Frustrating a photographer in the Wye Valley

March 06, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

St Mary's Church, Ross-on-Wye, from the village of Wilton, Herefordshire. f/11, 1/80, 21mm, ISO100

Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, is a beautiful small town set in the picturesque Wye Valley near the border with England and Wales.  For me Ross represents the very essence of the problem that tortures the soul to create frustrations in a wannabe photographer.

As I mention on my about page, and have touched on several times in other posts, I would be a landscape photographer, if I could.  If I had the talent and...well, I won’t go into details now but a knee problem other factors that prevent me from having the freedom of being in the right place at the right time for that, often elusive, perfect light.  Not to mention perfect weather condition.  See the recent posts on photographing Yorkshire in heavy summer rain and dense low cloud.  Typical...ah well!

So I am not a landscape photographer.  Am I a travel photographer? Well, no.  Not really.   Travel photography really needs to include people, the locals, while telling the story.  I’ve never liked taking a picture of a stranger in a street.  Am I too reservedly British to do that?  Many Brits are excellent travel photographers.  No.  It’s just me!

What am I then?  An opportunist photographer!  One who takes what he can, when he can and prays that the light and weather conditions when he arrives at a cracking location are, if not magnificent, at least benign. 

One side of being a frustrated photographer, (insert landscape in there), is, usually, passing through an ideal location in ideal conditions but unable to stop.  Drivers of public transport are not obliging to such request as “Stop the bus! Stop the bus!  Can you give me 20 minutes to set up and take some photos of this scene, please?”  I wonder why?

The other side of the rough rusted low-denomination coin of a now defunct currency is being in the ideal place with conditions that aren’t ideal.  But at least this is better than conditions that prevent photography at all…isn’t it?

Is a bad picture of a good place better than no picture at all?  Well, it depends. 

Do you:

a. take every picture expecting it to be portfolio quality in order to sell

or

b. enjoy the process of taking photographs whatever the outcome?

Well, for me it’s b), it has to be b).  Frustration, and hunger, would be extreme if I was trying to make a living from landscape photography without transport. 

I enjoy the quiet time with a camera.  The process of finding shots, adjusting settings, seeing what I can get.  The process of trying to make as good an image as possible is my hobby and I adore being close to the beauty of the world while I do it.  Ultimately the 'means' are my hobby and if the ‘ends’ are nice images, that’s a bonus.  But, how I would love to increase the value of the end result but having the ideal conditions.  <sigh> Ah well!

So Ross.  My family and I had scheduled a stop here for one night on our way through to Wales.  Ross, being known as a nice spot in beautiful countryside, was ideal.  The image above was taken on the banks of the River Wye from the nearby village of Wilton.  It’s nice and colourful, just nice...not outstanding by any means.  Mid-afternoon sun, not the greatest light, but some puffy clouds around add depth and dimension. 

Naturally I cannot expect the driver and the rest of the family to fit travel and meal plans all around sun times.  Nor can I expect them to wait around twiddling thumbs until the light changes, when it probably won't.  As an opportunist photographer, you take what you get and hope you can return to the location if there’s a change…though that’s rarely possible.

I did have another shot (pun intended) at Ross though.  The next morning we’d pass the spot of the classic view of the town by taking the A40 road into Wales.  The view is of the town using the river to lead into the shot with the spire of St Mary’s Church reflecting in the water.  There are shots of this view but with the spire reaching above ethereal mists glowing gold with the morning sunlight, go find them on Flickr or Google Images now.  Definitely end results to be really happy with!

What did I get? 

Roll the dice of weather luck and see if you get a 6 or a 0.  I know zero is not on a dice but you know the type of weather I mean: the 'nothing weather'.  The forecast wasn’t good.  It predicted a 1 at best.  Certainly not the time of year for the mist, but grey cloud was expected.  Stormy angry looking clouds could add a bit of mood, but no, perhaps that would be a 4.  But summer drizzly clouds were expected!  High, bright grey, blankets of boringness! 

Naturally I still tried to get the shot.  Mono was always going to be the choice for this. The grey sky and lack of any real light had sucked a lot of the colour out of the Wye Valley, but at least it wasn’t quite a 0, perhaps it was a 1. 

I had to work hard to maximise what cloud definition there was in the sky and with Lightroom tweaks I was able to bring back even more.  I bracketed 3 shots, to try and get more detail in the sky than the tonal range of my 70D would normally give.  I even used a 3 grad filter to hold in the sky.  f/11, 38mm, ISO100, and HDR merge and black and white conversion in Lightroom resulted in this.  That cloud definition was barely visible with the naked eye.  Amazing what RAW files can do with a bit of jiggery-pockery, perhaps a 2 on the dice after all.

Ross-on-WyeRoss-on-WyeMoody grey skies over the Wye Valley

St Mary's Church, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire.  3 shots bracketed, HDR, f/11, 38mm

I know it's not the portfolio quality of a professional, but I was happy enough to put it in my gallery.  Perhaps to serve as a reminder that optimum light isn’t needed to get acceptable images, if not exceptional ones, and to remember WHY I am doing what I do?  For the love of doing it, or the love (and glory) of £-$-€- that the results could give?  Sure, the latter would be nice, but as a hobby, the former is a wonderful pastime. 

Ever had a shoot ruined by weather? Or have you ever had to alter your plans to get a result in a difficult situation?

Share your experiences here!

Best wishes

The Frustrated Photog.


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