Good weather for the ducks (and photography) in the Washburn Valley
Posted on 9th June, 2014
Last year I made a few visits to a favourite patch of riverside woodland in the Washburn Valley - it’s one of those areas that always seems to provide a bit of inspiration and a place in which you can happily immerse yourself for hours. It’s reasonably local to me and somewhere I like to go when I want to spend a bit of ‘me’ time on photography, without having any end goal other than to see what I can find. Knowing the area as well as I now do, I do tend to have a good idea of the sort of subjects and scenes that I’m likely to photograph but I don’t go with any specific agenda and there’s no pressure to come back with any particular kind of images. And so it was I found myself there again just at the very end of Spring. The forecast suggested there might be the odd light shower - perfect for woodland and, as expected after a fair bit of rain, things were rather wet underfoot. My first stop was for some wonderfully green and vibrant beech branches overhanging the river. I took a number of different shots - trying out different shutter speeds and varying compositions. In the end I think my favourite was the image above - a double exposure with the Fuji XE-1 and 55-200mm lens. The multiple exposure implementation on the Fuji cameras is a little clumsy to be honest but, crucially for me, it does work in live view and so I can overlay the second image very precisely, ensuring I get exactly the look I am after. Here I went for something pretty subtle - at first glance you might not even notice that it is a double exposure… I had decided only to come out with my ultra lightweight gear - the Fuji XE-1 with the 18-55 and 55-200 lens, my full size Lee Filters kit and my Redged TSC-427 tripod. These all pack nicely into (and onto for the tripod) my F-stop Kenti backpack and the overall package is really extremely light. I also had my two dogs with me - who are never very impressed by my rather tedious habit of stopping for long periods to take photographs…. A rather lovely mossy rock was my next subject - much further upstream and again offering a lovely contrast to the flowing waters of the river. A shutter speed of 1/3 second has given lovely texture to the rushing water. The furthest point I reached was the bottom end of the Thruscross Reservoir. By now it was absolutely pouring with rain and, with the Fuji gear not being very weather resistant and with no cover overhead at this point, I had to rush off a few frames of the reservoir overflow. Camera and lens both got rather wet but I’m happy to say they seem fairly resilient so long as you are reasonably sensible. I’d like to have taken more time framing this image but I still love the resulting patterns, even if I didn’t have time to determine the perfect composition! Neither of my dogs are very keen on walking in the rain so they were both giving the impression of being doubly unimpressed as we rushed back down the path, getting more and more soaked. There’s a small stone hut on a little tarn half way down the route and that was my next stop - as much for shelter as anything, although it does also offer some lovely views over the tarn and surrounding trees. First of all I had fun capturing the bouncing raindrops (above) and I then focussed my attention on some distant ducks, who were in their element in these conditions. The trees also looked rather lovely and wonderfully textured against the falling rain - and I found myself once again drawn to a shapely group, bordered by willow, that I had photographed the previous Spring. The rain varied in intensity enormously and at times just produced a nice soft light that suits this kind of subject matter so well. Wider compositions are always a challenge in this tarn but I found what I felt to be a very compelling (if complex) combination of trees, reeds and water for the image below. Eventually the rain stopped and it was time to retreat. I did double back to a little gap in the trees on the side of the tarn just briefly. The light was momentarily wonderful, as it can be after such a spell of rain. Overhanging branches made getting a successful and clean composition very challenging indeed but I was rather pleased with this last image from a lovely three or four hours of photography: Moments later the light had gone. The rain was falling with renewed vigour and a rather wet threesome rushed their way back to the car!