Clifftop Walk at Birling Gap

Clifftop Walk at Birling Gap (2449)

Yesterday I found some more time to continue processing my photos from the summer. I managed to complete this one, which turned out to be a relatively easy process. I drove down to Birling Gap almost two months ago, with the plan to walk along the cliffs to Beachy Head and back. This I did and enjoyed; in the middle of all the move-related commotion, it was a welcome break.

Before starting the walk proper, I looked back west and could just see this view in black and white. So I did something I don’t often do, and set my camera to B&W mode with a (digital) red filter applied, to help me see the intended result. This setting makes no material difference to the RAW image, and one can easily recover the colour information by setting a different profile in post. But doing it in-camera can help confirm how the photo will look later.

I waited for the walker to get to the right place and took this photo handheld as a single exposure. In post I set the RAW conversion mode to the usual ‘Faithful’, and transferred the image to Photoshop. There I applied selective curves layers to brighten up the sky and increase contrast in the distant cliffs. It was a rather hazy day, so this made a substantial difference. Finally, a B&W conversion layer with a red filter completed processing.

Click on the photo for a larger version; comments welcome, and of course feel free to share the link.

A Windy Day at St Martha’s

A Windy Day at St Martha's (2739)

I’ve been on the island for more than three weeks, and it’s only this long weekend (today is a national holiday here, one of many national and public holidays) that I managed to drag myself to the sea. The only other outdoorsy thing I’ve done was to go out climbing with the Malta Climbing Club at Wied Babu last week. That was great fun, and I look forward to many more. But it suddenly feels like ages since I’ve been on a good walk.

The last one, in fact, was four weeks ago, on my last weekend in the UK. I wasn’t too sure where to go for that last walk in the country. I knew I’d need to drive my car up to the transport operators in a few days, so I didn’t want to go on any long drives. I also knew I’d need to add another four miles to whatever walk I wanted to do, just to get to the car and back. So no long walks, either. In the end I settled for a short walk in Guildford itself, from Pewley Down to St Martha’s and back via Chantry Wood. The way through Chantry Wood I had not done before, and I long wanted to. It also seemed fitting to spend my last quiet walk in a place I visited so often and liked so much.

It was rather stormy that day, but it was forecast to clear up in the afternoon, so I decided to start after lunch. It was still raining when I started, but that soon stopped, leaving only the wind and the sun between the clouds. I took advantage of the wind to try a long exposure photo. I had to wait a while at one point for a group of young visitors to move out of frame. It doesn’t bother me when that happens; with popular places one has to get used to it anyway.

I set up facing the wind, metered the sky and the foreground, and composed. I used an ND grad (pretty sure it was a soft grad) to balance the sky and foreground, and took a few exposures. Once I was happy with the result, I added the ND 3.0 filter and prepared the timer remote with the appropriate exposure setting. I always weight down the tripod with my backpack, but as it was so windy I needed to do more than that. I waited for a lull and held the tripod down during the exposure time to minimize vibrations. I repeated the process a few times to have a choice of frames, as I knew from experience that it’s hard to judge the overall composition in the field, with the clouds moving around so much.

In post I did some non-destructive dodge/burn using a gray layer with an overlay blend mode, painting onto it in black to burn and white to dodge that area. A global curves layer finally sets the overall contrast. As I use a Lee Big Stopper for long exposures, I also needed to remove its colour cast. As usual I did this as the RAW processing stage, by using a pre-determined white balance.

Click on the photo for a larger version; comments welcome, and of course feel free to share the link.


Another View of Winkworth Arboretum

WInkworth Arboretum (1927)Among the many National Trust properties around where we lived, Winkworth Arboretum deserves a special place. If there is such a thing as a favourite NT place, this is one of them for me. I have visited in all seasons and in all conditions; well, almost. I haven’t really seen it piled deep in snow. There is always something to see there, and it’s such a peaceful place.

I made this particular photo in early spring, when we visited specifically for the bluebells. That was magical, as always, and when we were done I decided to walk the long way around the property. It was raining, which I find always makes the grass so much greener and the smells earthier. This view is one I particularly like. I spent a while there just soaking it in. Sure, the bluebells don’t show up much, but you can see just how many different kinds of trees grow in this place.

I’m not entirely certain, but I think I took this photo handheld. It was definitely a single exposure. Post processing was minimal, involving only selective curves layers to balance exposure and adjust contrast.

Click on the photo for a larger version; comments welcome, and of course feel free to share the link.


Dandelion, Two Ways

I’m finally writing this post on my PC, which I set up yesterday amid all the other unpacking and organizing chores. It’s only a minimal setup for now, with one seat and one monitor. The rest can wait. It will have to, as the second seat will now need to go on the other side of the room, so I have to decide how to wire up DVI/HDMI and USB over a length of several meters. The printer, too, will be a thorny problem. Mostly likely I’ll set that up somewhere else for network printing.

Seeing that it’s a day for things-long-planned-and-postponed, I decided to share a pair of dandelion photos I took in the spring. I took these photos a month apart (to the day, as it happened), and always wanted to share them together. They weren’t planned as a short series, but it feels silly to write separately about them. The first, below, was taken in Scathes Wood at Ightham Mote in Kent. It was early spring, and the flowers were just starting to bloom. While they’re very common, I look forward to the time they show up each year – I find their colour is so bright and sunny one cannot help anticipating summer.

Dandelion (1844)

The next I took a month later, on a short walk around Broad Water in Surrey. This was my second time to that pond, and we chose that location because it is so close to where we lived, and evening was approaching. I came across the dandelion on our way back to the car; light was low by that time, and so also very soft and rather bluish.

Dandelion (2035)

There is something rather melancholic about dandelions at this stage, with their seeds blowing away in the wind (when there is any). It’s odd that this comes as summer approaches and the air is warmer. I’ve come to associate this with a summer-is-here feeling.

Click on the photo for a larger version; comments welcome, and of course feel free to share the link.

St Paul’s

St Paul's (1990)

It has been a busy and eventful week, and have finally started settling in. There are still a few more critical things to happen, but at this point at least life has started taking some sort of order again. With some luck I’ll even have my PC set up soon. Meanwhile, I can’t get used to this heat. I can only hope I’ll be able to enjoy the seaside before work starts again. At least that will be some relief.

Until then I can look back at the many photos I’ve taken in England. Today’s photo is from a quick short break in London a few months ago, visiting my brother (affectionately called J2 in R’s blog). I was lugging around my usual gear, which I’m sure R and J2 found baffling and amusing in equal measure. Now when I carry that stuff in the countryside it never really bothers me. There have been walks where I didn’t even take my camera out, and still wasn’t frustrated with having carried all that gear around. In a city, however, it feels different. I have no idea why. Anyway, on this particular day I really wanted to try my hand making some photos of various architectural landmarks. This is arguably the most recognizable of the lot. We approached St Paul’s cathedral from the south bank, crossing the Millennium Bridge. There is something I really like about this view of the cathedral’s side. Perhaps it’s the arrangement of ramps and stairs that leads up that way.

This was late afternoon, so there were a lot of people around. I set up on a tripod with a strong ND filter to take long exposures. The main reason was to blur people out. I find these filters also help soften the light and reduce contrast, which tends to be a good thing with architecture. In post I corrected perspective, and applied the usual selective curves layers to adjust exposure and contrast. I cropped to a 4×5 layout, which I find works well with perspective-corrected photos.

Click on the photo for a larger version; comments welcome, and of course feel free to share the link.


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