Return to the Waterhouse Plantation

Iphotograph of a small building amongst trees‘ve not been posting a huge amount over the last couple of weeks. The reasons are good: I’ve been busy shooting and editing photos; actually doing what a photographer should be doing, I’d say. We’ve just had a bumper weekend in the UK, expanded by me having a couple of days off before the weekend, giving me plenty of time to go out shooting, but not much time to sit down and process the photos.

I’m finally catching up with myself. Over the weekend I shot over 1,100 frames, which I’ve now edited down to less than 200. Those will come later, however, because this batch of images are from the weekend before.

As I mentioned in my last monthly review, I’m trying to keep my posts shorter with less images, so I’m breaking up this trip into several posts. This is the first.

As I also noted in the review, I’m suffering from a bit of creative block at the moment. It’s a bit tricky to explain; I’m not ‘feeling’ the images as I take them, I’m not in what is often referred to as the ‘zone’. Practically, it means I’m not finding the interesting angles on subjects, I’m not thinking outside the box, I’m not being creative with use of lenses, I’m even forgetting to check and use my camera settings (on Monday I found myself wondering why I was needing to shoot at an ISO of 2000 outside in daylight, it took a while to notice the aperture was set at f/22). I’m struggling through, however, forcing myself to take images to try to get the creative juices flowing, like priming the pump. My wife is actually doing something very similar on her new blog, which you should go check out, although she is purely a writer. It’s a little worrying we’re both suffering from creative block at the same time, perhaps it’s something they’re putting in the water to subdue the population.

Although the weather has now turned back into the chilly grey blandness for which the UK is internationally renowned, for a couple of weeks we had really rather warm, bright, sunny weather. To make the most of it, I headed out to the Waterhouse Plantation in Bushy Park. I’ve been there before, just over a year ago, so I knew it was home to plenty of flowers, insects, and idyllic landscapes.

One of the reasons I enjoy doing the “Return to…” posts I post here from time to time is it is always interesting to return to familiar locations with a new perspective. For me, that new perspective can be new equipment (such as a macro lens or the f/1.8 ‘nifty-fifty’), or just new techniques or ways of thinking about taking or processing images. Looking back at my last trip to the Plantation only thirteen months ago, it’s amazing to see the difference in the quality and variety of the photographs.

The first thing I came across was the waterhouse that gives the plantation its name. And almost immediately found myself in a situation I often seem to find myself in: a post-processing quandary. Several, in fact.

Looking at this image of the Waterhouse, I am having great difficulty deciding which is the better result: over saturating the image to bring out the bright colours of the day, or under saturating to give a more aged look.

saturated, colourful image of a water house amongst trees
1/160sec, f/5.6, ISO 160, exposure bias -0.67 (-0.55), 18mm
undersaturated shot of a small old building amongst trees
1/160sec, f/5.6, ISO 160, exposure bias -0.67 (-0.55), 18mm

For both of these shots I also boosted the ‘Definition’ setting, which does a great job of bringing out textures (like the brickwork) although it does have the side-effect of making the image look dirty (which is often welcome).

I’m tempted to say the latter image is the better, but I do really like the otherworldliness of the former.

I had a similar problem when I got closer to the Waterhouse – this time, the two versions are the as-shot original, or a monochrome alternative.

shot of a small building by a small lake
1/200sec, f/8, ISO 160, exposure bias -0.67, 18mm
shot of a small building near a small lake.
1/200sec, f/8, ISO 160, exposure bias -0.67, 18mm

I’ve used the Definition setting again to bring out the brickwork, which seems to have worked quite well. Much like the first two images, I’m torn; I love the colours of the former image but like the end result of the latter. What do you think?

As I moved around the pond I was able to find a couple of other angles on the Waterhouse.

small building reflected in a pond
1/40sec, f/8, ISO 160, exposure bias -0.67 (-0.81), 20mm
small building reflected in a large pond
1/60sec, f/5, ISO 160, exposure bias -1.0 (-2.0), 18mm

This last shot was initially overexposed; I’m not sure why because the exposure compensation was already set down a stop. I was able to adjust the exposure down further and and even with three stops of adjustment the wall of the building was still blown out, so I used the highlights option to bring out the detail.

For most of these shots – with the exception of the latter – were shot at f/8 to open out the depth of field a bit more and hopefully get a sharper, crisper image.

Further around the pond – wait, did I show you the pond yet?

shot of a large pond
1/160sec, f/8, ISO 160, exposure bias -1.0, 18mm

Anyway, part way round the pond was an overflow valve, which I stopped and explored photographically for a while.

styled shot of a valve wheel
1/250sec, f/9, ISO 160, exposure bias -1.0, 32mm
monochrome closeup of a padlock and chain
1/250sec, f/9, ISO 160, exposure bias -1.0, 69mm
top-down shot of a valve wheel
1/200sec, f/9, ISO 160, exposure bias -1.0, 45mm

As you can see, I was shooting at f/9, probably because I forgot to change it, because with these shots I’d usually want a narrow depth of field. I was also shooting with an exposure compensation of -1.0 because it was such a bright day; the sunlight was threatening to bleach out a lot of the detail.

shot of the sun through the trees
1/10sec, f/22, ISO 100, exposure bias -1.0, 18mm

This image was shot at the smallest possible aperture in order to get the ‘star’ effect of the sun through the trees. It took a few goes to get the shot as well, because it was a bit windy and the leaves kept moving around. There’s a bit of an artefact to the left of the flare that I’m not entirely pleased with, but in the environment it was tricky to get the exact spot right, so I’ll live with it.

When we return to the Waterhouse Plantation in my next post, we’ll take a look at some of the wildlife that inhabits the area.

4 Comments

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  1. Did you have to post quite so much while I was off grid??

    Looks like you had great weather for photos on this occassion, the blue of the sky and greens in the vegetation look fantastic. Which makes the two first images really hard to call, because I really like them both. If anything I’m slightly more swayed by the second, more desaturated version. I don’t have any good reason, it just appeals to me!

    The waterhouse (which is much smaller than I was expecting!) b&w version stands out to me as one of the best in this post. Apart from the one I mentioned above.

    Like

    • I didn’t mean to post so much, but I started out trying to fit all of the Waterhouse images into one post, before realising there was too many and things were getting too wordy again. I’m struggling with form at the minute, which in turn makes me clutch on to the half-decent images I’ve taken that might have been deleted on another day. I also tend to waffle a bit until the right words come out. I guess I need to drag you and Simon on another photo trip since that worked so well last time.

      You’re right, the waterhouse is a bit small. It look more like a watershed, in fact. I’m glad I’m not the only one torn by the different processing styles of the images, I guess that means I’m on the right track!

      Like

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