Malham Tree

Article text
Lone Tree Malham
I woke up on a misty Saturday morning in a hotel in the North Yorkshire Dales, looking out the window to the east I could see immediately that there was already a red tint I the morning sky.

I had already made my mind up that I was going to visit the limestone pavement at Malham which was about 20mins away by car.

As normal I had woken up slightly late, so as normal was in a rush. However as soon as I left the hotel heading on the road to Malham it became clear that the low level mist was extremely thick, so rushing was not neither advisable or possible.

Once I had push my way very slowly through the ever thickening mist I finally arrived at the village of Malham, in order to get the tree and the limestone pavement you need to drive through the village and follow a small road bounded by stone walls up a steep and winding hill.
As I approached the top of the hill like an aircraft breaking through the clouds I emerged into clear sky’s and saw the lone tree on my right hand side. There is only one parking spot and fortunately it was empty.

The tree and limestone pavement are on a prominence about a 150 metres from the rood over a stone wall, it was clear also looking at the sky it was going to be a glorious morning for photography.

Having virtually sprinted the 150 metres across a boggy field with about 15kg of camera gear on my back I still needed climb up the steep and at this time of the morning slippery rise to the pavement, but taking a very deep breath up I went.

At this point the term “limestone pavement” needs to be slightly clarified, as can be seen by the image its not a pavement in the normal sense of the word. You can’t just go walking across it, unless you want to break your ankle in four places. So having reached the top of the prominence I dropped the camera gear and carefully scouted out the image I wanted.

There are a limited number of location on the pavement if you want to use the limestone as leading lines running towards the tree, so the scouting process did not take that long. I tried to get a little splash of colour within the limestone blocks with the foliage in the foreground.

The morning sky was now on the verge of peaking in terms of colour and the sun was within a few minutes from clipping the horizon and thus causing me problems with both exposure and lens flare, particularly as I knew I would need to use a small aperture in order to get both the foreground and tree in focus.

With this in mind I quickly set up the Canon 5DR-S, the first test shot and histogram immediately highlight the need for filtration to control the highlights in the sky so I dropped in a Lee ND 0.6 Soft Grad. The reflective red light from the sky was now brushing over the top of the limestone and conditions were as good as they were going to get.

As the morning moved on the colour in the sky began to dilute but still remained beautiful, descending into more pastel colours but increased definition in the tree structure as it was side lit by the sun.

Once full daylight arrived my stomach quickly reminded me that man could not live by photography alone and breakfast was needed ASAP.