Having been so busy lately, with limited time to do my own photography, I was pleased to get an hour at my “go to” bay of Caswell. As has been typical of this summer so far, I hadn’t a clue what the weather would be when I got there. What sun that had been around, had gone away, and wasn’t coming back out. So back to the dull grey conditions we have had so much of this year.
The rock formations lend themselves well to a black and white conversion and the overcast conditions allowed a capture of the full range of tones. This allowed me to change the contrast of the image back in post production. The wispy, white lines on the rocks in the image above look more like reflections off water than actual seams in the rock. I don’t remember seeing them as clearly as at this visit, but it could be my memory playing tricks on me.
I think I will call the image above “camouflage”, even though Limpets don’t go out of their way to get Barnacles on them. They had obviously been in position on this rock for a while, but were blending in really well considering that they do move around on the rocks as they feed.
These images follow a similar theme from my last post. I visited Rhossili Bay again over a few days, this time at the Burry Holms end. Once again different sky conditions gave different lighting effects. The oranges and pinks of the above image is due to the sun having something in the sky to bounce off. This has then been reflected in the wet sand.
Clearer sky has kept the blue colouration, so with a similar colour reflected in the sea, I experimented with the foreground to provide some extra interest. Choosing different shutter speeds and time the image for when the wave was coming in or going out gave a different feel to the images. Both the images above and below were taken in the same place, but with the waves going out above, it has show the pebbles left on the beach. With the wave coming in below, the pebbles have been covered, with only a suggestion of their presence. Personally I prefer to see more of the pebbles and think the image above has more fore the viewers eye to look at.
I visited Rhossili Bay a few times recently and chose to photography from roughly the same spot for two of the images. They are also taken at roughly the same time. The only difference is in the amount of cloud cover and the amount of sunlight still coming over the horizon. With the more broken clouds above the sun is managing to get some colour into the sky and onto the rest of the scene. This has resulted in the warmer light temperature.
My next visit was on a really overcast day and the only way to get some contrast between the various elements in the photo was to convert the image to black & white to allow an higher than average increase in the contrast. I used the Helvetia wreck and the motion of the waves to build some foreground interest, with the dark area of the wreck counter balancing the dark coastline.
The final image is similar to the first and uses the rocks left on the beach to act as a foreground interest. I have noticed that most of the beaches on Gower have lost quite a lot of sand recently, which has changed the character of some of the beaches slightly. Mewslade is very different with lots of rock exposed at the moment. The sand will com back slowly, but it is allowing a few different compositions at the moment. I had to take some of the blue light out of the above image and warm the image up slightly as it was too blue due to my use of daylight white balance on all my images. I quite like the blue look after the sun has gone down, but this time it looked too much.
A few images from a few weeks ago when storm Katie was approaching the UK. I don’t think it was quite as bad as originally forecast on Gower and the worse of the weather seemed to head further north and not along the Bristol Channel as initially thought. With the light being quite dull and relatively flat, lacking the contrast of sunlight images, I knew the finished images would be in black & white.
Black & white has allowed me to boost the contrast to highlight the difference between the white waves and the darker land. Increasing the contrast this amount on a colour image isn’t possible, the image just looks wrong and over processed. Black & white takes it in it’s stride.
At least we have managed to see some sunshine recently. It may be intermittent, but at least the continuous gloom has ended. The weather may still be unpredictable, but at least it feels like we are getting some respite from the gloom. The change in the clocks has helped as well. The three images here were all taken while I was just out enjoying the change in the weather. Let’s hope it continues to improve. I managed the image above at Rhossili when the path was clear of walkers going up or down the path. Considering the weather, I was surprised how quiet it was, with only a few visitors around.
I had been up early to record the dawn chorus in Mill Wood, near Pence, so when that finished, I decided to check out the pools and hide at Oxwich NNR. Surprisingly it was quite quiet on the bird front with very little waterfowl on the ponds. I had expected more, especially more than the one pair of little Grebe and a few Mallard. The rising sun started to light the reeds nicely with most of the background still in shadow, so I made the above image any way, even though there isn’t any birdlife in it. Earlier on while heading to Mill Wood I saw a Barn Owl flying around near the entrance to the Penrice Estate and the turning to Oxwich. The seem to be around the Oxwich area, so later on in the summer, they may become more visible as they have to hunt in daylight hours.
This image was made on my way across Broughton and Llangennith Burrows, to make some images looking back down Rhossili Bay towards Worm’s Head and Rhossili Village. I liked how the sunlight was highlighting the grass tufts and the ridges of the dune, leaving the rest in shadow. Not a grand view, but a nice abstract anyway.
