SOMERSET LEVELS 292 – EARLY IN THE DAY, JUST BEFORE MIDWINTER

 

 


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The first flushes of sunrise on 16th Dec 2016 –  just before the shortest day of the year.  I was heading towards the village of Mark, and looking eastwards across Binham Moor.

Composition: a noisy, grainy, blurry image – no more than an impression of what it was like being there.  And what was it like being there?  Well, it was ******* cold and, despite 1/250th and image stabilisation, I was lying across the outside of the car, hoping to high heaven that, shivering as I was, I could still hold the camera steady.  Did I have a tripod with me?  Yes.  Could I be bothered to use it?  Nope – but then that’s always the case!  This image is very much a series of horizontal layers, one on top of the other, the darkness of the ground moving up, in a series of discreet steps, into the first welcome tints of the day.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto this enlarged image to enlarge it yet again.

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 25,600 ISO; 1/250th, wide open at f5.6; Lightroom.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 291 – TADHAM MOOR, LOOKING EAST

 

 


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The day starts: star-rise, Our Star rising, Tadham Moor.

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Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom; 27 Jan 2017.
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STILL LIFE 91 – MODERN ARCHITECTURE

 

 


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Sunrise in the city, on a cold, clear morning.

Light from Our Star illuminates elegant modern design.  But the bare winter trees, although far less striking, are important too.  They help balance the composition, and they support the colours of the sky and the light in bringing Natural, uncontrived elements to the scene.

Technique: X-T1 with 55-200 Fujifilm lens at 305mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom; the Eclipse apartment block, on the edge of Bristol’s Broadmead shopping area; 20 Jan 2017.

 

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STILL LIFE 89 – WARM LIGHT

 

 

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The start of the day.  Warm, early light and many shadows.

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Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 276mm (equiv); 6400 ISO; Lightroom; near Temple Meads, Bristol; 24 Feb 2017.
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STILL LIFE 84 – A REFLECTION OF THE RISING SUN

 

 

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Another early morning in the city, and the rising sun blazing across the river.  The side of this building was in shade, but the golden, early morning light was being reflected back into this shade, lighting up the scene.  There was the golden light (and some tree shadows) on the thinly striated wall, five narrow windows in a horizontal line, and a parked car below.  That assemblage of items has been cropped, and then rotated onto its side.

Technique: this is a photographic first for me, the highest ISO I’ve ever used – the X-T1 was at 51,200 ISO, and the exposure was still only 1/180th, wide open at f4.8.  And although I always shoot Raw files, that was not possible here – unlike the X-T2, the X-T1 only shots Raw up to 6400 ISO, producing jpegs above that.  Technically not a perfect photo by any means, and not one to be enlarged to any great size, but that’s OK with me.  And I’ve attempted to turn the three objects – the car, the windows and the golden light – into a still life assemblage.  Some might prefer the lines of the car parallel / at right angles to those of the windows, the wall’s striations and the image’s edges, but maybe the discordance accentuates the incongruity of the whole thing.  What do you think?

Click onto the image to open a  larger version in a separate window, and them click once more onto the enlarged image.

Technique: X-T1 with 55-200 Fujifilm lens at 305mm (equiv); 51,200 ISO; Lightroom, including rotation 90 degrees clockwise; opposite Temple Meads railway station, central Bristol; 20 Jan 2017.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 290 – THE SKY WARMS

 

 

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Looking east along Tealham Moor Drove, the faintly seen track at lower left, as sunrise colours start high in the sky above the Somerset Levels.

Technique: it was dark!  The human eye is a wonderful camera, able to see in low light levels, but it was clear that most things here were still heavily engulfed by the gloom.  And when I raised the camera to my eye – WOW! – even allowing the brightening sky to influence the reading, 25,600 ISO still only gave me 1/140th, wide open at f4.8 .  So, working handheld as always, image stabilisation helped, as did the fact that this camera is mirrorless, so that it has no mirror slap – there is more on mirror slap here.  Many photographers prefer not to use their lenses wide open due to reduced sharpness and definition, but I always go for it – if the light conditions demand it  (and also if I’m looking for as narrow as possible a depth of focus).  The bottom line being that its far, far better to be left with an image that is blurred and/or grainy, than to be left with no image at all.  This is a part of the great and ongoing debate about the respective importance of the technical quality of images on the one hand – sharpness, definition, colour rendition, white balance, etc. – and image content and atmosphere on the other.  I’m 101% with the importance of content and atmosphere.  Compositionally, the faint lines of the track and the much brighter, water-filled ditch lead the eye towards that single tall tree – and I’ve used this same composition, in this same place, before.

There are other images from this bitterly cold morning here (with context), here, here, here, here and hereEach will open in a separate window.

Click onto this post’s image to open a larger version in a separate window, and then click onto this larger version once more.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujifilm lens at 305mm (equiv); 25,600 ISO; Lightroom; 27 Jan 2017.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 288 – CLOUDS AT SUNRISE

 

 

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Skyscape above Tadham Moor: 27 Jan 2017, at sunrise.

