I’m lucky enough to be working with Olympus UK and the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales on a project documenting the wildlife and some of the many nature reserves that exist in south and west Wales.
It’s a fantastic opportunity to not only work with some amazing Olympus camera gear, but to explore reserves I’ve never previously visited, and see the wildlife that lives there.
Llyn Fach Nature Reserve lies about twenty miles northeast of Neath in Wales. It’s a glacial lake in the hills close to the Brecon Beacons and requires a two mile hike through foresty plantation to reach.
I think the thing that hits you most about it – even surpassing the beauty – is the quiet. It’s incredibly peaceful there. Sitting having a quick snack is wonderful as you take in the beauty all around you and the wonderful solitude of the place.
The lake is home to a rich variety of wildlife. There are dragonflies and damselflies, frogs, toads and newts. Otter are frequent visitors. Birds of all kind are present, including coot, little grebe and heron, and birds of prey can be spotted all year.
But there are many rare visitors as well, including nightjar, snipe, cuckoo and crossbill, and ring ouzel and Fieldfare are regular autumn visitors.
I reached the lake late in the day. Autumn was well under way and the hillside was still cloaked in frost despite the late hour. By the time I arrived I only had about thirty minutes to grab a snack and take the image before sunset, so it was all a bit of a rush.
I used the Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II camera, the top end of their mirrorless cameras, with their M.Zuiko Digital ED 12–40mm 1:2.8 PRO lens. This is a fantastic combination. The micro four thirds camera system is light and easy to carry on a hike, despite me carrying extra lenses in case I saw wildlife.
I set the camera on a tripod and used the live view mode on the rear lcd to focus manually, zooming in on the horizon to focus on infinity and get everything tack sharp
The first thing to consider is how to get a correct exposure. Many top-end cameras have a fantastic dynamic range, which is just the range from the darkest shadow to the brightest highlights that the camera can pick out in a single exposure, but that still might not be enough to capture all the detail in a scene. The human eye is an amazing thing. It has an immense dynamic range, so on most occasions the picture you take straight out of a camera will not look the same as how you remember seeing the scene with your own eyes.
A histogram is just a graph you can look at on your camera that shows the brightness levels that exist in the scene you’re looking at. You can use it to check whether everything is properly exposed: too many blown out highlights and your histogram will have a huge peak to the right on the histogram; too many dark blacks and there will be a peak on the left. If the highlights are getting blown out then you might want to use a filter to darken the sky.
But that’s not the only thing you can do.
I decided to do without filters. Using filters takes time and I only had a few minutes to get the shot while the light was good. So I decided to bracket my shots.
What does that mean?
I just took one image where the sky was properly exposed and then another where the dark parts of the image – in this case the pine trees – were good. I then combined the two shots in post-production using Adobe Lightroom to get a single image with a huge dynamic range!
The resulting image is beautiful.
If you’re interested in buying the print, please follow the link to my shop! Thanks.