Once again I find myself way behind on these blog commitments! Writing my May pick of the month towards the end of June really needs to improve, though hopefully you’ll have got something out of my three part Building A Print Legacy mini series which took priority instead. The final product is fantastic but once again the learning journey was significant.

I reckon May has to be one of my two favourite months of the year. It is THE spring month when everything really happens, the forests come back to life, leaf is in abundance again, it’s not irritatingly hot and every insect isn’t trying to eat you yet. As such, picking my image of the month for May is super difficult this time and I could put up to five on here. This was helped by the fact I managed to get out and about for a bit of travel during the month too – trips to bluebell woodland in Northamptonshire early on, followed by the wild open spaces afforded by Exmoor in North Devon and finally a fabulous trip to the Brecon Beacons in South Wales with Matt Clark all delivered some of my favourite images of the year so narrowing that down to one is particularly difficult.

I’ve decided to go with Green View this month though because I think it’s most representative of the season and also it was taken on my maiden visit to the Brecons, a couple of days which couldn’t have come off any better weather or conditions wise. I’ve not shot many waterfalls down the years, they are a little one dimensional in my mind, and frankly a bit of a cliche, nonetheless I tried to do something with this one that was just a tiny bit different…

Green View

What Really Makes The Photograph Work For Me?

For me the key with subject matter that’s been shot over and over is to try to not put it front and centre, however compelling, obvious or tempting that may feel. For example – the best photographs I’ve seen of bluebell woods are those where the flowers play a supporting role without being overpowering, subtlety can be extremely effective. In the same way I wanted the waterfall here, while dominant and magnificent when you’re next to it, to do something similar, to be in the image but not quite centre of attention (just to be clear I don’t think there’s a lot of subtlety on show). In doing so it’s not a photograph entirely about the waterfall (Sgwd Ddwli Uchaf in the South Brecons), but of the supporting structures and trees around it, hence the title “Green View” rather than “Sgwd Ddwli Uchaf View”.

So here’s why Green View is image of the month:

  • I do like the framing here which I thought worked well – and I’m really referring to the frame of the trees around the waterfall. I love the way the green canopy comes over the top of the falls and connects with them, without feeling like either the trees or the falls are in total control. I shot very low to the ground to enable that particular view.
  • The three tree trunks on the left of the frame hold it in, they are almost vertical lead in lines and very much mirror the white verticals of the falls themselves – a feeling of continuity across the frame to my eye.
  • The long fallen branch along the bottom of the image completes the framing of the falls.
  • It’s not a long, long exposure. It was important to me that there was some movement in the water at the bottom of the falls. When you have water cascading over rock like this, you can achieve that look with a pretty short exposure of only 1/5 to 1/2 of a second, rather than say 10 or 20 seconds. This also ensured that there isn’t a huge amount of movement in the foliage ensuring that it didn’t descend into a green mush – everything is moving in a location like this so achieving a calming effect in the water without losing definition in everything else can be a fine balance to achieve.
  • A sense of depth is achieved by leaving some space on the right hand side to the other bank. Some might think the right hand side is a little open and empty in this photograph but the right side of the falls needed some space to enable us to understand and visualise the edge of them and to have somewhere for the ‘travel’ of the water to go (if you see what I mean).
  • I already have an A2 framed version of this on my wall and the detail in the print is just wonderful. It’s certainly a very idealistic view of these particular falls, a view I imagine will look equally magnificent during autumnal months too.
The Technical Setup
  • Taken with the Nikon D800E
  • Zeiss 25mm f/2 ZF.2
  • f/11, ISO200, 1/2 in bright light at 15:44hrs
  • Lee Landscape Polariser, Lee Little Stopper (6 stop ND Filter)
  • Shot in 14bit RAW, manual white balance
  • Finished with Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and Adobe Photoshop CC
  • No sharpening