Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Creating Mont Saint-Michel

Here we go then, my first video tutorial / blog. I won't say much, I'll let the video take it away. Please leave any comments here or on youtube, they are all very welcome!

Please change the size and resolution as necessary.

My YouTube channel:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mont Saint-Michel

What I now consider the second in my Digital Art Series (after Krakow Cathedral), the development of this picture has been long and educational. Educational because I knew when I first embarked on it a couple of months ago, that I would have to learn some techniques I did not know at the time to complete it. I gave myself that time though, and am now happy with my finished version. I don't at this point want to post a series of photos showing the stages along the way but to understand where I began from, I have added the original 'out-of-Photomatix' version at the bottom of this blog. You can click on either picture to see in a lightbox, and then use the arrows to see the before and after.

I want to state how happy I am to have this picture, as Mont Saint-Michel has been one of my longest photographic ambitions since finding my passion in Spring 2010. I did not know much about it in 2010, but if you look at my Favourites list on my Flickr page (which I haven't added to a lot to be fair), a picture of Mont Saint-Michel was the first photograph on there. That's because there is something so magical and unique about this place, that it is easy to stir the imagination of the visual artist. I have seen many pictures of Mont Saint-Michel since, and many warnings as well about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It therefore took on an even bigger challenge in my head, and the opportunity to picture it finally came in August this year, when holidaying in Brittany. I still though did not really have an inkling what to expect when I arrived here. I knew I wanted to go later in the day to avoid the crowds, but that doesn't actually change much. More importantly, I did not know where I would be able to photograph it from, or how close I would be able to get to it. The fact that we were able to walk onto the mount and through the town at the time of the evening was a genuine and very pleasing surprise. Aside from the photography, it really is the magical and unique place that I imagined, and I thoroughly recommend a trip to it.

So if you have looked at the before and after picture you can tell that the reality is not quite like the scene above. Like many tourist attractions, from the outside it can actually look rather unspectacular. Now I don't think that is true of Mont Saint-Michel, there are some great views of it from further away, but on the approach, you can see a lot of gravel and of course tourists, vehicles, rails etc etc. An unaltered picture would look unremarkable and common. I knew something would have to be done to make a good picture out of this. I could have used a shot from farther away, but they did not have the same impact as a close shot. So it had to be the Photoshop route. And Photoshop to me is entirely justified in these situations to any visual or digital artist. A painter would simply not paint a picture like the one below, whether it was the scene that was present or not. They would paint their idealistic vision, and that is what I have done with this picture.

When I began working on this picture, I did not know how the finished piece would look. I rarely go into a photographic outing or processing session with an idea of exactly how I want it to look. Though I have not read many of his books, I love the philosophy of Stephen King when it comes to writing his stories, stating he never knows how a story will end when he begins it. That's how I approach my photographs. I like completing by discovery. The main item that needed addressing in this picture was the foreground, which could not remain as it was. I always assumed that at some points the sea must cover the whole of the surrounding of Mont Saint-Michel, and while this may be true at times, it certainly wasn't anywhere near that when I visited, and that was supposedly when the tide was in. My original idea was to have an old bridge leading it up to it, to place it firmly in a bygone era, but after working out that I could mask in one of my further away shots (where the reflection comes from), it was the only way I wanted to go.

I often stick my neck out when I say things I intend to do but I really want to make a video explaining the processing elements that went into completing this picture. There are far too many to cover in this blog. If that happens soon, I will indeed let you all know. It was a joy and a challenge to create this picture, and though I love natural photography, I look forward to creating my next composite in my Digital Art Series.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Old Photo Restoration

This is not a normal photography project for me to undertake, but coupled with an interest in history I have had since I was kid, I was intrigued to see what I could to bring an old photo back to life. Of course, this is not my own photograph (it is an example from Flickr), but using a step-by-step guide I found on the net (adding a few of my own steps in Nik Color Efex at the end), I painstakingly restored this photo back to something at least intact!

It does take a lot of photoshop skills to complete the restoration but I would say 90% of the job (after fixing the pieces back together) is clone-stamping and spot-healing to remove the creases and tears.

I actually wouldn't mind doing this sort of thing for a living, but seeing what some people charge to restore old photos, I would be lucky if I could afford lunch. Considering I worked on this over 2 weekends (probably totalling 8-9 hours), a decent day's pay would seem a reasonable return, but it seems many people are happy to do these restorations for much cheaper. I suppose you would get quicker and better at them, but I still think the work is undervalued.

Anyway, see 4 stages of the photo below, up to the completed image. The first one is the untouched original. Click on any image, and then use the arrows to compare with the other stages:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Impressions of Doelan

Topaz Labs are about to give digital photographers an even worse reputation than we already have. Their latest program 'Topaz Impressions' makes turning your photographs into watercolour masterpieces (questionably of course) as easy as painting a wall, and it seems to have become the latest craze in post-processing. I have always admitted that the artistic direction is always where I have wanted to take my photography. Not the upside-down-ice-cream-on-a-road photograph that sells for £500,000 kind of art (I hate that), but the visual creation of something more than just being a photograph. My normal outlay has been through HDR photography, the blending of multiple exposures into one exposure fits all imaging. This will probably always be my favourite type of photography, and it still gives photography a modern and unique look. However, looking through my blog archives you can see times when I have tried to something a bit different with my pictures.

Up until now though, there has not really been any enormous leap forward with creating art pieces out of photographs and the results have just been 'alright'. Topaz Impressions changes all that. I used a photo from my recent trip to Brittany, a river shot taken in the village of Doelan. This is a quintessential tourist snap. But I think this just might be the target for Topaz Impressions. As you may be able to guess from the original photo below, I did not do any pre-processing before Topaz accept for some cropping. Impressions gives you many presets to choose from when you load your photo up and I have not nearly enough time to explore them all yet but for this picture I went for Monet, an artist who's work I have often been compared to. I then used the sliders to adjust the picture to my preferences and brought the picture back into Lightroom. The picture looked good when you turned the saturation down a bit, but as this was a sunny day, I wanted to keep the bright feeling. There wasn't much else I did apart from turn the highlights down a bit (I did a bit of layer masking in photoshop to help with this as well) and then a bit of sharpening, though it's not as essential as a normal photograph.

They say that Photoshop can't make a bad photograph good, but I think Topaz Impressions can definitely give a striking new look to your tourist snaps. I can see me now going through my Venice photos from a few years ago, and giving them an all new look. Artists will of course hate the fact that they were created on a computer, not while sipping absinthe by the riverside, whilst being admired by onlookers for your artistic genius, but times change, and I can't wait to see more examples of impressionist photographs surface on the net.

