Creation

This is a section dedicated to further information of how I created some of my images.

Contents
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Wild Maiden


Rope & Rust


Buachaille Etive Beag


Guardians of the Glens



Wild Maiden


Nikon D300, Sigma 17-70 @ 17mm, Lee 0.9 ND Grad.
ISO 200
f/11
1/250 second

(1) CONTEXT
This view is regarded as one of the remotest in the UK. The mountain is A' Mhaighdean in the heart of the Fisherfield and Letterewe wilderness in the far north west of Scotland. The name translated from gaelic means The Maiden hence the titIe, although the gaelic pronounciation is more like a' Vy-t-chien. I had planned to capture this view for quite a while now as it will form part of a project I am currently working on. I hadn't ventured into this area prior to taking this shot and the walk in is about 15 miles from any direction so I had to plan this trip very well and have some luck on my side. I spent a long time gathering information about this trip from walking websites, maps and information from my brother who had climbed these hills a few weeks before I made my trip. It became very clear that I would not be able to get my shots or maximise my chances of achieving my aims with just a day visit so I decided that an overnight camp would be the best way of utilising the time best. I also learnt that I would be able to ride my mountain bike about half way along the loch that you see in the image which would reduce my walking time considerably.
Riding a mountain bike along a well made and gentle sloping path sounds like a pleasant way to start and end a few hard days in the hills, you'd be very much wrong to think this when carrying a very large and heavy rucsac full of camping and camera gear. The weight and unbalanced centre of gravity make riding on all but the smoothest surface a nightmare and quite frankly bloody dangerous, I nearly managed permanent self-inflicted birth control on several occasions!
I eventually made it to the loch where I made my camp and spent an enjoyable evening exploring and taking some photos, well it would have been if the midges hadn't of decided to eat me alive for supper. The next day would be the walk up a couple of the mountains to reach my objective.

(2) THE PICTURE
I had originally planned to either be at my vantage point at sunrise or sunset to photograph this scene but there was no way I was going to make it from my camp in time for sunrise as it is still a 4 hour walk to the top so I decided to have a leisurely breakfast and saunter up another mountain before reaching this vantage point. It was a long walk and quite a bit of climbing in hot conditions and I was very relieved to reach A' Mhaighdean summit around 1pm. Initially I was quite disappointed with the weather conditions so I sat and ate my lunch, whilst sitting and enjoying the view I noticed that there was subtle light shading and the sky was fairly interesting even though heavily clouded. I decided that I should make an effort to capture the view at least considering the effort I had put in and the pain endured sleeping in a tent overnight, I took a few hand-held snaps whilst eating my sandwiches.

(3) PROCESSING
I didn't really know how well I had captured this scene as it is very hard to evaluate shots on an LCD screen in bright daylight. It wasn't until I got home the next day that I thought there was quite a bit of potential in this shot, I only took 2 or 3 other shots but this composition and light shading was the best.
I just did my usual processing which was to gently coax out the contrasts in the sky and accentuate the shading over the mountain ridges. I did this by selecting areas with the lasso tool and creating a Levels layer then adding contrast very gently in small amounts until satisfied that there was a good balance between punchy contrast and believability - I can say that the scene looked very much like this, I think.. !
I may have done a very small crop and I would have cloned out a few dust spots in the sky but that is it, no sharpening, curves, doging/burning or anything complicated.

(4) OUTCOME
Well, I had a previsualised image in my head before I set off, I always have and its just a case of whether the reality of what I capture matches my expectations. I hadn't got to my intended vantage point for sunrise or sunset, this was partly to do with the weather conditions I was monitoring but mostly because my committment was a bit lacking, I blame sleeping in a tent when middle aged has an adverse effect on my bones.... and temperament.
The weather conditions and arriving at midday in the middle of summer are perhaps not conducive to great landscape photography but I reckon the view and the remote feel to this image make up for any shortfalls in light quality.
Overall I am very pleased with the outcome, it could have been a total washed out trip if the rain or cloud had moved in so I must count my blessings and accept that some shots will be what they will be, at least I have made my best attempt under the circumstances.

