Landscape challenge

Andrew and Jon recently ran a terrific Landscape course via zoom – I highly recommend it if they run another one. I had a 1:1 wash-up session with AJ afterwards which again was extremely useful. To help me consolidate the course material and to help give me a focus, rather than just going out and practising randomly, AJ suggested I set myself a targeted challenge. I was to take a specific landscape photo each day – a different lens, a specific aspect of composition, shooting for B&W and so on. To make it a bit more fun, I wrote the challenges on a piece of paper and stuck them in a jar, and each morning pulled one out. At the end of the challenge I was to think about what I had learned. AJ suggested I put the day’s image up for critique but after the first one, I decided that for my benefit rather than anyone else I would write a blog about my challenge. You may therefore decide to stop reading now – if indeed you are still with me.

Day 1. Whatever the weather & Leading lines

I didn’t actually choose the first part of this challenge. As we were finishing the 1:1 I said to AJ that with the weather as it was, I wouldn’t be starting that day. But of course AJ wasn’t going to let me away with that and said one challenge might be “Whatever the weather.” So off I toddled with a wide angle in hand. As you can see, it was very overcast with no real light and it was cold – very cold. This is the field behind my house and these are the only lines leading from the road. I took both landscape and portrait images. It’s an uninteresting composition, but it is leading lines and I wasn’t going to get anything else before it got too dark. Normally, I wouldn’t have taken, let alone processed these, but it made me go and look and demonstrates to me that there is no such thing as no light. Poor light yes, but there is light. It’s a pity the clouds were so bland and I couldn’t bring out the texture in the stubble in the field. But it was one challenge done.

All photos taken on Canon 5D4. 

24-105 (the lens on the camera at the time) f16, s/s 1/40 ISO 1000. I had hoped to get the stubble sharp and all the way to the trees, hence f16. High ISO has made it grainy, I didn’t want any more so risked the slow s/s.

Day 2. Wide angle with foreground anchor

A couple of weeks ago I found this pond in the nearby quarry woods. There was snow on the ground and I only had a macro lens with me but I took a photo anyway and converted it to B&W. 

I thought it would be interesting to return and see what the pond would offer with a wide angle. The result was very disappointing. 

Lens 16-35mm: f11 s/s 1/800  ISO 500

I was surprised there was still some ice on the pond so decided to explore and see if there were any other angles. Half way up on the right, where the tree is, the water runs out into a burn. I was able to cross over, but the wood I stood on disappeared, so no way back without wading in to my calves! At the top of the water that you can see, it opens out into a circular pond with steep sides and there I found more branches in the water held up by some ice. I hope this says “foreground anchor.” So it pays to go wandering and keep looking.

@ 16mm, f 16 s/s 1/100 ISO 500. I wanted the image to be sharp from front to back hence f16

I scrambled up to the top to find a way back round and although this doesn’t meet my challenge, I include it as it shows the pond.

@16mm f 16 s/s 1/80 ISO 500. Again, I wanted it sharp from front to back.

Day 3. Look for contrast in light, think HDR

HDR of 3 images -1/0/+1

I’m back in the quarry woods and this is the walk in. I wasn’t too hopeful, as it was very grey but suddenly there was a blue patch and the sun shone. I was still trying to think about composition so used the roots of the trees as a bit of texture and the shadow and light as leading lines. I have got into the habit of taking a single image and processing that and comparing it with the HDR image. That way I can learn just what light contrast needs HDR. 

I’m sure I could probably have played around for some time and processed this further to achieve the same results as the HRD image but I’ve spent significantly longer on it than I would like 🙂 and run out of sliders to play with, and anyway, the HRD is much nicer in my opinion.

16-35 mm at 27mm. f11 s/s 180   ISO 1250

Day 4 didn’t happen due to a reaction to my Covid vaccine. I’ll do 2 challenges in one day to catch up.

Day 5 Take an image to convert to B&W

Once again the light was changeable, but that’s okay for B&W. There were no opportunities for colour contrast so I thought about texture. There’s a small disestablished kirk and graveyard just up the hill from me, that has some fascinating headstones – including one for a Mary Gilbert 🙁 

For a very small farming population, the loss of lives in WW2 was significant – nine with only one older than 22 years. The war memorial can be seen from my wee hamlet at the bottom of the hill. And those are the quarry woods behind the hamlet that I walk in.

24-105mm at 31mm. f16 1/640 ISO 640

Here you can see the church. Although disestablished, we do use the kirk at Christmas, one of the few times the community has a real get-together. We aren’t allowed to have a Christmas carol service, but we do sing carols! I wanted something that allowed me to bring out texture, and the walls of the kirk and the old headstones allowed that. I may not have processed it as well as I might – I’m still learning how to do that. You can just see the war memorial in the middle of the image to the left and behind the kirk.

24-105mm at 31mm. f16 s/s 1/640 ISO 640

I’m going to break here as I think this is becoming a bit lengthy for one blog. If you are still with me, thanks for your perseverance. I’d welcome any feedback. 


Published in Member Blogs

  1. this is awesome Mary, well done.

    • Really well done Mary, a lovely set of images and good story of your course too

  2. Excellent project Mary and well done for getting out on day 5 after day 4, you must be feeling better. Looking at how HDR improved the woodland scene it would have been interesting to see if HDR brought out more detail in the last two black and whites and saved you trying some complicated processing.

  3. That is a fantastic example of putting into practice what you have been taught. Puts me to shame. 😕

  4. fabulous blog Mary and makes me feel very lazy. Love the starbursts…perfect!

  5. Thank you for this Mary – inspiring, and some very good points here, together with your interesting and varied images. Lucid explanation of your approach, and I can/must learn from your developments and evolution. And not many of us can claim to benefit from a pre-established resting spot ….. but don’t go there just yet, please!

  6. Great Blog Mary and really like the starburst image. Really inspiring.

  7. These work really well, and it’s so helpful to see your thought process about how you went about each one. A lovely set!

  8. Thanks for all you positive comments.
    Sandy, I didn’t try HDR on the B&W images as I planned to process with a grainy “old fashioned” look, but you are right, it might have helped.

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