The original image

Click on the photo and use the arrows to compare them together:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Beach at Sables d'Or

After I thought I was nearly finished with photography (see my last post below), I was very fortunate to find a new creative inspiration, which helped me capture shots like the one above. This also shows what can happen when your initial plan fails.

First of all I should say though, how great this location is. The last few days of our trip to Brittany was spent in the seaside village of Sables d'Or (or 'Frehel', I wasn't quite sure which name was the correct one), and my word, the beach is spectacular! My wife and I both agreed it was like walking along a tropical beach (though we were in very northern France), and it was a lovely, quiet beach as well.

I knew this particular evening would yield a wonderful sunset, and my plan was to photograph a mini version of Mont Saint Michel that belongs to the area, but I could not nearly figure out how to get there. I gave up driving after about half an hour and then decided to head there the only I knew possible, along the huge stretch of beach. Even at the stage above, I was nowhere near it (I would realise this the next day), so nonetheless decided to anchor my tripod into the sand, and take some pictures of the beautiful colours and patterns that remained that evening.

I try not to be modest, but I think I'm actually beginning to think like a serious photographer now. My main motivation for capturing the picture above, was not just to create another HDR picture, but to really capture the drama I felt at the time. It was just a sense I got from the combination of sky and the wonderful landscape, and I tried to capture this feeling.

The processing in a nutshell

Ok I said I would try to provide more of these so here it goes....

1. 5 bracketed shots loaded into Photomatix and processed to contain a nice arch of dynamic range with a boost to the detail as well (never over doing it in Photomatix)

2. 2 versions eventually produced in Photomatix, first with the standard tone mapped look, the 2nd with a more natural look (this is quite standard for me now).

3. Both finished versions loaded into layers in Photoshop.

4. Curves adjustment applied to the tone mapped version.

5. Masked in more natural elements of the other layer such as the beach (at 60%) to give a sharper foreground.

6. Dodge tool used to bring out more colour into the orange parts of the beach and sea.

7. Dust spots removed with content-aware healing brush.

8. Picture loaded into Nik Color Efex. First tool used - Pro Contrast. Adjusted the colour tone and improved dynamic contrast.

9. Remove Color Cast used to again change the overall tone of the picture.

10. Back in Photoshop, High Pass sharpening used for general sharpness. Blended with Overlay at 70%.

11. Photo loaded into Lightroom. Brushed over the trees along the middle of the picture to bring out the shadows more.

12. Boost of sharpening added with high masking.

13. Tiny saturation of orange colour.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bouncing Back from a lack of Inspiration in Photography

During my recent holiday to Brittany in France, I genuinely thought I was returning to England to write my final photographic blog post. It was during my wife and I's day trip to a place called Lamor-Plage on the south Brittany coast, when I said to myself that this was the day my love for photography died. She was busy excitedly taking lots of pictures with my her Nikon D90, and I could not even get an ounce of motivation to take my D700 out of it's bag. I began to write the blog post in my head about how somehow I just fallen out of love with photography, and that I would move on to do other things. I had seen it coming for the last 6 months, when despite all promises and intentions to post more pictures and blog more regularly, I just couldn't keep to my words. What's more, it didn't really bother more.

My wife began to question me about why I did not seem to want to take pictures anymore and where had all my passion for photography gone, and I couldn't really even find the motivation to think of the answer. As I said, I had detected it coming for months. When I visited Poland in June, there was a particular day visiting a Polish castle, where I also thought my love for photography was dying. I just couldn't get the shots I wanted, and I was getting fed up with photography. Later on (back in France), I began to talk some sense to my wife about why I no longer had the passion for taking pictures. Some of which may or not be true, but here are the conclusions I came to:

1. The Nikon D700 is too heavy. It's no fun carrying it around all day, like I used to with my old Nikon D90, and therefore it takes a lot of inspiration to want to use it.

2. I was bored taking snappy tourist shots during the day, 99% of which I never use. This is definitely true and I think is part of every photographer's growth. I remember visiting places after I discovered a love for photography (Venice is a key one) where I walked around taking pictures all day. The passion and dedication you have to taking so many pictures does lend itself to producing great pictures, but as we get better (and we do!), your inner filter for good shots becomes smaller and more defined, to the point where not many daytime shots inspire you anymore.

3. And this is perhaps the biggie...My desire for wanting to create a business out of my photography had sapped the love I had for it in the first place. This was a painful one to deal with. I believe and still do that there is a big potential out there for interior design photography, but would this mean I was really taking and processing pictures that could keep me interested and inspired? I have probably done more business (paid and unpaid) photography this year and personal requests than personal projects, and after a while it can feel like it takes over your key interests in photography, which naturally you will resent. This doesn't mean I was taking bad photos, I have actually been given very kind and wonderful feedback for my work, and of course that helps.

After talking for a while, my brain decided to come up with a plan to turn this around. Most of it figured around point number 1. I would follow many photographer's lead by selling my DSLR and buying one of the new mirrorless systems. After all, I've heard great things about them, and they are so light! Why would I not be bothered to wear it round my neck all day, it would be so easy! I did some research on my tablet (whilst still on holiday) and had figured I would get one of the Sony ones, particularly the A6000. It wasn't full frame, but it was cheap, the lenses were (relatively) cheap and perhaps a downgrade from a full frame camera was what I needed to get back my love and inspiration.

The thought of a new direction in my head began to work. The next day we travelled to the town of Pontivy and my thoughts at the time were that if these were to be my last shots taken with my D700, then I'll give it all the excitement and time I can. You can see my last blog post for one of the results from that trip to Pontivy. The main thing was though, that I had my heavy D700 and tripod with me, and I was loving it. I took most of my pictures from the holiday over the next 5 or 6 days that remained, including a memorable trip to Mont Saint Michel. Had I not bounced back from my lack of inspiration, we may not have even visited Mont Saint Michel. My love of photography comes hand in hand with a desire to travel and see new places, and if I lose my inspiration for photography, then my desire to see places goes with it.

