The following article is a guest post by Alf Bailey, a photographer from Cheshire, UK. He will be writing a series of posts entitled “Diary of a Landscape Photographer,” where he will recount the scenarios that lead to capturing his stunning landscape photography. More of his work can be found at www.alfbaileyphotography.co.uk; and as always, we welcome your comments below.
It had been a bright day, warm and sunny so I didn’t expect the wind to be as strong as I walked through the sand dunes spitting out sand, and half closing my eyes against the abrasive onslaught. Gary my partner in crime who accompanies me on most outings screwed his eyes up too and pointed towards the shelter of the trees and sand dunes, indicating the way forward.
I remember Formby and Freshfields as a youngster, there was an abundance of wildlife, Great Crested Newts, and Natterjack toads, and it was and still is, one of the last refuges of the British Red Squirrel. No squirrels about today though, they had more sense than us, and kept themselves out of the wind. The patterns in the sand dunes can make an interesting image, and one thing about the wind in our favour is that it very quickly obliterates any signs of the many footprints of the frequent visitors to the beach.
[rewind: Learn HDR Photography from SLR Lounge]
I wanted to leave the sky blue, but create a warmer looking sand, so I processed the same image twice in Lightroom, once with a cool tint and one with warmer tones. I then opened both images in Photoshop using the arrow tool, I held down the Alt and shift key on my keyboard and then dragged the cooler coloured image over the warm one, and this action forms a layer. The next thing to do is reveal the warm sand by choosing the eraser (setting for eraser 33% Opacity and 18% Flow this helps prevent streaky marks) and using even strokes pass it over the sand part of the image until the warm sand is revealed, but leaving the blue sky intact.
One hour later and the sun had started to head for the horizon, there was a slight haze in the sky now, but it was making the most wonderful patterns and colours in the sky. The wind had also dropped so I abandoned Gary in the sand dunes and headed towards the beach, I was still a bit dubious about risking my D700 in the sandy conditions but as it turned out by the time I reached the water, the wind had dropped altogether. One good bit of advice I can pass on though it to purchase a small brush / blower, these great little inventions takes all the risk away from cleaning your lenses and LCD screens in sandy conditions. Wiping your lens with a cloth in such conditions can prove expensive, as sand has a habit of finding its way into everything. If you do have to use a cloth, make sure you shake it well first.
I took quite a few shots with my Nikon D700 and Nikkor 16 – 35mm and wasn’t keen on changing lenses just in case a stray grain of sand found it’s way into the camera. The image below was looking to me like an Angel Fish. (Another quick note here, windy conditions where particles or moisture are present are not ideal for changing lenses, and should be avoided if possible) After some reflection about the Angel Fish (No pun intended) I decided it was time to head for home before I started seeing Pink Elephants too. The angel fish image required minimal processing, just a slight adjustment to levels and sharpening.
My normal Job entails visiting sites throughout the North West of England and Wales assessing the suitability of Cranes and providing lifting solutions for a million different sites and scenario’s. Sometimes I get lucky with an interesting location and this is when my camera accompanies me.
Powis Castle in Newtown Powys, Mid Wales, is not the best place to try and get a 20 Ton Crane, but there are some lovely gardens and interesting features to the place. So after some time spent solving the crane access problem and business over, I got permission from the Head Gardener to take a few photo’s, and hurriedly set about my task, but as I approached the castle I heard the strangest noise, it was like a cross between a strangled cat and a hyena, the noise grew louder the closer I got to the castle and then I saw the offending creature, it was a peacock, well no wonder they are good looking birds, I thought to myself, it must be gods compensation for their dreadful vocal qualities. : – )
Having established where the noise come from I thought “hmmm peacock, huge feather display, great photo opportunity . I climbed the castle steps as these thoughts raced through my mind, and I set the camera on its tripod in readiness for the wonderful display I was about to witness. After some minutes it become apparent that Mr peacock wasn’t playing ball, no display, no strutting it’s stuff for the camera, nothing but the occasional bloody curdling yowl that I has heard previously. There must be something that triggers the display, I thought to myself, maybe a bit of competition for attention would work. To this end I stood on one leg and flapped my arms holding my coat open in a vain attempt to look spectacular, the look of utter contempt from the bird and a few smothered giggles from a young couple that had sneaked up the steps behind me was enough to halt my sad attempt to emulate the mating dance of the peacock.
“I’m errrm trying to get it to show it’s feathers I muttered in explanation to the couple who now smiled and nodded sympathetically as they walked past, the guy then turned and said “have you tried negotiating with it to more giggles and snorts from his partner. I returned a hollow “ha ha in return and gave them a scornful glance.
Beaten, humiliated, but still determined to get a shot of the stubborn bird. I bracketed 5 shots 1 EV stop apart. Then I took a few shots of the gardens and grounds before hastily departing from the castle to make my way to another customer that required my services. I later used Photomatix Pro 3 to produce this HDR image, maybe not the classic landscape / nature photo I was hoping for, but I wanted to show the potential of the shot and how sometimes you just don’t get your own way, no matter how hard you try.
Thank you all for reading the above. If you have any questions thoughts, suggestions or feedback, please feel free to comment or contact me through my web site.
Don’t forget to stop by at the end of July or beginning of August when I hope to bring you more news of my photo excursions and hopefully a few decent photo’s too