Archive for the 'Scotland' Category

22
Apr
09

4/22/2009

The Sands of Lindsfarne

The Sands of Lindsfarne

These are the sands you drive across to get out to Lindsfarne. There are signs everwhere saying not to attempt them when the tide is coming in, but ever year people do, and every year they get stranded and have to be lifted off the safty tower in the middle by helicopter. I have to say that driving across the sea bottom is an other-worldly experience…it is not just knowing that twice a day where you are standing is under many feet of water…there is just a feeling to it that has no thing to do with any rational knowing. I am certain it added to the reputation of holiness the island has always had.

As you see, the storms that were sweeping over the coast that day are momentarily elsewhere, though within sight.

Sony DSC H50 at full wide. F5.6 @ 1/1000th @ ISO 100. Programed Auto.

Relatively straightforward in Lr. I did use a graduated filter effect for the sky, and another for the foreground. Clarity and less than usual Vibrance (since the blue peeking out the sky was already almost too intense without any help from me). Landscape sharpen preset.

From Scotland.

And, while we are on the subject…

 

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21
Apr
09

4/21/2009

Lindsfarne Castle

Lindsfarne Castle

Lindsfarne Island, the Holy Island, is accessible by road at low tide and several hours either side. The road runs across what amounts to the sandy bottom of the sea. The Island has been held sacred for centuries. I suspect it already had a reputation for spirituality when the Celtic monks arrived during the dark ages and turned it into one of the few seats of learning left in the western world.

It was the trump card of our trip to Scotland, though it is well south of the Scottish border and only by a generous detour on the way home to Manchester from Aberdeen. My guide and driver in this adventure kept hinting that there was to be one final treat, the one place he would not tell me about in advance. It is that special.

Of course we had no more than gotten out of the car when it began to pour rain. Not just a mist like the one that plagued us at Donnattor, but a real find shelter British downpour. We tried to keep dry under the trees of the graveyard around the abby buildings, and ended up pretty wet in the church, along with the rest of the tourists visiting that day. When we ventured out, it was still threatening, so this is as close to the Castle as we got.

A difficult shot, due to the light sky behind, and the mist in the air, but then that seems pretty typical of photographic conditions in England.

Sony DSC H50 at about 100mm equivalent (to frame the castle behind the sheep). F5.0 @ 1/250th @ ISO 100. Programed Auto.

This shot responded amazingly well to the graduated filter effect in Lr. Even using heavy Recovery, I could not get any blue out the sky, but as soon as I applied a graduated filter effect and cranked down the exposure in the top part of the image, the sky detail popped right out. Another graduated filter effect from the bottom to lighten and increase contrast, though I had to go gently as the sheep would not stand much of either. I also used the adjustment brush to increase the brightness and contrast of the castle itself, to counter somewhat the effects of the mist in the air. Normal Vibrance and Clarity settings. Landscape sharpen preset. A touch of noise reduction for the sky.

From Scotland.

20
Apr
09

4/20/2009

Storms Over the North Sea

Storms Over the North Sea

Driving down the east coast of Scotland, looking from the high shelf where the A road runs, out across the machair (fully cultivated along here), the storms were impressive. We were in and out of them all day, wet and (more or less) dry. Here they stand off the coast contrasting sharply with the tilled fields below us.

Sony DSC H50 at full wide (31mm equivalent). F4.5 @ 1/250th @ ISO 100. Programed auto.

On the first pass in Lr I used Recovery for the sky to good effect. Since then though, I have learned to use the graduated filter effects, and like what they do for a sky like this. I went back this morning and reworked the image. One GF from the top to darken the sky, and one up from the bottom to pick up the foreground (added exposure and contrast). With GFs I use less Vibrance than I have in the past, and slightly less Clarity in Presence panel. Landscape sharpen preset. There was some noise in the clouds, which I filtered out with the Noise Reduction sliders.

From Scotland.

19
Apr
09

4/19/2009

Another Donnattor View

Another Donnattor View

If you were with me yesterday at Donnattor Castle, you’ve already heard the story of this rainy day (just hit the 18 in the calendar to the right). You know it was hard to keep the rain drops off the lens, and if you look closely you will see the evidence of some I missed in this shot. Still, the waterfall and the Castle have to be caught in the same shot. Mandatory. Wasted visit if not.

Sony DSC H50 at full wide. F6.3 @ 1/40th @ ISO 100. Programed Auto with program shift for the smaller aperture (and increased depth of field).

This is another, that required more than the usual post processing. The castle and cliff edge standing right up against the brightest band of the sky, and the water in the air even at that short distance leaching out the contrast, as well as the range of light…it was all well beyond the ability of the H50s sensor to record. In Lightroom I used 2 graduated filter effects: from the top to darken the sky by reducing exposure, and from the bottom to brighten and increase contrast. I also used the Adjustment brush to paint an adjustment mask over the Castle buildings and the cliff face immediately below. I increased exposure there, and added as much contrast as possible. Globally I brightened the whole image, added some Fill Light to open shadows, moved the black point to the right to deepen definition and colors, and used my normal Vibrance and Clarity settings for the H50. Landscape sharpen preset. Because of the angle of the lens to the horizon (tipped down radically) there was fairly severe vignetting in the top corners. I applied the Vignetting tool in Lr to remove that…and then had to unsaturat the specific blue that was still left in the corners. Finally I cropped out part of the sky to get rid of most of it. The crop actually helped the image by eliminating what turned out to be a distracting area of dead gray at the top. Win win.

From Scotland (and my last Donnattor Castle shot, I promise).