Occasionally you come across an image that doesn’t really speak to you as how it should be processed. This may sound a bit odd; how can a picture dictate the processing? I try not to do any major adjustments to my images, but do process them as how I felt the scene at the time. This may not be completely accurate to the scene at the time, but not far off it. The image above is shot on Daylight white balance, so with the cooler light of dusk it has a blue tinge to it. At the time of making the image the view I saw was much more grey.
Choosing to develop an image in black & white is a choice to leave the true reality of the scene and to distil it down to the contrasts and structures in the image. Most black & white images are not a true reflection of the tones in the scene. This is nothing new; check out the Ansel Adams book on the making of some of his images. His original negatives have a low contrast range with loads of detail. This is because he developed a system – the Zone system, to ensure he recorded detail in the shadows and the highlights. He then added contrast when printing the final image to compensate for the flat negative.
My final image is a more accurate representation of the scene. It has some of the blue taken out of it caused by the Daylight white balance. There is still more blue than I could see at the time, but a fully corrected image looks odd as it is mainly grey overall and doesn’t reflect the feeling of dusk.
Personally I feel that it is more important to capture the scene in camera than relying on the tools of Photoshop/Lightroom to create it later, but like in the days of film and the regular use of subtle filters (not the horrible tobacco graduated filter) some minor modification is allowed at the discretion of the photographer. I don’t add elements digitally or physically; I have seen some photographers adding autumn leaves to strategic positions in their composition and I don’t remove anything apart from dust marks and the odd bit of stray grass or tree encroaching on the image edges. Hopefully an object that is not wanted in the composition is excluded by the choice of lens, camera height and position. Photographers are constantly excluding objects from the scene when trying to find the best view point for their photograph, this is the art of composition.
Weeks of endless rain and dark, gloomy skies hasn’t given the best opportunity for photography, but it is just a case of working with what you get and accepting the conditions. With the flat lighting caused by the low cloud, contrast and colour has been very limited.
I tend to think in black and white when the scene and lighting are low contrast. Black and white allows you to up the contrast in post production. If you have seen any of Ansel Adams prints, they have a full tonal range, but contrast as well. When you see a straight print of the negative it is often surprising how flat and lacking in contrast the original negatives were. Black and white prints are often more an interpretation of how the photographer felt he or she saw the scene, rather than a true reflection of the scene.
My image of Mewslade Bay above is a reflection of the scene as I felt it, more than I saw it. I have upped the contrast and darkened the rocks more than they were in reality, but it looks to me how I felt I saw the scene.
The image of the trees at Whiteford NNR is more true to life, the only thing I changed was to decrease the amount of blue in the scene as it was taken at night. It was a bit too intense in the original file, so I reduced the saturation of the blue and reduced it to more of what I saw at the time. Even though it was dark at the time, the area under the trees was even darker that the sky beyond. This made the sky appear lighter, which was also enhanced by a bit of low cloud and misty rain at the time which diffused and spread the light around and through the trees.
Here’s a dilemma for you to mull over while recovering from Christmas. Is the image better in colour or Black and white?
On a bright, but windy day a few weeks ago at Llangennith (when the sun was actually visible for once) I had a quick stroll up and down some of the beach chasing a few kite surfers I was photographing. The changes in colour from the start of the afternoon; bright into the light images with no colour as a result except blacks, greys and whites through to the oranges and blues of sunset shows that staying on location for a while can produce all sorts of new options even though the subject may be the same.
All images of Worm’s Head were taken at roughly the same position on the beach at different times of the day. Although they are all compositionally similar, the colours and the mood differ. Having the sun disappear and re-appear between the clouds helped the different lighting conditions as well as the sun lowering towards the horizon.
As the sun hit the horizon most of the cloud cover had gone so any chances of an interesting sunset were gone although the dogs on the beach didn’t seem to mind!
I wasn’t expecting any sunlight to still be hitting the headland at Three Cliffs Bay as the cloud was quite thick and I thought it had dropped too far over the horizon, so when the sun did penetrate the cloud, it caught me a bit by surprise and unprepared. I fired off a few images to make a stitched panoramic image.
After the sun had passed below the horizon, the clouds broke up and allowed the remaining colours of the sunset to penetrate through. Even though the coast of Devon is visible on close inspection of the image above, use of a 16mm lens has pushed it back into the background and removed its significance and so giving a sense of space and openness, that few landscapes have in this country compared to images made of the vast, wide landscapes of other continents such as the American west, any desert or tundra images from around the world.
Backlighting has become one of my favourite forms of lighting as it emphasises shape and form more, making the images simpler in one way and more graphic overall. I liked the contrast of the yellow-orange sky against the cool blue of the shadows. Wet sand always helps reflect some of the sky colour and has a metallic silvery look to it as well.
I hadn’t expected much from the visit, but if you hang around long enough the conditions may change and give you great light. Sometimes it doesn’t, but that is part of the challenge!