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Dancing with the Devil at Finnich Glen.

Photographing The UK - Part 1

Finnich Glen from just past the Devil's Pulpit on the left had side of the gorge.

Canon R5, RF 24-105mm L Lens. Gitzo Mountaineer Tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-40 Ball Head, Lee Circular Polariser. 5 images focus stacked, shot at f4, iso 250, 0.4 second exposure. Edited in Lightroom and Photoshop with Raya Pro.

I have been thinking a lot about my Blog recently, I am really conscious that it has been quite a while since I wrote anything, however I don't want to fall into the trap of just blogging for the sake of it. I really do appreciate it when you read these blogs and it has always been my intention that they would add some sort of value, that you would look forward to the next post and if you felt with was worthy, then you would share it with your friends and family.

Last week, I finally got the opportunity to visit Finnich Glen, which has been on my bucket list for a very long time. As usual, I posted a couple of the images online, through my social media channels which were really well received. I had a lot of questions about where this location actually is and how I photographed it. It was in answering these questions, that I found the answer to the blog that I was looking for; "why not create posts about where I go, how to get there and provide an explanation of how I took the photos along with the camera settings"? I am going to call these new blogs "Photographing The UK" and will also publish similar posts from my travels around the world.

Onto Finnich Glen then. However before we go any further, you need to be aware that this location is not easy is access. There is only one way down into the gorge, it is very steep with lots of uneven steps, many of which have fallen. Locally the path is known as Jacob's Ladder although on Google Maps as you will see it is called Zaine's ladder. Thankfully someone has put ropes in on the most difficult sections which makes the journey down slightly less hazardous. Be very careful when going down, fall and you could be in serious trouble. There is a mobile phone signal at the bottom of the gorge which was reassuring. The two images below, will provide you with all of the information that you need to get to Finnich Glen. There isn't much parking and I believe it can get very busy during the day, so my advice would be to get there early. I parked up at just after six in the morning and there wasn't a sole around. The first people I saw in the gorge arrived shortly after 8am. You can park where it says Finnich Glen on the second image, there is space for about 5 cars, or you can park in the lay-by which is on the south side of the gorge, there is space for about 3 cars here. Parking in both locations is free. If you look at the second image, you will see that access into the gorge is on the south side of the river - there is no access at all to the north. Follow the path through the woods for about 5 - 10 minutes and you will see the steps. Take your time going down the steps and be careful. Once you get to the bottom, it becomes obvious where you need to go.

To get to the Devil's Pulpit you are going to need to be prepared to get feet. When I visited, there was no way to get to pulpit without walking through the water. It wasn't that deep, only about knee height. I had walking boots and waterproof trousers on, but in all honesty these didn't keep me dry at all. I had accepted that I was probably going to need a change of shoes, socks before I went and had these in the car for my return. It may be possible to walk along a small ledge if the river level was lower but I can't guarantee this. One other quick tip is to extend one of your tripod legs fully, which you can then use as a walking stick and to also check the depth of the water. If there has been a lot of heavy rain prior to your visit and the local rivers are swollen then it is doubtful you would get to the pulpit, indeed I would suggest that it would be dangerous to even go down into the gorge.

Once you get to the pulpit itself then you need to look for compositions. When I visited there was a very large tree in the gorge that had obviously been there for some time. This has somewhat ruined the opportunity to create a composition of the pulpit looking up towards the waterfalls which you can see in the very first image. However if you walk carefully past the tree and then balance your tripod you can get some great shots in either portrait or landscape aspect. There isn't much light in the gorge, so this is where you are going to need to a choice about your shutter speed and camera settings. I wanted to have some movement in the water, so a shutter speed between 1/6 to 0.4 second were desirable. To get the image sharp from front to back then I needed to be at f11, however this meant that iso 1600 was needed which would have added noise into the image. To get round the problem I shot the composition at f4, iso 250 and 0.4 second. Obviously, I wouldn't get the depth of field the I needed, so I took 5 images and focus stacked. I also took a couple of additional images with a longer shutter speed, so I had the detail in the shadows, if I couldn't recover them in the original images in post processing. As it happened, I didn't need to use them, but it's always a good idea to think about what you might need for your edit and get the information you need when on location, rather than have to struggle without it when you are home.

The Devil's Pulpit

Canon R5, RF 24-105mm L Lens. Gitzo Mountaineer Tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-40 Ball Head, Lee Circular Polariser. 4 images focus stacked, shot at f8, iso 100, 1.6 second exposures. Edited in Lightroom and Photoshop with Raya Pro.

I really wanted a close up image of the Pulpit itself. As I have mentioned already, there is a large tree that has fallen into the gorge, close to where I have placed the camera to take this photo which ruined to opportunity to take a photo looking in the opposite direction. I tried really hard to make something work, but to no avail - now there is a challenge for you if you decide to visit having read this blog! In the end I settled for a composition looking back down through the gorge ( this is what you have to walk through to gain access). It's a fairly simple image, the only challenge was making sure nothing looked out of place or interfered with the final image, so placing the camera on the tripod took a little while. The image was focus stacked again at f8, iso 100 and 1.6 shutter speed.

I took another couple of images around the pulpit which didn't really work as I wanted them too, that said there are plenty of opportunities for you to get creative.

Looking through the gorge to the Devils Pulpit.

Canon R5, RF 16-35mm L Lens. Gitzo Mountaineer Tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-40 Ball Head, Lee Circular Polariser. 5 images focus stacked, shot at 5.6 iso 100, 1 second exposures. Edited in Lightroom and Photoshop with Raya Pro.

The final image that I want to share with you is my favourite from the visit. You can't really miss the tree in the foreground as it is literally in front of you when you come down the steps into the gorge. The tricky part is incorporating it into the image. It took me about 20 minutes to finally settle on the composition with lots of fine tuning of the camera height on the tripod. Again, I knew that I wanted it to be sharp form front to back and I also wanted the viewers eye to finish on the pulpit. I have talked about shooting with the final edit in mind in previous blogs as this is a classic example. Standing in the gorge, it was easy to think about how great the image would have been if there had been a little bit of fog or if you got really lucky, a light ray illuminating the pulpit which is where you want the viewers eye to finish. Neither happened during my visit however with a little bit of dodging and burning in post processing, I was able to create the right ray. The tree itself acts as a great leading line into the composition. Once again the image is focused stacked. In a good year, if I can created what would class as 12 portfolio quality images then I am really happy. I would happily put this image in this category.

Just one final comment about visiting Finnich Glen. Please remember to take your litter home with you. I guess if you are reading this blog, there you are already passionate about the wonderful landscapes that we have in the UK and protecting them along with the wildlife that lives in and around them. I collected 5 plastic bottles and a couple of cans that had been previously left behind. They are now in the bin which is where they should have been put in the first place. If you see any litter, then please don't just walk past it, take a couple of seconds to pick it up and dispose of it responsibly, with the satisfaction that you have done some good. I know we will never change the behaviour of everyone but as a photography community, we can all do our bit.

So there you have it, my review on photographing the fabulous Finnich Glen. I would really love to know what you think of this post, has it provided you with useful information, is there anything that you think I could have included or should have omitted. If you click the log in link which is at the bottom of the page if you are reading this on a pc or at the top of the menu section if you are reading on an tablet or phone, you will be able to leave comments and also will receive notification around future posts along with being the first to know about new workshops. Also please do feel to share the link to this blog with your friends, family or on your social media channels.

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