Rope & Rust


Introduction

This is an image that was a bit of an afterthought as I had already got my intended image and was a bit experimental as I was in relaxed mode after making my primary image.

I was stood on a temporary metal jetty on Loch Etive that was recently built to load timber onto boats to extract the harvest out by sea, I used the jetty to get an image of Ben Starav as if I was standing in the water itself.



Ben Starav from the Loch Etive jetty.

Once I had this image in the bag then I looked around for different perspectives and noticed that the jetty itself could provide interest and contrast to the mountains.

The Composition

On one corner of the jetty there was the bollard and rope that would secure the boats for timber loading, I decided that these would make the foreground elements against the distant mountains. I had to hurry as the Sun was setting and had left a last strip of light down the glen so I set a composition to concentrate on the jetty elements and distant light. I was using a 10-20mm lens and chose 20mm focal length but this meant some unsightly plates on the jetty and a bit of dull unlit hill on the left side of the frame, at the time of taking I made a mental note to somehow crop this image later.



This is the original in camera shot compared to the finished square image, I think the composition looks a little vague and unfocused plus the rather unsightly metal plates on the jetty make four bold foreground areas and by cropping out I'm left with three more concentrated areas.
The unlit hill on the left is a bit dull compared to the rightside where it is lit.

The Processing

Well, a pretty straight forward square crop using all the height of the frame and shuffling along the horizontal until I cropped out the metal plates and left an even space on each side of the foreground elements.

A few small levels adjustments in certain areas to boost local contrast for the sky, mountain and jetty. I left the water alone as this I think takes a back seat to the jetty and the mountains and needs to play a subdued role.

The Shot

D300 and Sigma 10-20mm lens on a Manfrotto tripod.
ISO 100
Aperture f/22
2.5 second exposure
Polariser, reduced reflections a bit but primarily used to increase shutter speed.
Lee ND grad, probably 3 stop soft.
Cable release
Spirit level
Auto White Balance
Focused on the rope about 2 or 3 metres in front of camera.

Summary

A bit of an afterthought image and wasn't too convinced it would work when I took it as there were a few distracting things in the composition that bothered me but an image that I think is greatly improved and much more appealing for the square crop. I also hope I have created a contrast between man made things and the more natural appearance of the distant mountains.

Buachaille Etive Beag


Introduction

A winter mountain scene taken at sunrise.

Planning

I had planned this shot for a while now, I wanted it in winter with a covering of snow but not so heavy that the scene was totally white, this can lead to images being limited in contrast and looking a little one dimensional. The Sunrise would be at an optimum angle in November/December so all I had to do was wait for a day when I was off work, the right snow covering and the right cloud coverage to provide interest and colour in the sky but not to obscure the Sun at the horizon - pretty tall order for it all to come together and luck played its part I guess.

I travelled the night before to Glen Coe youth hostel after much deliberation of the preceeding weather forecasts, it was very cold with clear skies and a forecast of cloud above the summits for next day. The sunrise would be at 08:30am so I woke early and travelled the short distance to the car park, to my excitement there had been a few snow showers overnight down to road level and still fairly clear skies with many stars twinkling. I set off giving myself an hour and a half to be on top in time for sunrise and made it fairly easily but stopped to put on crampons as conditions became very icy higher up.

The Composition

My main intention was the Bidean range of mountains as these are the principle ones of Argyll and the mountain I was on (Buachaille Etive Beag) offers the best sunrise views of them. After taking my intended image I then relaxed a bit and scouted for alternative scenes. I chose this composition as I wanted to include the ridge I was on and the surrounding supplementary mountains to add some depth. The Sun had just illuminated the foreground so I couldn't resist placing a bit of sunlit snow into the bottom frame as well. The Sun had fortunately risen above the horizon with a thin strip of clear sky and a heavier cloud cover above it - absolutely perfect circumstances and I feel very lucky to be able to achieve my intended images.

The Shot

The scene was exactly 90 degrees to sunrise so I used a polariser at full polarisation to enhance saturation and contrasts.