Now I am back in England, and very much enjoying processing the pictures I took in Brittany, of which there are more to come. And my thoughts have come full circle. I am still unsure what my future camera setup will be, but for now the D700 stays. The full frame Sony A7 camera, which is another camera I had my eye on, does produce lovely images, but for me nothing comes close yet to the great images a DSLR can produce. They feel more real to me. Without wanting to be controversial, I think you can see this in some great photographers who have made the permanent switch to mirrorless cameras, I simply prefer their previous DSLR work, that was so inspiring. This isn't a DSLR vs Mirrorless debate, I'm sure eventually everything will become mirror-free with photography, but I cannot be convinced at the moment that they give the image quality of a DSLR, and I really wanted to believe that. Furthermore, I'm sure someone can point an example out to me, but I have not seen any quality HDR pictures yet with a mirrorless camera. Why, I do not know, but examples I have seen again just feel like something is not quite right to me.

The heavy D700 is not a problem if I feel inspiration and motivation. Yes it does give me shoulder ache when combined with carrying a tripod, but for now, this is one of those things I just have to deal with. I accept that tourist snaps do not inspire me to photograph, and if I decide to leave my camera in the car, that's ok. And for the photography business, well we will just have to see. I put an awful lot of pressure on myself to use my photography as my way out of the 'rat race', but I am content now with letting be what will be. I will keep at it, but not obsess about it. If something comes of it great, but if it doesn't, it's ok. I will always have my amateur love of photography to fall back on.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Pontivy Bridge

It's been a while again but I have returned fully fresh and inspired after 10 days in Brittany (France for all those who failed Geography). Brittany it's such a spectacular part of France, with many beautiful towns and landmarks to visit. The highlight for me was visiting a place that should be on every photographer's bucket list - Mont Saint Michel. It more than lived up to all the expectations I had of it, but I will blog about that very soon!

My first post from Brittany is from the wonderful town of Pontivy. This was perhaps the nearest big town to where we were staying, and like many towns in the region, has wonderful character and history to it. Sticking to my HDR stronghold, the photo below is comprised of 5 bracketed shots, and processed in Lightroom, Photomatix, Photoshop and Nik Color Efex Pro.

The filters I used in Nik Color Efex were Pro Contrast and Remove Color Cast. I used High Pass Sharpening in Photoshop, with an added boost of sharpening in Lightroom. I think I'm going to write up more of my processes, I'm starting find them fun.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Simple Life

After trying to think of some words to write, I have decided to go with the title's essence and keep things simple. This an HDR shot from 5 different exposures. I had to use the de-ghosting option to use the chicken from just one of the exposures, and that was after waiting a few minutes for the chicken to walk in front of the tractor for this shot.

I've got a thing at the moment for wanting to 'HDR' old vehicles, and are looking for opportunities to photograph them. The inspiration came after seeing someone ride a very old (perhaps even war period) motorcycle along the roads. This led my mind to imagine a scene of this old motorcycle parked outside an old cottage, and so I am inspired to capture this picture in the near future.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tea in the Green Room

Staying in the Polish castle 'Zamek Książ' for today's picture, the subject is somewhat a little lighter. This is obviously in one of the more grander parts of the castle, and evoked scenes of tea breaks during war mission briefings (my mind is quite imaginative like that). Indeed, as this castle has been part of Germany for much of it's history, the Nazi's seized the castle in 1944, only to be kicked out by the Red Army (that's Russia, not Liverpool FC) the following year.

I probably should have tried getting away with carrying a tripod round this place, as I doubt they would have had a problem with it, but nevertheless I was visiting with family, so I didn't want to annoy everyone. Therefore, this is a handheld HDR shot, perhaps not as pin-sharp as my Old Church picture last week, but able to capture the dynamic range anyway.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Forgive me for indulging in a little artistic flair with this picture, it is not my usual subject or approach, but there was something that intrigued me about this little place, especially the composition. It seemed right to give it an artistic 'moody' tone'.

I'm currently reading Dante's The Divine Comedy, hence the inspiration for this picture and it's title. I'm sure most of you are familiar with The Divine Comedy, but for those who aren't, it is a medieval work of a poet who travels to Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio) and finally Heaven (Paradiso). The poem begins in Inferno, which is the part I am still reading, and whilst learning how to keep myself away from Hellfire, I can only imagine what the next stage, Purgatorio, would look like. I think it would exactly like this though (I am kidding of course).

This picture was taken at the magnificent Zamek (Castle) Książ in Wałbrzych, Poland. It's long history actually predates The Divine Comedy (written around 1300), and has largely been the seat of German nobleman over the centuries.

There is no HDR here. I did take bracketed shots, but that was mainly to be able to get the right exposure, before the image got shaky (it was taken handheld). I shot it at ISO 640, but did little noise reduction, so the image did not lose it's grittiness and come out too clean. 'Til next time....

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Oldest Church in Town

Never is it lost on me that it has been a long time (over a month) since my last blog. I've been unmotivated and uninspired, and at the same time incredibly busy with photography work. I will post soon about what I have been working on project wise (interior design shoots), but for today I will post a picture from my latest trip to Poland.

As usual with my trips to Poland, there wasn't that much free time. There is normally a celebration going on of some sort, and this time it was about my Wife's sister, who was getting married. I turned 33 while I was out in Poland and taking a break from their hectic wedding plans, our hosts kindly took me to some old parts of Poland, which ended in visiting this Church in the town of Swidnica.

Not speaking as good Polish as I would like, I struggle to remember the history very well from my fleeting visits to places, but I was pleased to see when I looked this church up on the net just now, that it is called The Evangelical Church of Peace (what a name!) and is a UNESCO world heritage site. There is a great story to how this church came to be built, but I will save that for another blog post!

This is the main organ front, facing away from the altar, and from a photographic point of view, carries on my love of HDR photography. Luckily churches in Poland do not give you grief about using tripods, so I was able to take my time to get these bracketed shots, which made up this picture.

It would not be right to say hello and not blog again soon, therefore, I will be back with another blog post on Thursday.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Faces of the Civil War

Battle reenactment photography is probably no one's specialist photography field, but there is a great opportunity here to try and capture a sense of real history. My latest venture was to Basing House for a Sealed Knot reenactment, and though I took quite a few pictures, I wasn't that satisfied with them. The battle itself was quite far away to get any close up pictures this time, but it was always my intention to get more people shots as well, again to try and capture that sense of history.

The people involved in the battle were very willing photographic subjects, which not really being a people photographer, I am very grateful for. I shot and processed this as an HDR image, but masked in the original RAW images for their faces.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Elizabeth Reigns in Bourton

Nearly a month since I last blogged, and that fact isn't lost on me. I was going to write a blog about my lack of inspiration for blogging recently, but then I think that would only add to the problem. A change is needed I think, either in the style or approach of my blog, but until I figure that one out, here's a picture I took yesterday from Bourton on the Water, somewhere in the heart of The Cotswolds.

