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Snap happy: Top tips for perfecting your photography in the New Year

PUBLISHED: 12:29 29 January 2019

Frost and winter's sky over the Sibfords (c) William Gray Photography

Frost and winter's sky over the Sibfords (c) William Gray Photography

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So you got a shiny new camera for Christmas...lucky you! We asked local professional photographer William Gray to share his top tips for taking stunning snaps in five beautiful Cotswolds locations this winter

Broadway Tower

The brainchild of Capability Brown, this Cotswold icon was built in 1798 atop a 312m-high escarpment. On a clear day, you can see 16 counties! Most people simply walk up to the tower and photograph it against the sky. Once you’ve taken this ‘record shot’ though, try zooming in on the eccentric architecture to emphasise the tower’s turrets and gargoyles. Or take a few steps back in order to place the tower in its setting. For this shot, I used a low viewpoint and wide-angle lens to frame Broadway Tower beneath four striking trees. A graduated filter intensified the sky for extra impact and made the ‘golden beacon’ of Broadway stand out.

Broadway Tower (c) William Gray PhotographyBroadway Tower (c) William Gray Photography

Burford

You will need to set your alarm clock for this one! Photographed at sunrise just outside Burford, it shows early morning mist swirling above the water meadows of the River Windrush, with the spire of St John the Baptist rising beyond. I got into position before dawn, ready to capture the magical moment when the sun broke above the trees and enflamed the mist. With my camera mounted on a tripod, I used the Rule of Thirds to place the church tower a third of the way into the frame, rather than dead centre. It’s often tricky to get the exposure right when shooting into bright light. To avoid everything being silhouetted, I purposely over-exposed the shot – and took several just to make sure!

Sunrise at Burford (c) William Gray PhotographySunrise at Burford (c) William Gray Photography

Sherborne

The National Trust’s Sherborne Estate near Northleach has plenty to keep photographers happy – from rivers to wildlife. But I’m always drawn to its magnificent old oak trees. Each one seems to have its own special character. Early morning or late afternoon is the best time to photograph them, when low-angled sunlight really brings out the texture in their branches and bark. This particular oak has a distinct lean, so I placed it to one side of the frame so it had some ‘space’ to lean into. Crouching down slightly brought the tree into sharp relief against the blue sky and produced a more pleasing balance of one-third land and two-thirds sky.

Magnificent oak trees at the Sherborne Estate (c) William Gray PhotographyMagnificent oak trees at the Sherborne Estate (c) William Gray Photography

Tysoe Windmill

Commanding far-reaching Cotswolds views from the top of a 180m-tall hill, this early-18th century windmill in South Warwickshire also makes a dramatic photograph itself. Dusk is a great time to head there. As the sun sinks into trees on the edge of Windmill Hill, you can experience dramatic, fiery skies, especially if there is cloud about. On this occasion, however, a cloudless sunset has produced a more simple composition. Exposing for the sky ensured everything else was rendered a silhouette, while using a tripod and the two-second self-timer has prevented any camera movement that might cause a blurry image.

Tysoe windmill at dusk (c) William Gray PhotographyTysoe windmill at dusk (c) William Gray Photography

Chipping Campden

Of all the honey-stoned towns and villages in the Cotswolds, Chipping Campden is one of the most photogenic. The high street, almshouses and Market Hall are all worth snapping, but for this photograph I concentrated on St James’s Church and the adjacent gateway to Campden House. I framed the picture so that the line of snow above the archway would form an eye-catching ‘lead-in line’, drawing the viewer into the composition. Your eye is then led along the curved rooftops to reach the church tower. Late afternoon winter light helped to accentuate the stonework’s rich golden tones – complemented by a clear blue sky.

Church at Chipping Campden (c) William Gray PhotographyChurch at Chipping Campden (c) William Gray Photography

Find out about William Gray’s photography workshops in the Cotswolds at william-gray.co.uk.

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