Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Peggy's Cove

So, I was not as courageous as Ivan, but I also spent part of the day taking pictures. I left my house at around noon (quite respectable) and headed out to a place called Peggy's Cove which is about 45 minutes from me. It is one of the most photographed places in Atlantic Canada, because of the quaint fishing village and the lighthouse that sits on a granite outcrop. I wanted to take images that showed other sights. The weather was not great. Cloudy. Rather grey. And no sunset even though I sat and waited. I took about 100 pics, deleted quite a few, and these are a few of the best.

Granite boulder, nr Peggy's Cove

Just before you arrive at Peggy's Cove there are 'fields' of granite boulders deposited by glaciers. Some large rocks sit on top of little rocks. I like this pic because the large rock really stands out against the background and the colour of the plants in the background add contrast. I used photoshop to sharpen the rock and adjusted the levels plus hue/saturation to bring out the colour in the background/sky.

Peggy's Cove

I like this picture simply because it draws you right into the middle very quickly. I used the shadows/highlight to bring the colour out in the sky and adjusted the hue/saturation to bring the colour out in the rocks and vegetation. All very slightly.

Lighthouse, Peggy's Cove

This is the famous lighthouse. I wanted a different image. So I accentuated the gorgeous granite rocks rather than the lighthouse. Again, I adjusted the hue/saturation very slightly to bring out the colour in the rocks.


At The Other End of the Day

I was lucky, this morning, getting that spectacular sunrise. And also reminded of how badly I read the weather. This is something I'll need to get better at, if I want to get more of those really good images.

Attached is a picture I took in the Peak District this summer. I was there on a 2 day digital imaging course, and was out in the evening, nearby, looking for a nice sunset. I had taken a few to little effect, and was driving out by the humourously named Tittesworth Reservoir when I stopped to look at the sun setting nearby a local landmark called "The Cloud" - this is the long wedge-shaped peak in the distance. I thought the scene was nice enough, but then the sun went in behind the actual cloud, and produced, for about 20 seconds, the most dramatic scene ever - rays of light spilling out from behind the cloud, the colours intensified, and - with the sun now less of a direct light source - made the image possible to record in any detail. Again, I should have seen it coming...

I did process the image in Photoshop, slightly lightening the foreground and just balancing up the levels and colour saturation. I think it makes for a pretty special image.


I DID Get "Out There"...

...but it was a close run thing.

Alarm went off around 0640. I waited, warm and snug in bed. The old house we've just bought is great, but it takes a while to warm up...I stuck and foot out of bed, but then quickly retracted it - bloody freezing. Fortunately, the curtains we have are ill-fitting for the bedroom windows. Thus, a sliver of light was poking through. I heard Damians words in my head, and decided to just get up, fling on about 4 layers of clothing (-3 out there this morning) and get going.

Although there's no Crystal Cresent Beach nearby, we do have the aptly named "Paradise Nature Reserve" about 3 streets away. This has a nice riverside walk through trees, and some open areas with attractive trees on the far bank, as well as ducks, geese and swans. If the weather is nice, it can be quite attractive.

It was still darkish when I got there about 0710. Light was poor, cloud cover, but I could see the sun would be up in about 20 mins. I had to crank the ISO up to 800, sometimes 1600, to get enough sensitivity. I also used the "IS" feature on the new lens I mentioned before. In hindsight, I wish I had taken the old tripod, but we've moved house in the past two weeks, and I'm not 100% sure where it is... Anyway, I had the aperture open as wide as it'll go, and a slow shutter speed/high ISO combination (with IS) - as long as I picked my focus point wisely, the images would be sharp enough. It's a myth that you can't get acceptable front-to-back sharpness (depth of field) with wide apertures. You can, but it needs more careful focus point choice. I put the 350D's focal point to the middle or just off middle, and used that to define the focus (sharp) point.

I managed to get a few nice river shots while it was still quite dark. Not much in the way of sky, but lovely still water and good reflections. As I moved through the nature reserve, I took a few more. Nice, but nothing great.

I had been watching the sky, and trying to decide what would happen. I decided it wasn't going TO happen this morning, and was heading for home, via the non-scenic route - don't ask why, but I can only assume that my brain was PC (pre-coffee).

I was in the park, heading home, when I looked back - the sky had just erupted in a blaze of red and I was in the wrong place. I hurried back to the river, through the trees, and had about 10 mins of the most glorious sunrise, and managed to take about a dozen, the best of which I've put here in a low resolution. I've also posted the same views, to show the incredible difference about 10 minutes can make.

Just goes to show the golden rule of landscape and nature photography - be patient and read the weather and the light. Damian, perhaps you should have hung around for that sunset on CCB!

It was definitely worth getting up for...


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Getting Out There

My favourite times of day to take pics are sunrise and sunset - so, why do I never get OUT there enough to take more of them? It's easier in the winter, in the UK, as it's not fully light until gone 7am, so no excuses.

Today, for example, I was all good intentions to get up, and go down the river, take some snaps. It was even forecast to be frosty - ideal combination with the low morning light. What did I do - remained in bed for a further hour, and missed it all. Then, on the way to work, I felt bad I didn't get up. What's up with me? It takes effort to make a great picture, and lying in bed won't do it.

I'll try again tomorrow.

Monday, November 28, 2005

More Black and White

I am also very fond of black and white and agree that some images are more suited to that format than others. Some images can create a very moody scene.