I don't normally moan about the British weather (it is what it is) but yesterday for me was the first truly warm day of the year. As a result, my wife and I took a trip to a few places round The Cotswolds, and with the warm weather came the bustling crowds. This made photography quite difficult, especially as people photography isn't really my thing, and also the blanket blue sky can make landscape photography rather 'boring'. A key feature of Bourton on the Watere though, are the several small bridges that cross the beautiful stream that runs through it.

It wasn't until several photos later of this bridge, that I noticed the 'Elizabeth Reigns' emblem on the bridge, and realised that this might be a good look with the feet walking over the bridge. I had intended this to be an HDR shot, but in the end went for a single RAW image, processed in Lightroom.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Interior Challenges

I've managed to get out twice in the last week with my camera, which is quite rare for me at the moment. As I wrote about on Thursday, I shot some pictures at the Bear Hotel in Hungerford last Wednesday, and yesterday I waltzed on down to Basing House in Basingstoke, to take some pictures of the Sealed Knot Civil War reenactment there. It's been a few years since the last pictures I took of a civil war battle, and this year through up some new challenges and opportunities. I'll speak more about that on Thursday though!

For today, I have another picture from the interior shoot at The Bear last week. I am far from finishing these pictures, but am pleased with the way they are starting to turn out. Doing these interior shoots is all still a learning experience for me at the moment. One of the key challenges I come across is what to do when you have a very bright scene outside coming through a window. One option of course is to frame it so you don't include the window, but this may ruin the chance of a great angle or perspective. People may think it is no problem if you use HDR and therefore bracketed shots, but I don't think it is as easy as that. For instance, if the room is bright enough that you only have to go to a  +2 exposure to cover the dark shadow areas, your finished HDR image will look odd if you have to also go to -4 or less to cover the highlight areas, which could easily be the case with a blown out window.

Long time interior design photographers could get round this problem with lighting the main area to balance it out with the window, or leaving the window area as blurry and burn out, which is actually quite common. Masking in the original RAW file is very difficult when you have a heavily framed window such as this one, and may not 'fit' with the tone of the rest of the picture. Therefore, I went for a little blown out, mixed with some detail. The important thing for me is to include into the picture, so that it doesn't take your eye away from the main focus, which is the main room area. Whether I have succeeded with that at the moment I can't tell, but it is certainly a challenge for me to ponder and work more on in future.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Bear Hotel Hungerford 2014

Whilst the sunshine in the UK was surprisingly pleasant yesterday, I was up at the historic Bear Hotel in Hungerford, capturing their recently furbished interiors. Perhaps not the best day to pick to do an interior shoot, but it was fine with me. The excellent light outside gave me excellent light to work with inside.

I have many photos to go through and process but here is an early result from my shoot yesterday. I was inspired to capture the main restaurant from this angle, as I saw a sepia photograph hanging on the wall in the restaurant, which had obviously been taken decades ago. The room looked slightly different then, there used to be a bar where the blackboard area of the photo above is, but the picture itself was all the inspiration I needed to produce a 2014 'update'.

This is an HDR image taken from 3 exposures, post-processed in Lightroom, Photomatix and Photoshop.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sherborne Cottage

Every now and then I do something a little different on this blog, and I'm sure today's picture qualifies as that. It is always my objective to add a little artistic flair to my pictures, and this is normally achieved using HDR techniques, which I am very fond of. Today I have gone for a watercolour presentation of an English cottage, which I created in Topaz Simplify 4. There was also a lot of additional work done in Photoshop to 'fix' issues created in Simplify.

I have had the original photo on my hard drive for a little while now, but was inspired to create a watercolour version of this photo after seeing various paintings of summer cottage scenes. Though it was actually February when I captured this picture, it was taken on a bright sunny morning, so was able to give it that summer look (albeit the bare tree on the right).

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Frequency Separation

This week I mentioned how a technique called 'Frequency Separation' helped me fix my desert picture 'Tracks of the Desert'. Now I would like to demonstrate why. If you look at the 2 photos below, you can see in the original RAW image (with slight processing before being exported to Photoshop) there is a lot of dirt/murkiness to the right of the picture. It is in other parts as well. Now I assume this was caused by the thick, sandy desert landscape, but nevertheless, I knew it would not look good in my final image.

My finished image is not perfect, and hasn't completely eradicated the dirt, but the Frequency Separation technique (normally used in portraiture photography) helped me eliminate the poorer parts to a large degree. If you watch the video tutorial below by Glyn Dewis, it explains all the elements of using this technique, and it was indeed this video that helped me solve my desert problem. I hope you find some use for it in the future!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Windsor Train Station

Time is against me today, so here is a quick post of Windsor & Eton Central Station. I had not planned to post this at all (the picture is from about 2 years ago) but I was working on it to experiment with different styles of HDR processing. After a while I decided to see what it would like as a colour-tinted Monochrome, and this was the result. I created the last bit in Lightroom, but the majority of the work was done in Photoshop, using various Topaz plugins. I will blog again tomorrow to make up for my lack of a blog on Thursday. Have a great weekend all!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tracks of the Desert

The Arabian desert; a place perhaps few are lucky to visit, and the mind conjuring up images of Lawrence of Arabia are plentiful. In the 21st century however, you see a lot of tracks like the ones above, courtesy of the arabian adventure cars that deflate their tyres and roar over the sand dunes. It certainly was an adventure to take a trip in one of these, but the best parts for me were the frequent stops to take in the desert landscape, and if you were lucky, see an Oryx or 2 (we did). I took so many close up and landscape pictures of the desert that day, as I could not stop my sense of awe over the patterns of the desert.

It's almost certain that the big cars help create these patterns (like to the bottom left which I really love), but it doesn't really matter. Just to capture them in the late afternoon, as the sun goes down, is enough for me not to worry about if nature or man created them. I had to put the post-processing of this picture on the shelf for a while, as the desert mist made this look very murky and dirty, and I did not know how I was going to get round this. Then at The Photography Show recently, I saw Glyn Dewis present a technique called 'Frequency Separation' that helped me alleviate the problem to a high degree. I'll explain more about this on Thursday, or at the weekend.

Presenting the image in lo-res as it is above, is not the best way to view this picture. The low resolution does not capture the desert detail very well.

