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How to Photograph Fords

Fords by their very nature are photogenic characteristics of our countryside, whether they are merely a puddle in the middle of a road surrounded by trees or in the centre of a village with interesting buildings and other features nearby. Depending on their location they can usually be easily accessed by a vehicle and in most cases if you don't want to drive through them it is possible to either drive up and turn round, or to park up nearby for only a short walk. Of course those fords which also have a bridge nearby for small vehicle access you can drive around them.

So what can they offer the photographer. Fords, Wet Lanes and Tidal Roads by their very nature in most cases have water in them. This can offer reflection possibilities, but also other opportunities such as people or dogs playing in them or vehicles passing and splashing through them. Those with bridges alongside them can give structure and more depth to the picture so it's not just now a puddle. Those surrounded by trees can be great during the summer as the trees provide structure and colour, in autumn you get the gold's, yellows and reds as well as the greens. You could have buildings in the vicinity such as a thatched cottage, windmill, water mill, country pub etc. or it could be in the centre of a village with it's village green and/or pond. Some are near farms, so farm cottages, barns, farm equipment could form a focal point. Those on a substantial river or stream will also have more water in them and views upstream could also give a feature. Of course you could also get a combination of all of these

They can also give you photographic challenges. Using any of the scenarios above there will be photographic aspects you will need to think about and overcome. So what technical aspects do we need to consider.

When you arrive at the Ford the first thing will be to think about what photo potential there is, what angle you want to take it from, is there a possibility of either a bridge or higher road being able to give you an aerial perspective. Many of these decisions will be based on what else is near the ford which can be incorporated into the final image.

There are other considerations of course, such as the position of the sun you don't want to have your lens facing the sun, as flare and glare can give you problems. From some angles there may be obstructions like low branches on trees, signs, parked vehicles and the like which will get in the way or spoil the picture you are trying to get. The other potential problem is people in the fords, some may not like you photographing them or their family members. So think about these beforehand and how you may handle these situations.

Some of the photographic techniques you may like to consider are:-
What lens to use, telephoto zoom lenses allow you to close up distances, whereas a wide angle lens will allow you to get more in the shot and give you a greater depth of field, or even a panoramic view, the use of a fisheye lens of course will give a totally different picture.

White Balance is important for any photograph, but in these situations you will have a larger variation of colour, there will be sky above and water below and although having white balance set to auto the camera will give you a passable image, it will be flat. If you want a crisp dimension then use PRE and set the white balance before you take the image. You may find our group of white balance articles helpful here, particularly setting and using PRE.   We have a number of other articles that may help with explaining white balance and why the ability to set PRE is important:-


Exposure is an important consideration just like when at the coast, on a canal or river you will have water in the base of the image and a large amount of sky. In this scenario it is so easy to loose highlights, and remember when viewing the image on the LCD screen make sure you look for little bits of highlights missing, not just the large expanses, as these can be more detrimental to the final image if in the middle of the shot. But remember if you do expose for the lost highlights you will end up with more in shadow and extracting detail from this afterwards, although possible does not always give the best result. See the Exposure Section for information on how to help you with this.

Speed. Generally an empty Ford with just water in it, speed will not normally be a problem as the little trickle that is moving will not be impacted. However when you have something moving in it like a vehicle, people, animals etc. the water will move and splash and the speed you choose to shoot at will determine what effect you will have on the active water shot. If you want to show the movement of the water then you will need a higher speed than if you want to create a mist effect which requires a slower speed. Our shutter speed article will explain how to get the speed you want for different effects.

Reflections and Deep skies. These can be achieved in two ways. You could use a polorizer and line it up with the area you want to darken and improve. Used on the water will allow the reflections to be more intense. Used on the sky the blues will be deeper and any white clouds will be more prominent. Another way is to use graduated filters, as well as using a single grad and deciding which area is to be most affected, the sky or the water, with something like the Cokin or Lee filter systems you can also use them in combination so that the effect is exactly where you want it to be and can be both on the sky and the water. For more details on grads and the different types of filters available to you see our Filter Section.

As with any photography considering your approach and these aspects beforehand will mean you arrive at the ford best prepared, and with the equipment that you need.


See Also:

Fords Explained, incl. Irish Bridge and Wet Roads, tidal Roads etc

Finding Fords

Safety at Fords



By: Tracey Park Section: Nature/Flora/Countryside Key:
Page Ref: fords_photographing Topic:  Fords  Last Updated: 09/2009

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