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Evening Light by Suzy Braye
CREDIT: Suzy Braye

Swaledale with Mark Banks by Suzy Braye and Philip Swiers

RPS Landscape Group Newsletter, September 2023

Swaledale with Mark Banks

by Suzy Braye and Philip Swiers


The Yorkshire Dales have much to offer to photography all year round, but in early Summer the Swaledale valley comes into its own – a little paradise with so much variety that the camera is spoilt for choice. Flower meadows, rolling moors, woodland, limestone, rivers and waterfalls abound, while the field barns and dry-stone walls that are key features of the landscape make it unmistakeably ‘Dales’.

Meeting in Muker on a warm, sunny June morning, we five participants were greeted warmly by Mark. Introductions followed, with Mark keen to know what each of us was hoping for from the day – and indeed he then wove many of our hopes into his tuition. He also briefed us carefully on practicalities - it was going to be a hot day, and we needed to ensure we looked after ourselves.

The wildflower meadows were our first call. The workshop timing was perfect to catch them at their peak, and we spent some happy hours putting into practice Mark’s guidance: selecting our subject and its ‘supporting cast’, developing our composition, selecting aperture to isolate our desired point of focus and using in-camera multiple exposure to achieve a soft, dreamy effect.


Meadow visitor © Suzy Braye 


Muker Meadow © Philip Swiers  


Following a morning prostrate on the hay meadows we headed to a small copse of beech trees near the small hamlet of Ivelet and settled down to eat our packed lunches next to the Swale.  A lovely packhorse bridge was only a few yards away, but the blue cloudless sky meant that wasn’t going to be our subject for the next hour; Mark had other ideas for us.  He wanted to introduce us to Intentional Camera Movement, as the mottled sunlight breaking through the leaf canopy created interesting light for this technique.  He demonstrated two methods to try: the “Nodding Donkey” and the “Tommy Gun”.  Quite what the steady stream of walkers thought, watching us moving our cameras first up and down and then forwards and backwards, is anyone’s guess… Workshops with Mark are always entertaining. 


Meadowsweet Triptych ICM © Suzy Bray

The woodland gave other opportunities too. Mark encouraged us to work on composition, helping us to find shape, form and structure in the chaos of trees and undergrowth. He also suggested we visualise in black and white, and experiment with tonal range, trying both high-key and low-key approaches.


Shaping the Woodland © Suzy Braye


Woodland ICM © Philip Swiers


The visit to Catrake Force at Keld was more tricky. The waterfall is beautiful but we were contending with the high contrast light of a hot, sunny afternoon, giving bright patches of light on the leaves and the water, and inevitably there was a constant stream of visitors cooling off in the pool. Mark was hands-on with support, suggesting ways to mitigate the challenges as well as loaning his Lensbaby lenses to enable us to achieve creative effects.


Catrake Force © Suzy Braye


He also very kindly opened the ‘bar’ in the boot of his car, producing some chilled refreshments to revive us before our final stop at Angram Barn, where we enjoyed golden sunlight across the fields.

And even on the way home the attractive geometry of the landscape, with the intersecting dry-stone walls framing the barn, proved irresistible for one of us.


Barn Geometry © Philip Swiers


Somehow Mark managed to fit the variety and magic of Swaledale into a single day – an ‘essential Swaledale’ experience. His love of this landscape was evident throughout, and his enthusiasm for sharing it with us made for a fascinating and entertaining workshop. There was plenty of technique tuition as well as artistic opportunity and we have acquired new kit essentials too:  coloured cloths to enhance flower shots, a plamp to combat the wind and a dark umbrella – a game changer for controlling the summer light. If Mark repeats this workshop next year, we can’t recommend it enough!


Evening Light © Suzy Braye (above and Header Image)





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