Most towns and villages have a legend or two, and Hole of Horcum in North Yorkshire is no different. According to folklore, a giant called Wade scooped up a huge clod of earth resulting in a hollow that is 400ft (120m) deep and wide. The reasons for Wade’s actions seem to differ depending on who you ask, but however the hollow was formed it has created a landscape photographer’s dream. In the right conditions, the area offers spellbinding banks of mist blanketing the area and the morning sun throws shafts of light onto the land. In winter, snow transforms the area into a stunning white vista offering the kinds of moments every photographer prays for.
Gathered in the cold and blustery early morning air, Tom Mackie and four AP readers survey the land and discuss their tactics for the day.
‘This is a prime location for showing off the gentle undulations of the heather-covered landscape,’ says Tom. ‘You’ll find all sorts of beautiful details here, such as bracken and rosebay willowherb, that we can use in our foregrounds to great effect. Beyond that, you have nice strong lines and S-shapes that can guide the viewer’s eye through the location. There are also a few barns and farmhouses that we can potentially use as subjects.
Photo by Andrea Hargreaves
‘We’re going to be covering various techniques to create exciting landscapes using composition, filters and depth of field,’ he says. ‘The light is a little flat today, but that’s fine because in a location like this, evocative and dramatic images are a given.’
Tried-and-tested tools, such as polarising filters and neutral density (ND) graduated filters, can help to bring out the best in a location. ‘Using polarising filters, we can increase colour saturation and, weather permitting, darken the blue skies to give us deep rich tones,’ Tom explains. ‘We’ll also be exploring ND grad filters, which we can use to control and balance the exposure of our images. As we’re going to be faced with bright skies on top of landscapes where we want to retain the detail, this is going to a particularly useful tool.’
As well as Hole of Horcum, Tom and the AP readers also plan to explore Falling Foss in May Beck – a stunning natural waterfall that is one of North Yorkshire’s best-kept secrets.
Your AP Master…
A former contributor to AP’s Photo insight series, Tom Mackie is one of the world’s leading photographers. He has spent many years as an architectural, industrial and landscape photographer, and has a penchant for panoramic photography.
Tom has published several books and written numerous articles for photography magazines. He also lectures on photography and regularly holds workshops in the UK and abroad. www.tommackie.com
The AP readers…
Andrea likes to capture wildlife, urban portraits, abstracts, action and travel photographs. She uses a Canon EOS 60D with a Canon 18-200mm zoom. ‘The day was relaxed and informative,’ she says. ‘We learned how to use graduated filters and their benefits in landscape photography.’
Phil’s favoured subjects are aircraft, landscapes, travel and wildlife photography. He shoots using a Nikon D7000 with Tamron 17-50mm and Sigma 70-300mm zoom lenses. ‘We learned to assess the view from different sites and different angles,’ he says. ‘We also looked at how to compose the image.’
Adrian likes shooting events, festivals, macro flower photography and landscapes. He uses a Nikon D60 with a Sigma 18-250mm lens. ‘This has inspired me to do more landscape photography,’ he says.’ I’d forgotten how colourful the North Yorkshire Moors are.’
David enjoys experimenting with different subjects, but landscapes remain his firm favourite. He uses a Canon EOS 500D with a 15-85mm lens. ‘It was a great experience,’ he says. ‘Tom got me thinking about focusing and composition in ways that I had never considered before.’
Would you like to take part?
Every month we invite three to five AP readers to join one of our four experts on a free assignment over the course of a day. If you would like to take part, visit transport.kelsey.host/amateurphotographer/masterclass for details of how to apply. Please remember to state which Masterclass you would like to attend and make sure you include your name, address, email address, daytime telephone number, some words about your work and three or four of your images.
Background & Foreground
When exploring the landscape, there are
two elements that vie for the photographer’s eye. These are the wide
expanses of land that stretch from the midground to the horizon, and the
immediate rich detail of the foreground that lies just beneath the eye
of the lens. According to Tom, though, these two features need not stand
alone – both can easily be incorporated into one image.
you’re able to include the immediate foreground as well as the
landscape, it’s worth looking at how those elements can work together,’
he says. ‘Not only does it add depth to your image, but it also puts the
details of the foreground in context and presents them within the
Photo by Phil Hargreaves
in the cold and blustery early morning air, Tom Mackie and four AP
readers survey the land and discuss their tactics for the day.
is a prime location for showing off the gentle undulations of the
heather-covered landscape,’ says Tom. ‘You’ll find all sorts of
beautiful details here, such as bracken and rosebay willowherb, that we
can use in our foregrounds to great effect. Beyond that, you have nice
strong lines and S-shapes that can guide the viewer’s eye through the
location. There are also a few barns and farmhouses that we can
potentially use as subjects.