Therefore, please click the link, to see it at full resolution at

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Making Progress

The continuation of learning is an essential discipline within any art form, as it ensures not only that you continue to improve, but that you can adjust and stay relevant as well. I have been focusing a lot on improving my photography this year, and that means having delved myself into a fair few books and video tutorials. The photo above is a picture I have processed today, from a shoot I did in January last year (from the Newbury Marina). The version below is one I processed and posted this time last year. Please click on either picture and use the arrows to compare between the two.

If you are like me, I think you will feel that the first version is a clearly more satisfying picture than the 2nd. Without becoming too modest, I am very happy with the result today, mainly because it shows that I am improving, nearly 4 years after I produced my first HDR image (I'm even embarrassed by some of the elements in the 2nd picture). I don't mind admitting my influences, a lot of my improvement recently has come from video tutorials purchased from Glyn Dewis and Jimmy McIntyre, who have really shown me new techniques to use in Photoshop, and helped me realise where I have been going wrong previously. In Photomatix for instance, I never really had an idea what the purpose of the sliders were, and what the objective of Photomatix should be. I just knew which sliders I liked using. Now I clearly know what I'm trying to achieve in Photomatix (a balanced look without pushing any sliders too hard), and how to get there.

As I stated on Thursday, I was looking to do a blog recently on LR/Enthuse, and how to get a good dynamic range without using HDR. However, every time I feel like I'm moving away from HDR, I am always hooked back. I think it will always be this way. I am convinced now more than ever that understanding HDR techniques can truly make the best possible picture, despite the pro's who still argue against it. Whilst I will of course continue to explore many different techniques and ways to get quality pictures, my long journey with HDR has just taken a new turn.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Smugglers Inn

Recently, I have been experimenting with merging different exposure brackets together, without using Photomatix or any other tone mapping software. Particularly I have been using LR/Enthuse (somehow I had not heard of this before), which blends together multiple exposures in Lightroom, without the tone mapping process, allowing for a more clean image to be merged. The resulting photo needs to be further post-processed (as normal) but you can get a very pleasing result.

Now today's picture is not a merged image of any kind, it is from a single RAW file. I was planning to post a set of photos which had been either merged in Photomatix, LR/Enthuse or not at all, but I wasn't happy with any of the results, which probably says more for the picture I was trying, than the actual techniques. So that little experiment will have to wait, but in the meantime this is an image from Osmington on the Dorset south coast. I took this while staying in Sherborne recently, though of course we took a bit of a trip for the day to visit somewhere further afield in Dorset. I didn't actually take many pictures that day, largely because we had our dog let loose running around the south coast, but it was a lovely day nonetheless. This pub is a very popular spot around Osmington, probably because 'watering holes' are few and far between along this part of the Jurassic Coast. It's a fantastic little place though, full of character and charm. I actually did most of the post-processing work on a different picture in this set of brackets, but then copied them over in Lightroom to this version, and preferred this one ever so slightly more (was a bit sharper more than anything).

I have plugged on Facebook and Twitter recently my new interior design photography website It's more the business aspect to my photography, rather than the hobby side (which is this blog and, but nevertheless I will be blogging in the near future, some of my more favourite images from my interior design exploits. I welcome everybody to have a look at my new website and tell me what you think. Until next time...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

For the Last Time...Downton Abbey

Saturday evening has been a vacant slot for me over the last few weeks, but here I am back blogging at this time. I am currently building an interior design photography website, and as part of that website, I want to show my exterior work as well. I could not think of a better example to display my exterior work than of Downton Abbey.

Please understand it pains me a little to call it Downton Abbey. This place is very local to me, as I grew up in this part of North Hampshire. It has and always will be Highclere Castle. However, for the rest of the world, this is now recognised as Downton Abbey from the hit TV series.

I say 'For the last time' because I have posted quite a few pictures of this place in the past, and until I come out with some original interior shots (I'm always trying to get permission to photograph will happen), I won't be posting further pictures from here.

This was taken during my D90 days, and is a single RAW image. I processed it in Lightroom, Photoshop, Nik Color Efex and Topaz Adjust. It feels a great time to post this as well, as it is starting to become warm(ish) and bright outside. It could be a false dawn of course, but with glass half full, here's hoping a wonderful summer is on it's way.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


My blogging output has not been very consistent recently. I would like to pretend this has nothing to do with me acquiring a new smart TV with a Netflix subscription, but that would be an absolute lie. Nevertheless, here is another picture from my recent trip to Sherborne in Dorset.

This was taken the same evening as my last picture, though obviously slightly earlier. I did picture this scene during the red sky period as well, but I felt the timing with the cars and the sharpness was better with these early evening shots. It is an HDR of course, taken from 5 different exposures. The bus trail is taken largely from 1 of the exposures but I used elements of all 5 exposures in the final picture.

I've been posting quite a bit recently on my Facebook page, as I still want to build my following there. I love the fact as well that you are largely introducing your work to non-photographers, and it is great read their reactions to the photos. I wrote a piece recently about creating better iPhone photos and was asked if I could provide a guide on how to create better pictures with SnapSeed. I will therefore produce a guide to using SnapSeed and post the link up in the very near future.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Photography Show

2014 sees the launch of the first ever 'The Photography Show', perhaps seen as the UK's answer to Photoshop World. I attended this event on Sunday and can absolutely confirm it is like DisneyLand for photographers. Not only did it feature representation from many of the big photography companies, there were many of the world's top professionals present to offer photographic advice, and provide inspirational stories.

Nikon and Canon predictably had rival giant stands at each of the entrances, though there was also a huge presence by Adobe, Panasonic and Olympus. Adobe had many classes on throughout the day, more than I unfortunately could attend. I made it an absolute must to catch up with Mr. Tricks himself Glyn Dewis at his presentation 'Pro retouching using Photoshop'. As usual, Glyn was present to offer a short but plentiful burst of techniques using Photoshop, and of course there were some things I simply did not know, but cannot wait to start using. There is 1 photo in particular from my recent Dubai trip, that I have been holding back because it has an 'obstacle' let's say with it, but having watched Glyn's seminar yesterday, I think I now have the solution.

It was great to see some of the companies I have been following for a few years now such as Smugmug and Topaz, though I was quite surprised by their small presence. A smaller company making it's presence felt was DXO, an upcoming rival to Photoshop, or so they would have us all believe. Their software does certainly seem impressive and was well demonstrated by the charismatic Hector. I have since downloaded their products to trial, and well we shall see how I get on with it.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was watching a seminar by the legendary Joe McNally. Although I am not too familiar with his work, it is not hard to see why he is so admired. He took time to come and meet some of his audience (such as myself) before the show, and his speech featured many great photos along with the stories behind them. It was a wonderful insight into his career and his philosophy as a photographer, and one you could not help but get inspired by. It was a genuine real pleasure to see him speak, and I recommend it to anyone gets the chance.

