A Windy Day at St Martha’s

A Windy Day at St Martha's (2739)
A Windy Day at St Martha’s. (Click on the photo for added detail.)

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.

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10 comments

  1. Hi I’ve only recently started following your blog and I’m enjoying your images. I lové the contrast between the sturdy building and the rushing sky, but the post prod sounds overwhelmingly complicated for me as à new user of PSE.

    • Hi Henrietta! Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. I’m glad you’re enjoying the images! The post prod probably sounds harder than it really is. I only use very few functions in photoshop, usually each on a separate layer so I can easily swich them on/off (or use the opacity slider to tone down the effect). After RAW conversion in Canon DPP, where I set the white balance and the base tone curve, I generally use the following: a) a correction layer where I use the healing brush (usually) to remove dust specks etc, b) one or more curves layers to adjust exposure/contrast (using the mask as necessary to apply the change only to parts of an image), and c) sometimes a gray layer with overlay blend mode to do dodging/burning, as in this image. Beyond that, at most a B&W filter layer / channel mixer to change to B&W, or a saturation / vibrance layer to adjust the intensity of colours. Not difficult once to get used to curves and the overlay blend mode – and you can find a ton of good tutorials online on how to use them. To build confidence, I’d recommend starting just with a masked curves layer – once you master that you have 90%+ of the post-processing tools you need.

      • Thank you for this mini tutorial. I haven’t got to grips with layers yet, except using the correcting the histogram one. But now I can see the point, youcan turn them on and off for different effects and versions of the image! This should be obvious I suppose 🙂 . Thank you for taking the time to explain your process. I appreciate it.

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