Ralph Goldsmith: Blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog en-us (C) Ralph Goldsmith (Ralph Goldsmith) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:35:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:35:00 GMT https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/img/s/v-12/u991301972-o761377698-50.jpg Ralph Goldsmith: Blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog 120 120 Mountain Photography with Clouds - Long Exposure or Short Exposure? https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2019/4/mountain-photography-with-clouds---long-exposure-or-short-exposure
Mountain Photography with Clouds - Long Exposure or Short Exposure?

First of all, let me apologise for not creating any new Blog posts for a while. To be honest I felt that it had become redundant as I now produce two videos each week and the blog started to feel that it was just a re-hash of the videos.

I've been trying to come up with a better use for the blog, something that compliments the videos.

In this blog post I'm trying out something new. let me know what you think.

In my latest video I shot two compositions, in the mountains, on a day with lots of cloud. 

Although I only shot two compositions I did shoot four images. That's because, for each composition, I shot a normal length (short) exposure and also a long exposure.

I then posed the question, which worked better? The short exposure or the long exposure?

I obviously have my own opinions but I didn't want to include them in the video as I didn't want to 'steer' the viewers one way or the other. 

Instead, I made a note in the video, that if anyone wanted to see my choices, they should check out this blog.

So... Here's my choices, and why.

If you haven't seen the video yet I recommend watching it first... and here it is :

OK... So... 

Here are the four different images

The Trail and the CloudsThe Trail and the CloudsDark clouds over part of Cabezon del Oro mountain in Spain with a narrow trail winding into the scene

The Trail and the Clouds - Long ExposureThe Trail and the Clouds - Long ExposureDark clouds blurred by a long exposure over part of Cabezon del Oro mountain in Spain with a narrow trail winding into the scene

Mountain Trail and Dark CloudsMountain Trail and Dark CloudsDark clouds over part of Cabezon del Oro mountain in Spain with a trail on the side of the foothills leading into the scene

Mountain Trail and Dark Clouds - Long ExposureMountain Trail and Dark Clouds - Long ExposureDark clouds blurred by a long exposure over part of Cabezon del Oro mountain in Spain with a trail on the side of the foothills leading into the scene

I'm actually going to work backwards on this and start off with this image:

Mountain Trail and Dark Clouds - Long ExposureMountain Trail and Dark Clouds - Long ExposureDark clouds blurred by a long exposure over part of Cabezon del Oro mountain in Spain with a trail on the side of the foothills leading into the scene

This was a long exposure of 1 minute and 51 seconds with a Lee Big Stopper (10 stop ND Filter).

In the video I did give away a little bit as I said that I wasn't sure it had worked as I thought all of the detail had gone from the sky.

Having processed the image, I actually think the sky isn't too bad. I actually quite like the streak of pale light that almost mirrors the path and there's still some nice patterns in some parts of the sky.

Actually, what et's this image down, in my opinion, is the blur in the tops of the trees on both sides of the frame. I know some people don't mid that, and in some images I think it works, but, in this one, I don't think it does. 

I suppose I could try blending the short exposure and the long exposure to get sharp trees and the blurry sky but, given the amount of detail to work around, it would take forever to do and I don't think the image is worth all the effort.

As for the short exposure:

Mountain Trail and Dark CloudsMountain Trail and Dark CloudsDark clouds over part of Cabezon del Oro mountain in Spain with a trail on the side of the foothills leading into the scene

This works a lot better. The trees are nice and sharp and there's some nice texture in the clouds and a certain 'glow' in the sky as well. Between the long and the short exposure for this composition I am definitely choosing the short exposure.

Now to the first composition.

This is the long exposure. It was 25 seconds, again using the Lee Big Stopper (10 stop ND Filter). It was a lot shorter exposure than the other composition because, in this one, I was facing more towards the sun.

The Trail and the Clouds - Long ExposureThe Trail and the Clouds - Long ExposureDark clouds blurred by a long exposure over part of Cabezon del Oro mountain in Spain with a narrow trail winding into the scene

I like the way this one has come out. The 'burst' effect of the blurred cloud looks quite nice and creates a nice bit of dynamic movement in the scene . Also, although there was still some breeze, there is no noticeable blurring in the trees or other foliage. 

Also, to be honest. I think this is a better composition.

The same composition but shot with the filter and so a much shorter exposure.

The Trail and the CloudsThe Trail and the CloudsDark clouds over part of Cabezon del Oro mountain in Spain with a narrow trail winding into the scene

In this one the foreground and mountain are pretty much identical but the clouds show shapes and textures that I think look quite nice in this scene.

While I think both the long and sort exposures for this composition work well I find myself, very slightly, favouring the short exposure. 

So... Thats my choice. Of four images shot I will be sharing three of them (the very long exposure with the wind blurred trees is not for sharing).

I hope this has proven interesting

Thank you for reading and I hope you'll join me for my next video


(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2019/4/mountain-photography-with-clouds---long-exposure-or-short-exposure Wed, 17 Apr 2019 17:01:40 GMT
Life and Landscape Photography - What Happened in November? https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/12/life-and-landscape-photography---what-happened-in-november Life and Landscape Photography - What Happened in November?

Wow! It's December already. What happened to the year? 

As it's the beginning of a another month it's time for my Life and Landscape Photography review of what happened in November

What's been going on?

November has seemed to fly past. I seem to have been really busy but, for the life of me, I'm not sure with what. Sure there's been some things that I needed to get sorted out, and we did do a weekend trip away to Cordoba (although I'll be covering that in the next blog post after the video comes out - there will be a sneak peak at the end of this post though).

We also had some interesting weather, a number of days with really heavy rain, some strong winds and a drop in temperature. 

Events, Exploration and Non Landscape Photography

Apart from the trip to Cordoba that I already mentioned I don't have anything to report here. 



Well, it continues. I am still putting out 2 vlogs every week and I'm still trying to make them a bit of a mix between exploration and inspiration and the more information or tutorial based. 

You may recall that I had some problems with my vlogging set up a while back and that stopped me from producing my Filters for Landscape Photography video. Well, I finally managed to get it done and I published it in November. 

If you're interested in how I use filters in my landscape photography then check it out

As for the new vlogging set up... It seems to be working really well. I think I may do a review of my experience of it sometime in December so keep an eye on my Youtube channel if that's something you're interested in. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL 

Landscape Photography

In my last post I put up some sneak peaks for a trip that I did into the Murcia region.

This started out with an early rise to get away at about 05:30 for a drive of nearly two hours. My destination was the lighthouse at la Manga and it was still full dark when I got there. I spent the next 30 minutes exploring the cliffs looking for compositions, not always easy to do in the dark, and ended up getting a few images that I was happy with, despite the cloudless skies. 

I think this one is probably my favourite, taken shortly after sunrise:

Check out the video

When that shoot was finished the day was just starting. I got back into the car and drove over the the town of Mazarron. The location was the abandoned mine workings just outside of town and I was there for two reasons. 

First, I wanted to get some images using the weird, but strangely beautiful, orange and red pools that form there after heavy rains (which we had just had).

Second I was there for a return meet up with another Youtuber, Shaun Matthews.

I managed a few interesting shots here. The location, with the bright orange tones, worked well with the blue skies and the strong light in the middle of the day. The pools, coloured by acid leaching out of the ground, really make this an unusual scene.

Check out the video of the meet up and my photography session there

It was back to my local mountain for the next trip out. Cabezon del Oro (Cabeco d'Or in Valencian or Golden Head in English) is only a twenty minute drive from home and offers some beautiful views, rugged peaks and, when the conditions are right, some great mood and drama.

On this afternoon / evening we had lots of clouds but also some really strong winds. The clouds made it possible to get some nice images, like this one:

but in the end the strong winds blew the clouds away (and also nearly blew me away as well!)

Check out the video

In October I did a first, fairly short, exploration of a new location called Font Roja. In November I decided to go back and spend some more time there. 

This is one of the few locations that are relatively close (about an hours drive) where there were actually Autumn colours and I went in search of detailed compositions that would make a feature of these tones.

It was actually windier than I expected but I did manage to get several shots I was pleased with. Here's a couple of very different compositions that both show off those autumnal colours.

In landscape photography, failure is ALWAYS an option. Most of the time when I go out I manage to get something but, just occasionally, I fail to get images that I'm happy with. Earlier in the year I made several trips to the top of a tall hill, overlooking the sea, that has a ruined 16th century watchtower on it. At the time I really wasn't happy with what I achieved and I resolved to give the location a break.

Well, in November I finally went back there. 

It was a tricky clamber up and across as the recent rains had washed away some of the paths (which are not great at the best of times) but in the end I managed a couple of images that I was pleased with. 

When I did this trip I was a bit behind on my video production so I ended up posting this really quickly. After the video had gone out I decided that I wasn't happy with the edit on one of the images. So I decided to do another video discussing what I felt was wrong with it, and what I was going to do to fix it.

Here's the video of the trip and shoot, that also shows the previous version of this image

and here's the second video where I make some changes

and this is the final image:

As we got towards the end of the month I had a bit less time available and so I made a quick trip out one afternoon in El Campello, just to see what I could get. This ended up being an exercise in 'the rule of thirds' as I took a few images that either used, or broke, the rule of thirds when it came to the placement of the horizon. I was also treated to a beautifully colourful sky around sunset as I stood on the beach although I did think it was going to be an even better display after sunset (spoiler, it wasn't).

This was the final image from that shoot

and here's the video so you can see what I mean about the compositions, and also see the other images from the shoot.

My final trip out for November was another one when I was under time pressure. With only two hours to spare I headed out to one of my regular locations, Amadorio reservoir.

The advantage of these regular locations is the familiarity. I already know the place well and I can concentrate my efforts on finding compositions in a small area, very useful when time is limited. Of course there is a risk of just reproducing previous compositions and images.

But, one of the beauties of landscape photography is that a scene never looks the same twice. Different weather conditions and the direction of the light helps to make each image unique in some ways.

I ended up with some images I was pleased with and I think this one is my favourite from the shoot despite having some concerns about the composition.

Anyway, here's the video:

So thats it for November.... well not quite. 

We actually did a trip to Cordoba at the end of the month but, not a photography trip but I did manage to get some photography done.However, as the video for that won't be out until next week, I'm not going to cover that until the next post.

Here's a couple of behind the scenes shots as a sneak peak of what's coming up 


My Movie 2My Movie 2 My Movie 3My Movie 3

I hope you've enjoyed this post. I will be doing my monthly 'tips' post in the middle of December so I hope to see you then


(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/12/life-and-landscape-photography---what-happened-in-november Sun, 02 Dec 2018 14:34:12 GMT
5 Things Every Landscape Photographer Should Have In Their Bag https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/11/5-things-every-landscape-photographer-should-have-in-their-bag 5 Things Every Landscape Photographer Should Have In Their Bag

This months is a really quick tip. not so much about technique as about contingency.

Landscape Photography often involves travelling long distances on foot to find the best views and compositions. As such we all have to make choices about what gear we carry with us, too much can restrict our ability to reach the locations we want so carrying 'non essential' items doesn't make much sense.

Screen Shot 2018-11-15 at 10.51.00Screen Shot 2018-11-15 at 10.51.00

However, here are 5 items that are always in my camera bag, even if I don't think I will need them. All of these items are small, so they don't take up a lot of space, lightweight, so they don't put too much strain on your back or legs, and most of them are not too expensive so don't cause pain in the bank balance.

Spare batteries


I carry spare batteries for my DSLR and my video camera wherever I go. There's nothing worse than seeing the shot of a lifetime in front of you and not having the power left in your battery to be sure of getting it. On most shoots I don't get anywhere near needing to change batteries but sometimes, if, I've been out for a while or it's a multi day shoot, using live view a lot and shooting lots of video, the battery can start to get a bit low. Knowing I can swap my batteries gives me the security I need to keep on working and not limit what I do.

Spare memory cards


Like batteries I never normally get close to using the full capacity of the cards in my DSLR camera unless it's a multi day shoot with no opportunity to clear them down between days (my video camera is another story). Having said that, you never know what you are going to encounter and I may end up taking a lot more shots than I anticipated. Also, although it's not a common occurrence, sometimes cards can fail. Having spare cards available to pop in the camera at a moments notice means I don't have to worry about these things and I can concentrate on getting my images. As a side note, my camera has two cards slots and I have it set up so that every image is written to both cards. That way, if one of the cards does fail, I still have the images on the other card.

A cable release


To keep images sharp I want to avoid camera shake caused by pressing the shutter button. Normally I can get away with using the self timer mode but, for long exposure or for shots when I need precision timing (like trying to catch waves breaking), a cable release means I can still get the shot and not have to touch the camera. 

Cleaning supplies


A set of microfibre cloths, a blower and some cleaning spray is always in my bag. The big outdoors can be dirty, or wet, or both. Dust or dirt on the lens or water drops from rain or spray, can ruin an image so I like to know I can clean my lenses, or filters, in the field to make sure that I can get a clean image.

A Circular Polarising filter


Even if I wan't carrying any other filters I would still want my polariser with me. It can be invaluable for certain types of images involving water or wet surfaces.

I'm actually not going to go into the benefits of these filters in any detail here. Instead I'm going to point you in the direction of my latest video where I talk about all of the different types of filters that I use. The Circular Polariser is the first filter I cover in this video but hopefully you'll find the rest interesting as well.

I hope you enjoyed this one. It's short but I think it's an important topic.

I'll be back at the start of December with my normally 'Life and Landscape Photography post

I'll see you then


(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/11/5-things-every-landscape-photographer-should-have-in-their-bag Fri, 16 Nov 2018 09:11:33 GMT
Life and Landscape Photography - What Happened in October https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/11/life-and-landscape-photography---what-happened-in-october
Life and Landscape Photography - What Happened in October

It's that time again. A look back over the last month and what happened.

What's been going on?

October has seen things get a bit quieter. The tourist season is over and the beaches have been a lot emptier. Having said that, October is also the month of one of the biggest fiestas in El Campello, The Moros y Cristianos or Moors and Christians.

This year we didn't really do anything around this fiesta. In previous years we've watched the opening battle on the beach, attended the parade and also watched the big closing fireworks display. But this year we decided to sit it out. I think once every couple of years is enough. 

Events, Exploration and Non-Landscape Photography

As I've already mentioned the Moors and Christians I don't really have anything much to report here. There has been some exploring going on but that is really part of the landscape photography section.


The two per week schedule continues but I have had some challenges. I had been intending to produce a video all about filters. It sounds easy but, to properly demonstrate them, I need to right conditions and I had been waiting for that to come around. When it did I went out and spent a whole afternoon shooting video.

When I got home I realised that disaster had struck. My audio recorder had failed and I had to throw almost all of the video away. As this was a repeat failure it seemed it was time to look at changing up the gear and so I bought a new vlogging set up. A Canon M50 and A Rode video mic. Not only will this get rid of my problem audio, it also improves the quality and creative possibilities in my video production and, as a bonus, means I no longer have to spend ages on the computer lining up separate audio and video tracks.

Anyway, I did an apology video, with an update on my new vlogging gear and showed the little bit of video that I managed to salvage that happened to be when I managed to capture an image that I really liked.

This was the image

and this was the video

Landscape Photography

Before the audio failure I had been out for an excursion along the Villajoyosa coastal path. I set out for a nice afternoon walk after being a little under the weather for a few days. I actually ended up at one of the old watchtowers between Villajoyosa and Benidorm before heading back and managing a shot of some last minute front lighting on part of the coastline.

Here's there last minute image:

and here's the video

My next trip out was to an old favourite location, Amadorio Reservoir, although I was looking for a different viewpoint to the ones I had used before.

It was an afternoon with a lot of dramatic cloud and I managed to find my way down near to the water with a very different angle of view on the scene to the ones I had shot before.

I managed a few images on this one mixing up telephoto and wide angle and even black and white and colour.

Here's a telephoto black and white from that afternoon:

and here's a wide angle colour

Check out the video below for the full story and the rest of the images:

I headed out a bit later in the month on a day that was forecast to be the final day before storms hit us. It was pretty cloudy at times and the wind was quite strong. It actually proved a good test for my new video gear and how well it would pick up my voice in windy conditions.

I was down at a nearby coastal location called Cap de l'Horta, which is just to the north of the city of Alicante. 

The main feature here is the lighthouse and I was lucky to get some really interesting conditions and several images (including a rainbow) 

Here's the final image from that shoot:

and here's the video

The image above had some problems when I first took it. The use of a wide angle lens combined with angling the camera up to get in loads of that gorgeous sky, created a leaning and distorted lighthouse. 

I knew that was going to be the case and so I planned to correct those issues in Lightroom and Photoshop.

I then decided that might be interesting for people to see so I did a video about that as well:

An early morning, a brisk walk through the town to a bit of isolated and rocky coastline, some lovely colours, I was all set to photograph waves breaking as the sun came up.

This was a really nice morning and I was really pleased with the two images I achieved, especially this one:

and here's the video:

My next trip out took me to a location a little north of home, a rocky or pebble beach called Cala Charco (or Cala Xarco in Valencia). This site also has a 16th century watchtower perched on a cliff and this makes for a interesting subject.

I had decided to shoot this from further away than I had in the past, still have it as a focal point, but a small one. 

