Thursday Sept 11th 2014. I set my alarm for 5:30am and met up with fellow local photographers Matt Franks and Jake Turner at Lechlade-On-Thames for a dawn shoot. The forecast was pretty good, with predicted 14% cloud cover, partially sunny and a strong chance of mist. Well, the forecast wasn’t wrong, but actually it severely under-estimated the amount of mist as there was lots of it! It was almost full fog until the sun burnt it off much later in the morning.
We scouted a good viewpoint along the river Thames and each of us setup our tripods. It’s the first time I had been out with Matt and he’s a fellow Nikon user (D810). It was nice to compare settings with his beast and my baby Nikon D3100. Jake, who I regularly venture out with, is a hugely talented landscape photographer, but he’s a Canon user. His tips & guidance have been extremely helpful and I highly recommend booking one of his 1:1 workshops. Hanging out with Matt, it was nice to see what results I might get if/when I upgrade to a FX (Full Frame) Nikon camera (at time of writing, I have my eye on a second-hand D600).
The mist didn’t clear until sometime after sunrise, so I moved along the river looking for the best composition for my ‘money shot’. I also snapped facing away from the sun (towards a near full moon) as the adjacent field was full of cows and this looked quite interesting. In fact, the funniest moment of the morning was while Matt and I were composing a shot along the river and Jake was snapping the “Meadow Ladies” (the cows). The herd of cows slowly moved towards Jake and he quickly picked up his gear and ran towards Matt and I, waving his arms in peril! I actually laughed out loud.
While speaking with Matt and watched him using his Nikon D810 and Nikkor 24-70 F/2.8 lens, the more it made me realise how much I want to upgrade to a full frame camera. The image quality on the back of the camera alone looked stunning and I really feel this will improve my photography. I know for sure it will help me in low light conditions and also the non-cropped sensor will empower me to photograph the whole scene that I see with my natural eye (using the same focal lengths that I currently use).
Sadly, the D810 currently retails at around £2700 and the 24-70 lens (Nikon’s flagship lens) costs about £1100. So, with a baby on the way in the coming weeks (due Nov 2nd), it’s unlikely my hobby budget will stretch that far. So I will not be upgrading any time soon.
But, for now, I’m more than content with the results I’m getting with my D3100 and 18-55mm Kit Lens. I changed shooting angles several times, originally trying to capture the church in the background, but it was just too foggy. In the end my favourite shot from this morning’s outing was when a group of swans came over, just as the sun started to burn through the mist. Little did I know at the time just how good this shot would turn out to be…
I’m really pleased with the shot and didn’t even have to do much post-processing, except to remove some sensor spots. I’m fairly sure that my Nikon D3100 needs a good sensor clean as I keep getting the spots in the same part of my images. They are more obvious when I’ve been using my ND Grad filters, but I’ve cleaned the filters (and my lens) and it doesn’t make much difference. I will arrange to have my sensor cleaned ASAP.
Anyway – Once I’d finished processing the photo, I uploaded it to my Facebook page and also tweeted it. I received a lot of positive feedback from friends, family and followers. It appeared on The Wiltshire and Gloucestershire website and BBC England also featured it as “England’s Big Picture” on 11th Sept.
After that, well… Things just went a little bit crazy. My photo went viral!
Friday 19th Sept was an incredible overwhelming experience! I was approached by a media agency earlier that week, advising they had stumbled across my picture on social media and asked if I’d be willing to share it with them to syndicate it to the National Media (on a commission basis).
“Swan Lake: A spectacular sunrise fights its way through the early morning mist at Lechlade-on-Thames in Gloucestershire” The Times
I was a little sceptical at first, but figured I have nothing to lose (they promised me I would retain full copyright). To my complete surprise, I had an email today from the agency, telling me that my photo is printed in The Times and The Guardian today! As an added bonus, they told me there was a nice payment on the way too! You can imagine my pride and delight!
“Shadow Birds: Swans gliding with otherworldy grace through an early mist ghosting over the river at Lechlade-on-Thames” The Guardian
My day then got even better as a flood of emails started pouring through with people who had seen my photo in the papers and making enquiries about ordering prints. The nicest feedback I had was when Tom Mangold (a former BBC Panorama journalist) compared my photo with a Turner watercolour!
I was delighted to meet up with Tom a few weeks later and deliver him a stunning surface mounted 15.5″ x 21.5″ print onto 10mm acrylic with a high gloss ‘deep water’ over-laminate on the print. I am immensely proud of the photo and seeing it such a high quality print all but brought tears to my eyes.
“A very calming image. It reminds me of a Turner watercolour”. Tom Mangold
Tom invited me into his home and I enjoyed a coffee with him while I showed him the finished product. We then sat and chatted a little about his illustrious career as a BBC Panorama journalist. I was thrilled to listen to his tales and anecdotes and would have stayed to listen for hours, had I not needed to hurry back to the office!
I’ve subsequently entertained requests for more orders in a variety of sizes and different print qualities. All in all, a very rewarding experience!
If you would like to speak to me about ordering this photo (or any of my other work), please do get in touch with me via my contact page.