‘We’re going to be covering various
techniques to create exciting landscapes using composition, filters and
depth of field,’ he says. ‘The light is a little flat today, but that’s
fine because in a location like this, evocative and dramatic images are
Tried-and-tested tools, such as polarising filters
and neutral density (ND) graduated filters, can help to bring out the
best in a location. ‘Using polarising filters, we can increase colour
saturation and, weather permitting, darken the blue skies to give us
deep rich tones,’ Tom explains. ‘We’ll also be exploring ND grad
filters, which we can use to control and balance the exposure of our
images. As we’re going to be faced with bright skies on top of
landscapes where we want to retain the detail, this is going to a
particularly useful tool.’
As well as Hole of Horcum, Tom and
the AP readers also plan to explore Falling Foss in May Beck – a
stunning natural waterfall that is one of North Yorkshire’s best-kept
When shooting the landscape, it is a
good idea to have a telephoto lens as well as the obvious choice of a
wideangle. Both lenses can bring out unique characteristics of the land
and reveal the myriad components that make up a successful landscape
Photo by Adrian Ward
a wideangle lens serves the purpose of giving you a dramatic and
sweeping view of the landscape,’ says Tom. ‘You’re able to include a lot
of foreground as well as the midground, horizon and sky. However, you
shouldn’t stick with this lens because the telephoto has much to offer
in the landscape. A telephoto lens can take little pockets of scenery
out of the overall landscape and produce various compositions. If you
use a telephoto you can get in close and explore all the little
intricate lines and details of the landscape that can draw your viewer’s
eye into a subject of your choice, such as a barn or an arrangement of
Using a telephoto lens, which can cause distortion, also
means that you can experiment with pan stitches. This is a technique
that is particularly effective when faced with wide-open spaces.
Photo by David Walker
stitches, or panoramas, give the viewer a real sense of just how huge
the location is,’ says Tom. ‘They can be incredibly effective. You shoot
a sequence of images and then piece them all together in
post-production to form one huge photograph. Make sure you have a sturdy
tripod on a flat surface and that your camera is set to manual
settings, which you should be using anyway. Also make sure that the
autofocus function is turned off. Then gradually pan your camera in
increments from one end of the landscape to the next, taking a photo
with each pan. Once you have your images, import them into Photoshop and
use the Photomerge function (File>Automate>Photomerge).’
such as Hole of Horcum offer copious amounts of detail, as well as
sweeping fields. A good tool to use when attempting to capture both
elements is a tilt-and-shift lens (for more on tilt-and-shift lenses,
see AP explains… on pages 64-65 of AP dated 10 September 2011).
such as this are an ideal spot to try out a tilt-and-shift lens,’ says
Tom. ‘We mostly associate this lens with art-based images that have
large portions of blur surrounding selective pin-sharp areas that create
faux miniature scenes. Here we’re going to putting the lens to
Photo by Tom Mackie
landscape photography, getting everything in focus is usually the
objective, but it is one that can often prove difficult when dealing
with points of focus that are both near and far away. Using the tilt
function on a tilt-and-shift lens means that once the background is in
focus, the foreground can also be brought into focus without having to
resort to a large f-number.
‘With the windy conditions that
we’re facing in these early hours, it’s going to be a problem using a
standard wideangle lens,’ says Tom. ‘Obviously, we want a large depth of
field in order to get everything in focus, but consequently that means
we have to resort to a long shutter speed. This means that the foliage
in our foreground is going to move. If you have a tilt-and-shift lens
this problem can be easily overcome.
‘When using a
tilt-and-shift lens you can leave your aperture fairly wide open because
you’re focusing on one part of the composition, such as the midground,’
Tom continues. ‘Once you have that one plane in focus, you can adjust
the tilt button on your lens and bring your foreground into focus. That
means you can get everything you want in focus and shoot using 1/60sec
or 1/80sec. By using the tilt function you can control the focus
Hyperfocal distance is the
nearest distance at which a lens can be focused while keeping objects in
the background (infinity) acceptably sharp.
Photo by Andrea Hargreaves
put it simply, hyperfocal distance is making the most of your depth of
field,’ says Tom. ‘Let’s say that you’re shooting at f/14. In the
distance there’s a barn you’d like to get in focus. If you focus on the
barn, all of that usable depth of field is going on the barn and it’s
not bringing anything to the foreground, which will be out of focus.
However, if we take the image above as our example, you’ll see that the
best place to focus is one-third into the frame, which is the edge of
the heather ridge [that’s one-third into the image you see through the
viewfinder or in live view, not the environment as you see it outside
the camera]. If you focus at that point, you are maximising your depth
of field. That means that everything is acceptably sharp.’
Using a Filter
allow photographers to retain more control over the final result of
their images. Some produce subtle effects, whereas others are more
dramatic. In some cases, they actually help to create images that would
otherwise not be possible without them.
Photo by Andrea Hargreaves
some landscape images you’re going to find that there is a drastic
contrast between the necessary exposures for your sky and foreground,’
says Tom. ‘When you’re faced with this situation, you need to apply a
filter – in this case, a graduated neutral density filter, otherwise
know as a split neutral density filter. With a graduated filter, half
the filter is neutral density. This means that half the filter is grey
and either reduces or modifies the intensity of wavelengths of light or
Graduated neutral density filters are used to bring an
excessively bright part of a scene into balance with the rest of the
image. It can be used to darken a bright sky so that both the sky and
subject can be properly exposed. The easiest way to remember this is:
the greater the contrast, the darker the grad.
