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Shooting Diary | Berwick-upon-Tweed | 15th April 2012

Written on Friday, April 20, 2012
Last updated on Monday, February 3, 2014

I have to confess to being pretty unsure a trip down to Berwick-upon-Tweed for a sunset shoot was a particularly good idea.

My instinct is to try to at least point a bit towards the setting (or rising) sun. This instinctive desire to get in the sunlight is a conditioned reflex! I've spent so many trips shooting with an ultra-wide lens, looking for something interesting in the foreground and this type of shot usually works better when you have nice light illuminating whatever it is you have in the foreground. So my conditioned reflex coupled with an impression of the east coast being in deepest darkness at sunset meant I wasn't convinced we'd get much of interest. So as a compromise I suggested we just headed down to "scout" the place for a future sunrise. 

As it happened, the layout of the land and timing of our trip conspired to produce near perfect conditions - although we did leave about 45 minutes before the sun actually set. We did miss the so called golden hour, it didn't impact our shooting time as we'd arrived pretty early anyway.

However the main difference with this shoot came from the lenses we used. On our last trip and when we've discussed our photography since, we where talking about maybe having to use a bit of zoom to get a decent sunset of Fidra. As our discussion developed, we decided we would take our zooms on the next outing.

As it worked out, this was a particularly prescient of us given the location we went too. When we arrived the tide was out and the lighthouse was too far away for my traditional ultra wide shots! As we both had 70-200mm (70-210 for me) lenses with us so the distance didn't matter. Had my Sigma 10-20mm still been welded on my camera I'd have been a rather unhappy bunny shooting at a lighthouse too far away to show up well at such wide angles!

When we where shooting, Ross got way over excited about the change of lens and how this affected his compositions, but to be honest I wasn't enjoying myself quite so much.

While he was having fun with his Nikkor 70-200 2.8 shoulder mounted rocket launcher, I was using an early 80's Nikon Series E lens which is manual focus, manual metering. To make matters even more complicated, a previous owner had dropped the lens and bent filter threads so I couldn't fit my filters either. I tried holding some Lees in front of the lens but to be honest it was way too cold for that malarkey!

The lens does have one massive advantage over it's modern counterparts though and that is a rather useful DOF scale on the barrel. This got put to much good use particularly with Pools in the sand >> and Towards the Lighthouse >>

Image Averaging 

As usual of late, I was shooting to the right and image averaging. However because I couldn't use filters, I was having to suffer relatively fast shutter speeds (between 1/10s and 1/60s) and this had an effect on the final results of the image averaging. A result I'm not too happy with. Ross used his 10 stop filter and he got nice silky sea while I got the mush you see below. As I say, I'm not too happy with the results.

That said, I'm using it as a learning experience and what I've learned is the delay between frames appears to be linked quite closely with the shutter speed of the individual frames. It appears as though you have to use a really small delay when doing faster shutter speeds while slower shutter speeds allow you to use much longer delays.

I think this is because with a slower shutter speed the object which is moving blurs it's edges more. When you average the blurred movement, the transition is smoother.

In some of the images I'd swear you can see individual, albeit faint, waves. This gives, in my opinion, a kind of nasty looking bokeh effect to the sea...

Another problem was a combination of wearing summer clothes and a wind that felt as though it came straight off the Siberian steppe! This meant I was too cold and anyway was using my patented photography hand warming technique that I couldn't be bothered fiddling with my Intervalometer and instead just manually shot whenever I felt like it. The result of this inattention is I shot a truly mind boggling stupid number of frames. I've processed 14 images so far and there is a couple left untouched as I write - they are not much different to what's already been show below - To get these 14 or so images, I fired off 520 frames! 

One of the photos (not uploaded) is made of 65 frames alone! FYI, on my P C JUNK PC it took about 15 minutes just to average the images! Lol that was considerably longer than it took to shoot the damn thing (3 minutes)!

Most of them however are "only" between 15 and 30 frames.

As I say, stupid frame count :)

Just as well disk space is cheap. This trip cost 3GB in PSD files alone (I keep these in case I need them in the future - e.g. for prints) with a grand total of 8GB for all the NEFs, PSDs and other accompanying files! 

Processing

In my desire to slow down the shutter speed missing filters, I stepped down the aperture quite a lot. When I say quite a lot, I mean F/32! Sure there was some diffraction but I could easily convince myself that it was simply due to being out of focus because of the manualness of the lens. At least that's what I told myself! Next trip I use the lens, I'll try F/11 instead :)

I was able to push the sharpening up massively from my norm to compensate for the softness though. And in truth, with some of them I had to do just that. My sharpening work flow is detailed here. Normally I only sharpen at 100% / ~2px (smart sharpen) but in many of these images I pushed this a LOT. Some of them, 3-4px and 200% and above! My second pass when saving for the web also had some little extra - instead of my usual 0.3px I was occasionally pushing it to 0.6px

I have to say though, because of the low noise characteristics of Image Averaging, this was easily achieved without introducing any artefacts. In fact I suspect if I hadn't mentioned it, you'd have been none the wiser. 

Nothing particularly interesting happened with my processing. I did my usual buggering around with the white balance - although to be honest I prefer the ones I used the white balance dropper tool (ACR) on the white of the lighthouse - These have an lovely blue colour and a cleanness about them I quite like. 

Playing With Blend Modes 

  • I used a quick and dirty technique to add some colour and contrast to the sky.
  • With all the layers image averaged and merged back to a single layer, I duplicate it then set the blend mode of the new layer to "Multiply", "Overlay" or "Soft Light" - depending on how it looks.
  • I then use the opacity slider to tone down the effect. More so if I've chosen "Multiply" or "Overlay" as the blend mode.
  • I then add a layer mask here and paint out the bits I don't want affected. I usually start with the gradient tool and do the gradient over the horizon.
    • Next I then paint out the lighthouse and wall it stands on. This masking results in the blend mode only being applied to the sky itself.

 

And that's it. I don't think I'll be doing this sort of thing again with the lens, which I do like, until I can get filters mounted on it somehow. I really missed my Lees on this wee trip :( 

 

Here are my photos I've uploaded from the trip...

April 2012, Berwick-upon-Tweed

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