I ended up calling the shoot off early as it started to rain really heavily and I was concerned about the exit from the location as I had driven down a steep dirt track to get there and I knew it could get slippery and treacherous with the heavy rain.

When I got home I looked at the images and actually hated them. I almost threw them, and the video I had shot away. I decided, instead, to leave them for a day and come back to them with fresh eyes. When I did I saw what needed to be done and ended up with three images that I actually liked.

So that became the theme of the video. Don't throw images away too quickly.

Here's one of the images that I ended up with:

and here's the video (that almost didn't get published)

The final trip out for the month (at least that's been documented so far) was to a brand new location called Font Roja. This is a natural park near to Alcoy, an hour or so in the car from home.

I only went there for an initial explore, just to see if it would be worth spending a day there exploring properly. I was only there for an hour and a half and still ended up with a few images that I really like. The nature of the place is very different to what we have locally and this opened up some great opportunities for "intimate" landscape images, like this one:

and this one:

Check out the video below

So... that's it for October. 

My final trip for the month won't actually be out on video until later today (Saturday)  so I will cover that in detail in my next roundup. I will say that it was a bit further afield and I actually ended up making two videos at two very different locations.

Here's a couple of sneak peaks

Sneak Peak La Manga

Sneak Peak Minas de Mazarron

I hope you've enjoyed this look back at October. I will be publishing my monthly tip in a  couple of weeks.

In the meantime, I hope you check out my videos, and maybe subscribe to my video channel, if you haven't already.

Have a great month.

All the best 


(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/11/life-and-landscape-photography---what-happened-in-october Sat, 03 Nov 2018 08:47:37 GMT
Landscape Photography Tip - Leave Your Camera in the Bag https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/10/landscape-photography-tip---leave-your-camera-in-the-bag Landscape Photography Tip - Leave Your Camera in the Bag 

OK, so you're probably thinking I've finally lost the plot. How can leaving your camera in the bag help improve your landscape photography?

I'm not suggesting you you cut a hole in your camera bag and shoot through it, or that you develop some kind of X-Ray sensor that lets you take photos through the material. I'm not saying don't take your camera out of the bag at all. I'm just saying that you shouldn't be in a hurry to get the camera out.

Let me explain what I mean by starting with a little story.

The other day I was out checking out a location. I arrived and started walking around, pausing from time to time, looking around and even sitting down on some handy rocks. It was a lovely place, some beautiful features and interesting conditions.

After I had been there for about ten minutes another person turned up and then, a few minutes later, another.  I don't think they were together, it was just a coincidence that they arrived at around the same time.

Both of these people had cameras. One was using a DSLR and I think the other was using a compact of some kind, or it might even have been a phone.

Within a few seconds of arriving they both started taking pictures. I stayed perched on my (not very comfortable if I'm honest) rock and watched them. 

Both of them almost raced around the scene firing off shot after shot and, within about 10 minutes the first one left and, a few minutes later, the second one also departed.

I still sat on my rock, camera still in my bag, no photos taken.

As they left I couldn't help but wonder about the two people who had so briefly shared this place with me.

Did they get any good images? Perhaps, just because they had taken so many, they might have managed one that would look good but, had they really managed to get the best image possible from this place?

Perhaps more importantly, had they even appreciated the beauty of the place and the features it had to offer?  Somehow I doubted it. 

After a while I continued my own explorations and, eventually, I set up my tripod, arranged my composition and took an image, pausing for while to make sure I was happy with it before moving on.

Landscape photography isn't about the camera and lens that you use. It's not about the settings, or the filters. 

Landscape Photography is about finding, and emotionally connecting, with the essential beauty of the scene, whether that beauty is bright and cheerful, or dark and dramatic, It may be the beauty of a grand vista or a view of some fine detail right in front of you. 

In order to capture that beauty you have to really experience the scene, and that takes time. If you arrive and immediately start taking pictures then you don't give yourself time to do that. You may capture the obvious, and miss the true essence and beauty of the place.

So... that's why I suggest leaving your camera in your bag, at least when you first arrive.

Take the time to immerse yourself in the scene, to really appreciate the beauty. Explore, but explore slowly and with many pauses to look around and really SEE

Then, and only then, start to think about compositions and consider getting the camera out of the bag.

You may take fewer images that way but the images you do take will be more unique, more about you and the way you see, and experience the world. They will have more of an emotional connection and impact and that, almost always, makes for a stronger and better image. 

I hope you've enjoyed this tip.

Don't forget I produce two landscape photography videos every week so check out my Youtube channel and, if you like what you see, please consider subscribing





(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/10/landscape-photography-tip---leave-your-camera-in-the-bag Fri, 19 Oct 2018 08:56:38 GMT
Life and Landscape Photography - What Happened in September? https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/10/life-and-landscape-photography---what-happened-in-september Life and Landscape Photography - What Happened in September?

It’s that time again, time for a look back over the previous month and look at what happened

What’s been going on?

September is when things start to quieten down here. The Spanish holiday time is August and so we see a drop in tourists in the area once August is over. It starts to get even quieter at the end of September as the season really starts to close off and then we get a peak of activity in October with the big Moors and Christians Fiesta.

Events, Exploration and Non Landscape Photography.

As with August, not a massive amount to report (in fact nothing). It’s still a very hot month and still quite busy so not the time for heading out and exploring new places (for us). Also no major events that we wanted to go to.


I’ve continued with the schedule of two videos every week and I’m delighted that my views and number of subscribers is increasing. I’m sure there’s more that I could do to promote my videos but I’m wary of going down that social media rabbit hole where I end up spending all of my time on the computer. So I’m happy with a slow and steady growth for now.

I did have some issues with my audio equipment in September and that has been frustrating but I’ve still managed to get the videos out.

I actually did one video that was a bit more of a ‘tutorial’ style and that was all about making the move from automatic modes to manual modes, for both exposure and focus.

You can watch that video below

Landscape Photography

So… my first outing for September almost didn’t happen. Still suffering a bit with the summertime blues I was struggling to get the motivation to go out. It was too hot, too humid, there were too many people about. The weather conditions didn’t look promising.

Anyway, I pushed myself and headed out, quite late in the afternoon, to the reservoir at Amadorio, and I was delighted that I did because I ended up with some fantastic conditions and a couple of images that I was really pleased with:

Here are the images:

and here’s the video of the shoot

My next outing was one of those completely unplanned ones. I woke up early, too late to go far, but early enough to shoot locally. As I wasn’t sure what conditions were going to be like I headed out to a location a short walk from home called El Banyets. The idea being to get some images around sunrise on the rocky area of coastline that surrounds the remains of the Roman fish farms.

I managed a couple of nice images before, and at, sunrise, and then moved over to the far end of the area to try to capture waves breaking on the rocks.

I ended up with a really nice image, here it is:

and here’s the video of the morning

I actually did another video all about how I processed that image and the technique I used to maximise the impact of the waves.

Here’s that video:


My next trip out was a hike up into the hills near to Orxeta which gives some wonderful views over the surrounding area. My idea was to try to get a good image of the end of El Castallets ridge with, hopefully, some nice light and clouds.

On the hike up I kept noticing the way the clouds were wrapping around Puig Campana mountain. When I reached my location and set up for the composition I had planned I kept a close eye on what was happening and, after I had a shot of the ridge that I quite liked, I changed my focus to what was going on around the mountain.

It proved to be a spectacular evening with conditions that really don’t happen very often.

Here’s one of the images:

and here’s the video

Conditions were very different for my next trip out. very little cloud and I decided to go up to Cabezon del Oro mountain to see if I could work on some more details shots. 

I got a few images that I liked but there was one that I just felt wasn’t quite right. After a bit of time  to reflect on it I decided to try making it a black and white and I was instantly much happier with it, even though it’s shown in colour in the video.

Here’s the final image

and here’s the video

Sometimes when planning a photoshoot it can be just one detail that catches you out. I headed out on an afternoon when, in the area that I live, the sea was quite rough with some big waves breaking. 

I headed a little bit farther north to the coastal trails near Villajoyosa as I thought the big waves would look good on the cliffs there. What I hadn’t figured out was that the cliffs were acting as a wind break for the wind in that direction and, instead of big dramatic waves, we had more like ripples.

I decided to carry on and just change my ideas of what I should shoot.

I found one interesting composition a bit before sunset and waited around until I could get a decently long exposure on it.

Heres the image:

and then I went in search of something else and ended up hanging around into the blue hour taking telephoto shots from the cliffs across the marina at Vllajoyosa to the hills and mountains in the background.

Here’s the blue hour image

and here’s the video

Another shoot close to home was to a vantage point overlooking La Illeta, a small peninsular (it was an island but has been joined to the main coast with a concrete causeway) that contains an archeological site that has produced artefacts going back more than 5000 years. At the far end of the peninsular are the remains of the roman fish farm that I was at earlier in the month (El Banyets).

This video was actually about a mistake that many people make when they go out for a sunrise shoot... turning up for sunrise! The main message here was that the best of the light can often be sometime well before sunrise, so you need to get there early. Of course the reverse is true for sunsets, don’t pack up and leave as soon as the sun goes down, the very best of the light can be 20-30 minutes after sunset.

Anyway, the conditions proved to be beautiful and I got an image that I liked:

This was also a bit frustrating because I had some major issues with my audio recording gear and so the video had to be edited a bit differently to the way I wanted.

Here’s the video:


If that shoot was close to home then the following image was even closer. I got up in the morning, opened the blinds, saw the scene developing, rushed to get the 70-200 lens on the camera, no time for a tripod so I shot handheld, using the balcony wall to help brace myself and just managed to get the shot while the boat was in the right place. Sometimes it's just about a bit of luck (there was no video for this one for obvious reasons)


As the month started to draw to a close I was pulled back to the coast again, This time to a location a little bit south of where I live but just to the north of Alicante.

Cap de l’Horta is best known for the lighthouse that sits on the top of the hill there. I hadn’t really intended to photograph it that morning but, when I first arrived, I could resist a long exposure with the lighthouse reflected in a still pool. There was almost no colour in the scene so I ended up converting it to black and white:

Then it was on to shoot the other features here, the rocky channels that stretch out to sea.

I shot a few images with various compositions right up until the sun came up. When I got home and viewed the final image I realised that there was a tiny solitary figure out on the edge of the rocks watching the sunrise. I had been so intent on getting the composition the way I wanted it I hadn’t even noticed them. 

Quite often I find people in the shot a distraction but, in this case, I was really happy they were there as, I think, they add that something extra that the image needed.

Here’s the image:

and here’s the full video

My final outing for September (although the video was released in October) was a really short trip down to the local beach with an attempt to get some shots down by one of the stone breakwaters.

This is a location I have shot before and the challenge was to try something different.

I got the obvious wide angle shot out of the way early, with a long exposure to blur the waves, and then swapped the wide angle lens for the 70-200 and tried to get something different.

There were a couple of people fishing out on the end of the breakwater and, initially, I thought they were going to be a problem. They were moving around and the longer exposures I was using meant they were blurry.

However, as the scene got brighter, and my exposure time became shorter, I was able to get them nice and sharp in the image and they proved to be  great feature for the second two images.

I was really happy with a longer focal length shot focusing on them and the breaking waves 

and then, after the sun broke though a bit of low cloud on the horizon I managed another image, with a bit shorter focal length, that I was also really happy with

Here’s the video

OK, so that’s it for this month

October is, hopefully, going to see some more new locations explored and, depending on how things go, I might do some video and images around the Moors and Christians celebration.

Until then

Have a great month and don't forget, I put out two videos every week. head over to my Youtube channel now and subscribe and you won't miss them 




(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/10/life-and-landscape-photography---what-happened-in-september Fri, 05 Oct 2018 12:32:26 GMT
Landscape Photography - Improving Composition - Four Questions To Ask Yourself https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/9/landscape-photography---improving-composition---four-questions-to-ask-yourself Landscape Photography - Improving Composition - Four Questions To Ask Yourself

This tip is about improving compositions in landscape photography.

Unfortunately a great scene or view is not necessarily going to make a good image. Even if the light is beautiful the composition needs to be carefully thought about if you want to get a really great image.

It's really easy to roll up to a scene, see what looks like a good shot, set up, and take the image, and maybe it will work. In reality, the chances are that the image will not be the best you could have managed unless some care and time is taken over getting the composition right.

When setting up a composition there are four questions that I always ask myself before I take the shot. These four questions help me get more successful images and less disappointing ones.

I will also mention that this approach is why I almost always shoot on a tripod. Not only does the tripod slow me down but it also helps me make very fins adjustments to my composition and then lock it in EXACTLY as I want it.

So... on to the questions.

Question One - What Do I Like About This?

OK, it may seem obvious but it's important to understand exactly what it is about the scene that appeals to you, because that is your focal point, it's the point that you want people to look at in the finished image. To do that you have to consider what is going to draw the viewers eye to it. Is it going to be big and prominent in the frame? Is it going to be picked out by the light? Is the viewers eye going to be taken there by leading lines in the frame.

Question Two - What Don't I Like About This?

A careful look at the scene that you're going to capture should identify anything that detracts from the image or anything that distracts from the main interest. It could be a big area of dead space, a tree branch coming in from the side of the frame, some rough looking undergrowth in the mid ground. Whatever it is you want to try to find a way to get rid of it. 

That could mean just moving your position by a small amount. Shifting a bit towards one side or the other, raising or lowering the point of view or moving close or further away. For distractions coming in from the edges of the frame you can also consider if cropping to a different format is the way to go and then compose the image so that you have the best space available to do that.

Question Three - What Extra Does It Need?

Sometimes an image looks great but it just needs something extra. It could be that it needs some foreground interest to anchor it, or it could be that it needs a leading line. If so it's worth spending a bit of time looking around to see if you can find a better view that will let you include it. 

What's important here is that, once you find a point of view that let's you get that extra something you then need to go back to questions one and two to make sure that you still have the interest on that part of the scene that you find most appealing and that there are no new elements that distract or distract.

Of course, sometimes what it needs is better conditions, some nice clouds, great light, or maybe a beautiful setting sun. In which case you may want to consider coming back another time, if that's an option.

Now you're ready to take the shot.

So, what's Question Four?

Question Four - What Else?

Once you have the composition the way you want it, and you have that shot in camera, take another look at the scene, particularly at that part of the scene that appeals to you the most. 

Divide it up into sections in your mind and look at what other compositions might exist within the image that you've just taken. Maybe put on a long lens and look through it (either with the viewfinder or with the live view screen)as you move the field of view over the scene and see what details come out. Sometimes this can result in another completely different composition, sometimes more than one.

Once you've identified another potential shot, get set up and.... you guessed it, go back to Question One

That's it. I hope you find this interesting

Don't forget that I produce (mostly) Landscape Photography videos twice a week that are a mix of exploration, hopefully some inspiration, with just a touch of tutorial thrown in now and again. 

My youtube channel is HERE

I'll be back (in writing) at the start of October with my roundup of what happened during September in my Life And Landscape Photography post

I hope you'll join me then


(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/9/landscape-photography---improving-composition---four-questions-to-ask-yourself Mon, 17 Sep 2018 14:45:01 GMT
Life and Landscape Photography - What Happened in August? https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/8/life-and-landscape-photography---what-happened-in-august Life and Landscape Photography - What Happened in August?

Before we get started on the month review I just wanted to mention an omission for August,  and a couple of changes in my website.

The omission was that I didn't do a monthly tip in August. Somehow it slipped my mind until it was almost the end of the month so I decided I would hold it over until September.

Then a couple of changes to do with my website.

First, the colour scheme for the Blog has changed. I've always had a dark background for the website and I think that suits most of my images in the portfolio but, as I know from my own experience with eyesight problems, light text on a dark background is not the easiest to read. So I've changed the Blog page and a couple of other pages to have dark text on a white background. I think it's better but please let me know what you think.

Second, has to do with my portfolio. For a long time I have limited my portfolio on this website to thirty images. I've used this as a mechanism to help me improve my landscape photography. Well.. I'm considering a change. I am either going to increase the total number of images to forty or, perhaps more likely, I'm going to split the portfolio into several categories and then have a limit to the number of images in each category. 

That change hasn't happened yet but will probably go live in the next few weeks.

OK... now that's out of the way, what happened in August?

What's been going on?

As always August is a time when the temperatures are high and there are lots of people about. It's the month for Spanish holidays and El Campello is a popular tourist town for the Spanish. It's also a time when we get lots of sunshine (and that means lots of blue skies), so it's not the easiest time to go out doing landscape photography.

Events, Exploration and Non Landscape Photography

Not a lot to report here, there were no big Fiestas in August, although they did have an event to select the Captains for the Moors and Christians celebration that takes place in October, but we didn't see any of that only heard the fireworks at the end.


I've continued with my two per week schedule and continued to try to make some interesting videos. I actually started off the month with a Questions and Answers video where I spent a bit of time answering questions that people had sent in. If you haven't seen that video here it is

I also did a bit of an experiment where I went back to some recent images and re-processed them as black and white. The idea behind this was to see if I should consider doing more black and white photography, especially as it's not something that I often do.