D300
Sigma 17-70mm @ 17mm
ISO 200
f/16
1/15 sec
Lee 0.9ND Grad filter
Polariser.
Cable release
Spirit level
Tripod

Focused on the sunlit snow about 3 metres in front of me.

A slight breeze and very cold conditions for standing around taking photos, spent about an hour on top before descending in time for a hot soup before the next destination.

Summary

A lot of vision and planning went into this one and I have to say the results for once match and exceed my expectations. I just wish more trips turned out like this....

Guardians of the Glens


Introduction

This mountain has been photographed by me and many others thousands of times before, it is the definitive and most iconic mountain in Scotland, the subject of postcards, calendars and it seems to be on everyone's list of landscapes to photograph.
Here are more examples of it and perhaps the more usual view of it.



I had decided over a year before taking the image that I wanted a different perspective of it, something a little unusual and an image that doesn't isolate it too much but puts it into context of it's surroundings.

Planning

I have driven past it many times and always thought that a higher POV looking onto it would be best, after much studying of the terrain and map I decided on a location from the opposite hill at a height of about 600m looking across to it. I stayed in the glen overnight and woke early to see what the weather conditions were like. I was hoping for more snow over the tops but the skies were fairly clear even though still dark so I set off up the hill to get in position before sunrise.

The Composition

I spent 20 minutes or half an hour wandering along the edge of the hill trying to find the best vantage point, I wanted foreground to anchor the image, midground scale and then leave the rest to the main subject. I chose this particular location mainly because the small ledge I was on fell away very suddenly into the glen and left a sharp line between the foreground and the rest of the image, I like this distinct portioning of the image and I usually look for a strong foreground. I think the foreground colours are important here.

I tried to include as much scale in the midground as possible by use of the river that runs through the glen, although I think I have cut a little off one of the corners and it annoys me a little, the road is an important element as well I feel.

The main subject is self explanatory really, it is the reason for the shot but I did try and include the two other significant mountains as well to give a pleasing 3 item theme.

The light was not really as I envisaged as I was hoping for the Sun to rise a bit more eastwards and to have been able to shine down the glen a bit more but this was taken in January and the Sun rose further around behind the facing crags, although I am now happy with the results after my initial annoyance when stood there.

The Shot

Tripod mounted Nikon D300
Sigma 10-20mm lens @10mm
Lee 0.6 and 0.9 ND graduated filters
Polariser
Cable release
Spirit level

ISO 200
F/16
1/4 sec
Focused on the edge of the ledge about 2 or 3 metres from the camera.

A note about the Sigma 10-20mm lens: This lens can be a bit odd to use and has some strange characteristics. If you don't get close to an FG element or fill the frame with it then it can reduce most things to tiny sized objects. It has quite bad barrel distortion at its edges and has a wrap around effect of any lines in the foreground. However, it is indispensible for exactly this kind of image, a big scene with un-uniform foreground, I only just got all of my intended view into 10mm and considering that I couldn't go backwards as I would have ruined the view into the glen, then this is exactly what these ultra wide angle lenses are great for.

The Processing

Not much to report here as it was pretty much how it came out of the camera.

Shot in RAW, nothing done in convertor apart from save as TIFF.

In Elements 5 I used the lasso tool and selected the FG and increased the vibrancy of the colours and contrast with levels by moving the shadows slider into the histogram and doing the same for highlights. I would have moved the midtones to about 90 as well.

I selected the midground and did the same thing, increasing contrast with levels

For the sky I selected a few areas with the lasso and altered the contrast very subtly in certain areas to give more depth. I usually spend most of my time and attention to skies as these can often make or break the dramatic effects of an image.

I didn't alter any saturation or do any dodge/burn.

Summary

Initially I was a bit disappointed with this image as after over a year of planning and imagining what I wanted to capture, it turned out different, the amount of snow and angle of the light. I soon got over that though and regard it as one of my finest images to date. It is one of them images that has been thought about, imagined and planned for a long time before I attempted it and now as a result get a lot of satisfaction from it...I just wish they would all turn out like this.