What I’m Looking For
I can’t remember when it was, but ever since I saw my first photograph of Bowerman’s Nose on Dartmoor, I’ve wanted to capture my own image of this iconic tor. I’ve been there many times since but never managed to get the image I was looking for.
For me light is critically important when shooting Bowerman’s Nose. There are plenty of interesting compositions to be had, but without good light on the tor itself it’s just a flat vertical stack of stone. Flatter light might well work if the scene was covered in snow, but given that every time there’s a decent dumping of snow I can’t actually get up onto Dartmoor, it’s unlikely I’ll ever get that shot.
Snow aside, for me the best option for getting a good photograph at Bowerman’s Nose is when I get nice, soft, warm light from a setting sun. (Saying that though, I have been inspired by a recent photograph of Bowerman’s Nose by Neil Porter to photograph it in the morning, but I’ll save that challenge for another day). Anyway, the light is important for a couple of reasons. Firstly it gives the “nose” some contrast turning it from a flat bit of rock into something that looks 3 dimensional. The light also works well on the ground making the undulations and grasses more prominent in the frame.
Together with light and a reasonable amount of cloud I have pre-visualised the shot that I want to get from Bowerman’s Nose. The trouble is, I’ve never managed to get it. I’ve come close once, but the shot I want eludes me so I continue to return to Bowerman’s Nose in the hope that I get the shot one day.
To Exposure Blend or Not
With the desire to get the shot that I wanted I decided to return to Bowerman’s Nose on Thursday evening. I have to admit though the weather forecast wasn’t exactly optimal. I expected to get nice soft light from the setting sun but the cloud forecast was for clear skies. I’m rarely interested in blue skies but sometimes the haze or the very high cloud can go a nice colour as the sun starts to dip below the horizon. I thought it was worth a punt. Better to be out on Dartmoor than in the house watching TV….well, most of the time that is!
When I arrived on location the sky was even clearer than the forecast had predicted so I knew I was going to have my work cut out. The principle challenge was with the contrast between the dark and light areas on the scene. Even though it was only about 30 minutes before sunset the scene had a lot of contrast. As the “nose” typically breaks above the horizon in most compositions, it is almost impossible to use a neutral density graduated filter. To capture the scene I could either try and do it using one carefully exposed frame or capture two frames and exposure blend them later.
When it comes to post-processing though I’m very much a light touch/5-minute edit type of person, so exposure blending isn’t top of my list of things to do. However, the HDR merge feature in Lightroom does a pretty good job of exposure blending these days without the need to drop into Photoshop to use layer masks. I’ve included images in this blog that use both a single frame and that have been exposure blended. Can you tell me in the comments which are which?
It was a relatively productive evening in the end and I got a couple of images that I’m reasonably happy with. I’ve still not got that killer shot that I want but that always gives me a great excuse to visit Bowerman’s Nose again!