Here's one of the images I converted

and to see the rest check out the video

I also did a more tutorial based video on how I focus stack images, but I'll include that in the landscape photography section of the blog

Landscape Photography

By the time we got into August I was already getting bored of blue skies. I wanted glorious clouds to pick up colour from the rising or setting sun, or, if I couldn't get the colours, at least create some drama.

So it was that, on one of my earliest trips out in August, on another day with clear blue skies,  I was really feeling a lack of inspiration. There is a problem with expectations and not accepting (and photographing) what you have. I did manage a single image, that actually isn't bad. Here it is:

and here's the video story

By the next trip out I had decided to embrace the conditions and use them to experiment. Using the long (200mm) lens and the wide aperture I produced an image that made use of the unobstructed side lighting close to sunset and avoided any boring blue skies. I quite like this one as the wide (f/2.8) aperture let me blur the background and make the main subject stand out even more:

and here's the video

The next video I put out was actually shot before the one I've just talked about, I shot it immediately after I shot the Q&A video and it was a hot and sunny evening with more clear blue skies.

I found an interesting looking composition making use of the overgrown Vinalopo river valley and some nice light on the distant hills and nearby reeds. I decided to use this video as a kind of tutorial on how I do focus stacking.

Here's the image I shot

and here's the video

As we got past the middle of the month I was checking the weather forecasts and they all said cloud... I got a bit excited at that point. The cloud was supposed to be quite localised. It was also very hot and humid so I selected my location carefully and headed out into the mountains. 

The clouds were not really what I was hoping for, they were in the wrong place, effectively blocking most of the light as the sun started to set. I still managed to get one nice image that I'm actually really pleased with:

Here's the full video story

The next trip out was a bit of a surprise. The weather forecast was for completely clear skies so I decided to head into the woodland on the mountain to see about getting some more woodland shots in. When I got up there I found some cloud about. I didn't think it would hang around until sunset and it soon started to break up so I decided to go ahead with my woodland plans but keep an eye on the sky.

I found  one interesting woodland composition that looked quite nice:

Bust then, as I was moving from one section of woodland to another, I spotted a really amazing cloud formation and had to stop and take a shot of it:

I then went on to get some pretty nice shots around sunset as well

Here's the video

A couple of days later and I took a chance on an early morning shoot. In July and August it can be tricky to get good light on the local coastline due to the position of the sunrise. On this day I gambled, headed down to the end of the main beach in town and crossed over into the Playa Can (Dog beach) and hoped for the best. 

The dog beach has some nice rocks just in the water and I also got lucky with some really nice clouds. I took several shots through the course of about 40 minutes and a couple of them were pretty good. I think this one is my favourite from the morning:

You can see the rest of the shots, and the whole story, by watching the video... and here it is

And so we come to my last trip of the month

Another evening with clear skies so I decided on another shoot where I would try out something new. This time I took out my 150-600 lens to try getting some interesting shots of some of the details on the mountain, scenes that I couldn't get with my normal lenses because it isn't possible to get close enough.

What happened was unexpected as, while I was filming the intro to the video, I spotted the moon rising beside one of the big cliffs and all other plans went out of the window. The moon isn't full (it's about 72%) but I actually prefer it this way rather than having it full.

Here's one of the images:

Check out the rest and see how I took them in the video

So.. that's it for August

This post will be coming out on Friday 31st August and my next video will be out on Saturday 1st September 

Here's a sneaky look at the Thumbnail for the new video. If you haven't already done so, why not head over to my landscape photography video channel now and subscribe so you don't miss out on my future productions.

I almost didn't go outI almost didn't go out

I hope you've enjoyed this post. I will try to get out a monthly tip in September so, until then, have a great month



(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/8/life-and-landscape-photography---what-happened-in-august Fri, 31 Aug 2018 12:32:08 GMT
Life and Landscape Photography - What Happened in July? https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/8/life-and-landscape-photography---what-happened-in-july
Life and Landscape Photography - What Happened in July?

Hello and welcome to my monthly blog post about what happened in July (2018)

As always this will be focused a lot on landscape photography but I will cover off some other aspects of life here as well.

What's been going on?

Well, it's been a busy month with lots of visitors so that's made it a bit more difficult to get out and about as much as I would like. Plus it's been really hot and humid and there's been a big fiesta here in El Campello (the fiesta Virgin del Carmen). I've still managed to get out a few times but not as much as I would have liked.

Events, Exploration and Non Landscape Photography

There are two big fiestas here in El Campello. In October there is the Moors and Christians and in July the Virgin del Carmen, who is the patron saint of fisherman and therefore very important in a  fishing town.

The fiesta goes on for about a week and, ordinarily, I would have tried to get some video and images from a variety of different events. However, having visitors made it difficult to do so and I was only really able to get any footage from one of the events, The Muixerangas. These are a traditional teams of all ages who create human towers and they even have a competition.

I managed to get a few hours free to watch the parade and then try to get some images when they were performing on the beach and in the sea. It was quite hard as there was a a lot of people about but I managed to get something worth sharing.

Here's one of the shots:

and here's the video


I've managed to maintain my two per week schedule despite challenging conditions (heat, humidity and blue skies) and restricted time due to visitors and even managed to do a couple of more tutorial based videos.

The first of these was about focusing and where I focus in my images to get them sharp back to front.

Check out the video for that one:

The second one was about the Histogram. I chose to shoot this video near sunset in the hills to the north of Orxeta and, although I didn't really expect to get an image, the scene I had chosen for the video had such nice light on it that I chose to share the image as well.

Here's the image:

and here's the video about the Histogram

Landscape Photography

Spain is a country that gets a lot of sunshine, especially in the summer. That means a lot of blue skies which, as most landscape photographers will tell you, is not great for landscape photography.

Nevertheless I've been out trying to make the most of it and seeing what kind of images I could get.

I did a trip up into the 'local' mountains to try out a couple of compositions that I thought might work with blue skies, and they both came out OK but, in between the two shots I found an unplanned composition with the low sun coming through a nicely shaped tree. I think that turned out to be the best image of the shoot.

Here's the image

and here's the video where you can see the other shots and what I was planning.

My next trip was to the Los Algezares natural park. I had been h=there a couple of times in June but I felt there was a good chance of finding something interesting on a blue sky day. It also gave me the opportunity to do some reasonable walking on easy terrain as I had been suffering with some leg / back problems for a few days.

I actually found a couple of interesting compositions but the best one was just where I spotted the way the light was playing on some rocks as the sun was dipping behind the valley wall. Here's the image:

and here's the video

I decided to revisit a location I hadn't been to for a while, the outskirts of the small town called Novelda. The main landmark here is an unusual church that sits up on a hill but my intentions to head down into the valley and see what shots I could get along the river.

What I hadn't planned on was how low the water level was in the river compared to the last time I was there. I spent a bit of time exploring and then ended up going back up to the church to wait for it to get dark (or at least the blue hour) and to hope the floodlights would come on. I ended up getting a few shots of the church. Here's one of them

and here's the video of the exploration and the shoot

It's been a while since I've done a dawn shoot, mostly because, at this time of year, the sunrise position in this area isn't ideal. I also haven't done much in the town I live recently. I decided to rectify that with a blue hour shoot of the symbol of El Campello, the watchtower. 

I wanted to do a close shot of the tower, illuminated by the lights and reflected in the water of the marina. I then decided to carry the video on to show hoe I processed the image.

Here's what the image looked like

and here's the video that shows the shoot and the processing

For my final shoot of the month I decided to revisit the tree that I had found and shot earlier in the month, only this time I wanted to get close in to the tree and really pick out the shapes of the branches as the setting sun painted them with light from one side.

I took a couple of images and, following some feedback that I asked for, I think this one was the people choice:

and here's the video

So that's it for July. In August it's going to be just as hot, maybe even hotter, and I'm expecting more blue skies to make life challenging for me. I have a couple of new locations I want to go and scout and hopefully they will open up some new opportunities.

I'll be back in the middle of August with my monthly Landscape Photography tip and, of course, I'll be releasing videos every Wednesday and Saturday so, if you haven't already, head over to my Youtube channel now and subscribe so you don't miss them




(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/8/life-and-landscape-photography---what-happened-in-july Wed, 01 Aug 2018 10:06:19 GMT
Landscape Photography - Don't Waste The Middle Of The Day https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/7/landscape-photography---dont-waste-the-middle-of-the-day Landscape Photography - Don't Waste The Middle Of The Day

The 'wrong' time of day is a great time to practice and experiment

A really quick tip this month but one that I think is important.

We all know that the best time to get landscape images is in the period around sunrise and sunset. Call it the golden hour, or the magic hour, it doesn't matter. That's when the light is warm and directional and creates the nicest images.

Many landscape photographers only use the middle part of the day to location scout, or maybe to sleep if the've had too many dawn and dusk shoots recently :-)

But there is something else you can do in the middle of the day and, although you may not get any great images at the time, it can seriously help you to get better images when the light is great.

So what is this wonder activity?

Practice and Experiment!

If you take away the pressure of trying to get an image then you can be free to try things out without worrying that you are going to mess up a beautiful opportunity.

Do you fear 'going manua'l? Then why not practice shooting manual exposure in the middle of the day and get used to the tools and controls that your camera offers to help with that.

Not sure how your lenses perform at different apertures (most lenses have a 'sweet spot' when they are sharpest)? Then use the middle of the day  to take a load of shots at different apertures and then compare them later to see which ones are sharpest.

Not sure about what kind of depth of field you can get at different focus distances? The middle of the day is a great time to practice shooting at different focal lengths, apertures and focus distances and then you can analyse them later to see how sharp the background, foreground etc is.

By the way. Check out my video on Saturday 21st July. It's all about focusing. It all be on my channel (http://youtube.com/c/ralphgoldsmith) at 7PM Spanish time.

Not sure how to focus stack effectively? Then try it out in the middle of the day. If it doesn't work then you won't have missed out.

Not used to using filters? Then try shooting with them and see how you can get the best from them. Sure, there are some slightly different considerations with filters and the middle of the day compared to around sunrise or sunset but mostly the same principles apply.

Considering some more creative approaches, blurring the foreground or background, creating some movement with long exposures, looking at different perspective effects at different focal lengths? Then practice them when it doesn't matter so that, when you have great light you know how to use the techniques.

Not sure how to shoot panoramas? Then this is a great time to practice the techniques.

In short, the middle of the day can be a great time to hone your shooting skills 

So... that's it. I said it would be a short one.

I hope you enjoy this and find it useful. Don't forget to check out my video channel and I'll be back at the start of August with 'Life and Landscape Photography' look back at July.

I hope to see you then  


My Youtube channel is HERE

(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/7/landscape-photography---dont-waste-the-middle-of-the-day Wed, 18 Jul 2018 10:18:42 GMT
Life and Landscape Photography - What happened in June? https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/7/life-and-landscape-photography---what-happened-in-june Life and Landscape Photography - What happened in June?

Welcome to my monthly review of what happened last month. As always this will be in four sections.

What’s been going on?

Well, the warm weather has definitely arrived, with the accompanying humidity, and also we’ve seen a definite increase in the number of people about. This is the toughest time of year for me for landscape photography, we have a lot of sunny days with blue skies, the heat and humidity often creates a lot of haze and a lot of places have people about, even at sunset.

Nevertheless I’ve been out a few times for landscape shoots, and even mixed in some other kinds of photography as well.

Events, Exploration and Non Landscape Photography

The major event that came in June was the fiesta of Las Hogueras in Alicante.

This is an annual event in the city where  they create lots of very detailed, superbly crafted and very beautiful effigies. These take the best part of a year to build and then they are displayed in various parts of the city for a few days before they are ceremonially burnt to for huge bonfires. I wanted to go into the city and get some video and shots of these amazing creations. It's something a bit different to landscape photography  but enjoyable nevertheless.

We probably only saw a small percentage of the effigies in the city but it was hot, and there were lot’s of people about. I think, next year, we’ll go in early in the morning. Not only will it be a bit cooler, and quieter, but the light will be better as well. Still, at least I got to use the wide, f/2.8, aperture on my 70-200 lens for some creative ‘blurring’.

Here’s a couple of the images:

You can see all my Hogueras images (not just this year) HERE 

and here’s the video I shot.

We also did a trip into the old town of Finestrat. where we did some exploring around the old narrow cobbled streets, checked out some of the sights and I even managed to do some photography and some video here as well. 

Here’s the video


I’ve continued with the producing and publishing videos twice per week. In June I published eight videos in total. That includes the Finestrat video and the Las Hogueras video that I have already mentioned. I also finally got around to doing a ‘What’s in and On my Camera Bag video”. Because I was late with my monthly review last month I’ve already covered a couple of the June trips in the previous blog so this one may be a bit lighter than normal. 

You can watch that one below

Landscape Photography 

My first proper trip in June was to Tibi reservoir. I have been here before but I wanted to do some exploring and see if i could find some interesting compositions for sunset.

Like a lot of the reservoirs here it can be hard to get close to the water and I was really struggling to find a composition that I thought would work. Add to that the fact that it was a lot windier than forecast, which meant the water was full of ripples, and I wasn’t sure that it was going to work out.
I decided to find my way up onto the hill overlooking the scene and see if a higher viewpoint would open up some new possibilities.
The paths were almost nonexistent and the view of the lake was mostly blocked by trees. As I was thinking about turning back I heard the sound of a helicopter. I knew that the fire fighting helicopters use this reservoir as a water source, and also that they did practice exercises here. I found what gap I could, fitted a long lens and hoped. 
I was rewarded when the helicopter did numerous runs picking up water and dropping it on the nearby hills.

When the helicopter appeared to be finished I realised I had lost track of the time and that I really needed to find a sunset shot. I hurried back down to a location nearer to the water and, just as  i got there, the helicopter came back and did another couple of runs, this time collection and dropping water into the reservoir.

I then rushed around to try to find a sunset composition and actually managed to get an image that I really liked 

Here’s the video of the whole thing including the helicopter and the sunset / post sunset photoshoot

My next outing was in the nearby mountains. I actually chose to shoot my ‘what’s in and on my bag’ video partway through a hike, sitting on a wall with the mountains as a backdrop (a bit more interesting that sitting at a desk I thought). 
After shooting that video I then headed off to see if I could find a composition for sunset.

I ended up getting a couple of images that, at the time, I wasn’t really sure about. After a bit of time to reflect I think I like them more now, especially this one:

and here’s the video

My final trip for this review was back to Los Algezares, near to a small village called Aspe, and I wanted to get an image of the ruined castle that I had seen there before. Conditions didn’t look too promising, as the sky was very blue and clear, but I really wanted to see what I could find so I spent quite a lot if time searching for the right composition, Something that would make the best of the light.  In the end there was a bit of cloud as well, which helped.
In the end I managed an image that I was happy with:

and a video that, I think, worked quite well on the importance of searching for the right composition 

So… that’s it for June.
In July I am sure I will continue to do battle with blue skies, heat and humidity, because that’s what we expect to have in summer here.
Despite that I will be getting out and doing more photography, and I’m planning on visiting a few new places as well.

I’ll be back in the middle of July with my monthly ‘tip’ post so I hope to see you then

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/7/life-and-landscape-photography---what-happened-in-june Tue, 03 Jul 2018 19:08:30 GMT
Improve your landscape photography compositions - shoot when the light is ‘bad’ https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/6/improve-your-landscape-photography-compositions---shoot-when-the-light-is-bad Improve Your Landscape Photography Compositions - Shoot When The Light Is ‘Bad’

OK. You may have to bear with me on this one because it sounds wrong.

A great landscape image requires two things.  Great light and a great composition. 

Great light depends on a lot on the subject and the type of scene. It also depends on what the mood and effect is that you’re trying to get.

Great light is often when the sun is low, the light is warm and diffuse but still directional, and when it illuminates specific parts of the scene and not others.

An image shot in great light will normally look pretty good, even if the subject is boring and the composition is not that great.

“Pretty good”. That’s the key point. Even in great light an image won’t be great unless the composition is equally good. 

When we get great light it’s sometimes difficult to see any shortcomings in the compositions we choose. I mean, the image looks great on that little screen on the back of the camera right?

It’s only later, looking at the image on the computer, that we see how much better it could have been if only we had…. 

  • moved to one side a bit
  • lowered the point of view a bit
  • cropped in a little tighter
  • changed the angle of the camera
  • moved back a bit fit something extra in
  • moved forward a bit to exclude something

and the list could go on….

The other thing about great light is… it’s out of our control. We can try to predict it, to anticipate, but we can’t make it happen. It also tends to be during very short windows at the beginning and end of the day.

Now consider an image shot in ‘bad’ light. Let’s say the middle of the day with clear skies. The sun is directly overhead, shadows are deep and the scene doesn’t have any texture because the overhead sun doesn’t pick out any contours.

It’s still possible to create a nice image in these conditions, but the importance then becomes on getting a really good composition.


Go out when the light is bad and concentrate on getting images that look as good as you can possibly make them. Really consider how the composition strengthens, or weakens, the image. 

Take lots of shots and then review them later on the computer and consider what works, and what doesn’t.

You probably won’t get any ‘great’ images shooting when the light is bad but, with practice, you will got more and more ‘good’ images, even in bad light.

