River Test, Hampshire
The Test is a beautiful river flowing through picturesque Hampshire countryside and pretty villages on its way to Southampton and The Solent. It has a world class reputation for fly-fishing and, maybe for that reason, much of the river lies within private land with limited access. This can make it a difficult river to photograph, but there is one location which provides not only easy access, but also one of the Test's best views.
That location is Longstock, just north of Stockbridge. A little lane just happens to cross the Test beside a gorgeous rural scene that could have been painted by Constable himself. From the bridge a circular thatched fishermen's hut perches on a tiny island in the middle of the river. Connecting the hut with the river banks on either side is a wooden plank, which contains a series of Eel Traps. Not being a fisherman I couldn't tell you any more about any of these objects, but as a photographer I can say that the scene is very picturesque!
Of course I couldn't claim to be the first person to photograph from this viewpoint, and I make no apology for that. Driving over the little bridge for the first time, any photographer surely must feel compelled to stop and capture the lovely view. The frustrating thing about this location is that, as with other parts of the Test there are no footpaths along the river banks here either. Therefore, trying to figure out a unique viewpoint from the road or bridge is not an easy task. Never-the-less I always try and stamp my mark on a location and so on this trip I aimed to find a composition which was a bit different to anything I had seen before.
Rather than shoot direct from the bridge, I crossed over to the other side where a tiny stream feeding into the Test would make a good foreground. This strengthened my composition on a number of fronts; firstly the reflected light in the stream brightened up the foreground and helped to balance the light and dark areas throughout the frame. Secondly, the layers of land I could introduce into this composition would help to create the feeling of depth within the image.
I carefully composed my image to keep the elements from obstructing one another. The fence on the right couldn't touch the strip of land on the left; neither could the foreground grass touch the reflections of the grass on the next layer above. A few extra minutes of 'fiddling' around with positioning the tripod is really worthwhile to gain a harmonious image. In truth as I look at the image now, I wish I had gained a slightly higher viewpoint to separate the top panel of the fence with the far bank of the main river. But maybe I'm being a bit picky!
As I refined my composition I noticed the misty background was beginning to lift. While not a classical misty shot, the mist was still absolutely crucial to the image I wanted to capture. Aesthetically, it provided a pleasing soft pastel tone to the scene, while technically it was stopping the morning sun from shining directly into the lens, which would completely destroy my chance of capturing an image. After settling on my composition, I inserted a 0.6 ND graduated filter over the lens and manually focussed, before taking several exposures as the mist burned away.
Feeling happy with this shot I moved to the other side of the bridge to setup my second photograph. By this point the sun was shining on the landscape and the mist had all but disappeared. I was conscious that I was now looking at the more classical viewpoint of this location, so in an effort to create something a little different I attached my extreme 10 stop ND filter. With such a dark filter, even in the morning sunlight I could still achieve a 60 second exposure, which turned the water to rippled velvet and added an air of tranquillity to the picturesque surroundings.
Feeling happy that I'd achieved something a little different from such a constrained viewpoint, I packed up my gear and headed home for breakfast.
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- New Zealand
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