A wonderful footnote to the Joe McNally experience, was learning today exactly who the guy sat in front of me was. I was sat in the 2nd row, behind all the special guests and Joe especially was delighted to see the guy in front of me, and they conversed for a couple of minutes before the show. Joe introduced his assistant to the man in front of me saying 'this is Steve McCurry'. Joe also mentioned him during his seminar (they both worked for the National Geographic) and I kept thinking to myself 'I'm sure I have heard of Steve McCurry' before, but I could not think where. So I googled his name today, and was shocked but pleasantly surprised to learn that the guy sat in front of me was only the guy who pictured the world famous 'Afghan Girl' photograph, perhaps the most famous photograph of modern times! Had I realised that at the time, I would have definitely introduced myself and said hello, but perhaps next time hey. It was still wonderful to know I was sat amongst such esteemed company for McNally's talk. I really want to see and meet many other great photographer's in the near future, they are so inspiring.

All in all it was a great day out, and I only hope this the first of many Photography Shows to come. The enthusiasm for photography in the UK is enormous, and it's great that so many of the world's top professionals come to acknowledge that.

Today's picture is one I posted on Flickr last week. I want to start getting back into the social media side of things such as Flickr, as I miss the interaction you get over there. Although I love doing this blog, you have to accept that the people are at places such as Flickr, Google+ and 500px. I took this just outside Sherborne Abbey, as the sun went down.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Inside Sherborne Abbey

Rural Dorset and Somerset is where I have been staying for the last 3 days, very near to the town of Sherborne. My wife and I stayed in a beautiful cottage, and of course it gave me the opportunity for me to explore this part of England with my camera.

Today's picture is funnily enough one I took today. I can't think of a more glorious opportunity to picture this glorious abbey, when no other people were present, and a place that is fine with you taking photographs! I even had the tripod set up and everything, I genuinely could not believe my luck. The abbey itself is amazing, the only thing I have not been able to capture more of in this photograph is the highly decorated and detailed ceiling, but another time perhaps.

The JPEG Monster

So here's a fun story for you photographers out there. The HDR picture above is taken from 4 JPEG exposures. I did not realise this until I had already created the HDR. Of course I did not mean to shoot in JPEG, but I was in such a rush to get the photos, that I know I held one button on my D700 too long and flicked another one at the same time. Now I was sure I must have changed the settings somehow accidentally, but I was so careful to avoid the ISO Monster (Definition: where you adjust the ISO to a high setting for one particular photo, and forget to turn it back) that I did not realise my file settings had been changed from RAW to JPEG.

The only saving grace about shooting these exposures in JPEG is the fact that I did bracket the shots, meaning I could blend them together in Photomatix, and still cover the dynamic range. Had I wanted only a single image from this, adjusting all the shadow and highlight details from a JPEG would have been very difficult. So knowing I had used JPEG settings for this HDR, my post-processing after Photomatix was very minimal. I did a tiny amount of layer-masking, and figured I could probably get away with another edit in Nik Color Efex 4. All in all, I think it was lesson learned and disaster averted.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Mountain Hut in Oil

Today's picture is a little bit of an experiment. I recently took advantage of Topaz Lab's half price offer of Topaz Simplify for half price in February, of which this picture is my early result. As you may know, I am always interested to bring an artistic side to my photography where possible, and the reason I do so many HDR's is because this naturally adds an artistic element. It is not the only type of processing I want to explore though, and I used Topaz Simply (and a lot of photoshop blending modes afterwards) to create this oil painting look for this scene.

I'm not 100% sold yet on Simplify's ability to transform your photographs into paintings, but I feel with a lot of work carried out in Photoshop alongside it, you can perhaps get the image close to what you imagined. I will keep trying of course, and post any other results after my forays into Topaz Simplify.

My wife and I (and dog) are taking a mini break in a Dorset cottage (I've checked, there's no flooding) from Thursday to Sunday, so this will be my last blog until Sunday. Hope you guys have a nice week, I will post some iPhone shots I take in Dorset onto Twitter.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Corporation Games

Location and interior design photography is something I have spoken about quite recently, and the picture above is another example of how I feel HDR techniques are the way forward for quality location photography. The company Stryker is a pharmaceutical company based in my hometown of Newbury, Berkshire, and though this was a personal photo (not a commission), I have tried to capture their building at a fantastic hour, to give it a very striking (apologies, the pun wasn't originally intended but I decided to leave it in) look.

Of course, at this time of day, you can 'get the shot' without HDR, but I believe the bracketing and HDR processing, gives the image the unique and artistic look, that digital photography has allowed to evolve.

I used to think that any photographer who has been practising the art for over 10 years was probably against HDR processing. It just seems that they are always convinced HDR is not necessary, and want to prove why a single image with lighting is better. However, they don't all think like this. I have been reading a book called 'Architectural Photography' by a fantastic photographer called Norman McGrath, who has been a commercial architectural photographer since the 1960's. I was delighted to read in his section on using HDR techniques:

"I believe that the evolution of this system [HDR], which is a collaboration between camera and software, is the single most important element since the advent of digital photography".

Wise and inspiring words indeed.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Dubai Life

These days I'm starting to make myself think differently about what I am trying to show in a photograph. I have never thought of myself as a deep photography thinker. I am not attracted to photographs with agendas or messages, and certainly not pretentious arty photographs. I think I instantly know if I like a photo or not, and that is usually down to the visual beauty of the picture. Of course, a photograph can be emotional, but as most of you know, I am not really a people photographer. I do like processing those photographs, but I am always much more interested in a particular scene, and if people are in that scene then great, but for me, you don't need a face to feel emotion.

One of the aspects of a photograph I am hearing more and more of though, and it is this aspect I am trying to get into my head when I take a picture, is storytelling. I'd have never agreed a couple of years ago that a photograph can tell a story. Maybe I would have said it can represent a particular time and circumstance, but it can't actually tell a story. What makes me think differently now though, is that telling a story with a photograph is different to telling a story with words. The story in the photograph does not have a narrative, and it is up to the viewer to write it. But what the photograph does give you are the elements to create that story. The story of a time. The story of a place. Not of course with a beginning, middle and end, but of a moment that has just been frozen in time.

