Indecision in Landscape Photography - Where To Go For The Perfect Photo

On the scale of indecisiveness I see myself located just off centre, but slowing sliding towards a state of ‘I can’t decide which foot to put forward first’. The thing is I kind of enjoy the process of decision making, certainly for the bigger decisions that come along. For the majority of my life the process of researching, analysing and weighing up various possibilities has led to success in an education system focused on analytical thinking. Rightly or wrongly I now take satisfaction from making a good decision over time. I take much less satisfaction making decision on the trivial matters, but I still take as much time, often leading to infuriation from within and without.

One decision I definitely do not take pleasure from is selecting a location to visit at sunrise when seeking the 'perfect’ landscape photo. I wake at 6am with a plan, but over the course of the next 45-60mins as I gradually wake up, my mind jumps between maybe 4-5 ideas. I check the weather, webcams, social media looking for a clue on where I should plonk my tripod or feet.

This indecision still lives on for the first 10-15mins of my drive out into the Peak District. I am lucky to live close by and evenly location to reach several great locations for landscape photography. So I usually get in the car still without a definite plan in mind. As I drive along I’m still looking for a sign, some external factor to make my decision for me. It does not happen. As I drive down the snake pass towards Ladybower sometimes I will see a cloud inversion ahead, or snow or frost covered trees, or sometimes nothing but dank grey. Within each of these types of conditions there are still decision to be made. If there is a cloud inversion do I go for the umpteenth time to Winnats Pass, do I finally go and get one of the cliche gate photos from Mam Tor or risk somewhere new. If it’s overcast which woodland should I head for, Bole Hill Quarry again? I could have just walked over the road from home to Fox Hagg if I was after tree photos and earned another 30mins in bed.

There is a certain point on the drive where I have to make a decision. As I reach the bottom end of Bamford the road goes left to Hathersage or right to Castleton. Going right likely means Winnats Pass or Mam Tor, left probably means Bole Hill Quarry or perhaps Froggatt. By this time I’m usually behind schedule for sunrise proper anyway so no decision is ‘perfect’. So if you ever see a car doing loops around the junction at the bottom of Bamford, seemingly spinning around for fun, it’s probably me quadruple thinking about where to be.

And so this happens every time I rise early for landscape photography (not that often). The root cause of the problem perhaps lies in the pressure of getting the ‘perfect’ outcome. It all boils down to 1-4 photos that I must get to make the morning a success and be able to share to much acclaim. Perhaps a project would help me. A definite long term goal to photograph a location in all conditions, taking the decision of where to be out of my hands.

The question is what location to choose for such a project?

On this morning of the 15th Feb I turned right towards Castleton, then reached Hope and turned back. Finally ending up in a lay-by somewhere near Curbar Edge where I noticed the sun making the grasses glow. After a few moments I got into the swing of things photographing the frost and heather and before I knew it over an hour had passed. A brief period of true flow as I dived from one patch of ground to the next looking for new patterns that caught my eye.

Back in the car I thought it was worth the short drive to Curbar to see if there was any cloud left in the valley but along the way noticed interesting trees to the left and so I followed this road to a place I hadn’t visited before.

I ended up at Leash Fen on the very eastern edge of the Peak District. Having never visited I was amazed by the vastness of the moor and the forms of the trees dotted throughout. I was happy to have found this location, it felt like somewhere new but with potential to delve deeper in the future.

I traipsed out into the moors, the best of the light had gone but the thin mist still added depth to the scene. I felt like a kid in a candy shop with each shift in position highlighting a new shape or isolating a different tree. As I reached a small pond of frozen water I took a final few frames before deciding to leave. The light was too harsh now and the ground seemed to be getting boggier.

In the end the indecision paid off. Or did it? Time will tell. Or will it?

Now I just have to decide which photos to edit. How to crop them. What to do with them.


from 2.50

A lone tree growing from the moorland at Leash Fen on the eastern edge of the Peak District.

This image was created on my first visit to this area as I explored on a winter morning.

Leash Fen, Peak District | 2019

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