Wreck of a boat, Grand Manan, NB, Canada

This photo is of an old boat wreck. However, when I saw this I immediately thought of the remains of a large animal; its backbone decaying on the rocks after being washed up by the sea. The black and white sets the scene whereas colour would have added another dimension that would have taken away from the mood. The different shades of pebbles helps to lead the eye to the image and creates some nice contrast.

Surf along South Beach, Sable Island, NS, Canada

This image also works well in black and white. However, colour could have worked here too. The photo was taken during a storm so the day was quite windy. The black and white really brings out the feeling of the storm. I also like the different shades of grey along the beach, the blocks of frozen sand that lead the eye into the picture and the spray coming off the surf. Lovely.


Cambridge In The Autumn - Part 1

Here are a few shots taken recently in and around Cambridge. Using the new IS (image stabilisation) feature of the recently-acquired 17-85 EF-S lens for the 350D. All images hand-held, at between 1/5th and 1/15th of a second. The combination of the IS, and the 350D's excellent 800-1600 ISO, means that these have come out acceptably sharp. There is digital noise, but this is unavoidable, and I have not tried post-processing to suppress the noise..yet.

The top image has been given a bit of a misty feel, which I'm not sure I like that much.

The middle one is much truer to the real scene, except it was much darker than

The last one is just a snap of the city lights reflecting in the River Cam on the cycle home.

I love Black and White

Black and White pictures - I love them! Not all pictures take this treatment well, but here are a couple that I think do. Any comments welcomed...

Lone Tree on Sentinel Dome: taken on top of Sentinel Dome in Yosemite National Park. Same place that the famous Jefferson Pine is, although that turned out to be little more than a crumbling stump - a shadow of it's former tortured glory. Just round the edge of the dome, and away from the tourists like us, was this tree, bent and twisted and clinging to life on this dry, exposed rock. Lovely, and the only distraction to an otherwise minimalist scene is the whispy cloud behind the tree itself. It was converted to black and white using the Channel Mixer function, being careful not to burn out any of the hightlights. Then, contrast was increased using the curves method (very slight "S" shaped curve on the curves interface), and a final tweak with the old Dodge and Burn brushes, very gently (5% max).

Palm bark detail: Different kind of shot this. Close in, rather than dramatic landscape. Trying to highlight the shapes and textures. Same method as above used, and this is a close-in crop from the original picture. I like the shark's teeth appearance of the bark in one place, and the nice textures of the thread-like elements. The original colour image was OK, but lacked punch, and I thought this would do just that.


More Crystal Crescent Beach pictures...

A couple more pictures from the same beach that Damian posted to below. These were taken in April 2005, which I presumed would be freezing cold in Nova Scotia (usually is, I'm told..). However, on this day in particular, it was a very nice mid 20's, and calm - not like Damian's freezing encounter below!

The sky is not as dramatic as Damian's post, and it had to be filtered to retain any detail against the bright beach and walkway. This has led to a slightly unattractive quality in each sky, but at least there's something there.

This beach and coastline is truely dramatic, and the "naked forest" further round the coast was like something we'd never seen before - I'll try and post some pictures later to show what I mean.

The path in the top image is the same one that can be seen in the left corner of Damian's image, and it does provide a classic "lead in" to the picture. This is what I was trying to achieve, but I'm not sure if it dominates the scene as it fills the main part of the picture. I'd welcome any comments on either/both of these images.


Cornfield in Cambridgeshire

This is an image from a cornfield near where I work. From normal height, it's nothing special. But, taken low down, and using a filter to accentuate the sky, I was pleased to get this more dramatic take on an everyday scene. The sky was pretty stormy anyway, but I boosted it a little using Photoshop CS levels, and warmed up the corn husks a bit too. Then, I increased contrast and sharpened the whole thing, making the foreground sharper than the distance. I did this to get as much detail out of the interesting decaying corn as possible. I had two layers of the same image, sharpened the lower one a lot, then, using a mask in Photoshop, lightly brushed away the top, less-sharp layer to reveal the sharper elements below.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Crystal Crescent Beach

Here are two photos that I took on my visit to Crystal Crescent Beach. It was bloody cold and quite windy and the light changed quite a lot when I was there so the conditions were not great. But I got some nice shots. I absolutley love the camera and the lens. The one thing I don't like is the 95% viewfinder and don't quite understand why its made like that. But you get use to it. I had the tripod with me and used that a few times but the two shots above were taken
without it. I also shot a couple of RAW images and quickly played with one of those using Canon's software. That is very exciting and I can see lots of use there. I wanted to stay and wait for the sunset but I was so cold I left about an hour before. The light I had was pretty decent anyhow. OK. Well, my first blog ever...Dams

Friday, November 25, 2005

Welcome to Critical Light

This Blog has been set up to allow two Photogeeks, Damian Lidgard and Ivan Tommasini, to indulge their passions for photography and digital manipulation, post pictures, critique those pictures, and - in the fullness of time - invite others to join us in discussing all things photographic and digital.

It is also designed to allow this lively discussion to occur over distance and time zones, with Ivan being based in the UK, and Damian on the rugged Canadian eastern coast. Plus, everyone else is doing it anyway, so why shouldn't we?

Pictures, and our respective geeky discussions, will appear shortly...