However, you look at this picture, I always kept thinking that it tells a story. Again, not necessarily a deep and meaningful one, but of a certain place in time. The story I think it tells is of The Dubai Life, but that's the great thing about photography - a different story is created for every single person that sees a picture.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dubai Lights II

Back in Dubai today then, and here is my second long exposure shot from the the beach of the Fairmont Palm hotel on the Palm Jumeirah. The reason I want to post a few shots of this scene, is that different exposures and different angles bring out different results. Unlike the last 'Dubai Lights' photo for instance, this exposure kept the lights largely on the sea itself rather than coming all the way to the small waves. This gives a different shape to the lights, and I think I personally prefer this version.

There are perhaps 1 or 2 'Dubai Lights' pictures to come, though they won't all appear at once. There will be something a bit different on Thursday, though I haven't quite decided what yet.

Tip of the day: I dare you to share a negative opinion about the Winter Olympics on Twitter, and watch how you get hounded out for it, from people you don't know (and some you do!).

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Where the Kings Rest

Taking a break from my recent trilogy of Dubai pictures, today's picture finds us in historic Europe, more specifically the Polish city of Krakow. This is Wawel Cathedral, within the huge Wawel hill grounds, one of the key places for tourists to visit when venturing into this part of Poland. The cathedral is one of the most important historic buildings within Poland, being the burial sight of many Polish kings since the medieval age. More recently, it is also the resting place of Lech Kaczynski and his wife, who were both tragically killed in an air crash on 10th April 2010. He was the President of Poland at the time.

I have mentioned in the last couple of months how I am very influenced recently by the work of Serge Ramelli and Glyn Dewis, and that continues to be the case. Their compositing style of creating pictures has intrigued me to think where I can take a photograph during post-processing, and I have used compositing techniques to complete this picture. Whether you call it a photograph or digital art, does not matter to me.

You can see the original file below and compare the 2 pictures together by clicking on one of them, and then using the arrows to flick between them. The original below is still at the point where I have cropped, adjusted and prepared the file before exporting it to Photoshop. I didn't think it would be a good comparison to compare the finished version with the untouched RAW file.

Although the sky in the original is not bad, it lacks colour or character, so I replaced it with a red evening sky I pictured recently. As you can see, I have also eliminated (in a nice digital way) all the people within the picture. This was probably the most painstaking and pixel level work I have done in Photoshop yet. I then added the birds from a stock photo, carried out some adjustment work in Topaz Clarity, and finally added a colour filter in Nik Color Efex Pro.

I hope everyone is having a nice weekend. I am slightly concerned about the water levels outside my apartment (we are on the ground floor) due to the recent onslaught of rain we have had in England recently. I don't think I remember visiting a shop that sells sandbags, so hopefully it won't come to that. Will be back here on Tuesday with another picture from Dubai.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Only in Dubai

I learnt a valuable lesson from a documentary I watched before I travelled to Dubai recently. It went something like this "In Dubai, it seems that the crazier the idea is, the more likely it is to succeed". This is very true. If you are not sure, just google 'Dubai World Islands' and then you will see the kind of ideas that get the seal of approval in this part of the world.

I am not sure if there are any other twisting skyscrapers like this anywhere else in the world, but I would not be surprised if there wasn't. I so wish I could have been at the meeting where the guy with the idea tried to sell it to the money lenders. I'm sure the baffled faces would have been numerous, and that being at the stage they still thought it was a joke. But there you have it, a skyscraper that can't figure out which way it wants to face.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Through the Arabian Desert

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Dubai, in fact one of only 2 times I left the vicinity of our hotel complex, was to travel through the Arabian desert by jeep. I'm not really one for extreme adventures, but it was a lot of fun how these jeeps absolutely motor through the desert, not fearing any steep slope or tight angle. I was in the 2nd car of 6 in our group, so there were times where we stopped for photographic opportunities of the other jeeps, which played very well into my hands.

Like my last picture, this was processed entirely in Lightroom.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Dubai Lights I

This time last year I was lucky enough to visit Miami, as part of a company partner meeting (I work for a company that deals largely in the international market), and this year the selected destination for this meeting was Dubai. I reluctantly agreed to go when I was invited, and even more reluctantly took my D700, when I was asked if I would take pictures for the company of the event. I am being terribly sarcastic of course, as 4/5 days in Dubai gave me the opportunity to picture this part of the middle east, when I was and was not working (which was not often).

The hotel we stayed at was on the Palm Jumeirah complex, which from the beach gave beautiful views of the skyscrapers in the Dubai Marina area, especially when they lit up at night. Though I did not take my real tripod for the trip, I did take my gorillapod (Joby), which though not at all designed to carry a D700, nevertheless gave me the opportunity to take long exposure pictures like the one above, which simply would not have been possible without it.

As the title implies, this will be the first of a few 'Dubai Lights' pictures, as I took quite a few at different angles and exposures. Picking a favourite out of them at the moment, is way too difficult.

So, plenty of pictures to come out of Dubai, returning on Tuesday as normal.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's 2014 - and people are still hating HDR?!

Last night I was struggling again for inspiration for a blog post. This morning however, I was provided by all the inspiration I need, upon seeing a retweet on Twitter by Jeremy Cowart:

Now for the record, I must state I genuinely don't understand what 'the Nickelback of photography' means. Nickelback I remember were a popular rock band from about 10 years ago, but am not sure if there are any connotations associated with the band. However, I must assume the comment was negative, as the original tweeter goes onto state that he is baffled by the popularity of HDR.

I have never been one to get involved in the whole 'I hate HDR' debate, because it is pointless. Some people like something, and others don't. How does that prove either way that something is good or bad? What surprises me though, is that this 'HDR-hating' is still going on in 2014. The fact that people have to tweet this stuff shows how popular HDR is, and clearly I'm guessing they are threatened. I am also genuinely surprised that an established photographer like Jeremy Cowart makes a statement like this, when he has many friends in the HDR field such as Trey Ratcliff and RC. Cowart is even part of Trey's new business venture, The Arcanum.

I know how the game works by the way. They are just trying to be controversial, to make people react and get more audience interaction. I have seen it so many times, again without any real care, but again on this occasion am just surprised it still goes on with HDR. It is the natural system of change that a new thing that comes along, has to be resisted, before it is accepted. So of course HDR like many other things has to be argued against, before becoming an established part of the photography mainstream. It seems that comments like above, are the final desperate attempts of la resistance to quell something that is not only established, but continues to grow bigger and bigger. They may not get it, but many people do, and HDR is getting better with very year that passes.

