In association with MPB

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. This is the approach Tony North took to capture this awe-inspiring monochrome shot of a well-known and popular location with landscape photographers in the Peak District. Having explored the area on foot many times and dreamed about the impact heavy snowfall could bring to the scene, Tony made the hour-long journey from his home in Manchester to Parkhouse Hill twice – only to find the snow conditions weren’t as good as he’d hoped.

Tony likes to use a tripod as it helps him think that little bit more about composition
Nikon D500, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 42mm, 1/320sec at f/8, ISO 100, tripod

Tony explains, ‘After my first two visits to try to get the shot, I thought I was cursed. I checked the local webcams for snow and there was plenty in the surrounding area, however it turned out there wasn’t any at this particular location. On my third attempt I went with a couple of friends from my camera club and that’s when I got the photo. It’s a story of persistence really and although I’ve visited the same location two or three times since, I’ve never experienced conditions as good as I did that one time.’

Taken in winter 2019, it took a while before Tony found the ideal spot from which to set up his camera on his tripod. ‘It makes a big difference where you stand on Hitter Hill to take this shot. A lot of people you see go right to the top, but when you do that the hill behind, which is Chrome Hill, becomes the same height as Parkhouse Hill and it destroys the pleasing shape. I decided to go further down Hitter Hill so that Parkhouse Hill is more prominent, giving it a much more eye-catching quality.

It also depends where you position yourself left to right and by choosing the spot I did, I found it helped emphasise the conical shape of Parkhouse Hill to the left.’ He continues, ‘The shot probably didn’t need to be taken on a tripod, but I like to use one because I find it helps me think that little bit more about composition.

Sometimes moving the camera just a few inches can make a huge difference. Composition really is a very subtle thing.’ Tony had been hoping for a dramatic sky to complement the strong contrast in the lower two-thirds of the image, but he wasn’t presented with one on the morning of his visit. He cloned out a few distractions to make the foreground cleaner and used Lightroom to add a graduated filter and darken the sky a little.

Tony explains, ‘I did start out using graduated NDs for my landscape work, but I’ve since found you have much more control adding a graduated ND filter effect after the image is taken during post processing. With an ND filter mounted to the lens you get what you get, which isn’t always a good thing.’

The picture was taken using a simple set-up consisting of Tony’s 21MP Nikon D500, and his walk-around zoom lens – the AF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II. He reveals, ‘My main passion when it comes to photography is macro and nature and I’ve found the D500 particularly good for this genre thanks to its fantastic autofocus system and fast 10fps continuous shooting.

It’s a highly versatile camera that I use for astrophotography too and I’ve been impressed by its noise response at high ISO. The other thing in its favour was that it was a lot cheaper than full-frame DSLRs when I purchased it. Don’t get me wrong, full-frame cameras like the Nikon D850 are superb, but it was about twice the cost of my D500 when I bought it.

Not only that, the D850 is bigger and heavier, which isn’t so good for shooting butterflies and insects from low angles, which I tend to do a lot.’ Back to the photograph in question, Tony concludes by saying: ‘Any photographers who might be inspired to visit this location after viewing my image should consider climbing the nearby Chrome Hill, which is visible behind the grouping of trees to the right. When you look back towards Parkhouse Hill from Chrome Hill you get a fantastic view that’s particularly impressive in the morning. It’s a popular viewpoint and you are likely to come across other photographers there, but it’s one that I’d highly recommend visiting when you’re in the area.’

Tony North
Tony’s interest is in macro, nature, landscape and astrophotography and he has picked up accolades in countless photo contests. ‘Winter Peaks’ was second in the APOY 2020 Landscape round. See more on his site

Nikon D500

At a glance:
* £909-£1,009 body only (used condition)
* 20.9-million-pixel DX sensor
* ISO 50-1,640,000 (extended)
* 10fps continuous shooting
* Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
* 860g (including battery and card)

Released in early 2016, the D500 was the successor to the D300/D300S and succeeded the D7200 as Nikon’s flagship DX format DSLR. Built around a weather-sealed body, it features the same 20.9MP APS-C sensor as the D7500, but has a more advanced 153-point AF system with 99 cross-type points. It can shoot up to 200 raw files at 10fps, offers 4K video at frame rates up to 30p and has a tilting 3.2in, 2,359k-dot touchscreen.

Furthermore, it offers twin card slots (one XQD, one SD UHS-II) and has an impressive 1,240-shot battery life.

What we said
‘Build and handling are exemplary, aided by some well-judged tweaks to the layout.’ ‘Its excellent high ISO capability sees it deliver entirely usable image files in extremely low light.’ ‘For those who spend a lot of time shooting sports, action, wildlife etc, it’s hard to think of a camera that will serve them better.’

What to pay
At launch a D500 body cost £1,729. Now it’s around £1,500 new. A used model in good condition with a shutter count between 50-100k will cost around £909 (body only) at MPB. An excellent-condition sample with only light use can be snapped up for £1,009.

MPB is the sponsor of Amateur Photographer of the Year 2021