North Downs Weekend

We were lucky enough to spend a few days in the North Downs at the weekend. It was nice to be away from the town. We have been lucky to find our own places of solitude just by walking a few miles, but it has all been a bit much during the pandemic to be honest.

We would have a lovely garden to sit in for a few days, and the North Downs a few hundred yards away where we could get a bit of elevation and hopefully get some nice photographs.

Lots of bees exploring the flowers in the garden – 300mm – f7.1 – 1/500th – ISO100

We had a few errands to run on Saturday morning, but made the most of the garden for the afternoon. I had a great time photographing the wildlife in the garden, as well as a few of the colourful flowers. I was using the 70-300mm lens for all of the garden shots, as I was hoping to get a good photo of a goldfinch, which is something I’ve failed to do since I have had the new Nikon camera.

Friendly squirrel – 300mm – f7.1 – 1/500th – ISO125
Beautiful flowers – 175mm – f7.1 – 1/1250th – ISO140

The plan was always to spend the day relaxing the garden, then hike up the North Downs in the late evening to see if we could see the sunset. I had used an IOS app called SunTrackerAR to work out where the sun would be setting, and at what time. The weather forecast was looking okay, a few clouds were forecast, which as you know, gives us the best chance of a great sunset. We cooked a meal and ate in the garden (a novelty for us) and set off about 7.45pm.

Lots of wonderful colours – 70mm – f7.1 – 1/500th – ISO100

It was a warm evening, and the hour long hike up the hill was a bit sweaty, but we soon arrived in a likely spot where I could set up the tripod and have a good go at getting some shots. I opted for the 18-55mm lens, and took some photos with the 7 stop ND filter to begin with, as we had some bright sunshine before the sun dipped below the trees. To work out shutter speed for the ND filter I used another IOS app called LE Calculator.

Half way up the hill – 18mm – f9 – 1/30th – ISO100

All the photos were taken using bracketing – which, for those who haven’t encountered it, is where the camera takes multiple photos in quick succession (3 in this case) all at different exposure levels – this is done to ensure the sky, the subject and the foreground are all properly exposed, and that you get no areas of over exposed sky, or dark shadowy foreground.

Getting set up for bracketing – iphone shot

For the Nikon D5600 this is quite easy, you just select the correct exposure for the shot as normal, then select the bracketing option from the menu (I chose 2 exposure stops either side), and then I chose a 2 second shutter delay on the shooting menu, press and hold the shutter for a second, then release – the camera then takes all 3 shots from the tripod after another second delay. The delay ensures that you don’t move the camera while holding the shutter button down.

Just before sunset – 18mm – BRCKT – 1SEC – ISO100

I had used this before, but not in harsh contrasting light conditions, so it was all an experiment for me and I was unsure of the results as the true photo is not seen until editing/merging. We hiked back down and arrived back just before dark.

Right on sunset – 18mm – BRCKT – 1/50th – ISO100

I downloaded a couple of JPEG images that night, selecting the first, correctly exposed shot from the 3 shots for each composition, and uploaded a couple to Instagram – I was really happy with the results!! The rest would need to be edited on the laptop, to merge the 3 photographs together in LightRoom (HDR merge) – so this would need to be done on Monday when we got home.

Just after sunset – 18mm – BRCKT – 1/30th – ISO100

The next morning (Sunday), we were up and out early to do another longer hike to explore the area a bit more….but it was very hot from early on in the day, so we only managed about 3-4 miles in the steep hills before we had almost drank all of our 2 litres of water, and had to head back down. The sky was completely clear, not ideal conditions for photography to be honest, but I found a few spots where I would like to visit in more favorable conditions that could produce great photos in the right light.

At the top of the North Downs, looking South East – 18mm – f13 – 1/400th – ISO100
Some really steep hills about! 18mm – f13 – 1/250th – ISO100

We spent the rest of the day trying to cool off in the garden, before heading back home to reality in the evening. I hope you enjoy some of the photos as much as I enjoyed taking and editing them.

Another garden flower – 300mm – f7.1 – 1/125 – ISO100

See you soon.

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