Then, when you go out to shoot in good light, you’re more likely to consider your composition more carefully and, if the light is ‘really good’ or even ‘GREAT’, you stand a much better chance of nailing that ‘GREAT’ image that the light makes possible,

I hope you enjoy this tip

I'll be back at the start of July with my 'Life and Landscape Photography' post and a look back at June

I hope you'll join me then

(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/6/improve-your-landscape-photography-compositions---shoot-when-the-light-is-bad Sun, 17 Jun 2018 12:07:12 GMT
Life and Landscape Photography - What Happened in May 2018? https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/6/life-and-landscape-photography---what-happened-in-may-2018 Life and Landscape Photography - What Happened in May 2018?

Sorry, I’m a bit late with this months blog post but I’ll try to catch up for next month.

What’s been going on?

Well, as we’ve moved through May and in to early June, we’ve certainly seen the weather getting warmer. Not quite summer heat and humidity yet but certainly starting to show signs of moving in that direction. 

Having said that we’ve also had our share of cooler days and rain so it’s been a bit unsettled.


Events Exploration and Non Landscape Photography

The major event in May was a trip we made to the city of Valencia. We actually went for a few days and I did do some landscape photography while we were there (more on that later) but the main reason we went was to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. We also did some walking around the old city with its historic buildings and also around a natural park just outside the city called Albufera.

On these trips I still took the camera but was just shooting handheld simple shots but I was quite pleased with the way some of them came out. Like this one in the city:

or this one in Albufera:

You can see all the shots from Valencia, including those I will be talking about later, if you follow this link:


I also shot some video on these trips, a bit different to my usual videos but a bit of fun. You can watch it below:



In my last post I mentioned that I had started using my old DSLR for some of the video work, combining this with the action camera. After several experiments I’ve decided that, for the most part, the action camera does most of what I need and I can avoid carrying the extra weight. There may be a few occasions when the DSLR will come out as well but, for most cases, I will use the action camera and occasionally the main DSLR for video only.

I have been working on increasing the production value of my videos, including better B roll and more ‘set up’ footage for when I’m taking images. I’d love to know what you think of the changes.


Landscape Photography

For my first trip I headed into the woods on the side of the local mountain. I love woodland images but always find them difficult to do. Part of that is the type of woodland we have here and part of it is my ability to see woodland compositions.

In the end I came back with a couple of images. One of them wasn’t really a woodland image but the second one was and I was pretty pleased with the way it came out:

Here’s the woodland image:

and here’s the video where I talk a bit more about the challenges and why I wanted to deal with them

For my next trip I went to the Vinalopó river, just down from the reservoir and dam at Elche, to do a video that was partly a tutorial (or at least as close as I want to get to one).

My objective was to try to get an image of the river running through a rocky gulley. I wanted a long exposure blur on the water but I didn’t want the nearby reeds and foliage to be blurry which was going to happen because there was a breeze.

Here’s the image I produced:

and here’s the video that talks though how I found, composed, shot and processed the image to avoid the unwanted blurring:

I followed this up with a dawn shoot on the local beach. A couple of nice images from this shoot that involved slight changes in composition to account for the weather conditions and the exact position of sunrise. I also had to focus stack the images to get everything sharp due to being so close to the foreground rocks for the focal length I was using.


Here's one of them:

I also got an unexpected bonus image as I was packing up:

Here’s the video:


My next trip was one with a specific objective. Sometimes a particular feature works best at the 'wrong' time of day. during May the water in Amadorio reservoir was a gorgeous colour but, and here's the challenge, that colour was at its best when the sun was high and shining directly on it. So that meant shooting towards the middle of the day.

I ended up trying 2 very different approaches to showcase this colour. The first was a close up of some detail:

and the second was a big panorama

Watch the full video

I’ve already mentioned our trip to Valencia and the shots and video that I took in the city and the natural park.

One of the big reasons I wanted to go to Valencia was to see, and photograph, the City of Arts and Science.

This is a series of remarkable futuristic buildings surrounded by water. I've wanted to shoot this location for a while now and I wasn't disappointed. managing to capture several images I was really pleased with.

Like this one at Sunset:

and this one as the blue hour turned to Night

Watch the video (below) where you can come with me as I scout the location and then return before sunset and continue to photograph the scene through until the end of the Blue Hour and into the night.

All of the Valencia images can be viewed (and purchased should you wish to do so) by clicking the following link:


Back home, and on familiar ground again, I turned my attention to more natural scenes and headed out into the mountains, without any real plan but just trying to see what I could find.

I ended up with a few nice images from this trip but it also highlighted to me that I really need to scout some of this mountain more thoroughly.


You can watch the video below:

Normally when I go out to do landscape photography I’m on my own. It’s very rare for me to go out with anyone else, or even to see other people sometimes.

For my next trip out I was actually planning on meeting someone. A fellow Youtuber that lives a but further south in Spain and has a channel that is (mostly) focused on drones.

He was planning on a trip to Elche reservoir and so we decided to meet up and do a collaboration. As I had been there a few times recently I decided to focus on detail shots of the waterfalls at the base of the dam and I managed a few images that I was quite pleased with. Like this one:

You can watch the video I shot of the meet up below (Shaun’s video should be out soon so I’ll put a link to that in the next post)

I also managed a trip out to a completely new location. This is an area designated as a natural park which straddles the Vinalopó river valley and it’s called Los Algezares.

I hadn’t been able to get any detailed maps of the area before I went but I knew there should be some points of interest to explore so I headed out for a long walk to see what I could find.

One of the points of interest I knew about turned out to be very photogenic in the conditions:

and, on the way back I was attracted by the sound of water and found an unexpected bonus in the shape of these small waterfalls:

Watch the full video with a lot more of the area to see

As we got towards the end of the month we had a long period of clear blue skies, perhaps even more frustratingly for me, we would get some really nice cloud formations in the middle of the day but these were completely absent at sunrise and sunset.

Battling against a lack of motivation brought about by these clear skies I pushed myself into going out in the evening to a lake with lots of reeds and other things in the water to see what I could get. 

How successful was I? I’ll let you decide, watch the video below.

So… that’s it for May. Plenty more to follow for June and I’ll try to be more on time next month :-)

I’ll still do my monthly tip in a week or so. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed the read and, if you enjoy my videos please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel

All the best





(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/6/life-and-landscape-photography---what-happened-in-may-2018 Sun, 10 Jun 2018 14:50:26 GMT
Tripods for Landscape Photography - Pros and Cons https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/5/tripods-for-landscape-photography---pros-and-cons Tripods for Landscape Photography - Pros and Cons

If you watch my videos on Youtube (click here to check out my Youtube channel) then you will see that I almost always use a tripod for my landscape photography, even when I’m shooting in bright light and could shoot handheld if I wanted to.

I have always considered the tripod to be an essential tool but, it has to be said, they are not without their drawbacks. 

So… I thought I would just do a short piece on the pros and cons of tripods.

Let’s start with the Pros for Tripods


Low Light Capability 

A tripod will allow you to shoot in lower light conditions without the need to increase ISO because, with the camera held securely in place, you can use longer exposure times at the same aperture.

As most landscape photography is done at the beginning and end of the day, when the light is low, this is an important consideration.

Of course increasing ISO is no longer the massive issue that it used to be. Only a few years ago an ISO of 800 would have resulted in a soft and noisy image that certainly would not have the quality that landscape photographers strive for but technology has improved and modern cameras can shoot at much higher ISO’s without serious issues. 

Having said that, shooting at low ISO’s will normally produce a better quality image even then so that’s one good reason for a tripod.


Long Exposures

Sometimes a long exposure creates an effect that you want to achieve in an image, blurring water or clouds to create a sense of movement. This is something that is virtually impossible to do without a good tripod to keep things nice and steady.


Exposure Merging

Modern cameras have much improved dynamic range but sometimes a scene just has too much contrast for the sensor to cope with even with any filters. In these cases shooting bracketed exposures to cope with the shadows, mid tones and highlights, and then merging them in processing can create an image that would just not be possible in a single shot.

It is actually possible to do this handheld, normally by using auto bracketing and ‘burst’ mode, but it’s a lot easier with a tripod.



Panoramas can be a great way to show a wide scene but with the perspective effect that you would normally get with a longer focal length. They can also be a way to create really large and high resolution images.

Shooting them on a tripod means that you can be precise about the individual frames being level and having the right amount of overlap and this can make it a lot easier for the software to stick them together.

Again, you can do send held panoramas but there is a tendency to get a lot of wastage around the edges as the likelihood of each frame being level with its neighbours is much reduced.


Focus Stacking

Sometimes you just can’t get the depth of field necessary to get the foreground and background sharp. Or you can but it means going to a very small aperture (like f/22) and then the image will start to get softer due to diffraction.

In these cases using Focus Stacking can be a way to get the back to front focus required by shooting several identical images but focused at different points in the scene. These can then be merged in software (like Photoshop) so that the sharpest parts of each image are used.

While it is possible to shoot both exposure merge and panoramas handheld it is pretty much impossible to do the same for focus stacking as it is impossible to maintain a close enough composition while also changing the focus.


It slows you down

Yes, I’m including this as a Pro for the tripod. 

When you choose to shoot on a tripod you need to take some time to set the shot. Deciding on the composition, getting it exactly the way you want it, making fine adjustments, perhaps imagining how the image might be cropped to a different aspect ratio. 

Composition is so important to landscape photography that anything that makes you think more carefully about it, and take the time to get it exactly right, has to be a good thing.

Using a tripod will often result in fewer images being taken but, the ones that are taken will often be better.


OK, that’s the Pros. What about the Cons for Tripods?


It slows you down

Yes, I’m also including this as a Con.

If you are in an environment where you are trying to take advantage of unpredictable lighting conditions that may only last for a few minutes, or even seconds, then taking the time to set up the tripod may mean that you miss the shot where, if you had the camera already in your hand, you could have got it.


You have to carry it

A good tripod can be both bulky and heavy. Although carbon fibre tripods are a lot lighter than aluminium there is only so much weight that can be lost before stability becomes an issue and then the tripod can’t do what you need. 

If you are hiking long distances to get to a location then that extra weight can be a real burden.


You may have access problems

Sometimes trying to find a place to set up the tripod for the perfect composition can be a real challenge. Perhaps the only way to get the angle you want is by leaning over something, or peering under something, and there’s no way to get the tripod set up in a way that you can do that. In those cases you either have to shoot hand held, or find a different composition.


So… that’s my list of Pros and Cons for tripods. I still maintain that a tripod is more often a benefit to my photography and I will continue to (almost) always shoot with one but that doesn’t mean that I will refuse to shoot hand held if that’s the way to get the shot

I hope you’ve enjoyed this. I’m not sure it’s a tip, more of an opinion, and you may well have your own views about tripods, in which case I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

That’s it from me.

I’ll be back at the start of next month with my Life and Landscape Photography review

Until then, stay safe and keep shooting (pictures).


(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/5/tripods-for-landscape-photography---pros-and-cons Fri, 18 May 2018 15:03:41 GMT
Life and Landscape Photography - What Happened in April https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/5/life-and-landscape-photography---what-happened-in-april Life and Landscape Photography - What Happened in April

So… this months blog post is a bit late. Sorry about that. 

What’s been going on?

The April weather has been a bit different this year compared to the last couple. A lot cooler and a lot more cloud, wind and rain. There have been some sunny days but there have been a lot more that have been overcast.

That’s no reason not to go out and take photos though :-)

Events, Exploration and Non Landscape Photography

We haven’t been out on that many ‘non photography’ trips although we did make the effort to finally go and have a look at the old town in Benidorm. Lot’s of small shops, bars and restaurants. Not really our cup of tea.

We also went into Alicante for a shopping trip, mostly because I needed to get some new hiking shoes as the grips on my old ones are too worn out and they were getting too slippery for clambering around on some of the loose rock and sandy conditions around here. Actually I had been saying I needed some new ones for a while but I slipped and fell over on one of my trips and that finally prompted me to go and get some.


Well, it continues. I released 8 videos in April and a couple at the start of May that I might as well include in this post. I have been mixing up my blogging cameras between the little action cam (light weight, waterproof and very robust) with my old Nikon DSLR (better quality especially in low light, and a range of focal lengths available but a lot heavier to carry around)

I said in the last post that I need to focus a bit more on getting ‘B roll’ and on some of the videos I think I’ve succeeded and some I haven’t.

Landscape Photography

So… let’s start the month with a trip I made to Elche Dam.

I had heard good things about this place and really wanted to visit. After a lot of research on-line I finally figured out how to get to it and headed out one afternoon to have a look.

I only really went for a short trip, to do a bit of exploring and maybe, if I was lucky, get a shot of the scene. I didn’t plan on staying late because I had plans for an early start the next day (more on that in a minute).

When I first arrived it became clear that this place was not going to disappoint. The dam is 17th century and of masonry construction and, best of all, it has a continuous flow of water over the top that then falls onto big rocks that are pressed up against the wall.

It was while exploring around here that slipped and fell as I mentioned earlier. Nothing serious but a bit painful on the hard surface and that’s what made me decide not to delay getting new shoes any longer.

The conditions were actually really good with some quite heavy and dramatic cloud but still with some quite strong light on the scene.

I managed one shot that I was really pleased with while I was there:

To see the full story of the trip see the video

The very next day I was up early and driving north along the coast for about an hour and forty minutes.

I was going to a location that I had scouted a few weeks before, A coastal cave called Cova dels Arcs (which is Valencian for Cave of the Arches).

I arrived on location a good 40 minutes before sunrise and got set up inside the cave. It was a tricky location to shoot as the interior of the cave was very uneven and it was difficult to find space to set up one tripod, never mind getting one set up for shooting video as well.

Still, I managed. 

I got two really nice images on this outing, one was shot almost as soon as I arrived, so pretty much still in the blue hour, and the other one just as the sun was rising through one of the arches. Both were tricky shots from an exposure point of view due to the bright sky outside the cave and the darkness inside so I did some exposure merging on the final images.

On the whole I think I slightly prefer the later shot, with the sun rising, so here it is:

and here’s the video story

My next trip was very different, mid afternoon on my ‘local’ mountain of Cabezon del Oro where I was trying to see if I could find scenes that would work under the harsh light of mid afternoon and an almost cloudless sky.

I don’t think they are my best images but I think they came out OK.

Here’s the video of that trip

Another day and another dawn shoot. This time I headed south to one of the beaches in Santa Pola and, a real rarity in this part of Spain, a small pier.

The weather forecast was completely wrong and the mixed cloud and clear skies ended up being completely overcast but I was there well before sunrise and able to make the most of the blue hour light tones and some long exposure work. 

Here’s the result (I actually did a B&W version of this as well but, after much deliberation, I think I prefer the colour. I rarely choose B&W for my images).

and here’s the video 

When I visited Elche dam I had already decided that it was worth another visit. I wanted to go back and see about getting some detail shots, and also explore the other side of the dam.

I found a location to park on the opposite side and headed out one afternoon to do some exploring.

My first clue that things would not go to plan was when I pulled up to the parking area I had found and saw how many cars were there. There were some picnic areas nearby and these were full of people. 

I followed the trail up to the dam and, at first, I thought all of the people were in the picnic areas. When I made it to the dam I discovered that wasn’t the case and there were people everywhere.

I set up for one shot and had to wait about 15 minutes to get a few clear seconds with no people in the frame. 

Here’s the image

I then decided to give it up as a bad job and try again another day.

Here’s the video

There followed a few days of grey, overcast and generally boring weather. Finally, one morning the weather forecast hinted that we might get some light so I headed out to a rocky cove to see what I could get.

As usual I arrived well before sunrise and, after checking the realty of the weather and realising that the chances of any light were pretty slim, I changed my planned composition and got set up.

I did manage one shot that morning, here it is:

It did come at the cost of a bit of discomfort as the elements fooled me completely.

Check out the video to see what I mean

Not to be put off, my next shoot was another dawn shoot, this time a little drive away in Villajoyosa on a beach that mixes some sandy areas and some nice rocks.

I had hoped to get a nice shot of the sunrise here and, if all went to plan, something nice just after sunrise with a bit of side lighting.

It all went pretty well and I did get two shots. here’s the sunrise:

Watch the video below to see the full story and the other image

At this point I seemed to be on a roll for morning shoots so I headed out again, this time to the northern end of El Campello to a location call Barranc d’Aguis. 

This is a location I have been to before and I was hoping for nice conditions. 

Arriving early (as I always try to) I got a nice blue hour shot and then settled in to wait for the sunrise. 

After being briefly checked out by the police, who probably wondered what I was doing standing around on a lonely pebble beach in the dark, the sun finally managed to break through some low clouds and I got a second image that I was happy with.

Here’s the full video where you can also see the Blue Hour shot


Sometimes it’s just about being out in the open air, just enjoying the experience and the exercise. On those occasions getting the camera out can feel like the wrong thing to do so, on my next trip out, I didn’t take any pictures. 

That didn’t mean I didn’t still check out some possibilities and then go back and shoot them another day.

Watch the video below to see what I mean.

So, finally for this month, I wanted to try Elche dam again. I picked a day that was going to be overcast (much easier for photographing waterfalls) but took a chance that the showers that were also forecast would be short and light. That didn’t work out so well so my detail shots at the dam required a bit more persistence than I thought. Still, I got a couple of images I was pleased with.

