on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Composition Challenge

One Padley Tree

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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Whilst planning the September board meeting for On Landscape and a planning meeting for the conference we decided that another office based discussion could be avoided by hiring a cottage in the Peak District for a few days and combining the event with a bit of photography, food and drink. On the final day we paid a visit to the top end of Padley Gorge and I challenged Joe Cornish, David Ward and myself to find three or four photographs but with the proviso that they all had to include a particular, famous Padley tree as a significant compositional element. How did we get on? Read about it below.

Joe Padley pano 4000

Joe Cornish at work by David Ward


David Ward

I often set participants on my workshops the task of only making one image in twenty minutes. Of course to a large format photographer this seems unduly hasty; indeed, four or five images in a day seems pretty rapid shooting to me. On this occasion I was using a Fuji XE-1, a camera that positively encourages faster working. Nevertheless I tried my best to avoid a reckless use of pixels. So, when Tim suggested that Joe, he and I spend one hour making four images of just one tree I felt quite at home. Although I did resist the urge to punch the air and cry, “Yes!”

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  • herb1815

    Hi Tim
    What a great excersise , and would definitely like to see more of these. I can see this being a useful and exciting way to work on my own compositional skills ( something I think I really struggle with ) I go out with good intentions but then get carried away and forget most of the things I wanted to work on, this kind of approach would make me more disciplined and look harder for an image that works.
    Thanks for another great article

  • John Dominick

    A fascinating read and for me the final rendering of the colours and tones of the images is as interesting as the compositions. I must admit to enjoying all the interpretations and to some extent take comfort from the variation as sometimes I can find myself struggling with post production. I very much enjoy the process of making images but on many occasions it can take a while for me to arrive at a final processed image I am happy with. I admit that I would like to find the time to return to many of my past efforts as I feel that my approach was often heavy handed. I don’t want to find myself in a situation where all my post-processing follows the same formula as much as I don’t wish to find my compositions becoming repetitive but I am usually much happier on location than in front of a monitor. To this end articles such as this are useful on several levels. I also found it interesting that it was almost as much about the millstone as the tree, as I seem to mostly favour the images in which it features.

  • Kevin Fidler

    A very informative exercise not only seeing the very different results and interpretations but being able to read about the thought processes behind them. Very useful being the same subject, location and time as you cannot put the results down to weather, time of day or year etc.

  • Adam Pierzchala

    A great read as others have said and I encourage you to turn the concept into a series. Reading how the three of you approached and analysed the scene is highly informative, especially as I too now really enjoy the visualisation stage and am less worried if I don’t press the shutter. It’s interesting though that none of the commentators has dared to suggest which image might be their favourite…

  • michael cummins

    A very interesting and inspiring read, many thanks.

    Living in the central part of the Peak District myself, close to Bakewell and only minutes from Padley, I know these woods very well and this particular tree and millstone too.

    So far, however, in more than 2 years’ of regular Peak outings with my camera, I’ve taken just one photograph of this scene; I’ve just never felt the light good enough except for that one occasion when I tumbled across the recognisable, leaf-covered millstone standing in juxtaposition against all that flippin’ green.

    More and more these days, although out in my particular landscape at every opportunity, I do take fewer shots, preferring to immerse myself in the surroundings before committing to anything.

    I also much prefer to go out alone where I’m free to wander when and where I like, with no regard to anything but perhaps time. I think this deliberately slower and lone approach has helped me improve my photography and build a more concentrated, but more sensitive connection with the environment in which I move and work.

    Taking (more than) plenty of time in a single location can be very rewarding as is evidenced by the results of this challenge in what, to my eyes, seemed much less than ideal light.

    You’ve inspired me to attempt a 2nd image of the scene very soon and I thank you all again for that :)

  • Tom Phillips

    Like Michael, I’m inspired by this to return. I shot a series about this same tree, on my Bronica 6×4.5 back in the 1990s. For my money, this (autumn) is the time of year to shoot there if worried about “all that flippin’ green”. A much fuller palette of browns around now.

    Great article and lovely, evocative shots.


  • Stuart Westmore

    What a great idea. Enjoyed seeing the different approaches each of you employed to find a different narrative of the scene, and even when going wide you all gave quite differing renditions. I’d love to see more articles like this, too. (And I guess you feel the need to add some drama you can always wager a nice bottle of red and run a readers poll to decide the winner.!)

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