Posts from the ‘West Dean’ category

West Dean Estate – walking the dog plus some shutter therapy.



At about 3.30 yesterday afternoon our cocker spaniel wanted to be taken for a walk. He always does at this time of day, and the temptation is to revisit one of many well trodden paths because it’s familiar and easy to do. On this occasion I decided to go somewhere new. So I took him in the car, and with a camera in my coat pocket we headed towards a part of The West Dean Estate to the north of the village of Chilgrove and walk from there. There was some lovely late afternoon sun mixed in with light and dark clouds. I just love these weather conditions for both walking and photography.




By way of some background, The West Dean Estate covers approximately 6,400 acres (2,590 hectares) along the Sussex South Downs. It stretches over 6 miles (9.7 kms) from the South Downs escarpment overlooking the Sussex Weald to the edge of the Trundle Hill overlooking the English Channel and the Isle of Wight. While much of the village of West Dean and West Dean College is sheltered within the Lavant valley, the Estate rises to its highest point of almost 750 feet (280 m) on the top of the Downs. The estate is a mixture of farmland, commercial woodland and is home to West Dean College and the village of West Dean itself. There are about 20 miles of footpaths and bridleways, including a section of The South Downs Way.




Interestingly all of the heating and hot water needs of West Dean College (and parts of the village) are met entirely, and on a sustained basis, by using wood fuel grown on the West Dean Estate. The biomass district heating scheme was one of the first, and remains one of the largest of its kind, in the UK.










I was pleased I made the effort to walk our spaniel along some new tracks. Wherever I go I always find something to photograph and in the space of just an hour or so, I was able to return with some images hopefully worth sharing on my blog.

All of the photographs were taken with an Olympus OMD EM5 and 1.7mm f1.8 Olympus lens and processed in Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro2.

Changing light – an exercise

One of the ‘mini’ tasks we were set during the ‘People and Places’ course at West Dean College was to photograph the same scene at different times of the day to see how the light changed and how this would affect the final image. It’s a common thing to be asked to do but as I had never done it before I was keen to see the results and to try and learn something from them. I chose to photograph the River Lavant which runs through West Dean Gardens.

The first shot was taken at 4.40 pm. Keep in mind all these photos were taken at the beginning of August, so the sun was still quite high even at this time of day. Whist this a pleasant shot of the scene the quality of the light is very even and quite poor.


The second shot was taken on the same day but about two and a half hours later at 6.14pm, so the sun was now much lower. For me this image is a great improvement on the first but it’s still not what I might call a ‘keeper’.


The next morning I returned to the same position. The sky was generally overcast but there were breaks in the clouds. I just hoped the sun would break through. The third shot in this series was taken at 8.52am. It’s flat and there is no question in my mind that it’s the poorest of all the images. Here it is.


Two minutes later at 8.54am and the final shot was captured. The break in the cloud cover had materialised and the early morning sun did its magic on the scene. David Noton, a first class UK based landscape photographer often refers to ‘waiting for the light’….in fact he wrote a book with this line as its title. How very true this saying is to the world of photography. For me this is the best of the four but you may have different ideas, in which case do post a comment.

River Lavant at West Dean

It was very definitely a worthwhile exercise and I would recommend it to any photographer. Time of day and the ever changing light are essential ingredients for a good image, particularly a landscape.
I could not complete this entry without an image in black and white. So I converted the last shot in Silver Efex Pro2. Is this the best of the bunch I ask?

River Lavant at West Dean B&W version

‘People and Places’ course at West Dean – the last entry

Back in the Summer I attended an excellent photography course at West Dean College in Sussex – People and Places with Jacqui Hurst. It now seems like a long time ago, so I ought to wrap it up with one last and very overdue entry. The two previous posts realting to this course can be found by clicking on these links – Glorious Goodwood and Littlehampton Seafront.

I have mentioned it before but at the beginning of the course all the participants were asked what they wanted to get out of the week. My reply was quite simply to see in ‘black and white’ and to produce a selection of images all in monochrome. I was certainly true to my word as the images below and on the two previous posts will testify.

Since the course I have almost exclusively shot black and white. My starting point is to shoot in RAW and then convert to Black and White. I did go through a short period when I set the camera to shoot RAW and a B&W jpeg, but this just filled up space on my hard drive. There were more photos to sort and delete, which I am not that good at doing in the first place.

If the shot is poorly composed, not a good subject or the lighting is poor…..I could go on; then whether or not it’s in colour or black and white is not going to make that much difference. In my view I should still be htting the delete key and only processing something which is really worth the time and effort of looking at a computer screen.

I did not take my DSLR on the course, so all the photographs were taken using the Olympus OMD EM5 and a variety of prime lenses. Although I had only purchased the camera a week or two before the course, by the end of the week I was reasonably familiar with its functions and menu systems. Some reviews have said the menu system is quite complicated and not that intuitive. I cant agree, with a little time the camera settings can readily be changed to whatever suits your style.

The trombone clown
Olympus OMD EM5 12-50mm @ 26mm f5.2 1/160 ISO 1600

The trombone clown

The gardener and the wheelbarrow
Olympus OMD EM5 45mm f10 1/400 ISO 200

West Dean Gardens

In conversation? Jacqui Hurst, our tutor and a glass etching
Olympus OMD 45mm f4 1/200 ISO 200

In conversation?

Olympus OMD EM5 145mm f2 1/1250 ISO 320


In profile
Olympus OMD EM5 45mm f4 1/160 ISO 200

Beard and glasses - in profile

Looking out
Olympus OMD EM5 20mm f2.2 1/50 ISO 200

Looking out

Delicate hands
Olympus OMD EM5 45mm f2.2 1/320 ISO 800

Delicate hands

Glasshouse winding mechanism
Olympus OMD EM5 20mm f4.5 1/3200 ISO 200

In a glasshouse

Inside the potting shed
Olympus OMD EM5 12mm f3.2 1/15 ISO 400

Inside the potting shed