Time to reflect…

Pre-Dawn Reflections (asp100-3142)

Mogshade, New Forest, reflected perfectly an hour before sunrise.

Time for a trip back to my favourite spot in the New Forest, Mogshade. In the run up to this image, I’d been keeping an eye on the weather forecast as we were getting in to prime temperature inversion season, and some New Forest water and mist was desired.

That sentence alone makes me smile. Not that long ago, we all talked about mist and fog in photos, now we seem to mentioned temperature inversions instead – a bit like the Computer Science I learnt at school has now become Information and Communications Technology in my son’s schooling. Times change eh?

Having been obsessing over various forecasts as usual, I was fairly confident that the warm late autumn days and cold nights of the previous few days would lead to the temperature inversion, or mist, that I was looking for. On this particular night, the overnight temperature was set to drop further than previous nights, and the detailed hour-by-hour forecast showed a dip in visibility right around sunrise. This drop in visibility would hopefully be the clear night filling with mist rising from the cold, damp ground…

So, batteries charged, filters cleaned, bag packed, photography buddy texted, I was ready for a stupid o’clock alarm call.

Arriving at Bratley View well over an hour before sunrise, we quickly attached tripods to bags, changed trainers for welly boots, threw some banter around and headed out of the car park towards the pond.

It’s at times like this that you question what you’re doing. Leaving a very comfortable and warm bed, creeping around the house getting ready so you don’t disturb your family, heading out with no breakfast or even a coffee, and driving to the middle of nowhere on the off chance that something interesting might happen.

It’s also occasions like this that you quickly realise just why you love landscape photography, and why the paragraph above is all well worth it! Arriving at the pond, we were greeted by the most serene view – cool calm skies, perfectly still fresh air, mirror reflections in the water, ponies wandering around… And the thought that we were the only two people to witness it all! The steadily increasing commuter traffic on the distant dual carriageway behind us made things even better when you remember they’re all rushing to an office, while we’re out soaking up the view and the atmosphere.

So, time to find an image! We still had a fair amount of time until sunrise and our intended misty shots, but there was not a scrap of mist to be seen yet. But, it was teeth-chatteringly cold, and I was confident that things would change when the sun started to rise, but I just had to make an image of the cold serene view in front of me, it looked too good not to. Thankfully, the image was already there waiting to be photographed – a group of trees perfectly reflected in mirror-like water, with a branch semi-submerged right in front of me for foreground interest. Sometimes, it’s just “there”.

Setting up the tripod, I quickly assessed the light levels and decided a 0.6 / 2-stop Neutral Density filter would effectively balance the difference in exposure between sky and water surface. A Circular Polariser was also fitted so I could control and maximise the reflection. Now to wade into the pond and wait for the ripples to dissipate so the mirror would return (always best to attach filters before walking into water!).

This gave me plenty of time to focus as the pond surface calmed again. Normally, I would focus hyperfocally for maximum depth of field, but that doesn’t always work with reflections. Next time you’re in front of such a reflection, try imitating an AutoFocus system with your eyes, and focus on the surface of the water – I’ll bet that the main reflection will fall just out of focus! It’s almost that you need to focus below the water’s surface, actually on the reflection your eyes see and not on the surface of the water.

So, filters lined up, image composed, focus checked, light looking good – time to trip the shutter.

The image you see here looks very cold. This is no White Balance adjusting trickery, this is just how the scene looked and how the light is that early in the morning – and yes, it really was that cold!

You may also be glad to know that as the sun rose, the freezing cold ground and water met the new warm morning air and turned into lots of lovely mist – but that’s a story and image for another day!!

Exposure information:   6 secs @ f/11, ISO100

Filters used:                       0.6 ND Grad + Circular Polariser

Post Processing:               RAW file converted to TIFF, checked at 100% for dust bunnies.

Prints of all my images are available from my website.

All images protected by copyright laws for Andrew Stevens Photography 2013.

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