Here’s one of them:

and here’s the full video story

So… that’s it for another month.

The mid month tip will probably also be late this month but I’ll still do one.

and, of course, I’ll be back at the start of June with a look back at May

Until then

Have a great month 


(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/5/life-and-landscape-photography---what-happened-in-april Sun, 06 May 2018 15:03:09 GMT
Landscape Photography - Think “Inside” The Box https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/4/landscape-photography---think-inside-the-box Landscape Photography - Think “Inside” The Box

For this month I wanted to talk about the ‘box’ and not being constrained by it

Whenever we go out to take images we tend see the world through the ‘box’ that is either the viewfinder or the screen of our camera. 

If you’re shooting with a DSLR or Mirrorless camera then that box is a 3:2 format. Of course there are other formats out there but they are still a box that our image is trying to fit into.

So, when we set up a composition we are trying to see how that will look in the format that the camera is showing us. The problem is, that format may not be the best one for the scene.

Let’s consider some common composition challenges :

Distracting elements in the composition

These could be  elements coming in from the top, bottom or sides of the frame that distract from the composition or make it seem unbalanced. Maybe we could change the composition to avoid them but then the rest of the image doesn’t work as well

A boring sky

An untidy or “noisy” foreground

Sometimes the answer to these problems is as simple as re-considering the aspect ratio of the image.

A 16:9 crop can be very effective at dealing with boring skies and untidy foregrounds, and has the other advantage of filling the screen on most computers and tablets (which is the way a lot of images are viewed).

A 10:8 crop can do the same thing with distracting elements from the side (or from the top and bottom when shooting in portrait (vertical) orientation.

A 1:1 crop can be a very effective way to remove distractions on all sides while avoiding compressing perspective which would be the case if a longer focal length was used to avoid them. This format also works particularly well on Instagram.

Of course you don’t have to be constrained to any of these. 2:1 crops, 7:5 crops or even custom crops can all help to make an image work more effectively than you may be able to achieve by composition in the field alone.

Of course this shouldn’t be a substitute for good composition and the best effects are normally achieved when the format of the final image is considered in the composition of the shot.

Some cameras allow you to preview different aspect ratios when you’re shooting but, even if yours doesn’t you can still visualise what the final crop might look like when you set up your composition. I find that simply blocking off parts of the screen with my fingers gives me a good idea and I have become fairly well practiced in working out where I need to place my fingers to show the desired format.

Of course you could make up some cardboard templates with different aspect ratios that you could hold over the screen to see what the composition will look like after cropping.

So, next time you go out to shoot, consider how different aspect ratios could enhance the scene you are photographing and help you find better compositions.

To finish

Here are a few of my images that have been cropped to different aspect ratios to achieve the effect that I wanted:








Thank you for reading. I hope you've enjoyed this and found it useful.

Don't forget to check out my Landscape Photography Videos. My Youtube channel is HERE 

I'll be back at the start of May with a look back at life and landscape photography for April.



(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/4/landscape-photography---think-inside-the-box Thu, 19 Apr 2018 08:53:35 GMT
Life and Landscape Photography, what happened in March https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/4/life-and-landscape-photography-what-happened-in-march Life and Landscape Photography, what happened in March

Welcome to my April 2018 blog post and my look back at March

What’s been going on?

March has been quite a busy month, although a lot of that has been about photography. We have managed a couple of trips out but most of those have been photography related as well, mostly scouting out new locations. 

I was delighted this month to be invited to give a talk at a camera club in the nearby town of Castalla. A nice group of people and maybe I’ll get the chance to do some more with them in the future.

Weather wise we’ve seen the first indications of the shift towards summer, although the first part of the month remained quite chilly, and it seems safe to say that the heavy rains and snow that hit the region the previous winter are not going to be repeated.

Events, Exploration and Non Landscape Photography 

Most of our trips out have been entered around photography so I’ll cover those in the landscape photography section. There have not been any events of any real interest to us going on locally so nothing new to report there.


During March I published 9 videos to my Youtube channel. I have still used the action camera that I mentioned in the last months post for most of the video but I have also used my old DSLR (the Nikon D7100) to shoot some video, particularly in low light conditions and when I don’t have too much hiking to do to get on location. 

I think one of the areas I need to put a bit more work into is the ‘b-roll’, basically more footage setting the scene and showing the location more. so that will start to become a bit more of a focus in future videos.

Landscape Photography

As usual I will be letting the videos tell most of the story but I will introduce them here and fill in a few extra pieces of information.

My first shoot of the month was very local. Just a 20 minute walk to the rocks at El Banyets. It was a dawn shoot and there was a lot of cloud about. With no chance of getting an actual sunrise image I concentrated on getting a moody and dramatic shot of the rocky shapes and the dark skies. I also decided to show the post processing for the image that I captured here. 

Interestingly, I took a test shot when I first arrived on location but didn’t think the composition was going to work. However, when I got it back on the computer I quite liked it so I ended up with two images instead of one.

Here’s the image that I didn’t think was going to work



and this is the one that I planned and showed the processing for



For the rest of the story, check out the video



For my next trip I headed out to the next town to the north, Villajoyosa. Specifically to one to the cliffs near to the medieval watch tower at Calla del Charco. 

It was an almost clear afternoon / evening and I concentrated on finding a single composition that would work with side lighting. There were some challenges with the scene, mostly trying to avoid my own shadow getting in the foreground, but in the end I got an image that I was pleased with and managed to explain in the video some thoughts about finding compositions



and heres the video



My next trip took me to the hills north of the village of Orxeta, I was looking for mountain views and possibly getting some altitude to see if there were views down to Amadorio reservoir. When I first got there conditions looked quite good but clouds started to close in towards the west as the afternoon moved on and I quickly lost hope of a beautiful sunset. I did end up with a couple of images, one of them a panorama, but it was one of those trips that really didn’t work out the way I wanted.


Here's the panorama



and here's the video


After the trip to Orxeta we had a period of really gloomy weather. The skies were grey and overcast and the sea was flat and dull and boring. For four days I waited and then, when I could stand it no more, I went out. 

Actually, the weather forecast when I went out was quite promising. There was supposed to be heavy cloud but also strong winds, and that could mean some dramatic shots of breaking waves. 

I headed out to Cap de l’Horta, which is where the lighthouse is, and spent some time exploring. It was very windy and the waves were crashing over the rocks. Some interesting looking compositions were just too risky to try as the waves could easily have swamped me. I did eventually find a location where I could photograph waves but the weather forecast proved to be wrong again and the clouds all started to clear.

After getting one shot in the bag (this one)...


...I started heading back around the cape and then discovered another scene that I couldn’t resist capturing.



Here’s the video



Next… it was time for a road trip.

We headed out to visit the town of Cieza, in the region of Murcia. The timing was specifically to see the seasonal even called La Floracion (the flowering) when the almond and peach blossoms all come out.

I’m not sure if we timed it as well as we could have. Most of the almond blossom was gone and the peach blossom was only just coming out.

We did some walking around the town, mostly along the side of the river, and then drove around lots of small country roads looking for potential compositions that would let me capture the beauty of the blossom and also give some sense of the overall scene. I’m not really keen on driving around looking for compositions but there wasn’t much choice as there was too much ground to cover walking.

I managed a few images but I think this one was my favourite



Here’s the video story 



Of course I also have to find new locations to shoot and there was a period of about four days in March when I did nothing but location scout. This meant spending quite a lot of time driving around to get to new areas, and then spending a bit of time exploring them.

Some of those locations didn’t work out. They just didn’t offer enough for me to make the effort to go back and shoot them, but some of them did.

One of those that did was the Lighthouse at Santa Pola. 

This is an interesting place. The lighthouse was built in1858 on top of an old (16th century) watchtower atop a 137 meter tall cliff. A modern metal walkway extends over the cliff edge to provide spectacular views down to the sea below.

I went there for a dawn shoot, arriving when it was still very dark. I set up on the metal walkway, which presented some challenges as it was not entirely solid and wobbled slightly so I had to be really careful about staying still while I was taking shots, especially long exposures.

Conditions were superb with a really lovely sky and I ended up getting three images I was happy with. I think this one is my personal favourite of the three



and here’s the video



After doing so much driving around over the last few day I decided to head somewhere local for a relaxing afternoon of hiking, and maybe a bit of photography, so I went to Cabezon del Oro mountain because it’s only a 20 minute drive from home.

I thought I might explore some of the woodland areas and try to get some shots in there. I find woodland photography a challenge, both from the point of view of seeing compositions in the chaos, but also because the woodland here lacks the character and mood you might find in some other places. 

Add to this that fact that I couldn’t stay out late, so a sunset image was out of the question, and I really wasn’t getting very far with my search.

In the end I changed my plans, after all, if it’s not working then it’s better to try something else, and I came out of the woodland to get some shots of parts of the mountain using the telephoto lens.

Despite it being a long way from the golden hour I actually had some nice light and managed a few images I was pleased with, including this panorama:



here’s the video story



By this time March was starting to get away from me but I really wanted to squeeze in a couple of extra photoshoots.

For one of these I headed back to El Banyets, where I had been earlier in the month, this time to get s shot in very different conditions. 

It was another dawn shoot but, unlike the last time, the skies were almost completely clear. I wanted to get the sun rising over the horizon with the shapes of the rocks pools leading the eyes out to it. Timing was everything. Too soon and the sun wouldn’t appear, too late and lens flare would probably ruin the image. A little bit of cloud broke up the sky just a touch and I got an image that I really like:



and here’s the video story



Now, for the final shoot to be included in this post, a return to Enchanted Gorge.

I have been here before, a couple of months ago, and I wanted to come back and explore some more. My original thought was to come back after heavy rains and maybe after some snow on the mountains had thawed. I thought we might get a lot more water flowing through at that time. However, given that we haven’t had those conditions this winter, I decided to go back anyway.

I had a nice afternoon exploring, got a bit frustrated with not being able to get to some of the scenes at the bottom of the gorge that looked really nice, managed to make a mess of one part of the video but got a couple of images that I liked.

Here’s one of the images



and here’s the video



So… that’s about it for this month, but in early April there will be a couple of new locations being photographed.

One of them will be an afternoon shoot at Elche reservoir, which looks really impressive, and the other one will be a very early start to get to a location called Cave of the Arches (Cova dels Arcs) before sunrise.

Of course there will be more than that, I’m working on my plans for the rest of the month right now.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my Youtube channel (CLICK HERE) so you get to see my adventures as soon as I post them.

I’ll be back in the middle of the month with my ‘Tip’ post.

Until the next time, have a great month 











(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/4/life-and-landscape-photography-what-happened-in-march Mon, 02 Apr 2018 14:19:47 GMT
Top 5 Tips for Dawn Photography https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/3/top-5-tips-for-dawn-photography Top 5 Tips for Dawn Photography

There’s no doubt that the ends of the day, either around sunrise, or sunset, are when some of the best landscape images are made.

It’s not called the golden hour (or magic hour) for nothing.

Personally I tend to prefer the early shoot. Getting out at sunrise, watching a new day start and, with any luck, getting some images of it all, is a magical experience, no matter how often I do it.

However, getting the best from an early morning landscape photo shoot is not just as simple as turning up and taking a picture. 

So… Here are my Top 5 Tips for Dawn Photography

1. Scout the location in advance. 

Turning up early in the morning, when it’s dark, and then rushing around trying to find a decent composition, is a pretty good way to miss the best light and go home with disappointing images. 

Unlike a sunset shoot when you can go out a bit earlier, spend some time exploring, and then set up and shoot, dawn photography almost always works best when you’ve been to the location before. 

A prior trip to check out what’s there, decide on possible compositions and work out exactly where the light is going to be coming from is always helpful. Plus you can also check if there are any obstacles or hazards to overcome.

2. Get there early.

Don’t just turn up 5 minutes before sunrise. Sometimes the best of the light is going to be in the blue hour, or as the blue hour transitions to the golden hour. That’s why I always aim to get on location at least 30 minutes in advance.

3. Use a tripod.

Dawn shoots often require shooting in low light conditions and using a tripod means you don’t have to compromise on quality by boosting the ISO. A tripod means you can shoot longer exposures and these can often have great mood, especially in the blue hour.

4. Pre set and check your camera.

Make sure that your basic camera set up is right before heading out. Check that your ISO is how you want it to be, that you have the right lens on. That you have Vibration Reduction / Image Stabilisation turned off (you should always do this when shooting on a tripod). That you have enough battery charge and enough space on your memory cards. 

It’s a lot easier to check all of this out before you leave home, I recommend the night before, than it is in the dark while you’re waiting for those perfect light conditions.

5. Take more than one shot. 

I don’t mean rush around trying to get in as many compositions as possible, in fact I recommend starting out with just a single composition. What I do mean is take several shots as the light changes. Starting out while it’s still dark and maybe finishing up some time after actual sunrise. 

Sometimes I will do this and delete all but one of the images but sometimes I’ll find that I get more than one image from the shoot because the light and conditions make for images that have a totally different feel and mood, even if the composition is the same, or almost the same.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips, I’ll be back at the start of the month with my review of March, until then, stay safe and enjoy taking pictures


(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/3/top-5-tips-for-dawn-photography Fri, 16 Mar 2018 13:09:59 GMT
Life and Landscape Photography, what happened in February https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/3/life-and-landscape-photography-what-happened-in-february Life and Landscape Photography, what happened in February

Welcome to my March 2018 blog post and my look back at February

What’s been going on?

February is a bit of an odd month. Because it’s the winter, and because it follows on from the various events in January that keep places busy, quite a few of the bars and restaurants use this time to close for some rest before preparations start for the upcoming season.

We’ve also seen the weather turn a bit colder, at least at times, and we’ve had quite a few days with overcast skies and cool winds. There has also been a bit of rain and, in the mountains just to the north, there has been a bit of snow. Compared to last year there has been a lot less rain and snow and that will certainly result in lower water levels in the rivers and reservoirs over the summer.

Events, Exploration and Non Landscape Photography

There have been no events of any interest to us going on in the area this month and most of our trips out have been photography related so I will pick those up in the landscape photography section of the blog. 

We payed a visit to Santa Pola, to the south of Alicante and spent a bit of time exploring a few places, mostly scouting for photography locations, and I returned there one morning for a dawn shoot. The area has a lot of salt lakes and salt extraction facilities and there’s a small wildlife sanctuary and a museum of salt to have a look around.

We also did a shopping trip to Murcia where we spent a bit of time at Ikea and a few nearby shops.


The vlogging continues. During February I have published a total of 8 videos shot at various locations and encompassing dawn and sunset shoots as well as a couple that are based ‘in the office’ in order to demonstrate post processing.

I have started using an action camera that I had from a few years ago to shoot most of the video, it seems to have better dynamic range than the old Canon camera I was using and the wider angle lens helps. It does, however, struggle with low light and the first time I took it out backfired a bit, more of that in the Landscape Photography section.

Landscape Photography

Again, I will be letting the videos tell most of the story but I will try to add a bit of background here.

In my last blog post I mentioned that I had just released a video. It was my final shoot in January and said I would talk more about it in this post.

As a reminder… Here’s the video


So… this video started with a trip up into the mountains, specifically to Cabezon del Oro, and the mission to get a woodland image.

I went out quite late in the afternoon with the intention being to get some nice low side lighting in the woodland. Although there are wooded areas that would have been easier to get to I decided to go to one that I thought had the best chance of a nice composition, and of getting some nice light. This meant a reasonable hike but, I hope, was rewarded with a nice scene that made for a pleasant image. Here it is:

That video was pretty short and so I decided to carry it on to a dawn shoot down on the beach in El Campello.

That morning started out with some quite clear skies out to sea but that very quickly changed as the cloud started to move across the scene. I went out to get some images of the rocks on the shoreline at the far end of the beach but, although I did get a couple of nice images there, the best shot was one that was totally unplanned. 

As the scene started to get brighter I looked north east, towards the end of El Campello and the mountain Puig Campana, and saw a wonderful scene with layers of mist and cloud picking up colour from the early morning sun, even though the sun itself was hidden. 

Here’s the image

My next trip out was to a location on the outskirts of Villajoyosa. The general area is known was Malladeta but I was specifically going to the area around the Villa Giacomina. 

I had scouted this location out a couple of months before and I returned here on this particularly day because of the weather. All day there had been very low but thin cloud, almost a haze, the sun was shining through it, very diffuse most of the time but, just occasionally, breaking through stronger.

It was a bit of a gamble. The thin cloud could light up nicely and put some lovely colour on the scene, or it could all be flat and horrible. 

When I left the location I still wasn’t sure if I had anything worthwhile. There had been some nice colour in the sky but I wan’t convinced that the light in the rest of the scene had been good enough. As it turned out the image was quite nice. here it is:

and here’s the video

It wasn’t long after this that we had an evening and a night with some really heavy rain. Sometimes, when this happens, the rain leaves some really interesting trails and patterns on the local beach and I knew that these could make for a nice composition.

So, I headed out well before sunrise to see what I could find, only to discover that the council clean up crew had already been out and used the big tractor pulled rakes to clean everything up.

Still, I was out and about and I decided to see what I could get by using the breakwaters as a focal point. 

