A couple of weeks ago I went with some friends to 'wild' camp (it used to just be called camping!) at Low Water below The Old Man of Coniston. A beautiful little tarn a few hundred feet below the summit which I rightly thought would would be sheltered from the south westerly winds. I planned to take my camera gear hoping there would be a decent sunset and possibly some good light at sunrise in the morning.
I had in my head the idea of a composition from somewhere near the summit 'of the old Man' but didn't know what. I had been up there just a matter of a few weeks before on a tarn swimming jaunt with another mate. I couldn't remember anything that would make a good foreground other than possibly the summit cairn. I even googled 'Coniston Old Man Images' to get an idea of what might be possible. (A technique which can be useful if you want to see what other people have produced in the area)
Having put my tent up I walked the 25mins to the summit.
There was some great light spilling across Morecombe Bay and the bottom of Coniston water. I looked around for a foreground to include in a wider shot of maybe 35 or 24mm but there was just nothing that excited me. I realised that the shot wasn't about a foreground but the undulations of the hills with light and shadow, Morecombe bay receding into the distance. 70-200mm lens @ 77mm later cropped to 2:1 ratio in Lightroom. The dark clouds above and shadows at the bottom helped to make a natural vignette to draw the eyes into the centre of the image.
I continued my search for foregrounds as I thought the evening had the makings of a great sunset, In my head I wanted a portrait image with jagged rocks in the foreground leading the eye to the coast, possibly Dow Crag and the sun setting in the background. As I looked around still with the 70-200mm lens I could see the Isle of Man was really clear behind Dow Crag. (Some times the Isle of Man is not visible for a number of reasons haze, low cloud or bright sun.) Again the shot wasn't about foreground and by zooming to around 110mm I could concentrate on the Isle of Man with a few other elements providing a supporting cast. Cropped to 16:9.
I was starting to think there were no compositions in which I could include a meaningful foreground, the sun was getting nearer to the horizon, it was now about 7.50pm and sunset was in 20mins. I could see that a gap in the cloud was going to produce some sidelight in about 5mins. I was desperate not to miss it but didn't want to compromise on a just grass and the odd sheep in the foreground.
(I have annotated the next image for demonstration purposes)
I found some rocks which seemed to form a bit a triangle that I could use on the left hand side to balance the bright light coming in from the right. The rocks on the left were nicely lit by the side light. I cropped the image 16:10 a ratio I often use when the top and bottom do not add anything to story.
After posting this image on social media I thought it might look better with less grass in the foreground so increased the crop to 16:9 which I think works better.
I had around 10-15mins to see if I could find another composition, I was still looking for something that would work in portrait either 4:3 or 5:4ratio, my two preferred portrait landscape crops. I usually set the image on the display on my camera to 4:3 (it doesn't have a 5:4 option) to help with the composition process. I found some foreground rocks, the only slight problems meant me standing on an extremely steep slope with a very long drop to the tarn below, even then the nearest foreground was around a meter from the camera. The large dynamic range of the scene dictated I would have to bracket the shots. I wanted to produce a sun star so a narrow aperture (F14) not only helped with that but also gave me a large depth of field using the 16mm lens. The resulting image whilst pleasing is not quite what I had in mind.
So that was it, I thoroughly enjoyed the hunt for compositions which included the elements I was looking for. Sometimes though it shows you don't always find what you're looking for even if the weather conditions are in your favour. Flexibility and not being to fixed about how you shoot a scene can produce images you never actually imagined you would get. I headed back down to the tent for a cup of tea wondering whether sunrise was going to happen and could I find a composition I had in my head involving old mines and bits of rusted metal work.