Lavington Common, Sussex

 

 There alsoAn atmospheric scene full of subtle colour awaits John Dominick one dewy summer s morning at this heathland location, making the early start worthwhile

There is an area of heathland in West Sussex that can only be maintained through our intervention, Thankfully, it is thriving due to various conservation efforts. Heathland are spaces that have expansive views and are rich in wildlife, offering many photo opportunities. Lavington Common is only a 20-minute drive from my home and it is a place I know intimately. Whenever I visit I always find an image to make and, no matter what my mood, I always feel invigorated by the experience.

Every year, I look forward to the summer months and the riot of purples and pinks of the heather. One of the great joys of my life is to stroll out onto the common, tripod in hand, to be greeted by a blaze of heather, while listening to the birdsong hanging in the warm summer air. Last year was an exceptional year for heather on Lavington Common, exceeding all of my expectations.

Usually an evening shooter, I was aware that if I wanted to make use of as much of the best light as possible I was going to have to do a few early morning shoots. There was also a corner of the common that I had never really photographed to its full potential because it sits in a dip in the land, the sunrays making an early exit every evening. After seeing a favourable weather forecast I made my way to the common one morning in late August and enjoyed what must be one of my most memorable visits to date. There was a slight hint of early autumn chill in the air and, although I was initially concerned about the hazy sky, as I walked from the trees surrounding the car park I was greeted by a magical sight. There was a low mist hanging above the heather, cloaking the landscape in a wonderful diffused light. I began to feel slightly under pressure, as I knew that once the sun rose above the tree line the contrast range would be beyond the limitations of my camerasensor.

As I had discovered on a previous visit, an advantage of coming here at dawn is that the heather appears bejewelled by dew-laden spider webs; something I had in mind for this image. As I walked the path, my eye was drawn to a swathe of heather backed by pine trees and I could see a very subtle triangular shape in the foliage, pulling my eye into the scene. There was also a large cobweb, its fine thread translucent in the soft light —the perfect anchor for the foreground.

Things were coming together quickly as the mist began to evaporate, and my tripod was hurriedly deployed. My Nikon 24mm PCE lens offered the ideal perspective for the image I envisaged, with the frame half-filled with heather.

I also liked the way complete trees were visible through the trunks in the middle distance. I fine-tuned the composition with a few adjustments of the tripod position and applied slight front tilt to the lens to ensure front to back image sharpness. The sun was just beginning to show through the far treetops, which meant that I had only a few minutes left before I would lose the image to lens flare. I decided to place a 0.6 ND grad over the sky area. I knew this would darken the tops of the tree trunks but I wanted to retain a hint of colour in the sky. To resolve this, I removed the filter and recorded an image that would capture detail in the bark and some of the foliage, which I could later blend in post-production. Hopefully, the heather will put on a good show again this year, and I can explore other areas of Sussex heathland I have yet to visit.

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