I did manage a couple of images, including a rare (for me) black and white but, once again, the most interesting image came as the scene brightened up a bit and I realised there was some snow on the nearby mountains. 

I managed to get an image of a snow dusted Puig Campana mountain with the El Campello Marina in the foreground.

Here’s that image:

and here’s the video for that shoot

In reality I had been out on an attempted shoot a couple of days before that. I had been up to the hill and tower at Reixes Lloma (or Barranc de l’Agues) to try to get some shots of the tower. The conditions had proven to be poor for the location with no cloud and, reluctantly, I came home without ever getting the camera out of the bag.

A week later I was back there again and this time there was cloud, but mostly in the wrong place. I spent a while there trying to get some images and, in the end, I came home with a couple of images but neither of them was what I had really envisaged. 

I still believe that my expectations of what the site could offer were getting in the way of me seeing potential compositions. I have decided to give that location a rest for a few months.

Here’s the video that covers those two trips and the two images that finally came out.

Earlier in this post I mentioned that we went on a trip to Santa Pola to check out some locations. Well, my next trip was back to Santa Pola to do a dawn shoot.

My target location was the Tamarit watchtower. This is one of many towers along the coastline that date to the 16th century. This one is one of the more unusual ones for two reasons.

First, it’s square. Most of the towers along the coastline are round but there are a few square ones. 

Second is it’s elevation. Most of the towers are on the tops of hills or cliffs. This one is pretty much at sea level on a tiny island in one of the small salt lakes.

The tower was extensively renovated about 5 years ago so perhaps doesn’t have quite as much character as some but it still makes a nice focal point.

The weather forecast for the morning was pretty much clear skies and almost no wind. The reality was a lot of cloud and a very stiff breeze. I had to re-plan as the hoped for reflections wouldn’t be happening.

In the end I took three images, my favourite was the one taken after sunrise when the tower really lit up.

Here it is:

I actually made two videos from this. The first one was the On location video

The second one was how I processed the images in Lightroom

So… where next?

The next trip was to a park. Yes, that’s right, a park.

This was a location we had heard about and decided to visit to check out. It’s call Parque el Palmera (The Palm Park) and it’s on the outskirts of Alicante city, just a stones throw for the sea and the port.

I was interested in visiting this place for three reasons. First, I wanted to show a location that was ‘easy access’. Somewhere that didn’t require miles of hiking or clambering over slippery rocks or anything like that.

Second, I wanted to see if it was possible to get some really nice images in a totally artificial environment.

Third. There are waterfalls here. OK, they’re not exactly Niagara falls, and of course they are artificially created, but waterfalls are a rare thing in this part of Spain.

The park itself is very nice, lots of palm trees (you probably guessed that by the name) and small lakes and some nice little waterfalls.

I actually got three nice shots here but this one was my personal favourite of the group

and here’s the video

My final trip for the month was a trip up to Cabezon del Oro mountain. The weather forecast was not promising at all. In fact I almost didn’t take my camera gear as I didn’t think there was going to be much point. I had thought I might just go for an explore. 

In the end I decided to take the camera and tripod etc but, not the video gear. I did decide to take out a small ‘action camera’ that I’ve had knocking around for a while, just to take some test footage with it.

Well, as it turned out, the conditions changed rapidly during the afternoon and I soon realised that we were in for a great time, and possible a great sunset. So I decided to try to video everything on the ‘action cam’. I didn’t have a tripod or anything for it and, worse still, I hadn’t checked what memory card was in it.

I managed to get some footage but, the memory card filled up immediately before sunset and, as it was a micro SD, none of my spare cards would fit it.

I briefly debated deleting some of the earlier footage but in the end had to make the choice on capturing stills during, what turned out to be, a very nice sunset.

I actually got several images on this trip

One of them is a black and white

and I really liked this image that was actually just the first frame of a panorama that I shot but, when I looked at it, I decided that it worked well on its own

I did end up posting the video as well, it kind of ends a bit abruptly but I thinks it’s still not too bad.

Here it is

OK… so that’s it for this month post. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it

I’ll do my usual tips post in the middle of March

Until then

Have a great couple of weeks













(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/3/life-and-landscape-photography-what-happened-in-february Fri, 02 Mar 2018 16:01:17 GMT
My Top 5 Tips for Landscape Photography Post Processing https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/2/my-top-5-tips-for-landscape-photography-post-processing My Top 5 Tips for Landscape Photography Post Processing

Post processing an image is a fundamental part of the photographic process. Every digital image you have ever seen has been processed. Even if it’s a ‘straight out of the camera’ JPEG then it has been processed by the cameras software.

How much processing you choose to do is a matter of personal taste, only you can decide what’s right, after all, it’s your art. 

These are my top 5 tips to get the most out of post processing.


Tip Number 1. Capture to Process.

When I am on location and setting up my shots I try to consider how the final image is likely to be processed. First of all I always shoot in RAW so that I have the unprocessed file with the maximum amount of information available.

When I compose my images I try to think about the final aspect ratio I will want. Will it stay at 3:2 or would I want something different? 16:9, 8:10 or even 1:1? 

When I have a feel for the final aspect ratio I will try to shoot so that I have some space around the final planned image to refine the crop. Not too much, I don’t want to throw away pixels if I don’t have to.

Then the critical exposure. 

The objective is not to get an image that looks good on the little screen on the back of the camera. That’s just the camera giving a JPEG preview of what it thinks the image should look like.

I always aim to expose so that I have the maximum amount of information available and that means checking the histogram. I try to get the histogram to cover as much of the tones as possible but I will normally aim to expose as much to the right of the histogram as possible as that captures more data, but avoiding having blown out highlights (the highlights indicator (AKA ‘the blinkies’) is really useful for checking this.


Tip Number 2. Preparation First 

When I have selected the image that I intend to process the first thing I do is check that it is of suitable quality. A view at 100% allows me to check that I don’t have any focus issues and that there hasn’t been any loss of sharpness caused by camera shake or other factors.

That done the next thing to do, before I get anywhere near those sliders, is to consider what needs to be done to the image to achieve the effect that I want.

Does the scene want to be dark and contrasty, bright and colourful or soft, subdued and atmospheric? Once I have decided that then it leads me to the steps that I will need to take.


Tip Number 3. The Rule of Halves

The beauty of editing RAW files is that it is a ‘non destructive’ process. The original file isn’t changed at all. So it doesn’t matter if you get it wrong, or what order you do things in, you can always adjust it later.

That said, it is easier to look at an image that has been processed with a light touch and see where it needs more doing, than it is to look at an image that has been processed a lot and see exactly which part of the  processing has gone too far.

For that reason I normally employ something I call the Rule of Halves

When I go to move a slider, say to reduce the highlights, I normally only move it half as far as I think it needs to go. So, if I think it needs to go to minus 100 then I will normally only move it to minus 50 (or thereabouts).

I can always go in later and move it further but I find it easier to go gently to start with.

I do this with global and local adjustments, tweaking each one and then, if necessary going back in and adjusting them a little more (and sometimes a little less).


Tip Number 4. Let It Rest 

Once I have the processing finished I like to leave it for a while and them come back and view it with fresh eyes.

Ideally I will leave the image overnight, or even longer, but at least a few hours. Then open it up again and assess how well the processing haas worked out. Sometimes I’m happy with it and the the image is finished. Sometimes I think I have gone too far, or not far enough, and I make a few more adjustments.


Tip Number 5. Save the RAW files

When I have finished processing an image I will normally save it as a high quality TIFF file for my archives. I create temporary JPEGs and PNGs for uploading to websites or sending to agencies but I then tend to delete them.

I also archive the RAW file so I can always go back to it. On occasion I have gone back and re-edited a file for scratch and produced an image that looks very different to the original edit. It can also come in handy to have the original file if someone wants a different version. For example someone recently wanted a B&W version of an image that I had processed in colour. I was able to go back to the RAW file to create the B&W rather than converting the colour version and this meant I could get the best B&W conversion possible.


So, there they are.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this. I’ll be back in my monthly review at the start of March









(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/2/my-top-5-tips-for-landscape-photography-post-processing Sun, 18 Feb 2018 09:12:05 GMT
Life and Landscape Photography, what happened in January https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/2/life-and-landscape-photography-what-happened-in-january Life and Landscape Photography, what happened in January 

The last blog post was a bit different, because it was the end of the year and I wanted to do a review of 2017. For this post I’m going back to the normal format and reviewing January 2018.

What’s been going on?

Let's start by saying that this post also covers some of the end of December. I hinted at that in the last post where I posted a teaser trailer for a video that was actually shot over the Christmas period.

We actually spend Christmas in Andalusia. We headed off a few days before Christmas, leaving fairly early in the morning, and made the five and a half hour journey to Cordoba. 

We stayed there for one night with family and then, the next day, headed off to the old town of Ronda. 

Ronda is a beautiful old town, perched up in the mountains and split by a 120 metre (390 feet) deep gorge. There are a few bridges across the gorge but the most impressive is the “New Bridge” or “Puente Nuevo”.

After a night in Ronda we then travelled to the village of Villanueva de Concepcion which sits very close to the natural park of Torcal de Antequera.

This is an amazing place filled with stunning rock formations and we spent a couple of days in the area before heading back to Cordoba on Christmas Eve, with a brief stop at a nature park on the way.

With Christmas out of the way we watched 2017 make way for 2018 and the year started off with some minor domestic issues. Problems with appliances, issues with out internet connection and even a water leak through the ceiling. 

All of these, although minor, ate into the flexibility and time to go out and explore new places and take landscape photos. 

Nevertheless it has been quite a productive month and I’ll cover that more in the Landscape Photography and Blogging project sections.

Events, exploration and non-landscape photography

Not so much to report here. Our trip to Andalucia is already mentioned above and will be covered again in the Landscape Photography section. We did visit a couple of new places, one of them is the Barranc de la Encantarda (Enchanted Gorge) and one was a location I’ve been meaning to visit for a while, a natural limestone formation called Els Arcs. Bothe of these are covered in the Landscape Photography section as well.

The Vlogging project

I’m going to drop the term project, because that implies that I’m only doing it for a while and I have decided this is something I am going to continue with indefinitely. 

I think the last month has seen the production of some interesting vlogs and I think I am finding my feet as a vlogger. I decided partway through January to move from one video a week to two, mostly because my videos were tending to run a bit long and I think that two shorter videos might be the way to go.

For upcoming videos I am going to start working more on a theme for each one. A particular type of photography, a tip, an insight into the process.  I may also consider doing some post production videos.

So let’s move on to the Landscape Photography section.

Landscape Photography

Because so much of what I do now is covered in the videos I think it’s best to let them tell the story, at least for the most part.

What I will do in the blog is just give a bit of background to the video and the photography, and maybe some insights that have come later as a result of watching the videos and reviewing the images.

So… starting off around Christmas with our Andalucian trip.

I had planned a number of shoots on the trip, not all of them actually worked out. 

In Ronda I had planned an evening shoot from halfway down the gorge looking back up at the town and the Puente Nuevo (or new bridge). This was a shot that did work but, at that time of year, the scene was pretty much front lit towards sunset and I would have preferred side lighting but, we work with what we have…

I think this was the best shot from the shoot, a panorama that includes quite a lot of the nearby cliff faces.

I spent a fair bit of time before the evening shoot trying to find a good location to shoot the sunrise. Almost every location I found that would have given a good view, and the right light direction, was inaccessible that early as many of these vantage points are locked up until with 9 or 10 AM. 

My final solution was a bit tricky but had the advantage of being on the hotel room balcony. I think it came out pretty well.

After leaving Ronda we headed off to spend a couple of nights staying in a small village close to the Torcal de Anqtequara natural park. 

This is a beautiful place filled with wonderful rock formations. Unfortunately it was also a really difficult place to find compositions, just because there is so many of these formations all together.

In the end I did manage a few images there, some shot in the evening, shortly before sunset, and some the following morning at sunrise.

I think this one is my favourite

When we returned to Cordoba I really wanted to get another go at shooting the Roman Bridge at sunset. I did it earlier in 2017 but didn’t really get a great sunset and I was hoping for better this time. To be honest the conditions were still not what I was hoping before but I did manage to get an image that I was pleased with.

If you want to see the rest of the images, and the full story behind them, check out the video:

The next trip was to a place called Barranc de la Encatada (which is Valencian for Enchanted Gorge).

It’s a really pretty place with pools of water and a small stream running through it. The water flow was pretty low when we visited but it may be worth visiting again as soon as we’ve had a bit more rain. 

I really only took some images at the main pool and I think this one is the best:

You can see more of this in the video which also includes a trip to a village close to home called Busot and shoot of the nearby mountains at sunset.

In December I found a new beach, or at leat new to me, and took a few shots there in the afternoon, shortly before sunset. I said at the time that I thought it would be a good location for a dawn shoot, and, in January, I returned to do just that.

To be honest the conditions were not quite what I had planned for, a lot more cloud and no sunrise to speak of. Despite that I think I actually got some nice images there. This one is probably my favourite from the shoot:

If you want to see the whole shoot, and the rest of the images, check out the video :

A bit later in the month saw me heading off to the reservoir at Tibi. I have been here before but, the last time I came, I went to the dam. This is an interesting place as the dam is (supposed to be) the oldest functioning dam in Europe.

This time I headed away from the dam, following trail that would take me down to the waters edge and, when nothing came up this low down, back up onto the sides of the surrounding hills. 

There was some truly gorgeous conditions about an hour before sunset with a great combination of clouds and blue skies, light and calm water. By the time sunset came around that had all changed but, I didn’t care. Why? Because I had already got my shots when the conditions were good.

I actually took three images on this shoot but my first attempt was a bit of a compromise because I couldn’t quite achieve the composition I wanted (unless I learned to levitate 10 metres over water). For that reason the first image, while still nice, is not quite as good as the other two.

Here they are

See the full story in the video

The next trip was to a location that I have been meaning to visit for a while. A natural limestone formation called Els Arcs.

Prior to the trip I had tried to work out the landscape to see if it would be any good at sunset, unfortunately I couldn’t get a good feel for it and, it turned out, that the main features was in shadow in the afternoon. 

Nevertheless, there was some nice light on the distant landscape and I was able to keep some detail in the foreground by bracketing exposures. In order to show the scale of the feature I decided to pose in the shot.

I think this is the best one

To see the rest of the shots and more of the story, see the video

and there’s more…

I went and checked out a new location, on the outskirts of a village called Sella. There is a river running through a gorge and even some small waterfalls. I wasn’t sure it was going to work out as a location because I suspected the waterfalls and river were going to be really small due to the relatively dry winter we’ve been having. I had a back up location in mind though.

This is my favourite image from that days shoot 

See more images (and some ducks in a waterfall) in the video


So… That’s about it 

Well, not quite

I actually posted a new video yesterday which was the final one from January, but I haven't posted all of the images yet. I'll talk about those shoots more in the next months review but, in the meantime, here's the video

I’ll be back with my monthly tip post around the middle of the month and, of course, a review of February post at the start of March

Until then, thanks for reading and watching and have a great month 

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/2/life-and-landscape-photography-what-happened-in-january Sun, 04 Feb 2018 15:39:37 GMT
5 Biggest Mistakes That Have Stopped Me Getting Landscape Photography Images https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/1/5-biggest-mistakes-that-have-stopped-me-getting-landscape-photography-images 5 Biggest Mistakes That Have Stopped Me Getting Landscape Photography Images

For this months tip I wanted to talk about mistakes. We are all human (I think) and so we make mistakes. Sometimes a mistake is when we forget to do something. Sometimes it’s when we make the wrong decision. 

On reflection there are some things that I have done that have meant I missed out on a good image (or good images). There are actually plenty of small things but these are the big ones.

1. Arriving too late

This one is especially a problem for dawn shoots but can also be an issue at the other end of the day.

For dawn shoots the best light can sometimes be before the sun has come up. If you only arrive just in time for the sunrise then you could well have missed the best skies, the most beautiful colours and overall the best conditions. Even if the best conditions are at, or even shortly after sunrise, it’s a good idea to be there early so that you have time to find your composition, check that everything is set up correctly (see points 3 and 4) and then relax and wait for the light.

For evening shoots you may need to shoot sometime before sunset to get the light were you need it one the scene so, if you arrive too late then you’ve missed the shot. Arriving just in the nick of time often means that you’re rushing to find the composition and get everything set up and that leads to missed opportunities.

2. Leaving too early

The sun sets and we’re off, anxious to get back and see what images we’ve captured, or perhaps to get some food or even watch some TV. Dashing off immediately after sunset can mean missing the best of the sky. Once the sun has dropped below the horizon it can often bottom light the cloud and create some wonderful skies. That same light can be reflected down onto the landscape making for a beautiful scene. But you have to wait around after sunset to see it. Sometimes it can take another thirty minutes for the effect to be at its best.

3. Not checking the ISO

This one comes into the ‘forgetfulness’ category. I’ve done this a few times, particularly on morning shoots. You head out, set up, wait for the light, get some great shots, it’s only later that you realise you were shooting at ISO 800 the whole time because you hadn’t reset the camera after shooting some kind of action images that needed a faster shutter speed the previous night. The result is reduced quality images because of noise. I try to get into the habit of checking my camera settings before every shoot and, if I’m waiting around for the right light, I’ll quite often check them again, and sometimes again and again.

