Autumn at Toys Hill

Posted on 16th November 2018 by Admin under Adapted lens, Comment, Landscape, Location, Software, Technique

A few days ago, when the sun last shone in this part of the world, I made a trip to Toys Hill.  It is a large area of woodland and was one of the first properties which the National Trust acquired.  A so called “hurricane”, in reality an exceptionally strong wind, devastated the area in 1987.  I recall visiting shortly afterwards and a great many old trees had been toppled by the gale.  Reports say that only 5% survived the onslaught.  The area was unusually open at that time; it was a surreal experience.  Fortunately, nature always finds a way to recover, although I suspect there has also been some active management to help it along.  Today the area is again home to dense woodland.

Light in the trees

Late afternoon sunlight shines through autumnal leaves

I went with the specific intention of capturing the late afternoon sun on the autumnal leaves.  That proved to be challenging as there were few places where the light was breaking through.  The woodland covers a large area, although the sun’s position determined my route through as I needed to stay on the west side.  Eventually I found what I was looking for.  Looking back down a path towards the sun, light was glinting from the upper branches of some tall birch trees.  Rather than falling onto the leaves, the light was shining through them which imparted a pleasing glow.

Some Technical Information

I took my Sony A7 Mk II, a camera for which I own no native lenses.  Instead, everything I use is attached via an adapter.  As I recounted recently, I use a Sigma MC-11 for my Canon EF lenses, but I bought the camera mainly to mount vintage manual focus lenses.  An application for which it is well suited.  I started the afternoon with a Minolta MC  58 f/1.4 attached, but that proved a trifle too long for some shots.  After a while, I switched to a Minolta MD 35-70 f/3.5 macro zoom which gave me the versatility I required.

In the world of classic lenses, primes are the preferred option as they are sharper and have fewer distortions.  Zoom lenses are definitely the inferior choice.  Maybe that is true for some budget models, but the Minolta has an exemplary pedigree.  There are three versions, of which mine is the last.  The first iteration, considered to have the poorest performance, was the basis of Leica’s first 35-70 zoom for its R series of SLRs.  All I can say is that I was getting sharp results wide open, although I generally stopped down to f/8.  Flare can be a problem for vintage lenses, but the Minolta took being pointed towards the sun in its stride.  Not bad for a lens which is at least 30 years old.

There was a fair degree of post processing.  Much of the lower foliage in the original capture was very dark as I did not want to blow the highlights in the sky.  I also warmed the tones to give a more accurate indication of what I experienced.  While I normally process most of my images to completion in Lightroom, on this occasion I took advantage of the Glamour Glow and Foliage filters in Color Efex Pro 4.  They made the scene just a bit more ethereal.

More Shots From Toys Hill

Autumn leaves

Autumn leaves captured with the Minolta 35-70 wide open at f/3.5 to minimise depth of field

Late on as I walked around Toys Hill, I came across some leaves of which I liked the shape.  They were in shade and looked a bit flat both at the scene and in the capture, so I again resorted to the same filters in Color Efex Pro 4.  Yes, I have deviated away from realism, but photography is about much more than that.  The result is my interpretation of what I saw and how I visualised it would turn out when I pressed the shutter.

Toys Hill sunset

Sunset observed from Toys Hill, another shot made with the Minolta 35-70 zoom at f/8

Towards the end of my wanderings, I found a viewpoint looking across the Kent Weald.  It is the site where a long demolished mansion once stood.  I watched the sun set before taking my final shot of the day.  Some might consider sunsets a well worn subject, but there is no denying that they can be a wonderful sight.  I walked back to my car in what remained of the day’s light, happy with what had been a successful outing.

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