Technique: simplicity of content, with a theme purely from the Natural world – drifting clouds of water vapour lit by Our Star as it inches up above the horizon.  A Minimal image is some respects, although it does in fact contain quite a lot of intricate detail.  But to me quite a dynamic composition, with my eyes instantly drawn to that single cloud at upper left, and then rushing on towards the top right corner, only to be dragged down clockwise through the rest of the clouds to end up, in- or outside the image at bottom left.  That single cloud is at the intersection of the top and left thirds, a visual strongpoint – more on thirds here.  An alternative view would have our eyes entering the frame at bottom left, to whirl up around the frame’s peripheral clouds in an anticlockwise direction, and so back out to the single cloud which is on the intersecting thirds.  Westerners’ eyes tend to look at images from left to right (the same direction we write in) and top to bottom – there is more on this here.

There are other images from this bitterly cold morning here (with context), here, here and here.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 84mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom.
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STILL LIFE 80 – SUNRISE AT THE RAILWAY STATION

 

 

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The first of sunrise’s colours, and a street light, above the main road at Temple Meads railway station, Bristol.

And as I raised the camera for a second shot – the light went out!  As the Rolling Stones so rightly put it, You can’t always get what you want

But a stroke of luck too – that little cloud head, toppling over to the right, just to the right of the light’s vertical support.

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Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 1600 ISO; Lightroom; 3 Feb 2017.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 287 – DAWN, TEALHAM MOOR

 

 

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The view across Tealham Moor, with the first faint flush of sunrise starting to warm the cold dawn light.

The single track Totney Drove, covered in frost, ice, and tyre marks, makes off eastwards towards the trees of Tadham Moor in the distance.  This thin strip of tarmac is at best uneven, but between the two nearest trees it bulges slightly upwards where, on a little bridge, it crosses a manmade waterway known as the North Drain, which empties water from this sodden landscape into the nearby River Brue.  This tiny bridge has metal railings on either side, and glint of the North Drain’s waters can just be seen to either side of them, near the left and right edges of the image.

The striking shape of the tree is the result of being cut back by mechanised shears mounted on the farmer’s tractor.  Adjacent to the drove, within reach of the cutters’ teeth, its profile has been cut back to a sheer vertical, but beyond the cutters’ reach – higher up, and on the side away from the road – it blossoms out in more natural fashion.

More context about this bitterly cold, early morning visit to the Somerset Levels can be found here, and there is another pre-sunrise image here.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 8,000 ISO; 27 Jan 2017.
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BRISTOL 116 – SKYLINE AT SUNRISE, AND A #LIGHTROOM TECHNIQUE

 

 

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Dawn, a cold dawn, with sunrise starting up behind the city centre’s skyline; 20 Jan 2017.

Well, first, what’s in the image?  The tall structure – which to me looks for all the world like a medieval knight’s helmet with a visor covering his (blazing?) eyes – was built to manufacture lead shot by dropping molten lead from a height into water.  Those days are gone, and its now an up market office space called Vertigo.  Out of shot, the sun is just edging above the horizon and blazing through Vertigo’s windows, while the façade on the left remains in shadow.  The bird, a gull, passed through the shot as I was composing it in the viewfinder and was very luckily caught by a frantic stab on the X-T1’s shutter button!

Second, post-capture processing technique.  I didn’t want this in full colour, and so thought about converting it to black and white via Silver Efex Pro 2, my favourite software, and then using SEP2 to selectively restore the blazing windows’ colour.  But this didn’t really work – and then I remembered a Lightroom technique described in last week’s Amateur Photographer magazine (AP) for generating black and white images via LR’s HSL (Hue Saturation Luminance) panel – and here is the result.  I’ve learned so much from AP over the years its just not true, and here us yet another instance – I very strongly recommend this weekly magazine to you.  Martin Evening, a LR guru often writes for AP on LR techniques, and is extremely informative – and my main source of reference for LR is his vast book, the details of which can be found here.

So, technique.  I simply went into LR’s HSL panel and reduced the saturation of every colour to zero, to produce a grey image, and then increased the saturation of yellow and orange again, until the colour in those blazing windows matched what I recall seeing when I took the shot.  And, although the rest of the image is still nearly mono, doing this has also brought a faint sunrise flush to the sky, which is also getting towards the tints of the original scene.  Other adjustments (brightness, sharpening, etc) were also made in Lightroom, after the conversion to grey. 

And, having changed colour saturation as described in the previous paragraph, you are of course also free to change the luminance (brightness) and hue of any colours you restore, via those sliders in LR’s HSL panel – although this was not done in this instance.

Many of you will know far more about Lightroom than I do, but I hope these points will be useful to those less experienced with the software, and those thinking about using it.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom.
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