4. Not checking focus

So, you’ve been out and the light was superb. The sky was colourful, the scene was beautiful, it couldn’t have gone better. Then you get the images back on the computer, all excited to see how they look, and… they’re all out of focus!

It could be that the aperture didn’t give enough depth of field, or maybe the focus point was wrong. Perhaps you fitted some filters and shifted the focus by accident. I’ve done this lots of times and it’s so frustrating. That’s why I now make a point of checking images to make sure they are sharp. I use the screen on the back of the camera, zoom in to 100% and check the foreground, middle ground and background before I move on to the next shot.

5. Not going out

This is the number one mistake that I make that costs me beautiful images.

Here’s how it goes… I have the time but I look at the weather forecast and it doesn’t look promising. There are not going to be clouds, or there are going to be too many clouds. The wind is too strong for lakes, the sea is too calm for interesting coastal scenes. The sunrise is too early, or the sunset is too late. Or I have some pictures to review, or some video to edit and, anyway, it doesn't look like it's going to be any good today.

Whatever the reason I decide that today is not a good day to get good images, and so I don’t go out. 

Quite often it’s this days that the sky catches fire around sunset, or the wind drops at that perfect time of day when the light will make for stunning reflections. 

OK, sometimes that doesn’t happen and, if I had gone out, I may not have got any good images but, if I don’t go out I guarantee that I won’t get any images whereas, if I take the chance I might get something great, or I might not.

These are my top 5 mistakes. What are yours?


(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/1/5-biggest-mistakes-that-have-stopped-me-getting-landscape-photography-images Mon, 15 Jan 2018 10:21:11 GMT
My Favourite Shots Of 2017 and My 2018 Mission https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/1/my-favourite-shots-of-2017-and-my-2018-mission My Favourite Shots Of 2017 and My 2018 Mission 

Welcome to the first blog post of 2018. Happy New Year 

I wanted to take this opportunity to take a look back at how I think my photography has progressed in 2017, share my 5 favourite images from the year, with a bit of information on why they are my favourites, and talk a bit about my ‘mission’ for 2018.

But first a quick look at December.

Pretty much all of my photo shoots were landscape based and all of them were covered by my videos.

I made a trip up to Cabezon del Oro mountain for an afternoon / evening shoot to finally get an image I had been planning for a while, but needed the right conditions for.

I also had a very windy, but ultimately very successful evening shoot at Cap de l’Horta on the outskirts of Alicante which, despite being very cold and me getting very wet feet (again) resulted in some images that I am really pleased with.

Here’s the video that covers those trips 


I also kicked off a new project in December, the  Clear Skies project. 

I find clear blue skies very difficult for landscape photography and, as such, find it difficult to get motivated when we have them. As I live in a country that gets a lot of sunshine that means we also get lots of days with clear skies. So I decided to kick off a project to work towards improving my images, and my inspiration, on those days

Here’s the video all about the project


Another trip resulted in some problems. I spent some time exploring the Sierra de San Pascual and taking images around sunset. Unfortunately I had some technical issues with the video and found that half of my footage was lost. The good part about this was that it made me go out one morning to shoot an end for the video and that resulted in a shot that I ended up being really happy with.

Here’s the full story

I then made a couple of afternoon / evening trips along the coastline, doing some exploring and even finding a new location by virtue of getting lost. The first trip produced a couple of nice images but the conditions were not really what I was hoping for. The second trip, once again resulting in very wet feet, produced some nice images and I have a new location to revisit one morning for a sunrise shoot sometime in the future.

Here’s the video


So, that’s it for the December wrap up.

I think that 2017 has been a year of growth for me as a photographer. It was around the middle of the year when I decided that I wasn’t making the most of the opportunity I had. I was getting lazy, not always making the effort to be out at the right times of the day.

So I did a major shakeup. I cleared a lot of images from my website, deciding that the gallery here would only be the very best of my work and that it would be restricted to a maximum of 30 images. That would mean that, in order for an image to make it on there it would have to be better than at least one of those already there. 

I also started making more of an effort to get out and to focus more on the quality of the images that I was getting, rather than trying to get as many as possible.

I also started the vlog and I think this has added a new dimension to my photography. First it makes me consider what I am doing more when I am in the field so that I can talk about it on camera, but it also helps me after the event, gives me a way to go back and remember how I was feeling at the time and this helps me when it comes to editing the images.

So… what did all of this produce?

Well, here’s my 5 favourite images from 2017, and a bit of explanation on why they are my favourites.

The first one was actually shot at the start of 2017 on a trip we made to the city of Cordoba. I had decided that I wanted to get a shot of the Roman Bridge and I was hoping for a great sunset. That didn’t come off. The sky was really cloudy and there was almost no colour. I did get a nice shot around sunset but it wasn’t what I was really hoping for.

Once the sun had gone down the lights started to come on and I decided a ‘night’ shot might be better. I took one that I really liked but the composition was pretty much the default for the scene. So I moved around to the opposite side of the bridge and took the shot from an angle that is rarely used. This one has made it to my favourites because of that subtle change in view that makes it a more unusual shot of this scene:

Next is the image that really triggered my rethink about how I was approaching my photography. I had made a trip to El Hondo nature reserve early in the morning. It was a beautiful morning, a bit of cloud, no wind, so great reflections, and the light was lovely. When I looked at this image, and then compared it to images that I had taken over the preceding few weeks, I felt that this image was so much better than those I had been taking, and it was all because of the efforts I had made to get it.

My next two favourites were actually taken at the same location.

EL Banyets is only about a 20 minute walk from home but I hadn’t been there for quite a while. I ended up going back a number of times at sunrise trying to get something different. Sometimes the conditions didn’t work out but, because it’s so easy to get to, I just kept going back. 

Finally I got a morning with conditions that were not only beautiful but actually quite unusual in terms of the colours that developed on the scene. I think it’s that unusual colour pallet that appeals to me in this one.

I still went back a few more times and it was on one of those later visits that my next favourite image was created. It was a day with quite a lot of wind and this was creating some nice waves braking over the rocks. I had already captured an image that I was pleased with when I noticed how the waves were breaking in another section of the area.

I set up to get a shot and experienced a phenomenon that I have since come across a few times. Just after sunrise the power and frequency of the waves increases dramatically. Just in front of where I was standing the waves were pounding and swirling. There was a lot of noise, the waves roaring but also loud bangs and cracks as the water was forced up into gaps under the rocks. I could feel the vibration through my feet. I managed to get one shot that I felt really captures the power and drama of what was going on.

And so to my final favourite of the year. 

Cap de l’Horta is a headland to the north of Alicante city and has a lighthouse on top of a hill. The coastline is very rocky with channels carved into the rocks making for quite an interesting scene.

I have been here lots of times, and even managed some quite nice images, but I really felt there was something better to be had here if only I had the right conditions. 

On this particular day it was windy and the waves were breaking over the rocks. There some cloud, quite a lot of it, but the promise was there of a great sunset. I originally planned a shot with the hill and lighthouse reflected in one of the shallow pools of seawater on top of the rocks but it was too windy for that and I ended up standing on rocky ledge, with the tops of the waves breaking over my feet, while I waited for the light. I was cold, my feet were wet and I was struggling to shoot video in the conditions. But I was loving it!

Shortly after sunset the wind dropped a little bit and I did mange to get the reflections shot, for a while I couldn’t decide which one I preferred but, in the end, this shot that I took with the waves breaking around my feet ended up being my favourite.

So what about 2018?

Well, we actually finished 2017 off with a trip to Andalucia and I have a video and images to share from the trip that will be coming out on the 6th January. I will cover the trip in more detail in the next post at the end of January but here’s a quick teaser trailer for the video  (links to Facebook)

Andalucian Adventure Trailer ThumbnailAndalucian Adventure Trailer Thumbnail

As far as future plans go. They can be summed up in four words.

“Do more, go further”

Basically I am intending to get out even more in 2018, explore more and take more pictures. I am also intending to go further afield, exploring new places further from home, while still taking the opportunity to shoot locally.


So, thats it for this post. I will be posting my monthly tip in the middle of January as usual.

In the meantime I hope you’ve enjoyed this read and watching the videos. Likes share, comments and subscribes are always very much appreciated.

Until the next time, Happy 2018 and have a great month. 




(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2018/1/my-favourite-shots-of-2017-and-my-2018-mission Thu, 04 Jan 2018 12:07:17 GMT
Location Finding and Scouting for Landscape Photography https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/12/location-finding-and-scouting-for-landscape-photography Location Finding and Scouting for Landscape Photography 

This month I thought I would talk about the bit of landscape photography that sometimes gets forgotten in all the talk over focal lengths and f stops. 

Finding and scouting locations.

This is more of an insight into my approach and the tools that I use.

I will also just say that I have provided links for two of the tools that I use but I am not affiliated with them in any way. I'm providing the links just in case you want to look at using them yourself.

A great location can be a real asset to a landscape photographer. If it’s close enough to home then it can be a place to return to again and again. This allows the chance to really get to know the place, a chance to see it, and shoot it, in different conditions and, if fortune smiles, to get some really great images.

Even if it’s a one off location, maybe on a trip, then knowing where to go, and when, can really help to increase the chances of getting a good image.

I have a kind of process that I go though that I find helps me to find locations that I can shoot.

The first step involves finding general areas where opportunities may exist and I have a number of resources that I use to help me with this.

1. Google maps and Google Earth. Both great tools to get a general feel for what’s in a general area.

2. Websites and forums dedicated to walking or Geocaching. These two pastimes often involve finding beautiful places to visit and this can be a great way to find out about them, as well as getting information on how to get to the location.

3. Photography sites. I’m not going to name them all but there are lots of sites out there that display photographers images and these can be a great way to find out about possible locations.

4. Other photographers or people who know the area well. There’s nothing like a bit of local knowledge and just asking someone can really help.

My next step normally involves more detailed investigation in Google Maps to try to get a feel for the general area, and also to find out how to get there and where I can park the car. 

At this point I normally also review the likely position of the sun using The Photographers Ephemeris. This helps me to narrow down the areas based on when I plan to go and what the light is likely to be light.

Then it's time for...

Location scouting

Scouting sometimes happens weeks or months in advance of the actual photoshoot, or sometimes it happens the same day. Scouting is all about looking for the best composition options in a general area and considering how they will work at different times of the day, different times of the year, and in different weather conditions.

Sometimes I will spend a whole trip just scouting and making notes for future shoots. Alternatively, sometimes, I will go out in the afternoon and scout for a location to shoot at, or around, sunset on the same day.

If I’m planning on shooting that day then I always try to get to the area at least a couple of hours before I intend to shoot, just so that I have time to explore properly.

Using my previous research I find somewhere to park the car and then start exploring on foot. This means that I can concentrate on looking for possible compositions rather than having to deal with the process of driving. Also, by walking, I move a lot slower and also tend to explore places that I, perhaps, wouldn’t see if I was driving.

When I find scenes that look promising I will normally make a quick check on the likely position of the sun at the times I want to shoot. While for my pre-planning I use The Photographers Ephemeris on my computer at home, in the field I use the PhotoPills app on my phone because it gives me the chance to view the sun position in a virtual reality mode which is really useful for fine tuning the idea.

A beautiful scene doesn’t always make for a beautiful photograph and now is the time to start getting some ideas about compositions. I rarely do this with the camera to start with, it’s more about checking different viewing angles by moving around. Getting closer or further away, moving left or right, and sometime getting higher or lower depending on what I think I need. I’m sure when people see me doing this I look like some absurd bird doing a mating dance :-

Once I have a general idea then I may get a camera out. Sometimes I just use a compact camera (the one that I now use for Vloging) to get a better idea of how the composition may look at different focal lengths (the camera has a zoom lens built in). Other times I might break out the ‘proper’ camera to see what it looks like, normally only after I’ve almost decided it’s going to be a good option.

Once I think I’ve found something that might work, my next steps will depend on when I plan to photograph it.

If I am planning a shoot that day then I will generally just remember the composition and then return to it later to get the image (assuming I don’t find something better).

If this is a scouting trip only and the intention is to come back another time (when conditions may be better) then I will take a reference shot of the composition that is then filed, along with some notes on the scene, like how to get there and what conditions would be best to shoot it.

When the time comes to take the shot I then have a good idea of what the scene should look like and how to set up the composition. 

Of course, that’s just a starting point and I always try to be flexible when the time comes to get the shot. Keeping an eye on what’s going on around me means that I sometimes see something developing that will make a better shot than I had planned, and, of course, sometimes the conditions don’t work out quite the way I expect and I need to change my viewpoint to deal with that.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this view of my approach 

I’ll be back again at the end of the month with a retrospective for December, and 2017 as a whole.









(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/12/location-finding-and-scouting-for-landscape-photography Fri, 15 Dec 2017 09:26:06 GMT
December 2017, a look back at November https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/12/december-2017-a-look-back-at-november December 2017, a look back at November

In keeping with the theme I set up for the last blog I’m going to use the same 4 sections that I did last month, starting with…

What’s been going on?

The cooler weather is definitely here. As the month of November has moved on the temperature has dropped. As is often the case it can still be very warm during the day, when the sun is shining but, in the shade, if it’s windy, it can get quite chilly. The shorts have been put away for the rest of the year and long trousers are now being worn. It’s still warm enough to be out in just short sleeves a lot of the time but early mornings and late evenings require something a bit warmer.

We’ve had a few things going on, that aren’t photography related, and we haven’t managed to get out and about as much as we might have liked, although I’ve managed quite a few photography related trips but they have been quite local.

We did have some visitors here for a few days and we did a couple of trips out with them, including a trip up to Guadalest. I decided to sneak the camera bag and tripod in the car in the hopes of getting some shots while we were there, and that brings me onto the part 2


Events, exploration and non-landscape photography

Guadalest is one of those places that it’s great to take people who want to see a part of Spain that isn’t about the beaches. A wonderful old village perched on a rocky ridge between two mountain ranges and overlooking a reservoir.

The drive from home is a bit under an hour and, for the later part, takes us up some steep and winding, but still quite wide, roads.

The old town is reached by some steps and a walkway that lead through a small tunnel. The place is very beautiful but is very touristy with lots of small shops selling ‘stuff’.

For me it’s all about the views and, from the old town, there are some stunning views over the reservoir towards the Serella mountains and I couldn’t resist getting a few shots from here:

Including a panoramic view

I guess I could include these in the Landscape Photography part of the blog but, although they are landscapes I sort of view them more as ‘location views’ rather than the type of image that I consider to be my real landscape image.

From the old town it’s possible to pay to go up to the top of the castle. This includes access to the ‘Grand House’ or ‘Casa Orduña’. I checked as we went in to make sure that they would be OK with me using a tripod in the house and they were fine (no flash was the only rule).

When we came to the Library I decided to get an image of the scene. The lighting was a real challenge and I ended up merging 5 different exposures to balance the light but I like the image:

Then it was on to the outside and up to the castle heights. Almost at the very top of the castle is a cemetery and then there is a small ruined section of castle that affords gorgeous views. This is absolutely the best place to get images of the old Bell tower, so I got some:

I didn’t shoot any video on this trip but I have been doing a few more videos this month so I guess that brings us on to the next section which is….


The Vlogging project

In the last blog post I was just about to release a new video and that came out on the 4th November. Since then I have released another four videos.

I am getting more confident in the actual process of creating the videos, both in capturing the footage in the field and getting it edited later. I have played around with some shorter videos and also with the scheduling of the release. I still experience the occasional technical issue where I fail to get the sound, or the image, to the required quality but most of the time it works out OK.

For the time being I am going to aim to release a video every Saturday at 7PM (Spanish time) which is 6PM UK time.

If you go to my Youtube channel you can see all of the videos I have released so far and, if you click on Subscribe, and then click on the notification bell, you need never miss one of them again.

My channel is HERE

So, that brings us to 


Landscape Photography

The video that was just about to be released in the last post was a trip to Amadorio reservoir. 

This is a location that has served me well over the last couple of years and this trip was a late afternoon and evening with the aim of getting some nice images towards sunset.

Weather conditions were promising with some nice cloud and I arrived on the scene hoping to enjoy a nice tranquil and peaceful search for compositions. 

When I first arrived, other than there being a bit more wind than I really wanted, everything was great. I found a possible shot on the far side of the dam and, although it was a bit early I decided the conditions looked pretty nice and I set up to take a shot.

It was at this point that the peace was shattered by the arrival of a group of ‘youngsters’ with motorbikes. The rode across the top of the dam and then proceeded to take turns racing across the dam on the bikes making a hell of a noise.

I took the shot but I really felt that the whole mood of the place had changed. It’s normally quite a peaceful and tranquil place but now, well peaceful it wasn’t.

I decided to go back over the dam and try to find a location that would be far enough away from them, possible with a hill or two in the way, so that I could regain some of the tranquility I normally felt here.

When I did find a spot I set up and took some reflections images which I actually really like but, my heart just wasn’t in it. The scene was beautiful but my mood wasn’t.

Still, the images I took seemed to come out well, including a long exposure that I also did a B&W version of:



I went for a bit of a walk, heading up towards the other end of the reservoir. I knew that I wouldn’t get any good images from here but I thought it might help to restore my mood, and it did.

