Wow what a month! One of the most enjoyable periods of photography I’ve enjoyed for a long time and picking out a single image from October seems almost impossible. The colour riot of autumn has of course been in full flow and while others might have been waiting for the ‘optimum’ moment (whenever that is meant to be), I know from experience that this time of year is an ever changing conundrum so getting out there as many times as possible through the month would probably pay dividends. A mis-timed storm or prolonged period of rain can soon put pay to any plans you might have to capturing some trees with leaves on and sure enough a single significant storm came along right at the moment when the trees were reaching full colour.

Inevitably almost everything I’ve taken this month has been centered on woodland again and at times it has felt like a bit of a turkey shoot. Nature is there for the taking and as long as you keep focussed on your composition you really can reap some fine rewards. I’ve been everywhere from the Cotswolds in the South (really not as exciting for woodland colour as further north) to my native Warwickshire in the Midlands (which was quite stunning at times) to the bold colours of the Peak District which didn’t disappoint once again.

The British weather was once again quite bizarre, it was an exceptionally warm month and it remains to be seen how that has affected the colour in the leaves. On my last day to the Peak District on 28th October it was 21C so I spent my day walking around Padley Gorge bathed in full sun wearing a T Shirt. It was on that day that this month’s pick comes from – after some very difficult deliberating, I’ve decided that Emerald Gorge is my selection for October. This was quite a precarious shot to get, a long way down Padley Gorge and I think you get a sense of the steepness of the incline just here but the near perfect light was an absolute gift:

Emerald Gorge

Emerald Gorge

What Really Makes The Photograph Work For Me?

This is another composition which doesn’t entirely have a single defined point of focus but the elements in the frame come together beautifully for me. Line, texture and colour all play their part in building what I think is a really eye-catching scene, depicting a sense of the whole area.

Here’s why Emerald Gorge stands out for me this month:

  • I think the ‘arm’ in the top left of the frame is a dramatic anchor in the photograph. For me, it’s the first thing that pulls your eye and leads to the wonderful moss covered trunk. Great contrasts, perfect side light and plenty of detail really keeps me entertained here. This wonderful moss is also the signature of the fact that this is Padley Gorge.
  • The soft ferns in the bottom left point into the scene. There’s some movement in them thanks to the gentle breeze and the fact that this is not the shortest of exposures. That same movement is also visible and softens the background just above the ‘arm’ in the top left hand corner too.
  • I didn’t use any ND Filter to achieve the longer exposure here, but I was using a Polariser ensuring that the colour was enriched in the scene and avoiding any distracting light reflections on the leaves. The optimum angle to use a Polariser is 90 degrees left or right of the sun (in other words having your light source to the left or right of you) and I was able to fully achieve that here with my positioning.
  • I love that spray of lemon coloured leaves near the centre of the frame. They are very much part of the background here but still add so much and ensure that it brings our eye towards the tree which occupies the right hand side of the photograph.
  • The image really does enjoy a full rainbow of colour, made by the soft background oranges in the top right and top centre – they contrast so naturally with the greens in the frame but I had to wait for a burst of light which lit those on the other side of the gorge.
  • The steep incline creates a natural and dramatic sense of depth and mystery in the shadows. There’s a darker story to be told in the bottom half of the frame but if you take the time there is still plenty to see down there.
The Technical Setup
  • Taken with the Nikon D800E
  • Nikon 45mm f/2.8 PC-e
  • f/11, ISO100, 0.6 Seconds in bright morning sun at 11:29hrs
  • Hoya 77mm Polariser
  • Shot in 14bit RAW, manual white balance
  • Finished with Nik Color Efex Pro 3 and Adobe Photoshop CS6
  • No sharpening

All in all, a real representative image of autumn for me and a reminder of how stunning Padley Gorge really is even though it is considered something of a cliche location to many photographers.