Crepuscular Creatures

‘Castlerigg’, Castlerigg Stone Circle, Keswick, Cumbria
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, 17-40mm f/4 L @ 36mm, 2 minutes @ f/10
LEE 2-stop ND, 3-stop ND and 2-stop ND Grad filters.
Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 tripod, Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head.
Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

“Landscape photographers are crepuscular creatures, we tend to function most creatively at twilight, be it dawn or dusk.”

Crepuscular Creatures

Although there are obvious directional differences, the colour palettes of dawn and dusk are essentially identical but sequenced in reverse. Landscape photographers are crepuscular creatures, we tend to function most creatively at twilight, be it dawn or dusk. At these times, a greater array of colours becomes available and the sky becomes tinged with beautiful pink and orange hues. Sunlight glances low across the landscape providing wonderful textural rendering of the earth’s surface. At certain times during the year, the sun may also reveal the texture of appropriately angled vertical surfaces. At other times of the year, these same surfaces will be thrown into shadow. It can be challenging to pre-visualise how the appearance of a location will change through the seasons.

With a little dedication and an alarm clock, the rewards of an early rise can be breathtaking. Although a dawn shoot provides similar advantages in colour to dusk, the morning twilight offers a very different psychological experience. As the world awakens around us to greet the new day, with the strengthening warm illumination and harmonious blend of hues our creative spirit is stimulated, enlivened.

Castlerigg is a favourite haunt for landscape photographers. It provides a huge number of compositional possibilities. This view, looking south-east towards Helvellyn is perhaps my personal favourite, providing reasonable separation of the stones and subliminal echoing of the surrounding hill contours by the shapes of the top of the stones and the imaginary lines that can be made between them. This image was made late in May when the sun rises in the north-east. There is a gap in the surrounding hills, allowing direct lighting of the stones and optimal textural rendering of the foreground at sunrise.

I attached two neutral-density filters in addition to a neutral-density-graduated filter to hold back the sky. I also dropped the ISO down to 50 to allow a further doubling of the exposure compared to the optimum ISO of 100. Using an ISO of 50 results in a slightly reduced dynamic range compared to the native ISO of the Canon 1Ds3 but a long exposure was important to allow some movement of the clouds, counter-balancing the solidity and permanence of the magnificent megaliths.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.