Now with my new camera and landscape lens in hand, I knew I had to get the Nikon D7100 and Nikkor 10-24mm out into the Peak district before I could back to Lincolnshire for Christmas. I decided to head out to the very limits of the Sheffield city boundary and visit Hathersage moor, a short walk from the Foxhouse pub, which only costs £1 for me to get to by bus! I was really excited to finally use the ultra-wide-angle Nikkor 10-24mm f3.5-4.5 G AF-S DX lens for landscapes for the first time, having only taken a selfie with it so far… as featured on Nikon Europe’s Facebook page bizarrely enough!
My main aim for this shoot was to get to Higger Tor, one of the most prominent features in this area of the dark peak, to find some nice foreground interest and make the most of such a wide lens. The winter sun was already casting the winter moorland in a warm low light. I spotted this lone tree from a distance and went out of my way to get to it, knowing that it would probably give quite a nice shot. At first I kept my distance, even zooming in just a smidge to tidy up the shot a bit, but for the second shot I decided to really push it and go in much closer with the full wide-angle view. In the background you can see two promontories, the taller one at the back being Higger Tor and the smaller one in front of it being Carl Wark, which, little did I know at the time, is actually an iron age fort!
This was about when I realised just how many more buttons and functions the D7100 has than the D3200, it’s certainly going to take some practice for it all to become second nature again! I also had to get used to just how wide the new lens is! When shooting landscapes with the kit lens (18-55mm) I have gotten into a habit of mainly taking landscapes in portrait format, to squeeze in as much foreground and sky as I can. As soon as I looked through the 10-24mm I knew that I could return to shooting landscape oriented shots again, still being able to get in lots of depth. In the shot below I only really wanted to show the depth of the leading lines of heather leading towards Carl Wark, so again zoomed in to 16mm to concentrate the composition on the elements I wanted to include.
I followed the path up to Carl Wark and decided to search for some nice foreground interest. This shot was taken from the western rampart, looking to Higger Tor. Carl Wark is apparently a rather unusual ancient ruin, and no one really seems to know what it was used for; perhaps a temporary camp, or a court of justice, or maybe even a sacred place for holy rituals. The mystery of what the people were doing here all those hundreds of years ago is quite intriguing, but what I find even more amazing is that perhaps their view of this landscape wasn’t all that different from mine now.
By the time I had reached Carl Wark I had some what lost track of time, and a bank of cloud hung on the horizon, obscuring the bright warm light of the sun. Some gold light was still occasionally whisping its way through, but its at this point landscape photography becomes a game of prediction and gambling: what will the light do next? Where should I go next? The latter choice is especially difficult when you are brand new to the area! Higger Tor looked like it would be a good place for foreground interest facing in the direction of the setting sun; presuming that the sky was going to put on a bit of a show for me, I decided to follow my initial plan and head up its steep slopes. Constantly checking the sky I kept getting faster and faster until I was essential running, camera and tripod in hand, up the rocky hill towards the tor. Why is it I always end up running around when it comes to doing landscape photography!?
Now up on Higger Tor, somewhat breathless and asthmatic, I began shooting. While there was no nice light around, there was plenty of interesting stuff to shoot and the sky was looking pretty good, with the golden orange glow of the setting sun mixed with dark blue brooding clouds. Beyond the patch work of fields you could see the distant hills had a frosting of snow, only the beginning of winters grip. I’d love to come back one day when there’s a proper layer of snow on the ground! Using my graduated neutral density filter hand-held would have been a bit of a pain, so I decided to rely on auto-bracketing to make sure I had all areas of the image exposed correctly a luxury that didn’t come with the D3200! However in post-processing I was quite surprised just how much detail I could recover from the shadows in the RAW files. With the following 3 images processing a single RAW file allowed for a decent all round exposure, but on the 4th I did have to merge two exposures from the auto-bracketing to keep the detail in all areas.
I decided to gradually begin walking back down in the direction of the bus, to try a few more shots from Carl Wark, and because soon it was going to be getting dark, and I didn’t really fancy trudging far in the twilight when it was so muddy and I had a brook to traverse! It was at this point that the sky really lit up with colour, I once again found myself jogging to get back to Carl Wark in time to take this shot. This time looking in the other direction along the same rampart, with some nice orangey-purple heather giving some extra interest in the foreground to accent the orange and pink sky. All round I was really pleased with the camera and the lens, all I need to do now is get out more and keep practicing!