Photo by Andrea Hargreaves
With ND Grad
‘ND filters can
basically be split into two categories: hard and soft,’ explains Tom.
‘Hard and soft refer to the transition between the grey half and the
clear half of the filter. With a hard edge, the transition is abrupt and
is used when there is a distinct change in brightness levels, such as
in a picture of a field with a horizon line that splits the landscape
from a bright sky. A soft-edged filter is used when there is no clear
distinction between the light and dark portions of your image.’
are available in a range of intensities (how many stops down you want
to bring your highlights), ranging from 0.3 ND/1 stop to 0.9/ 3 stops.
Some manufacturers produce more advanced filters (including the famed
10-stop filter), but most photographers use 1-3 stops.
you may find yourself in a position where the intensity of the filters
you have aren’t quite up to the job,’ says Tom. ‘It may turn out that
you need a 4-stop filter. The easiest solution is to use two filters
together such as a 0.3 and a 0.9 filter. Of course, there’s always the
option to work on the image in Lightroom [as we’ll see later], but it’s
always better to get it right in-camera.’
A polarising filter
has two distinct uses: it can darken skies by filtering out the
polarised component of skylight, and it can remove reflections from
surfaces such as water.
‘I often use a polarising filter when
shooting foliage,’ says Tom. ‘Using the filter can actually reduce
reflections, which is something we wouldn’t commonly associate with
vegetation. If you hold up a polariser and look through it at some
leaves, you’ll see that the colours look incredibly fresh and saturated,
particularly in the greens. However, you should always remember to add
11⁄2-2 stops of exposure because you’re losing some light with the
filter on your lens.
‘People new to polarisers shouldn’t allow
the differences between circular polarisers and linear polarisers to
confuse them,’ adds Tom. ‘Visually, there is no difference between the
two. It’s just that they polarise the light passing through in different
ways. Circular types are best for any camera with AF.’
are a number of software packages that can bring out the hidden
qualities of your landscape images. Despite your best efforts out on the
field, even images taken in ideal conditions can sometimes appear
strangely flat and unsaturated. Tom’s favoured software is Adobe
Photoshop Lightroom, a program designed to assist Adobe Photoshop in
managing large numbers of digital files and handle post-processing
duties on images that need adjusting.
‘There are some features
in Lightroom that are, in my opinion, a little more user-friendly than
in Photoshop,’ he says. ‘But equally there are some features in
Photoshop that I find easier to work with, such as the Clone and Healing
tools. It’s all about personal preference.’
Photo by Adrian Ward
takes the users through a handful of key features of Lightroom. ‘You’ll
be working on the raw files that you’ve shot on location, but it’s
important to remember that the processing you’re doing in the software
doesn’t affect the actual raw file,’ says Tom. ‘You don’t ever affect
the original file. So if you end up making some major changes that you
dislike, there’s no need to panic.
‘Generally, there is a set
process of things I look at,’ continues Tom. ‘I often start by checking
the exposure and taking that up or down depending on requirements. You
have the option of moving the exposure slider up and down, which will
adjust the overall exposure of your image so the whole picture either
goes lighter or darker. But you also have the option of adjusting the
blacks, fill light (midtones) and, with the Recovery tool, you can
recover details in your highlights that were lost during the exposure.’
Tom looks at the saturation and vibrancy of his image. ‘People often
confuse the saturation and vibrancy settings,’ says Tom. ‘Vibrancy acts
on unsaturated pixels, whereas saturation works on the whole image.
Going too far on either setting can give your image a very unrealistic
feel. I generally limit myself to 30 or 40% on both settings.’
Crop tool, under the Develop menu and the third icon along underneath
your image preview screen, is particularly important, as it can help fix
crooked horizons – a flaw that can spoil an otherwise good image.
Photoshop, the Free Transform and Rotate tools can leave you with a lot
of blank canvas, meaning that you have to crop out portions of your
image,’ says Tom. ‘This doesn’t happen in Lightroom. If you move the
slider on the Angle control, it will straighten your image. There won’t
be any annoying black canvas to crop out.’
Tom takes the AP readers through Lightroom’s in-built Gradient tool.
Using this tool can help the photographer achieve similar effects to
those gained using a ND graduated filter on their camera lens.
Graduated Filter tool is something that you can spend an age playing
with,’ says Tom. ‘It can help you to darken skies, and give your image a
dramatic and moody veneer. But it can also help to bring out details by
brightening certain areas of your image.’
To apply a gradient
filter, select the Graduated Filter tool (Figure 1) in the Adjustment
Brushes panel. ‘Click on the edge of the image closest to the region you
want to make the adjustment,’ explains Tom (see Figure 2). ‘In the case
of our images, it’s likely to be the top of the image where the sky is.
Then, drag the gradient marker towards the centre of the image,
stopping where you want the adjustment to fade out. You can use the
buttons and sliders in the Mask panel (just below the brush selector) to
adjust the selected portion. It’s as simple as that.’