I have been to Ouse Valley Viaduct a couple of times before but never to really try and capture this marvelous feat of Victorian engineering in landscape photographs. There are some great walks around the viaduct and around the ouse valley however I spent an evening with my good friend Martin and then a subsequent evening trying to photograph this majestic structure. It really is an incredible piece of work, built in 1841 and hammered daily from that date on with trains flying from London down to the south coast.
I found it difficult to capture the sheer enormity of the viaduct, apparently built with 11 million bricks it is hefty and looms across the valley in a confident line which clearly lets you know it’s not going to fall over anytime soon (thank goodness). With the nearest village being Balcombe it’s out on it’s own for walkers and photographers to enjoy. I did trample a bit across the farmland for which I am sorry, but I couldn’t resist trying to capture the right composition for these photos. Sadly I was never quite in the right place at the right time and feel that none of these work exactly as I would like them to, however the good thing with that is that I am more than happy to return another time to improve on these photos.
Techniques using lee graduated neutral density filters
I used either HDR techniques (you can read more about some HDR tips here) or single frame captures using the amazing Lee graduated neutral density filter. ‘ND grads’ as they are also known are either plastic or glass filters which fit over the camera lens. They are darker at one half than the other, graduated either in hard or soft lines between the light and dark. What these filters do is to darken (or stop down) the areas such as the sky which would otherwise be too light or blown out. I was using a 0.9 or 3 stop hard neutral density filter which was just enough to capture the detail in the sky in order to balance it out with the darker ground below. These filters go everywhere with me now as I cannot really go back to shooting without them now as it is rare for a landscape to have enough uniform light to not require ND grads.
I am still not confident with the final look I am trying to achieve with HDR photos. I think when well executed they can look amazing even though the viewer is fully aware the photo has had some technique applied to it. It seems quite hard to capture this ‘look’ of HDR done right. These three HDR’s were shot with 5 frames at 1 stop variations, however I might try going up to 7 next time to get that little more detail. Also, when the wind is blowing (wind is my enemy) getting a number of photographs which are layered and merged together is pretty much impossible, because as soon as the second frame is taken, everything has moved (like clouds, branches and corn growing). I like the effect of movement in landscape photos however not so much when merging several together. The other single frame photo is of train tracers as a train flew across the bridge when it was almost completely dark. Martin and I had just about had enough by then but I’m glad we hung around for nightfall as I think there’s something to this photo which describes the scene.
The second evening I returned to Ouse Valley and was presented with the most incredibly moody, storm laden sunset that I have seen for a while – on a par with Constable-esque paintings. Sadly I was back at the road at that point and literally sprinted down the farmer’s field (sorry again) to get one last capture before the colours melted into night. As such the composition is all wrong, but I felt it was worth showing here for the sake of the sky and light none the less.
Well a bit of a ramble which I hope isn’t too painful and that you enjoy the photographs. For a good walk around the Ouse Valley visit the Walking club