It’s That Time of the Year

Only I haven’t actually got a specific one in mind. Really, it could be any time of the year.

This follows on from last week’s post to an extent, but the beauty about photography in a temperate climate is that there are different photographs to be had all through the year. The thought of four seasons conjures up flowers and bees, yellow leaves and the first fall of snow, and all of them present different opportunities to the photographer – as well as a different set of challenges.

Having a different scene doesn’t necessarily mean that you can just rock up and let nature do the work for you. A shot that works well in the summer might not work as well in the winter, or vica versa. It could be that you need just a subtle tweak to your composition. Sometimes a shot that wasn’t possible in one season – for example due to dense leaf cover obscuring elements of the scene – can become possible in another. Distracting elements can become less of an issue, like snow covering an ugly patch of ground. Or elements that were not appealing before can suddenly become a focal point, like a wall of featureless green leaves suddenly exploding in a wash of autumnal colour. Different angles have to be explored, so approach each location as you would a new location.

As examples I’ve included images from my local beauty spot. A 45 minute drive takes me to the middle of Teesdale, to a location not far from High Force. The Bowlees picnic area may not be as popular or as famous as the highest waterfall in England, but it does present better photographic potential with the intricate patterns of the lower falls and the secluded and tranquil Summerhill Force about 200 metres upstream as it cascades into Gibson’s Cave.

Early autumn provides just a dash of colour to a wash of green foliage framing the lower falls. Bowlees Picnic Area, Teesdale.

The lower falls offer a great opportunity to photograph intricate patterns in the water, as a series of three steps about one and a half metres allows the water to form different patterns depending on the amount of rainfall in the area. There are multiple opportunities for close ups, offset by the black rock formations and foliage around.

Wintery conditions creates a picture almost totally devoid of colour. Bowlees Picnic Area, Teesdale.

Arriving at the same place in the winter after fresh snowfall, the place took on a different feel to it. The wash of green is gone and the image takes on a very monochromatic feel to it. I intentionally included more of the rock formation on the right hand side, that during most of the year presents a dark expanse in an image, but added extra visual interest when offset by a topping of snow. I also included more of the foreground as the river was partially frozen, allowing that pool shape to form a visual element that wouldn’t exist at a different time of the year.

This is actually a crop of a very small section of the image above, reduced in size by about 20%. The original image is about a 240 megapixel stitch from 54 images.

The waterfall had a complete ice curtain shielding it from view, and I took several close ups to show the juxtaposition between the frozen sections and the water still flowing behind it from the few gaps that existed.

A short distance beyond these falls lies Gibson’s Cave, created over time by erosion from Summerhill Force. There is a hollowed out shelf behind that waterfall that is accessible today, and an isolated cove sets the scene as you walk the path up to the falls.

Gibson's Cave can be very tranquil during dry periods, with the falls reduced almost to a trickle.

During dry periods the falls are very gentle as the amount of water is greatly diminished. The moss covered rock in the foreground here has been a favourite of mine down the years as it possesses a good amount of detail through the year. I also used a fairly close crop in this instance to strengthen the image’s simple graphic elements.

A totally different scene with the river frozen over and icicles and snow dominating.

Approaching the same scene in the winter presented different options, so this time I opted for a wider view that took in the whole of the rock, to allow for more of the icicles in the background to emphasize the frozen conditions. The image has a totally different dynamic to the previous one, with the frozen falls dominating despite the wider composition.

A tighter shot of Summerhill Force, using the icicles to lead the eye in.

Clambering over a short wall allows this different viewpoint from the side, with the icicles adding extra interest that isn’t normally present in the scene. The mass of ice and snow also acts as a giant reflector to throw a bit of light onto the underside of the rocky ledges, that at other times of the year would be almost featureless shadow.

Even without the snow, different water levels result in different images and compositions.

In less snowy conditions, a shot of Summerhill Force on its own works better from the front using elements such as the big rock from before, or these smaller rocks as foreground interest. In the winter these are covered under a white blanket of snow and ice.

Nature is an astounding gift that keeps on delivering. For the intrepid photographer it doesn’t matter what time of the year it is – you can make it the right time, and you never know until you get out there. Carpe diem.

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