The way forward and an evening near Guadalest

July 08, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

The way forward and an evening near Guadalest 

In last weeks blog post I was in a reflective mood. I had been looking back over the last couple of years and deciding how I wanted to develop and grow my photography in the future. 

When it comes to moving forward, while there was a lot of elements to be considered it mostly boils down to two things:

Making the most of opportunities

and

Quality over quantity 

So, during the course of this week I have been working out what that means in terms of my photography, my website and my blogging activities, and taking action to make that happen.

The first thing I am doing is making a separation between, what I consider to be, landscape photography and any other type of photography (for example events like the Hogueras, or parades or places of interest, that kind of thing)

In terms of my landscape photography it means I am going to get out more in the mornings and evenings for those ‘golden hour’ shots. Of course I’m still going to need the right conditions for them to work out, and not every trip is going to produce worthwhile images. I will still need to make some use of weather forecasts to decide when it’s worth heading out, but the trick, given how unreliable they can be, is going to be knowing when to ignore them and go anyway.

My blog will be focused mainly on landscape photography, although it may also refer to other things that I have photographed that aren’t landscapes.

My website gallery will be focused on the best of my landscape photography. To that end I have reviewed all of the images and reduced the gallery to my top 20. These are the 20 that I consider to be my best, based on my own personal taste of course. This is my Premium Collection. 

Over the coming months I may well add to that but I am setting a strict limit of 30 images in the gallery. Once I get to 30 if I want to add another image then I will have to remove one of the  others. This means that I will be constantly looking at the quality of these images and assessing how I have improved, and how I can improve further.

The other images that I take, the non landscape images, will still be added to Redbubble and will be available to review, and of course to buy.

I have also decided to consolidate my blog and my tips, tricks and techniques posts. All of these now appear in my blog but with 2 different categories. 

photography blog

or

landscape photography tips

The photography blog will be more focused on the story behind an image. The decisions made in timing, composition, processing etc that led to the final image.

The landscape photography tips will be the same format as they have been in the past, normally covering one particular topic, challenge or question.

The frequency is going to change. Instead of weekly I am going to move to fortnightly posts with a general intention of alternating between blog and tips, although it may not always happen that way.

Previous subscribers to both my Tips, Tricks and Techniques and Blog lists will be notified whenever there is a new post in either category as I really think there will a lot of crossover between the two types of post. New subscribers will be to the blog list and will also get both notifications.

The time I have spent over the last couple of weeks, looking back over the last two years, and more, has really shown me how I have changed in terms of style and approach. While I still really like many of my older images I now notice things that I would have done differently, both in terms of composition and general ‘in the field’ approach, but also in the way I process the images. 

I did consider removing some of the older images from Redbubble, those that I feel are not so good, but when I look at them they are often still quite popular, so I have decided to leave them there for the time being. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all.

I really hope you like the new approach.

So, I’ve been quite busy this week with all of these changes, but what about making the most of opportunities? What about getting out there and taking pictures?

The weather this week has not been kind to me (photographically), it’s either been clear skies or completely dull and overcast, and, as I often repeat, this time of year is less than ideal in this part of Spain due to the positions of the sunrise and sunset and how these align with the local geography.

Having said that there is one scene that could only really work at this time of year and I went out this week for an evening shoot.

The place is El Embalse de Guadalest (The reservoir of Guadalest).

Guadalest is a popular sightseeing destination. The old town and medieval castle are perched on a rocky ridge between two mountain ranges. The Sierra Aitana to the south west and the Sierra de la Serella to the north east.

In the valley below this ridge, and backed by the mountains of the Serella, is the reservoir. 

After the heavy rains and snow of last winter the reservoir is full, the first time it has been so for a number of years I believe. It is surrounded on three sides by mountains and hills and this means that the sun always disappears behind the landscape long before sunset. The third side, where the dam is constructed, has a view out towards the sea and, in the winter, may get early morning light but that is not really the right direction to show off the scenes true beauty.

I have scouted this area a couple of times and I know that there is, however, a slight dip in the mountains roughly to the north west that, when the sun is in the correct position leading up to sunset, allows the light from the sun to come through on the scene when it is much lower. This should allow the best chance of nice light on the scene. The best time of year to get the sun in the right place is… well, right now actually.

