A quick trip down to Edinburgh today yielded a couple of colourful photo opportunities on the journey home. This first shot is of a maple in full autumn colour in my brother/sister-in-law's garden. Maples are defintiely one of the most colourful of our trees in autumn and this one was displaying the full range from green through to yellow, orange and red, nicely off-set against the blue sky behind. I opted for the f/1.8 (largest) aperture to get a shallow depth of field and a good soft bokeh effect which worked well I think.
Later, when we were almost home, we stopped at Eilean Donan to capture it in its Remembrance Day red illumination. This was taken on the tripod with a long exposure to get as much light as possible, given how dark it was. It was a bit breezey so I didn't want too long an exposure but ended up balancing the exposure length with the ISO to try and achieve manageable noise levels in the dark areas. I had to do a bit of post-processing noise reduction in the darker areas of the image but it worked OK. This is a cropped version in square format. The orignial included part of the bridge leading off to the right but I felt it was too contrasty with the red as it was lit in bright white light.
This afternoon on my way back from the Post Office I took a quick run around the Balmacara Estate since it was another lovely afternoon. This shot was taken from one of my favourite spots, down by the coast at Port Cam, between Duirinish and Port an Eorna. There are always boats on the shore there and with the backdrop of the Bealach an Ba, when it is not hidden in cloud, you can't go wrong.
I stopped again on my way back to the office, just near the railway crossing at Duirinish and popped up one of the small knolls to get this shot looking towards the low sun and the Cuillins of Skye. There are a few clumps of trees and some isolated individual trees which offer nice foreground interest in what is otherwise a very wide vista which is hard to capture effectively. The sun made the fading autumn colours look more vibrant than they realy were , set against the bright blue of the sky. This was a pretty challenging shot to capture with the very bright sun making the foreground very dark. Working with a RAW image does allow a lot of the shadow detail to be recovered in Lightroom though and the final result is much more like the human eye saw it.
This morning dawned bright and sunny with beautiful blue skies and still some snow on the higher ground. I could not resist heading out to try and get some shots of Bla Bheinn with snow on it but also some colour still in the landscape as Autumn has not quite passed just yet. Anyway, I stopped at Loch Cill Chriosd for the wonderful reflections, givent he complete lack of any breeze. I was not alone of course, as you never are these days on Sky, but it was still a pleasure to be out. These shots are a collection of the best ones I managed to capture, including the remnant moon shining just above Bla Bheinn and reflected in the water. The reeds also make the reflections more interesting rather than just an expanse of open water.
For the following shot I tried something a little different. It was taken through the reeds but still focused on the background with a small aperture to try and keep the reeds sharp.
For this shot I just took the reflection and I think it works really well, but it does mess with your mind a little.
The next one was taken on the way back to the car, looking back towards the church at Cill Chriosd. It was a difficult shot to expose properly as it was looking towards the sun and a bit washed out. I liked the vibrant colour of the bracken but the grass was still frosty and very pale, as was the water and the pale blue sky.
I moved on to Torrin and the shore of Loch Slapin for the classic shot of Bla Bheinn. Not very imaginative but it is still a fantastic view. With the bright colours of the seaweed on the shore and the fading colours of autumn and just a little dusting of snow the hill was looking rather splendid. This was taken with my widest angle lens to try and capture the grnadeur and scale of the landscape.
For the next one I composed the shot with the end of an old wall in the foreground to add interest, and also to hide the road which was just in front of me when I took this.
I have taken a few shots of this tree with Bla Bheinn in the background but today the sky looked a little uninteresting. However, when I got down low to the ground the fanne dout light clouds became more apparent and even more clear wen converted to black and white in Nik's Silver Efex Pro with a red filter to darken the sky a bit. I really like this shot, with the moon just showing above the hill and to the left of the tree.
Just to the left of the stunted tree there is a lovely old bit of dead wood which provides lovely leading lines into this picture. Again I think this one looks better in black & white as the textures on the wood show up better
Finally, another shot from the shore, in balck & white this time. I am not sure if I like this that much as the reflection is lost in the mess of seaweed floating in the water. It definitely shows up better in colour.
My 2019 calendars are now available to buy or order. At £10 each they would make an excellent festive/New Year gift for friends and family. I only got a small number printed so if you want to avoid being disappointed get your order in soon. I will also be selling them at the Plockton High School Christmas Fayre on Saturday 1st December, if I have any left.
I am currently awaiting arrival of my limited edition 2019 calendars. The calendar is in A4 format, wire bound and comes cellophane wrapped and include twelve of my landscape images from the north west of Scotland.
The calendars will be dispatched to your address for £10, including postage (UK only, please ask for a price if sending elsewhere). Alternatively, I will be at the Plockton High School Christmas Fayre on 1st December and will have copies for sale there, if I have any left. I have only ordered 50 copies initially, but depending on demand I may order up to another 50 but that will be it. So if you are interested in buying/reserving a copy get in touch via my contact page and I will get back to you to arrange payment.
On the way to Appin today I had an idea for a new photography challenge. Essentially I select three random words each week (using an online random word generator) and then have to take one shot inspired by each word and post them at the end of the week. So this will be the first week and the three words are:
I am not sure what this will lead to but you never know. Hopefully it will make me try some new ideas and might lead to something exciting and worthwhile. Watch this spcae next Sunday and feel free to join in if you want to.
