Raddon Hills, Devon
For many photographers heading to the West Country, the rolling fields of Devon are a picturesque green blur either side of the A30, passed by in favour of the rugged coastline of neighbouring Cornwall. This is no bad thing; we are naturally drawn to the coast, and Cornwall contains some of the finest coastline anywhere in the world. However, while the appeal of coast to photographers is undeniable, the beautiful countryside of mid-Devon should also deserve some time for exploration.
Mid-Devon is a sleepy little oasis in modern England. An endless patchwork of lush rolling countryside, dotted with tiny villages made up of pretty thatched cottages. While the rest of the Southwest becomes clogged with traffic throughout the warm holiday months, summer tourism seems to pass mid-Devon by completely. When I moved to this area in 2008, I was pleasantly surprised by how peaceful and untouched such an accessible and beautiful location could be.
In order to get to know this new area, the first thing I invested in were a series of OS maps. With so much rolling landscape I was keen to find elevated viewpoints from which I could capture far reaching vistas. After spending many hours exploring the maps for potential locations my eyes came across Raddon Hills. Initial reactions were very positive; according to the map Raddon Hills consisted of a ridge with steep drop-offs either side, providing views both to the north and south. What's more, there was a footpath running straight over the crest of the hills, making access simple and legitimate.
Upon making my first trip to Raddon Hills, I was even more impressed. The ridge was very open; nothing but a small hedge or fence blocking the expansive views. And what views they were! Although only 235m at its summit, Raddon Hills provide a breathtaking and far reaching view southwards over the countryside of the Exe Valley, and an equally spectacular northwards view as far as Exmoor.
By the time I made this particular June trip, I was already very familiar with the photographic possibilities Raddon Hills had to offer. Yet each season brought with it a dramatic change to the rolling rural landscape, and summer offered perhaps the most refreshing new potential to familiar viewpoints.
For the main shot on this morning, I resisted the urge to include the whole of this beautiful tree, in favour of a closer cropped more imaginative composition. In order to keep the composition clean I positioned myself so that the lower branches of the tree were close to, but not crossing the summit of the background hill. Then, using my Canon 24-70L set at a focal length of 50mm I composed the shot, placing the tree to the left of the frame in order to maximise the sunlit bark and leaves.
After I was satisfied with the composition I next considered my filtration options. With the position of the sun almost 90 degrees to my right, I knew that a polarising filter would have a welcome saturating effect on the vibrant greens of the landscape, and so attached my Lee 105mm polariser. I almost always use graduated filters to balance exposures in landscape photography but on this occasion, with the tree dominating the upper frame I knew this would not be possible without over darkening the leaves. So I decided to make do with some overexposure in the sky, which could hopefully be reclaimed slightly back at home with some minor adjustments in Lightroom to the RAW file.
After taking the shot, I moved to a nearby stile on the south facing slope of Raddon Hills. The morning sunlight was illuminating the stile, crop field and background countryside beautifully, making my composition a simple process. For such a clear sky my instincts pushed me to include far less of it in the frame, but when you are taking photographs professionally you sometimes have to consider things more commercially. Luckily this paid off, as this image is now the cover of a new BritainGuide by AA Publishing!
Next time you are planning a trip down to the CornishCoast, allow yourself an extra day or two to explore the wonderful countryside that mid-Devon has to offer.
Other Related Perspectives
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- Llyn y Fan Fawr, Brecon Beacons
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- Canadian Rockies
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- New Zealand
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