Saturday, 14 January 2012

I finally got out of the house (I hate revision!)

I finally managed to get out and shoot a landscape in decent light the other day, jumping at the opportunity to head up to Waldridge Fell, near Chester-le-Street, County Durham (where I live) at dusk. I really underestimated the Fell at first, thinking that because it was only a few minutes in the car from home (and being open/flat) that there weren’t many in the way of photo opportunities. However, I’ve come to realise that this openness is actually a major strength- you get clear views of the landscape at both dawn and dusk. In particular I’m drawn to a small lake (actually it’s more of an over-sized pond!) that makes a great foreground feature no-matter what time you shoot. There is the added compositional element of a lone tree on one bank that can give your images a wonderfully peaceful, solitary feel, especially in low light. It doesn’t look like much when you first see it but it has provided me with what I believe are many successful landscapes. The low foliage around about 70% of the lake means clear, uncluttered photos and great minimalist reflections when the light is right; and on this occasion I was lucky in that it was close to the perfect sunset.
The sky was very clear which was quite disappointing at first since I obviously wanted to avoid including too much of a boring, blank expanse at the top of my pictures, although before long a few attractive clouds drifted in to hold the colour of the setting sun. I remained mostly and the East bank this time, making the most of the sun-burst, shooting directly into it. I tried several different approaches, shooting wide to get in more of the opposite lake-side and then racking in tight on that lone tree, with the sun behind it. I also made a point of shooting a couple of panos, taking images in landscape followed by portrait orientation to see what would work best-since my current workload meant I didn’t know when I’d be out again, I wanted to covered my bases and make sure I got something usable. A image that turned out nicely is the one below, which is actually a pano of 3 portrait-shot pics, extended using PS CS5. The initial stitch turned out a funny shape, but instead of cropping I used CS5’s Content Aware Fill function to fill in the gaps. It needed some retouching not a lot.

Overall I must have taken a good 150 images- enough to keep me happy for a week or two in Photoshop. I was really impressed by the gradation of colours throughout the evening, from deep reds and oranges to subtle blues and purples. I took far more bracketed sequences than is normal for me as I’m presently having a go at improving my HDR skills, although most of the images here are single frames, balanced through the use my trusty Cokin ND grad filters. As it happens I think I need a new ND8- this (my most used grad) has a few too many scratches which light up like a beacon when photographing into the sun; they were a real pain in the &^%! here and I spent far longer than I wanted with the patch and clone tools!
An HDR shot of 7 merged exposures

Simple list this time; I shot all evening on my Canon EOS 7D and EF-S 17-85mm lens, on a Manfrotto 190XproB + 496RC2 head, complete with cable release. Filter-wise I was quite a bit kore stacked than I usually like to be utilizing a Polarizer, ND4 and ND8 grads (although not for long at the same time) and a full ND8 to reduce the ripples in the water.
Let’s just hope that once my upcoming Uni exams are over I’ll get out and about a little, well actually quite a bit more often J
Oh and watch this..!

I love Photoshop (oh sorry Fotoshop) but you have to admit this is funny :)

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