So for all the HDR lovers, here's a classic HDR photo of mine:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Narrow Streets of Jerusalem

It's Wednesday evening I know, not Tuesday as usual. Without dwelling on the why's though, here is my new blog post from the old city of Jerusalem.

This is the walk you take up to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified. I have taken the 'arty' look to a new level in this picture, with a very clear oil painting look. This style/filter was introduced into Photoshop CS6, and I think has been used a bit too much in some quarters, but it does add another potential look to your photos.

I have never used it in a picture before, but it just seemed to work with this picture. Perhaps it is because it is a biblical setting, and the architecture just works with it. It won't be a common look to my pictures but if it works, it could appear more.

My next blog post will appear tomorrow evening (Thursday).

Saturday, January 18, 2014


This is one of those days when I have been thinking all day, what am I going to post this evening? Without dragging the story out too much, I decided to post something I very rarely do, a panoramic photograph. I processed this a very long time ago, but have always been put off by how thin and difficult to see ultra-wide panoramic shots are online. Today however, I am thinking what the heck.

This complete picture was taken from 5 images, that were stitched together in Photoshop. In fact apart from that, my post-processing has been very minimal. I did content-aware a telephone mast out of the picture, but in terms of the overall look, I only really added a slight vignette in Lightroom.

One of the most interesting facts about this picture, is that it was shot from my hotel balcony, while I was staying in Miami last year. It is of course one of the Miami bay areas, north of the main south beach hot spots. One last thing, this was shot in January last year. Boy I miss that sunshine....

Thursday, January 16, 2014

We've Been Expecting You

I've spoken recently about interior design HDR photography and stating that if I was to make a career out of photography, this is the field I would most likely go in. Well I have been making strides towards this, and have been building up my portfolio for the website that will contain my interior design work, which is

I contacted the Halfway bar and restaurant in...(I would like to say either Newbury or Hungerford, but as it is halfway between them, hence it's name, I cannot say exactly where it is. I believe it is also the halfway point between London and Bristol) to see if I could come down and take some free pictures of their establishment, of course for their benefit but also to build up my portfolio. Suffice to say they were very kind people, and let me pop over for an before opening one Sunday so I could could take as many shots as possible. They were very welcoming to me on the day as well. I haven't given them the complete finished results yet, but today I have included 4 pictures from this 'shoot' within this blog post.

When I launch my interior design business, I want to focus on the interior side of the business, because these are not so much affected by the weather outside. I am absolutely sure that shooting exteriors will come into the package, as you can see in the final photo below, but I don't want this to be the main selling point of the business.

I'm marketing myself as an HDR interior design photographer, but whether or not I heavily emphasise the HDR aspect, I am not sure is important. All the photographs today are HDR's from at least 4 exposures, but heavily layer-masked, so that they bring the reality back to the picture, without losing the dynamic range and detail of a tone-mapped HDR picture. Whilst non-photographers love HDR pictures, I don't think many hotels or restaurants want over-cooked (ba-dum tish!) HDR images, that lose the reality of their establishments. Whilst you know I think there is a place for hyper-real HDR's, I don't think the websites of businesses is one of them.

I hope you like the pictures today, any feedback is welcome! I will speak more about my ambitions in the interior design world over the next weeks, but right now am off to check out one of the latest updates to Photoshop CC - the perspective warp. Sounds intriguing!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hedgerow City

Staying in Poland for today's picture (and close to Zakopane), this is one of those pictures that was taken on a whim. And what you might call a bit of a fluke. I had noticed this wonderful landscape scene on our way to Zakopane, while travelling in Poland last year, and had made a mental note to perhaps try and stop somewhere near here on the way out of Zakonepane, a few days later. Well of course I completely forgot about that mental note, so of course when we passed this landscape on our journey between Zakopane and Krakow, I rushed to get my camera out my bag (I of course was not driving) and took some quick shots out of the car window.

Most of them came out blurry due to the travelling car, but this one shot at a lower exposure and faster shutter speed came out pretty good. It's still not tack sharp, but it achieved the vision I had aimed for when picturing this scene. It would have been better if the sky was more interesting, but you can't have everything (though I'll keep trying)! This picture was processed with a mixture of Lightroom and Photoshop, with a lot of work done to balance out the light.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Lake on the Mountain

You may have seen my tweet last night saying that my usual Saturday blog, has been delayed until Sunday (today), and with good reason. I could not be putting the time and energy that I am now into this blog post, if I was writing it last night. So I thought on this occasion, it was best to wait for it to be ready, before putting it 'out there'.

The scene you see above was captured in the Polish mountain region of Zakopane, during last summer. I have written before about the revealing of the landscape from the clouds, just as we made it to our planned destination. It seemed quite a miracle in a way, considering it had been nothing but dense fog on the way up, but even still, this moment was temporary and fleeting. There was another lake we really wanted to visit known as 'Mirror Lake' (it is a very common image on postcards of Zakopane), and we made it there late in the day, but the dense fog never left the lake, so there was no great surprises twice that day. All my pictures there are just a bit of water and stones, behind a massive layer of clouds.

For the photographers out there, you probably guessed that this was taken from a single RAW image. I had taken many bracketed shots in this location, but with the dynamic range able to be captured in a single image, you then have to decide if it looks best in HDR, or processed as a single photo. Despite some tutorials out there, I don't believe you can create the 'HDR look' in Lightroom, or other non-HDR specialist software. Even if you are processing a single RAW image, the only way I believe to get the HDR look, is to tone-map it in Photomatix, or some other HDR software. I don't think this shot would have worked as an HDR, and to be honest there was no need really. I was happy to bring the most out of the scene, without giving it that artistic look time.

I processed it entirely in Lightroom, and have displayed my setting below that I used to achieve the final image:

Bringing down the highlights and opening up the shadow areas, helps you bring out the most of the dynamic range, and I often adjust the whits and blacks to refine the highlight and shadow areas. It just helps bring the realism and contrast back. Clarity I think adds the drama to the scene, the highlight and shadow colour settings, give it the colour tone I was after. I have no hard and fast rule for sharpening, except for zooming in and dragging the slider along until I feel it is just right. I always add masking though, to make sure that it sharpens the necessary features, and not a blanket sharpening job.

Hope you have enjoyed that quick look into the making of this picture, I will definitely look to include more of them in future.