18
Apr
09

4/18/2009

Dunnattor Castle

Dunnattor Castle

Our host in Aberdeen put us on to this castle, as it would be on our way when we left, so we watched for the signs as drove down the east coast of Scotland in the morning. It was well signed but still not easy to find, being well off the main road. And, of course, when we got there it was raining. Not hard but hard enough to make it a dampish walk the quarter mile or so from the car park, protecting the camera all the way. Ah, but what a beautiful place. Dramatic. Rushing streams pouring down over moss covered cliffs. Straight drops to the gray sea, and the Castle ruins standing alone on a promontory so deeply carved it was all but an island. Add the brooding sky and a band of light along horizon where the storm broke and you had the makings of quite a scene. Unfortunately you also had a very difficult photographic challenge. The moss and turf was so dark, and the horizon so bright, with the castle pushed right up against it. Lots of water in the air (not to mention on the lens if not careful) sucking the contrast out of any distance. Still, you have to try. I took maybe thirty different shots, quick grabs when I whipped the camera out, got the shot off, and the camera back in its bag before it got too wet.

Of course, I would like to get back here with more time and better weather. I would like to spend a day, or a week, or a year photographing this scenery…but, in fact, I may never get another chance at this landscape. The pictures I took that day in the rain may be my only images of this place. If so, let it be so, and I will make the most of the shots I managed to get.

Sony DSC H50 at full wide (31mm equivalent). F4.0 @ 1/250th @ ISO 100. Programed Auto.

This shot required a lot more post processing than I normally use. I spent a good ten minutes on it. First a Graduated Filter effect from the top down to the horizon to darken the sky. 2) graduated filter effect from the bottom up to brighten the foreground and add contrast. 3) Adjustment brush applied to the two foreground castle structures, where I applied some exposure and brightness to lighten, along with some added contrast and some sharpening. 4) a second adjustment brush along the length of the low building to pull back the brightness (since at flat wall stood out too much). 5) a third adjustment brush along the bright horizon to pull back the exposure there a little. 6) general increased Vibrance and Clarity, and the Landscape sharpen preset. 6) moved the black point to the right to deepen the colors and added a bit of extra contrast to the whole image. 7)the yellow had become too bright with the exposure adjustments, so I pulled back the saturation of the yellow band in the HSL panel. 8) finally, I used the mouse selection tool in the HSL panel to select the gray of the water and darken it (luminance control).

Again, all of this manipulation is only to bring the image back to something like what I saw with my eye.

From Scotland.

17
Apr
09

4/17/2009

Making Hay by the Sea

Making Hay by the Sea

Another picture from the long Scottish glooming. I just walked up the lane from the house we were staying at in Drum (a friend of my friend the intrepid driver on this journey). The house faces the North Sea across some agricultural fields…a truly beautiful setting. I saw these bales on the way down the lane and could not resist them. The warmth of the hay against the cold of the sea on the horizon, the shapes, the soft light. Magical stuff. There was just a touch of ocean haze, but the softness may have added to the magic.

Sony DSC H50 at about 65mm equivalent. F4.0 @ 1/125th @ ISO 100. Programed Auto.

Though I adjusted the exposure to try for a balance between sky and foreground in the camera (by tipping the camera up to read more sky than ground and then locking exposure), the sky still needed a graduated filter effect in Lightroom to bring out details in the clouds. I used to use the Recovery slider to do this, but the graduated filter effect has the advantage of leaving the highlights in the rest of the image unaffected. Recovery, if overused, can make the whole image a bit flat. I am using a reversed graduated filter from the bottom quite a bit these days, to increase brightness, but mainly to increase clarity and contrast where there is a lot of detail without adding a lot of noise to the sky. Then my usual Clarity and Vibrance settings in the Presence panel and the Landscape sharpen preset.

From Scotland.

16
Apr
09

4/16/2009

Evening River

Evening River

We arrived in Drum, just north of Aberdeen Scotland, late in the day, or early in the long Scottish evening. We were staying with a friend of my friend the driver on this adventure, who had a house facing the North Sea across agricultural fields. We drove out to this river, a quiet spot, looking for wrens. This was taken from a footbridge across the river. The light was that glooming which you only really get in the far north in summer, when the sun never goes far below the horizon, even late in the evening. If you have been there, you know that the light is warm, despite the late hour. The problem is that the camera does not see the light as warm. Then too, with the generally low light levels, if you expose for the foreground, the sky goes white. Not what you want.

Actually, this shot would have been impossible without the H50s built in stabilization. The low light brought the shutter speed down to 1/6 of a second…much longer than I should have been able to hand hold.

And, as always, but especially on this trip, I was working against time, out with other folks who were not their to see the scenery, and I did not want to keep them waiting while I played with exposure. Just one shot, on Programed Auto. Which is, of course, where Lightroom comes in.

Sony DSC H50 at full wide. F4.0 @ 1/6th @ ISO 100. Programed Auto.

In Lightroom, I used two graduated filters, one pulled down from the top to darken the sky, and one pulled up from the bottom to reduce the brightness there as well, and to increase contrast. Then I went to the HSL panel and did some selective brightening of specific colors. I placed the HSL tool over the purple reeds and slide it up to increase the luminance. I did the same over the sandy hill in the background. Added Clarity and Vibrance and Landscape sharpen. A bit of Luminance Noise Reduction to counter the mottling caused by the selective color brightness changes.

The result is something very close to what I saw that night…certainly much closer than the original file, which I include here for reference.

From Scotland.

Original file:

 

The original, resized fresh from the camera

The original, resized fresh from the camera