Brecon Beacons Photography masterclass

PUBLISHED: 16:22 17 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:50 20 February 2013

There’s really no substitute for being in the right place at the right time and some of the best light occurs in atrocious weather. It was raining hard when I set off on this walk but I was rewarded by a break in the clouds and stunning light

There’s really no substitute for being in the right place at the right time and some of the best light occurs in atrocious weather. It was raining hard when I set off on this walk but I was rewarded by a break in the clouds and stunning light

David Ward, a Herefordshire-based professional landscape photographer <br/><br/>who has led more than 80 tours and workshops for Light & Land, Europe's leading photographic tour company, gives a masterclass – with the Brecon Beacons as his inspiration

Aim high

Almost every one of us has a camera in some shape or form, whether its a phone camera, compact camera for holidays and family outings, or a digital SLR camera. We are bombarded with images each and every day, but good photographs do not depend on how flash your camera is.

David Ward, a Herefordshire-based professional landscape photographer
who has led more than 80 tours and workshops for Light & Land, Europes leading photographic tour company, gives a masterclass with the Brecon Beacons as his inspiration

The Black Mountain and Hay Bluff dominate the southern skyline as I look out of my bedroom window. Sometimes, when cold air sweeps down from the north, they seem impossibly close, as if I could stretch out my arm and touch the ridge though it lies over 20 miles away. Oft times the distant mountains are lost in cloud or only fleetingly glimpsed in shafts of sunlight as rain sweeps across the intervening landscape. But whatever the conditions these nearest ramparts of the Brecon Beacons National Park constantly entice me to set off once again to explore and photograph this beautiful region.

I have to say that, more than 30 years ago now, my first impressions werent that favourable. After a long drive from London I was greeted by the legendary Welsh rain accompanied by cloud barely above knee height that conspired to hide the mountains from view.

A few years later I settled in Herefordshire and, luckily for me, a commission to make images for a walking book took me back to the Brecons. For almost a year I regularly rose before dawn and carried a heavy rucksack full of cameras high into the hills. I fell in love with the open moorland, green glades, ancient monuments, sparkling waterfalls and airy summits. The rounded, old red sandstone hills are never impossibly high peaking at just under 3,000feet but still truly wild. One can walk for miles, especially in the Black Mountains, and not see another soul.

Stunning as these landscapes are, its no easy task to capture your sense of wonder in a photograph. Technique is obviously important but too wide a topic for this article. Instead I want to share with you five simple steps to making better landscape photographs that you can apply no matter what your level of expertise or what kind of camera you have.

Step 1 Simplify
We often stand atop a hill or in front of a wide vista and attempt to encompass everything that we feel about that time and place in a single photograph. But in truth this is almost an impossible task. Great photographs are distillations of the world; they show the viewer the essence of what the photographer felt. Try and understand what exactly it is that attracts you to a scene. It may be the play of light or the shape of a tree or the colour of bracken or grasses. Concentrate on those elements, leaving out of the frame anything that isnt essential.

Step 2 Get out more, shoot less
Its hard to juggle our busy lives with time for photography but there really is no substitute for spending time out in the landscape. The great American photographer Ansel Adams reckoned to make 12 good images in a year and we should all be happy with a similar crop. So dont take a scattergun approach; spend time getting to know your subject, think about the best angle to shoot from think about time of day, think about the quality of the light. Digital images may be free but its better to take your time and make one or two images that youre pleased with rather than shoot 50 that youre disappointed with.

Step 3 Be prepared for the weather
Theres nothing more miserable than waiting for light in the wrong kind of clothing. You need to be able to concentrate on taking the photograph and not be distracted by the rain dripping down the back of your neck! So always pack a waterproof, extra layers and wear good quality boots when venturing into the hills.


Step 4 Work with the light
Someone once said that we dont photograph the land but the light falling on it. Yet its easy to make images in the wrong light because we are obsessed with photographing a particular location. Try to work out strategies for shooting in different kinds of light. If you know how to match light to your subject you will find that the only bad light is no light. In bright sunlight try to work in the shade, or to choose an angle where the sun is to one side. This will give shape and depth to your subject, whereas shooting with the light behind you will make your subject seem flat. Dont think that rainy or overcast days are poor for photography. This kind of light is ideal for shooting waterfalls or in woodland.

Step 5 Remember, gear isnt as important as vision
Dont fee you need an expensive camera to make great pictures. A modern digital compact is a very versatile and capable camera that can produce excellent results. Irrespective of the camera magic happens when a photographer is passionate about their subject and this feeling is passed on to the viewer.

Now its time for you to step out into the landscape and make the most of the photographic opportunities that you find by putting these simple ideas into practice.


Looking to learn?


Light & Land runs photographic courses and workshops for those just starting out in photography, right through to aspiring professionals you can even borrow a camera. Courses run throughout the UK and abroad and last from one day to several weeks.

Light & Land destinations include Gower, Pembrokeshire, Snowdonia, Dorset, the Lake District, many countries within Europe and as far afield as Canada, USA, China, Namibia, Norway and Iceland. Courses start at 149 and are led by many of the UKs finest landscape photographers including Light & Land owner Charlie Waite, one of the UKs most famous landscape photographers.

Light and Land, Rowley Cottage,Westhope, Hereford, HR4 8BU.
Tel: 01432 839111
www.lightandland.co.uk

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