Self-review of 2014

After a not-so-long look at the images I have captured this year (I haven't gotten out with my camera as much as I would have liked), I decided to choose my 10 favourite images from the year. Of course, these are my ten favourite images TODAY; next week I may well choose a different ten! In any case, it was pretty useful to see what I had shot over the year, to see if I had improved, and to help me think what I might like to get out and shoot in the new year. So here are my ten favourite images from the year, from January through to December.

#1 - Beyond the sea

It was a bright day when the sun came out on the north Norfolk coast, so trying to get blur in the sea was not easy! I currently don't have a big stopper, which would have been ideal here. The filters I have (especially the cokin ones) create a horrible magenta cast, which I had to remove in Lightroom.

#2 - Le Tour

And finally...it was time for the tour to come by. So many photomotos accompanied the peloton.

#3 - Gendarmerie

The French sent over everything with the tour - their own police escort included!

#4 - Watery path (mono)

I originally uploaded this image in colour, but as part of my (kind of) self review, I had a re-edit of some images. Used a brush mask overlay to try and make the river a bit brighter to draw the eye.

#5 - Black water

This was the same river as #4 in the highlands of Scotland. Image was cropped slightly to remove a chunk of distracting sky.

#6 - Bowfiddle

Beautiful rock formation on the north-east coast of Scotland. Again using the Lee Little Stopper here. The sky was so bright, I could have really done with the Big Stopper!

#7 - Fairy Glen

Fairy Glen Falls - accessed via a lovely walk (about 30 minutes), with a slightly tougher section of stairs and slippery ground at the end. Worth it!

#8 - Light in the dark

The sun burst through the clouds at just the right moment so that it lit up Inverness across the river.

#9 - Concorde rear

The rear of a British Airways Concorde at the Scottish Museum of Flight. They had the rear wheel down, which helps show just how long this aircraft really is...

#10 - Purple Inverness

After a bit of work, many images can undergo a massive transformation in Lightroom.

Making sunsets look like sunsets

There's always the moment when shooting a landscape (either at sunset or sunrise), where the light is amazing and the colours are so bright. You set up the tripod, taking time to get it level (damn spirit bubble), lock in the focus, get the composition exactly how you want, and click the shutter. Yes. Done it. Then...you get home and upload all the precious images taken over the week. Where is that sunset shot I took on the first night? I remember it, the sky was purple and the air was clear. Then you find it, and it looks like this:

The original UNEDITED raw file, straight out of camera.

Oh crap. But then you remember, you shot it in raw! Your mouse immediately moves towards the tint slider. And you start scrolling. And you keep going. And there it is - the image you saw with your own eyes starts to appear. Your mouse moves away from basic and you run through the usual adjustments. Maybe you use a preset. Finally, you sit back and compare the before and after.

After a bit of work, many images can undergo a massive transformation in Lightroom.

It's not groundbreaking, but it's a start. That's why I love digital photography, the ability to work on a raw file and help make it look like what you saw with your own eyes. Now, I'm not talking about heavy digital manipulation (I'm not a massive fan, especially when it comes to landscapes) - all the information was there as it was all recovered from the raw file in Lightroom. The only major adjustments I carried out were (as I said) some tweaking of tint and white-balance, along with obligatory sharpening and local contrast adjustment. Being completely honest, I did add a graduated filter in LR to focus the eye more on the city, but this is no different to when people would dodge and burn in their own darkroom.

This result I achieved just wouldn't have been possible with film (which is a medium I would LOVE to try out), and it allows people of all abilities to get a result they can be happy with. Anything that helps keep people interested in making images is fine by me.

A Highland Adventure Part 3

Not all of Scotland is blurry water, foggy lochs and more blurry water (although my previous two posts might dispute that)...there is some BIG scenery to be shot. We were lucky (as holiday makers) to get some amazing weather up by Inverness this summer; however, not so lucky as a photographer! The lack of rain, even interesting cloud cover, made finding good light for landscape photography pretty difficult.

The sun burst through the clouds at just the right moment so that it lit up Inverness across the river.

I'm a big fan of going monochrome when the light is not so great, when the weather is a bit flat, but this view just seemed to scream black and white. I bumped up the blacks in Lightroom to get a more extreme contrast between the lit-up city and the dark hills surrounding it.

A view of the Nevis range from the Royal Marines Commando Memorial in the Highlands of Scotland.

I was slightly surprised by this shot in terms of how popular it would prove to be (Explored on Flickr - not that being Explored really "means" anything!). An image of the Nevis range from the Commando memorial, I struggled to get much contrast in the mountains at all. The light was hazy and diffuse, but still bright, so it was creating a weird soft-box-type effect. Not so great for landscapes - if only I had a portrait to shoot...

A Highland Adventure Part 2

Hello! It's been a long time since my last post (part laziness, part real-life keeping me away), but during this christmas break, I've had the time to look over my images from the past year. (It has also inspired me to do a sort-of self review - more to come later). In the mean time, I have been busy finishing the images taken during our trip to the Scottish Highlands. Some of them I have been posting on my Flickr page, but many I have not shared with anyone...

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the main reasons for the trip was to try out my new Nikon 16-35 mm lens and Lee Little Stopper. Therefore, many of the images contain the sort of things you would expect - smooth(ish) water, blur, all that lovely stuff!

Interesting granite rock formations in Scotland - always seem to be on a slope! This is the Bowfiddle on the north coast; the rocks are beautiful colours (especially with the different flora growing on it).

A different take on the rock formation from the previous post. The difficulty here was the level of the tide - we were pushed quite far back, so couldn't quite get the perspective I was after. I had seen this location before, in a video by a photographer called Craig McCormick (YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ac4j9VjlX70). The other challenge was the amount of light; even with the Little Stopper I couldn't get the shutter speed low enough to get the proper blur in the water.

Fairy Glen Falls - accessed via a lovely walk (about 30 minutes), with a slightly tougher section of stairs and slippery ground at the end. Worth it!

One thing the Little Stopper was (of course) good for - waterfalls. As you'd expect, lots of beautiful waterfalls in the Highlands, and this one was no exception. The tripod (3 legged thing) was in the middle of the pool, and I managed to get a nice blur in the water. Getting good movement like this is partially dependent on the recent weather - lots of rain a day or two before can really help make the image. This one in particular looked much more colourful and saturated in Lightroom, colours never seem to pop as much on websites...

This is Black water river in the north of Scotland. A beautiful, dynamic piece of water.

The final image here illustrates some of the difficulties we have as amateurs travelling when we can and shooting when we have the time or happen to be at a location. The sun is actually above the bridge here, so obviously shooting contre-jour is not exactly ideal for contrast etc. However, much of the detail in the shadows (I exposed for highlights here with the LLS again) was rescued in Lightroom. So, we have to work with what we're given - but we're lucky enough to have amazingly powerful software at our disposal.