Welcome Home

Although I live in the Lake District I am originally from the south of England. This week I returned home to photograph the autumn colour in the Chiltern Hills.

Monday 11th November 2019

The weather forecast was poor for today so I decided to spend the day in front of my laptop.

At the moment I am struggling to keep up with the comments on my videos.

I also had to do an interview for Shuttout, organise my workshops for 2020 and start planning a new series of videos that have been on my todo list for a while.

I am starting to realise just how much work is involved in being a full-time photographer.

Tuesday 12th

It has been 4 days since I last went out with the camera so it was a relief to get out this morning.

I met up with Mike Molloy at Coombe Hill. It had originally been our intention to meet at Wendover Woods but I arrived to find it didn’t open until 08:00.

“Fail to prepare…” and all that.

As I am in the Chiltern Hills to shoot the beech trees we spent some time exploring the woods. As I (like a lot of people) find it difficult to photograph woodland it took me a little while to get into my stride.

I found that my eye was drawn to the patterns that the trees formed in the canopy above our heads.

The patterns in the canopy of beech trees at Coombe Hill
Beech tree abstract – whilst exploring the woods at Coombe Hill I found my eye was drawn to the patterns in the canopy above
Verdict

✓ – Interesting abstract image that makes the most of the autumn colours and the patterns formed by the trees

✓ – Something a little different from the norm; generally I would focus on compositions that feature the base of the trees

✕ – Breaks one of my fundamental beliefs that an image should have a primary subject that acts as a focal point


After we had finished at Coombe Hill Mike and I headed to Wendover Woods for breakfast.

It was great to catch up and chat about all things photography related. Mike is about to start a new chapter in his own photography journey so it was great to hear about his plans and to share some of my own experiences.

After breakfast we recorded an interview for his podcast. We covered a wide range of topics including my decision to go full-time.

If you would like to listen to the interview you can find it here.

Wednesday 13th

This morning I decided to head to Ashridge. It must be well over 10 years since I was last here but it doesn’t appear to have changed much at all.

Conditions were near perfect. Bright, clear with very little wind.

I spent a happy few hours exploring the woods grabbing some of the best woodland shots that I have ever taken.

The bridge in the woods at Ashridge
My eye is always drawn to man made details in the landscape – although the autumn colour is not the primary subject it provides atmosphere in this shot
Verdict

✓ – The bridge is the primary subject of the image creating a strong focal point

✓ – It acts as a leading line that draws the eye towards the trees in the distance

✓ – The autumn colour around the edge of the frame provides the images with ‘atmosphere’

Oak tree at Ashridge Woods in the Chiltern Hills
I was initially drawn to the shape of the base of this oak tree but it was the spread of the branches that I decided to capture
Verdict

✓ – The branches of the tree create an interesting, reasonably well balanced shape

✓ – Texture in the branches gives the image extra depth

✕ – Over all the image is a little boring

Beech trees at Ashridge in the Chiltern Hills
Back lit trees provide strong contrast that helps to show off the autumn colours
Verdict

✓ – Simple composition featuring just 2 primary elements

✓ – Backlighting creates strong contrast that helps show the autumn colour at its very best!

✕ – A longer focal length could have helped to simplify the composition and create a stronger image


While I was exploring the woods I stumbled across and old abandoned cabin.

I love to photograph man made objects in the landscape and this one seemed to have potential. However, at the time I was put off by the messy foreground.

I decided not to waste my time setting up a ‘proper’ shot and so just grabbed this quick one with the Canon M50 that I use to record my videos.

In hindsight this was a missed opportunity.

The cabin is an interesting subject surrounded by wonderful autumn colour. The ‘weeds’ in the foreground are part of an unusually strong narrative.

In future I need to remember to look beyond the aesthetics of a scene in order capture the story.

The abandoned cabin at Ashridge
I dismissed this scene because I did not like the messy foreground – at the time I completely missed how they helped to tell the story that the cabin had been abandoned

On the way home from Ashridge I passed Wendover Woods.

I hadn’t managed to get a shot when here yesterday and so as conditions were still good I decided to call in.

After 2 hours exploring a small area of woodland I came away with 15 shots from which I had to choose just one to feature in my video.

In the end the decision was easy.

The sun setting at Wendover Woods in the Chiltern Hills
Saving the best till last – this is my favourite shot from my time in the Chiltern Hills

This shot is all about the shadows created by sun setting behind the trees.

They create strong leading lines that draw the eye up the frame towards the focal point, namely the dominant tree and the brightest part of the image.

The foreground features the woodland floor covered in the leaves from the beech trees. The background shows some of the wonderful autumn colour illuminated by the setting sun.

In the mid-ground the trees silhouetted by the setting sun provide contrast and a place for the eye to rest.

For me it is this sort of scene that comes to mind when I think of the Chiltern Hills.

Thursday 14th

After a couple of days of decent weather the rain arrived this morning.

Fortunately I had more than enough footage for next week’s video and so I set about pulling it together.

I am pretty pleased with how it turned out. I can definitely see an improvement in my editing and story telling.

Friday 15th

A delightfully uneventful 4 hour drive from the Chilterns to the Lakes.

Whilst I do enjoy photographing other parts of the country my heart will always be here in Cumbria.

It is so good to be home; there is no place quite like it…

Saturday 16th

We all have problems to deal with in our personal life from time to time and after a tough few days I was keen to get up into the hills.

Mrs Sale and I decided to climb Raven Crag in the central Lake District.

It really helped to clear my head and the view of Thirlmere from the top is well worth the 250m climb.

The view of Thirlmere from the top of Raven Crag
Looking south from Raven Crag across Thirlmere towards Dunmail Raise

Of all of the sub-genres of landscape photography I think woodland photography is the trickiest.

As with anything the more I practice the better I become and I was pleased with the progress that I made this week.

But there is still a lot of work to do…

4 thoughts on “Welcome Home”

  1. Chris – nothing better to clear the head or invigorate soul than a few hours in the woodland during Autumn. With the Winter only a month away, it’s wonderful to see those vibrant colors again. My favorites of the group are the back lit trees with the classic Autumn orange and yellows. I do find photographing back lit trees challenging but sometimes capture a few keepers when conditions are ideal. For me, the color and texture I see in the field sometimes doesn’t translate into camera. Hopefully that old shack will still be there on your return visit! Hope all is well on your end.

    1. Thanks Miguel, I think those were probably the best shots from my week in the Chilterns. The shots that looked most like they were taken by a photographer if you get my meaning. I feel a bit apprehensive as we move into winter if I am honest. This autumn has been so good that anything that comes after it will be a disappointment.

  2. Where we live is as beautiful as any place I’ve seen in all our travels but the hills of eastern Kentucky is still where the “aah – home!” feeling comes to me. That’s kind of funny. I was born there (fifth generation in that area) and lived there until about 3 and spent summers there for the next 20 or so years, before moving back. Still, that’s where it is.

    I agree that the last image from the south was the best you showed.

    You will be successful because you are willing to put in the work and the long hours. Of course, having knowledge and talent to back that up doesn’t hurt. Welcome home, my friend.

    1. Thanks Theresa – the area where I was born has changed so much since we left in 2010. There is a lot of development in the south east at the moment and it has become so busy. Whilst it is nice to return every now and then to visit family and friends it is here in the north west where I feel truly at home.

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