, while to the north you have the magnificent limestone furrow that is Ribblesdale. Stainforth itself stands on an ancient trade route between York and Lancaster. The historical route passes right next to Stainforth Force as it crosses the River Ribble over a 17th century pack horse bridge which is now maintained by the National Trust.

Shooting on my 5x4 Ebony SV45TE view camera, I decided to use my 75mm Rodenstock Grandagon N wide-angle lens. Of critical importance was my decision to use a matched 2.5 stop concentric ND graduated filter for this particular subject. What this means is that I now set my spot meter to around f64 meter some green foliage and read off the corresponding shutter speed. I then use this speed, but drop the aperture by 2.5 stops from say f64.5 to f32. Indeed, the shot here was f32 at 8 seconds on Velvia. This procedure is only done after the difficulties of removing the filter to achieve critical focus, and then replacing it to actually expose a sheet of film - the only approach to take on such a dull day.

After 5 or 6 sheets you start to get into the swing of this rather convoluted operational protocol.  Focusing itself, is really quite easy as the image projected with this lens is superbly crisp, and snaps into focus. Without the concentric ND filter on, the hot spot on the ground glass is really pronounced, in this case made all the worse by the brightness of the foaming cascade which fully occupied the centre of the frame. Without the filter, the image would unquestionably have had an unacceptable exposure gradient radiating from the centre outwards. Concentric ND graduated filters are essential when using medium and large format extreme wide-angle lenses such as this; otherwise clear light fall off occurs at the edge of the frame.

Focusing and exposing the image involves the same process as explained in the tutorial relating to Somersby Falls in Brisbane Water National Park (Aust). Set the aperture to a wide aperture and use front or rear tilt to control the plane of focus. This involves focusing the camera rail using the most distant subject within the field of view. I establish critical focus on the fresnel/ground glass screen using a Horseman 8x loupe (bear in mind the image I see is inverted). I then use forward tilt until the foreground is crisply in focus. Then I use the camera rails to refocus on a distant subject. I repeat these iterations several times until both near and far subjects are in focus to my satisfaction. I then often take a quick look at the tripod borne camera to visualise whether the three planes (film, lens and subject) intersect in a way that is described by the Scheimpflug rule*. Before exposing the film, I then shut down the aperture to at least f22 (in this case f32). This further increases depth of field along the new plane of focus generated by front tilt. This is quite important, since it allows tall components in a scene to remain within the field of focus. Having said this, very tall trees can extend out of the plane of focus and appear soft in the final image, so extreme care is required in your preliminary assessment of a scene. The next job is to insert the film holder, cock the shutter, withdraw the Velvia film emulsion from its light tight sheath, meter and remeter till satisfied, set the appropriate shutter and aperture, and fire the shutter - see why good nature and landscape photographic art has a value attached to it. Clearly, a lot goes into the making of large format photographic art. Due to the weight of the equipment (particularly the heavy tripod) and the complexity of the set up, the effort involved in making this kind of image ensures that long before you even trip the shutter, you have both invested a lot of time, and thought deeply about the picture you are chasing.

This is picture making - not picture taking. It may be a laboriously slow process, but it is still the ultimate way to render your landscapes as photographic art. If you want to know more about this and other techniques in nature and landscape photography, consider buying one of my books.

*The Scheimpflug rule states that subject, lens board and film planes must either be parallel to one another, or meet at a common intersection along their planar axes