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Stephen Elliott – Higger Tor and the reverse ND grad

Blog Posted on 17 Oct 2011

The start of October was fantastic but then rapidly deteriorated to dank wet and miserable weather, I was finding myself going stir crazy waiting for conditions to change to be able to go out and shoot some landscapes.

Friday evening (14th) looked promising with a nice sunset followed by a rapid drop in temperature so a morning mist would be highly probable the next day, one of the nice things about shooting at this time of year is that sunrises are at a more civilised time so getting up at 6am Saturday was relatively easy.

Higger Tor is a place that works well for both sunrise and sunsets and is one of the classic photography locations in the Peak District, you can virtually guarantee there will be other photographers here at a weekend so if you are looking for peace and solitude I would advise coming during the week.

I arrived just after 06:30 about an hour before the sun was due to rise and made my way up onto the edge, pre-dawn is a great time for shooting as the skies produce some amazing colour as the sun gradually rises towards the horizon, the downside is that the foreground tends to be very dark so ideally you need to find something that will reflect the light, no problem when shooting at the coast where a wet beach and rocks will offer unlimited possibilities, at Higger I found a series of small puddles sat on the gritstone near to the edge so positioned the camera to include them as well as Burbage edge on the far side of the valley.

Olympus E5, 12-60mm f2.8, 3.2secs f8 @ 12mm 100 ISO 0.9 reverse ND grad

I’ve used graduated neutral density filters (ND Grads) for many years and find them invaluable for landscape photography, basically they are a piece of resin or glass that is grey at the top and clear at the bottom and the idea is that you place them onto the front of your lens and position the filter with the dark bit over the sky, these help to hold back the bright sky and balance up the darker foreground creating an image that doesn’t have a ‘blown’ sky or a very dark foreground.

The latest addition to my kit is a 3 stop ‘reverse’ ND grad filter similar to the ND grad but these have the darkest bit in the centre of the filter going lighter towards the top and still clear at the bottom, these are really useful for sunrise and sunsets as the darkest part of the filter is positioned over the sun (or brightest part of the sky) and will help retain more detail and colour above the sun which will now be lighter than using a standard ND grad.
I used the same setup for my next shot which was taken further round and looking down over Carl Wark the vivid pre-dawn colours turn to soft pastels as the sun gets higher but has still yet to break the horizon.

Olympus E5, 12-60mm f2.8, 1.3secs f8 @ 21mm 100 ISO 0.9 reverse ND grad

The sun finally breaks the horizon coming up over Higger Tor

Olympus E5, 12-60mm f2.8, 1/8 f8 @ 12mm 100 ISO 0.9 reverse ND grad

Another puddle reflecting the sky as the sun appears to the side of the shelter stone 

Olympus E5, 12-60mm f2.8,  1/13 f8 @ 12mm 100 ISO 0.9 reverse ND grad

Looking down over Mitchell field into a mist filled Hope Valley (and back to a standard ND grad)

Olympus E5, 12-60mm f2.8, 1/40 f8 @ 30mm 200 ISO Lee 0.6 ND grad

You may think it a little strange but I’m quite excited about my new piece of plastic, the results so far have been excellent and I can see it being my first choice for future sunrise and sunsets.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for some drier weather and hope the wind stays calm while we shoot the autumn colours.

This blog was brought to you by Stephen Elliott


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