Hanging Cow Creek

February 22, 2015  •  1 Comment

Hanging Cow Creek, New Zealand High Country. Taken on our NZ workshop last year.

 

I asked our New Zealand tour guide Will Parsons for the name of this little alpine river.

"Hanging Cow Creek", was his immediate reply. Will has lived in this area all his life and, as an ex-farmer, he seems to know everyone and every place. I'm sure he told me whose land this was as well!

We had all bundled out of the minibus when I spied this turn in the river several hundred feet below us. Although the sun was reasonably high in the sky, you can often find interesting light in the mountains because the sun is side lighting the landform somewhere.

Out on the plains when the sun is positioned directly above, the light is flat and generally pretty boring. This is why photographers prefer to shoot in the early morning or late afternoon because the light is at a more acute angle to the landscape, creating form and shadow and revealing much more detail.

However, once you get into the mountains, this rule no longer applies because the landscape is no longer flat. Look around and you'll see some mountain sides in bright sunlight, others in deep shadow, and the ones in between often have some wonderful side lighting.

This photograph wasn't taken at midday, but as you can see in the background, it was still quite high in the sky. Some clouds created an interesting chiaroscuro back there, but what really caught my eye was the cliff face at the apex of the bend in the river. It was bathed in bright sunshine, while the surrounding cliffs were in shadow. It was a perfect vignette.

I used a 10x neutral density filter and a sturdy tripod, meaning my exposure was 30 seconds at f11 and ISO 35. This blurs the river and gives it a slightly milky appearance.

The file was processed in Capture One, including some adjustment layers to control the tonality. I darkened the foreground which was also in bright sunshine - and not wanted. The image was then slipped into Photoshop for some final adjustments and the result is above. It still has a little work to do - and maybe a larger tree or a building out on the edge of the cliff.

Perhaps I could hang a cow? (Just a plastic one, of course. After all, I am a vegetarian!)

If you're interested in joining Tony Hewitt and me on a workshop to the north of New Zealand in June this year, including this location, there are still places available. For more information, visit the Better Photography website and look for the workshops in the online shop, or click here.


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