Today we had a quick trip to Appin for lunch to meet my wife's brother and his wife. The weather was generally very changeable but on the whole not great, although there were some lovely clear patches of sunshine and blue sky between the showers. This shot was taken from above Castle Stalker looking west towards Mull. As a result of the bright sunshine to the south-west I tried using my circular ND Grad filter to darken the sky a bit, which appeared to work well, but when I got back home and looked at the photos on the computer there was a real magenta hue in the top. I have tried to remove this by altering the colour temperature and tint (increasing the blue/green) and that has done a reasonable job. I'm not hugely impressed by any of the shots I took from this location to be honest but it is a good view.
I tried zooming in a bot closer on the castle and opted for the portrait orientation and concverted the next image to black & white to try and draw out the drama in the sky, with a little success. This conversion to B&W also meant that the magenta hue was removed and the sky works well I think.
After lunch we popped long to Barcaldine and went for a short walk up Gleann Dubh along the Abhainn Teithill. There are some nice waterfalls providing an opportunity for some interetsing shots. Unfortuantely a lot of the route is fenced off so it is difficult to get into good positions to capture the depth and the narrow gorge. However, lower down I got this shot, looking directly into the sun which resulted in this amzing bokeh effect with the small aperture. There were also some strange striation lines showing up in the darker areas, not sure if that is a scratched filter or what but I managed to darken these down so they are not too obvious.
Sometimes it is not really necessary to travel very far to get good locations and shots. This morning the light was pretty decent so I took the dogs out for a walk down to our local beach at Balmacara Bay with my relatively portable micro 4/3 camera and lenses instead of my usual Canon full frame kit. I have taken this shot several times over the years but today the contrasty light with bright blue sky and fluffy white and grey clouds, lovely shadows and light patches on the hills looked better than usual. This shot was fine in colour but I felt the darker areas looked a bit over-saturated and I much prefer the tones and textures in black & white.
The next shot was taken just along the road looking back up the drive and works well in colour and black & white. The colours in the trees against the blue sky work really nicely but there is something about the drama in the clouds in black & white whick I like, although the house and boat do tend to disappear a bit.
The next shot was taken at the beach. It is inspired by Ansel Adams' famous shot of ripples on a beach but I used my fixed f/8.0 pancake 8mm lenscap lens (16mm full frame equivalent) to get a really wide perspective. This lens, when held in portrait orientation does produce this curved horizon effect, but I like it none-the-less.
The final image is of the Balmacara Mains Guest House where my daughters work. The buildings look wonderfully secluded in the woods, which are beginning to turn into their autumn colours. This one was taken using my Olympus M 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 R lens at 108mm (216 mm full frame equivalent) and it has fore-shortened the view rather nicely.
This afternoon, by way of a little studio lighting and portraiture practice I set up the guest room with my lights and prevailed upon my youngest to sit for me. I wanted to focus in close on the eyes as opposed to taking normal full-head portraits. The shot above is the best of the lot I think. This was taken with my Sigma 105mm prime lens using a LED macro ring flash, a fill light and a backlight. I was in close for this shot so despite using f/8 there is still a very shallow depth of field. This effectively isolates the eye and lashes from the rest of her face.
The second shot was taken using the same set up but I replaced the ring flash with my Speedlight and a diffuser. I was not in quite so close this time so opted for a wider aperture to retain the shallow depth of field.
Finally I have selected a straight portrait. Maybe not the best shot but I like it as I think it has caught Ciara just being herself and not thinking too much about the camera. I should probably have increased the ISO to get a faster shutterspeed but it worked reasonably well. I opened up the aperture as far as it would go to try to retain the shallow depth of field and separate Ciara from the backdrop.
I am still struggling to work out the settings on my various flashes and how to get them to work properly with the camera, but hopefully the HNC course I am doing will help with this. At the moment I am still resorting to trial and error.
When I was out for a walk with the dogs round the woods today I spotted a tiny toadstool growing on an old pine tree and immediately thought I needed to return with the camera kit to get some macro shots of it, before it passed its best. On returning I discoved that there were a few others in more accessible positions so I had a choice of subjects to choose between. This first shot was illuminated from the left by a bit of soft, diffused fill flash as the area was in deep shade from the surrounding trees. I opted for the largest aperture of the lens to really focus in on the toadstool and blur out as much of the surrounding area as possible. The next shot is the same toadstool taken using a longer exposure with no flash and a smaller aperture. I have not cropped this one so you can see its context a bit better.
The first one I saw was just above head height on the stem of the old pine tree and really difficult to get anywhere near with the macro lens on a tripod. I resorted to using the tripod at its full extension as a monopod and using Live View swayed the camera in and out of focus on the toadstool trying to get a sharp image. This was actually the first shot I took and it was the sharpest, that is not normally the way it works. I did use the fill flash on this one, slightly off to the right this time.
The final subject was the largest, about twice the size of the first one, and much more accessible so I used the tripod, fill flash again and a variety of shutter speeds and apertures to try and get the sharpest result with a nice soft background. Given this one's size I opted for a smaller aperture and a bit more direct flash but the lower section of the stem was still way out of focus and added nothing to the shot so I like it better cropped square witht he focus on the head.