So, I headed out this week, hoping that conditions would be kind. Ideally I wanted a bit of cloud in the sky but, if there wasn’t I had a couple of compositions already planned that should work. I also wanted very little wind, because I needed still water for reflections of the mountains.

It’s about an hours drive and it’s possible to park pretty close to the dam. When I arrived the sky looked clear, although actually this was a bit of an illusion. Certainly there were no nice clouds but there was a thin haze in the sky that would both help and hinder the shoot.

It would help by softening the light a bit, acting as a natural diffuser. It would hinder because, as the sun back-lit the thin cloud it brightened the sky a lot in one area and that would mean some exposure issues.

Also, when I first arrived, there was a bit of wind and the surface of the water had quite a lot of movement. I knew it would settle a bit as the sun dropped lower, I hoped it would be enough.

I set up the camera on my tripod with my 18-105 lens and fitted my filter holder. I used a 2 stop soft ND graduated filter to hold back some of the brightness in the sky. 

With the sky conditions as they were I decided on a composition that made use of some overhanging branches to obscure part of the sky that was a bit dull. 

There was a bit of a problem in the composition. I wanted the final image to have the tops of the mountains and the bottom of the reflections (assuming the water was still enough to get them) at the same distance from the top and bottom edges of the frame. 

The 3:2 format of the camera meant that there were some foreground branches that would be a distraction in the bottom of the image. 

However, I had already decided this would be a 16:9 crop so I composed to favour the top of the image and made sure that the tighter view of the cropped image would take out the area with the offending branches.

An aperture of f/11 provided more than enough depth of field and my lens is at it’s sharpest around there as well. I focused on the branches about a third of the way in.

There was some unevenness in the exposure because of the position of the sun out of the left side of the frame. I tried a polariser but this made it worse so I decided to accept it. 

It was then just a case of waiting. 

As the sun dropped lower the water started to calm nicely and reflections really started to pop out. I tried a few shots but the light wasn’t quite right yet.

Finally, about 40 minutes before official sunrise, but only about 10 minutes before the sun would disappear behind the mountains, the conditions looked about perfect. There was some really nice light on the Serella mountains and on the trees on the slopes on the far side of the water. The reflections were showing up nicely and there was a bit of light spilling through onto some leaves in the foreground at the left of the frame. This was it.

The image was taken and, as the sun dropped lower shadow started to cover more of the scene and I knew that I had already captured the best it was going to get. 

Back at home the image required very little processing.

I removed any chromatic aberration, cropped to the 16:9 ratio and slightly tweaked vibrance, highlights, shadows, black points and white points. I checked for dust spots and removed one that I think was actually a small fly that got in front of the lens.

I then exported to Photoshop where I opened the Nik Color Efex Pro filters added a touch of brilliance and warmth (about 4% perceptual saturation) and I used the pro contrast filter to add some dynamic contrast (about 15%).

Back in Photoshop I used the dodge tool to slightly brighten the highlight areas on the trees and also used the Sponge tool to slightly boost the saturation on them as well.

I checked for noise, nothing to worry about and then I sharpened the image after applying a very small amount of vignetting to just draw the eyes in a little more.

This was the final result. I’m really pleased with the way this has come out and I’ve even included it in my 20 best images so it has a place in my premium landscape gallery.

I did manage one more shot while I was here. I moved out onto the centre of the dam so that I could shoot straight towards the sun as it went behind the mountains. I wanted to catch the sun as it was just dropping into the low spot and was partly blocked.

It was a very high contrast scene and I shot 3 exposures a stop apart so that I would still have at least some detail in the highlights and in the shadows, even though I knew I was going to have this as a very dark and contrasty image with very little detail showing through from the shadows.

I used luminosity masks and manual blending in Photoshop to get the final image. I decided not to use an additional set of images that would have allowed me to remove the flare, I felt it added to the overall scene.

This is the final image. I like it, but not as much as the other one

So, that’s it for this post. Following the new format the next one will be in 2 weeks time and will probably be more of a tips post.

Until then, thanks for reading and have a great couple of weeks.


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