The South Downs are ancient chalk hills that stretch for about 260 square miles across the south-eastern coastal counties of England from the Itchen Valley of Hampshire in the west to Beachy Head, stopping at Eastbourne in the east. At the heart of these gently rolling hills are the stretch of Downs which start in Brighton and reach a peak at Devils Dyke – before dropping steeply to the villages of Fulking, Ditchling and Pyecombe. It was at the Devils Dyke National Trust reserve that we met up for an afternoon and evening workshop to explore these ancient hills.
It was so good to be able to come along to an event like this after months of lockdown. Just three of us attended, Howard Klein, Justin Cliffe and myself along with Phil Bedford who was running the event.
Having met outside the Devils Dyke pub and had some briefing on the planned walks, along with measures to maintain our safety in line with Covid rules.
The view into the steep sided valley at Devils Dyke made a challenging start to create an interesting composition.
The light was rather flat though the cloud cover started to increase which improved the conditions.
We then walked in a westerly direction along the South Downs Way to enjoy the views across the downs towards the industrial chimneys of Portslade on the coast.
A number of interesting stiles, signposts and windswept trees added foreground interest to our images along with a convenient tractor ploughing in the fields.
The combination of the soft round curves of the hills in different hues – with the ploughed fields and winding paths add a unique character to the views of the downs.
Cyclists were in abundance on the main paths and their fitness was impressive – until we noticed that several were aided by electric motors!
By late afternoon the sun was getting hazy in the valley and we were able to take some images of the Fulking escarpment in the subdued light, as the shadows lengthened. We stopped for a welcome meal at the pub at 6pm and had a chance to view some of Phil’s portfolio of images he has taken in the area, and learn of some of the techniques needed to overcome the difficulties of shooting into the sun as it sets.
At around 7pm we went out to set up our tripods, hopeful that the sun would provide us with the full ‘golden hour’ as it set over the downs. We had to deal with the issue of 'lens flare' and the increasing haze - so the conditions were quite challenging. With help provided by Phil and with the use of graduated filters I was pretty happy with the shots I achieved.
As we anticipated the setting sun hitting the escarpment - it went behind a thick bank of clouds!
That’s the challenge of landscape photography!
A very good workshop was enjoyed by us all and I am looking forward to meeting up with Phil on a second workshop – again on the South Downs but this time at a 5am start!
With a prevailing south west wind from the English Channel the trees grow in these windswept shapes
All Images ©Patrick Smith Photography