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Ladybower Reservoir and Padley Gorge film photography

Yes I know, it’s beena very, very long time since I have added anything here.
I had all the intentions to make a blog post every time I created a new video or published a photo…turns out I just didn’t stick to plans.

I blame nobody but myself for this but I’m going to try and spend a bit more time talking about each shoot I go on so that there’s more context to go with each video a photo series.

So let’s get started…

20th June 2020

It’s 2:15am and my alarm starts shouting at me to wake up. I had packed up the night before as the weather had promised fantastic potential conditions for a cloud inversion so all I had to do was decide where to go. I toyed with Winnats Pass but had been there only a couple of weeks ago so chose Ladybower Reservoir…misty water shots felt like the right thing to do.

As I’m driving along the M1 towards the Chesterfiled junction I can see the daylight growing already and it’s only 2:45am, I then remembered it’s the summer solstice so we’re at the peak of the longest days.

I pull up alongside the reservoir and there’s enough daylight to see all of the reservoir which means one thing…no mist, no inversion…noooo! I didn’t give up and waited a while. I could see mist rolling over the tree line from Snake Pass and hoped that this was it, it was was coming so i set up the Pentax 6×7 loaded with Porta 400 and the Canon 5D mkIV on their tripods ready to capture the moment, except it didn’t. The mist would roll over the trees and the hill and fizzle out before touching the waters edge.


Staying positive about things I can see some colour appearing in the sky as the rising sun starts to brighten some of the clouds and give them a beautiful rosey colour, perfect for the Portra 400 medium format film sat inside the Pentax 6×7.
As the sun rose higher it quickly made the colours in the sky fade out so I packed up and went over to the bridge to get some refelection shots. I could see from where I stood that the water was super calm near the bridge so had my hopes up that it would make a magical series of shots. As I walk over the bridge I can see how calm the water is and knew I could get something good from this.

I set up the Pentax 6×7 on the grass bank and framed my shot up getting the shot before the sun broke over the top of the hill to my left or the wind picked up and broke the glass-like reflection of the water. I struggled a bit here with metering as I couldn’t dicide where the best place to meter from. The shadowy underside of the bridge was very dark but the highlights of the pale sides of the bridge were close to blowing out if i pushed it too far. Portra 400 is quite forgiving when over exposing even all the way up to 6 stops but I wasnted to avoud that as best as i could. I settled for 1/125 @ f/5.6 and pressed the shutter trigger.


I should use the mirror lock up (MLU) mode of this camera but forgot so if viewed at 100% there is a bit of motion blur from the mirror slap. Lukily I took a shot with the Canon 5DmkIV as well. It’s a lesson I won’t forget. It did surprise me that even at 1/125 it still caused a shake, maybe I did something else wrong I don’t know.

The air was so still I sent the drone up for a different viewpiont. You’re not allowed to fly over by the fishing area but there’s no restrictions apart from the obvious laws in this location. I could see the first glowing sunlight hitting the trees on the opposite side of the reservoir so knew I didn’t have much longer here before the light would get too strong for what I wanted to capture here. I landed, packed up and went back to my van for a coffee and some breakfast.

Now I’ve driven to Padley Gorge. A wonderful location of rocky outcrops, a fast flowing river and more trees than you can shake a stick at…more on the trees later.
The sun is getting higher and before I head off into the woods I send the drone up here as I’ve never seen how far the trees go down into the gorge. I was amazed to see how many trees flowed downhill. I’ve walked through them but somehow never took in just how incredibly beautiful all those tree tops looked.

A few drone shots of the river and a couple of B roll video shots it was time to wander down and see what I could find to photograph and I didn’t get far before I found my first subject.

The river here has a few bridges that go over it and I always love this one bridge but have never come away with a shot of it I liked. This is the first time I’ve shot it in colour so wanted to do it justice. The sun was now peaking through the tree tops and shining onto the banks of the river and the bridge. I was struggling working out how to expose for these light spots so took a guesstimate. I loved how I had the curves on the river swinging up out of the shot and flowing under the sweet little bridge. I will do this shot again with a much more contrasty black and white film one day.

Next to where I sat for the bridge shot I noticed a majestic tree. It had branches going out in all so many different directions, twisting and turning it had a strange appeal. I wanted to photograph it, show the wildness of the growth patterns and the texture in it’s limbs. It took a while to find a composition that worked because it had so many shapes and patterns but not something that worked through the camera…very odd and very challenging.

I settled for the above shot. I really felt I showed how impressive this natural beauty had become and continues to be while it watches the water rushing by it’s roots.

Af this I scouted around for more shots from the woodland but have to admit that tiredness was creeping up on me and I was getting frustrated that I couldn’t find more shots. I wanted a shot of some Ferns, more trees and something from the river but I was just unable to make anything work. I fired off the rest of the roll in the woods but I wasn’t happy with what I was seeing through the Pentax 6×7’s viewfinder.

What I should have done is just packed up and saved my shots for another time/location but I needed to finish the roll of Portra so I could get home and develop it in time to do the vlog.

I’m still getting to grips with the Pentax in terms of it’s characteristics and to shoot with it but this is the first roll of colour film that I’ve been happy with most of the shots so I must be doing something right.

So here’s the vlog that goes with this blog post, hope you enjoy.

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