I came back to the spot where I had taken the reflections shots earlier, the motorbikes were gone, peace was restored and I found a composition that I really liked. I could have hoped for a bit more colour in the cloud but, on the whole, I’m pretty pleased with this one:


You can see the video story for this shoot ===> HERE

A bit later in the month saw me at Villajoyosa on the coastal path nice and early for a dawn shoot.

I ended up perched on the edge of a rocky ledge watching the sun come up and capturing three images that are very similar compositions but are made different from each other by the changes in the light as the sun rose, and by the length of the exposure as one of them was shot with an ND filter to extend the time to 30 seconds.

Not much more to say on this shoot. It was a beautiful morning with some nice light and not a single other person about:


and here’s the link to the video for that shoot ===> HERE 

Of course not every shoot goes to plan and I had a quite disappointing trip out later in the month when I headed up to Malladeta in Villajoyosa for an afternoon and sunset shoot.

The area here is marked by the ruins of an old Villa, a tower, that looks a lot like one of the old watchtowers but was actually built in the 19th century as a Library for the Villa, and some wonderfully wind shaped trees.

When I arrived there was some quite nice cloud in the sky and conditions were looking quite promising. I spent a couple of hours exploring. It’s not a massive place but there are lots of little hills and gullies so it takes a while to get around it all.

I found a composition that I liked but it looked like the clouds were clearing. I set up to wait and see what happened but, as it got closer to sunset, the clouds just faded away.

There are some scenes that can work with a clear sky but this wasn’t one of them, so I packed up and started heading back to the car.

On the way I spotted one of those wonderful trees I mentioned. It was getting nicely side lit as the sun went down so I decided it was worth a shot. I stayed a fair way back and a bit higher than the tree so that, with a long lens, I could have just the tree with the sea as a backdrop. I included just a little bit of the ground by the tree. It’s an OK image and I’m glad I didn’t come back empty handed:

That day actually marked the start of a period of blue skies that lasted for quite a while. After about five days of it I was getting frustrated as I really wanted some more cloudy conditions to create the kind of images I really love.

It was with this frustration that I headed up to Cabezon del Oro mountain one afternoon in search of inspiration. I spent a long time just walking some of the trails and trying to see the scene differently so that I could capture an image.

I did eventually get an image that I liked but the inspiration I found was not really what I thought it would be.

I’m going to let the video tell the rest of the story so here it is ===> HERE

and this was the image:

The next shoot was a trip to the hills north of Orxeta. 

Orxeta is a small village not far away from the Amadorio reservoir that I visit fairly regularly. I parked on the edge of the village and proceeded to hike up into the hills on the trails that start there.

The hike is not particularly challenging for the most part, it is possible to follow these trails up onto the mountains and then things get a bit tougher but, on this occasion, I wasn’t planning on climbing too high.

I did have a bit of a mix up at one point. I couldn’t remember the trail exactly and the signs weren’t clear so I went the way that looked the most likely. It turned out I was well off of the trail and climbing up some kind of channel that would carry water if there was heavy rain. I managed to make it up this way and eventually came out not too far from where the trail would have taken me.

I knew that there were some small fields of fruit trees up here and I also knew that there would be some good views of an interestingly shaped rocky peak.

A location was quickly found and I set up for a shot using a composition that I felt would make the best use of the light direction. There were some nice clouds over the peak and the sky in the direction of the sunset was looking pretty clear.

After waiting a while to see how the light developed I changed the composition a bit, just because of the way the light was hitting the tops of the fruit trees. 

The sun was going to disappear behind some nearby mountains before official sunset and I took one shot while there was still some light on the foreground. 

Then I recomposed to a longer focal length to make the most of the last of the light on the distant peak.

Just as I was about to pack up I noticed that the sky in the direction that the sun had set was really lovely, with some great colours. I managed to find a fairly simple composition to make use of that scene and that was it for that shoot:

Here’s the video that covers that shoot ===> HERE

One afternoon, I was at home and just looking at the sky (as you do) and I thought to myself "I think there's going to be a nice sunset tonight, where can I go?"

A little while later I was up by the marina in El Campello watching as the sun was dropping below the buildings in the distance and the sky was lighting up beautifully, not to mention creating beautiful reflections of the sky in the water of the marina.

I managed two images that evening. The first was a standard format taken just as the sun dropped behind the buildings (and so no longer created problems with lens flare)

The second image was taken a few minutes later. The scene was just a little bit darker but the interest in the sky was spread wider so I shot a panoramic view consisting of 7 vertical images that I stitched together later in Lightroom


Another trip out was a gamble, and one that almost didn’t pay off. 

I decided to take a trip to the coastal path at Villajoyosa one afternoon. Normally the coastline is better in the mornings because that’s when it gets light but, right at the end / start of the year, the sun is far enough around that a few places will get light even at sunset.

The gamble was to find somewhere that would get the light and, on this day, the gamble was even bigger because the sky was completely empty of clouds.

I parked up and headed out along the path, heading roughly north in the direction of Benidorm. 

At the far end of the trail I came out onto a road, which was quite high up but had great views looking down to the sea, and noticed a rocky area sticking out into the sea in a small cove. I had seen this on the map and thought that, at this time of the year, it would get some nice light at sunset. Also, because it was between two steep rocky walls I though it would have potential to look good without clouds.

To get to this scene I had to walk down a steep hill and, despite being late November, it was a very hot day.

As I got closer I saw some cars parked and then I could hear voices coming from the cove. It looked like I wouldn’t have the place to myself. As I got closer I saw a sign painted on the rocks that said “Solo Nudista”. Yes. It was a nudist beach!

Obviously the location was out of the question and I had to climb the steep hill again with nothing to show for the effort. Still, At least I know where the location is and that it’s possible to drive down to it so, maybe for a sunrise on a cold day?

As time was moving on I decided to head back the way I had come and see if anything presented itself. I was almost back at the car and just decided to head down onto the nearby beach and that’s where I found a scene that I decided would be worth shooting. Using overhanging branches of trees to block out a lot of the sky I was able to capture a couple of quite interesting sunset shots before heading home.


The final shoot of the month was closer to home, actually just about 3 minute walk onto the local beach where I headed one morning when the forecast looked promising for a great sunrise. 

I decided to set up near to one of the breakwaters and try to get a combination of waves on the sand and a great sky.

Sometimes it’s nice to just stay in once place and just shoot a few images at different times as the light and colours change. That’s what I did on this morning and, I have to say, it was lovely and, as a bonus, I got some nice images from the it. So far I've only posted one of those images on line (although you can see all of them in the video) so I'm only going to post that one here. I'll put the others in the next post.

The video that covers both the coastal path at Villajoyosa and the local beach shoot can be found ===> HERE

So, that’s it for this months post. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. As usual I will be doing a “Tips” post in the middle of the month and then a normal month review at the beginning of January.

I hope you have a great Christmas and New Year.

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/12/december-2017-a-look-back-at-november Sun, 03 Dec 2017 13:43:25 GMT
To Crop Or Not To Crop https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/11/to-crop-or-not-to-crop To Crop Or Not To Crop

That is the question

I recently read an article by a landscape photographer who stated that they NEVER crop their images. This article seemed to regard cropping as some kind of mortal sin that would result in a terrible fate for the offending photographer (perhaps some special hell exists where the light is always beautiful and the camera batteries are always flat).

While I was reading this I also though about many tutorials that I have seen about post processing and where images are cropped, sometimes quite extensively, in order to remove unwanted features etc.

There are some kinds of photography in which cropping is the norm, wildlife photography for one. When it comes to landscapes I believe that the crop tool has its uses, and can be one of the most powerful post processing tools in the photographers arsenal, but it also has its dangers, so I thought I would write a short piece on when I think the crop tool is a bad thing, and when I use it on a regular basis. Of course these are my opinions and the approach I take to my own work.

I'd like to start off with a bit of a reflection on why some people are so reluctant to crop images, and it all comes down to losing some of the image size.

When digital cameras were in their infancy, and megapixels were in short supply, cropping an image, even a little bit, could severely constrain the print size of the image making it of considerably less use.

Today we are seeing DSLRs with 36  and even 50 megapixel sensors, entry level DSLRs with 20 or 24 megapixels and compacts at 16 and even 24 megapixels. We now have the ability to crop away some of those megapixels and still have large high resolution images.

My own camera has a 24 megapixel sensor and I can crop the image to two thirds of its original size and still make some pretty large and high quality prints. Of course the megapixels alone don't determine the quality of the image but they are often a reason why people are reluctant to crop.

OK, so lets start off with, what I consider to be, the bad reason to crop an image.

Careless composition

I do not believe that the crop tool is a substitute for good composition in the field. The attitude that "I can always crop it later" leads to sloppy composition and that, almost always, leads to poorer pictures. Having said that, we all make mistakes in composition from time to time.

I have often shot a scene and then discovered, once I have the images back on the computer, that there is some element on the edge of the frame that spoils the image. Sometimes you just can't see it through the viewfinder or on the small screen on the camera, especially if shooting in low light or high contrast conditions.

For that reason the first reason I use the crop tool is:

Tidying up image edges

A little bit of cropping to tidy up an edge is one of the times that I use the crop tool, but one that I try to avoid if I can by being careful about my composition in the first place.

So, what are the other reasons I turn to the crop tool when shooting landscapes?

Wide angle shots with verticals

When I shoot very wide angle shots that have vertical lines in the scene, such as buildings, trees etc, then I know I am going to have to correct those verticals in post processing. By doing so I will change the composition slightly and some things at the edge of the frame may be lost.

So I tend to shoot these images a little wider than I think I will need so that I can then fine tune the crop once I have corrected the verticals (I use Lightroom to do this and the Guided Upright function is superb)

You can read my article about wide angle lenses HERE

Stitched panoramas 

Panoramas almost always need to be cropped in post as the edges are rarely even and the composition is often difficult to be certain about when in the field.

For that reason I tend to shoot so that I get a wider field of view (both horizontally and vertically) than I think I will need and then crop it to the correct composition after I have stitched it together.

Changing the format

This, to me, is where the power of the crop tool really lies.

DSLR sensors have a 3:2 ratio. For some images that works really well but I must admit I have become particularly partial to either the 16:9 or 8:10 formats for a lot if my landscapes. So I will often shoot with the intention to crop later.

I know that there are some cameras that now have a 16:9 (and maybe an 8:10) preview available (for example, I believe the Canon 5DS has this) so that you can compose the shot and see it in camera with these formats, although the image produced is still 3:2 and needs to be cropped in post.

I have, on a number of occasions, gone even more into the 'letter box' format with 2:1 ratio images. Another format I occasionally use is a 1:1 or square format. I don't use this often for landscapes but sometimes it really does suit the scene better.

The images that I crop to a different format are almost always planned that way so that I compose accordingly in the field rather than cropping being an after thought when I get the images back home (although there are rare occasions when I take the decision later).  

In Summary  

The crop tool is not an excuse to be sloppy about composition but, with planned and considered use it is a fantastically powerful tool and one that we shouldn't be afraid of using  

I hope you've enjoyed this article   Don't forget to check out my landscape photography videos at http://youtube.com/c/ralphgoldsmith

I'll be back with my monthly review at the start of December

(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/11/to-crop-or-not-to-crop Thu, 16 Nov 2017 08:36:02 GMT
November 2017, a look back at October https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/11/november-2017-a-look-back-at-october November 2017, a look back at October

Welcome to my monthly blog post for November 2017 which will, as usual, be a look back at what’s been going on in October.

In my last blog post I announced the start of my Vlogging project and provided a link to my first video on Youtube

Since then I have produced and shared another four videos with a fifth coming soon.

Now that I am doing a lot of the background to my landscape images in video format I did begin to wonder what this blog was going to cover and, for the time being, I’ve decided to split these monthly posts into four sections.

  • Section one will be a kind of general “what’s been going on?” summary.
  • Section two will be about events, exploration and non-landscape photography
  • Section three will be about how the vlogging project is going
  • Section four will be about landscape photography and I will try to include some additional information that may not be included in the videos.

So, with that explanation out of the way… Let’s get started

What’s been going on?

October is an interesting month here. The summer season is over. The lifeguards that have been keeping an eye on the beach all through the summer have packed up and gone and some of the ‘summer only’ businesses and residents have now gone.

The beach hasn’t been empty most days, but there has certainly been a lot less people about.

The temperature has started to come down, as has the humidity, and that makes things a lot more comfortable for getting out and about.

Having said that, we also had some family visitors here during the month and we actually popped back to the UK for a few days.

Our UK trip was split between some ‘errands’ that we needed to perform, basically some appointments and other bits and pieces, and a chance to catch up with some people, including some friends we hadn’t seen for over a year and some family that we hadn’t seen for more than two years.

Also, October is the month in which El Campello celebrates the Fiesta of the Moors and Christians, and that seems like a nice link into the next section.

Events, exploration and non-landscape photography

We haven’t managed much in the way of exploring new places this month, basically there have been too many other things going on. We did however enjoy the massive parade that forms part of the Moors and Christians celebration.

The fiesta starts off on the morning of the 12th October with a huge battle on the beach. The Moorish invaders come in from the sea (having first left the port under the cover of darkness) and the Christians mount a defence using cannons, muskets, swords, staffs and pretty much anything else that comes to hand. Believe me, nobody gets to sleep late in the area that morning.

Last year we watched the battle on the beach and I posted about that in my blog post HERE 

This year we gave the battle a miss but we did go to the big parade in the evening.

The main streets in El Campello are closed off and seats are set up along the side of the route. €5 gets you a seat for the evening and we arrived nice and early to be at the front.

The parade itself kicks off at around seven pm and goes on for nearly three hours. The winning side in the battle, this year it was the Christians, goes first and the Moors follow up. I should perhaps mention that, each year, the winning side alternates. I should also mention that the parade is repeated on the next night and the order is reversed so that the losing side goes first.

The parade is a superb spectacle of colour, noise and action.

There are loads of bands with drums beating and lots of other instruments. Sometimes the bands are so close together that the different music they are playing overlaps, but somehow it all works.

There are people in incredible costumes with amazing detail and colour



Even the animals get to play a part, like this beautiful horse being put through it’s paces on the street



and there are also performers 





If you would like to check out the rest of my images from this parade I have a specific collection on Redbubble that you can see HERE

Of course all of these images are also available to buy as prints and on a variety of merchandise while you’re there.


The Vlogging project

As the vlogging project is new to me I thought it might be of interest to just share how I think it’s going, what I’m learning from the experience and, perhaps, a bit of what I have planned for the future.

When I started out with this I did so with the intention of adding an extra element into my landscape photography. I thought it might be interesting for people who view my still images to have the chance to see what goes on behind the scenes when I am shooting them.

My first video was far from perfect. I know I had lots of technical issues with focus and sound and I suspect my own performance left a lot to be desired.

As I have made a few more I have started to identify areas for improvement. I had some issues with focus and realised that this was, mostly, because I wasn’t familiar with the camera that I was using and wasn’t getting the focus set up correctly. I have, for the most part, overcome that but occasionally I still make some mistakes (my next video includes an example of one of those mistakes).

I also realised that I needed to do something better about the sound. Using the cameras built in microphone was only possible when there was no wind. As soon as the wind got up the audio was horrible.

So I moved over to a separate audio recording device where I can fit a microphone on my collar and even fit a furry wind muff. So far this seems to be working out well. It does require extra work in editing the videos as I now have to align the video and audio clips but, with practice, that is getting easier.

Also, watching myself on video really highlights some annoying habits and mannerisms that I hadn’t previously noted. In my first video I lost count of the number of times I said “errr”.

In my fourth video I struggled to find clips to use where I wasn’t constantly pushing my glasses back up my nose. OK, it was hot and I had my sunglasses on which are a bit heavier, so they were slipping more than normal, but I still hadn’t realised just how often I did it. Hopefully some adjustments to the glasses have partially solved that and some new, lighter, glasses that are on the way should also improve things. (I needed them anyway, I didn't buy them specially for the vlogging :-).

The other thing I’ve noticed is that watching the videos afterwards actually enriches the experience for me. When I shoot an image I normally feel an emotional connection to what I’m shooting. To be honest, if I don’t feel that connection, then the image normally doesn’t work. 

However, reviewing the images later on the computer, it can sometimes be that the emotional connection is not as strong in my memory, and that can make it difficult to see how I need to process the image to recapture in the picture them feeling of the scene at the time.

Watching the video that I shot at the time really helps to take me back to the scene and that’s something I’m finding really beneficial when I look at and process the images.

It’s also providing some insights into my own thought processes and feelings that I may not notice at the time.

I still have a lot of improving to do. I sometimes think my narration to camera is a bit ‘flat’ and I also need to work hard to make sure that I make the right links between the scenes I’m shooting on video and the final images that I present.

Still, I’m enjoying the process and I hope that, if you haven’t already, you’ll check out my video channel and, if you like my videos, subscribe to the channel (which doesn’t cost anything of course). Check it out HERE

Landscape Photography

This month my landscape photography has been pretty close to home

The start of the month saw me making a trip to Cabezon del Oro mountain. 

This trip was one of those occasions when the weather forecasts were completely wrong (all of them). There was supposed to be light cloud and mostly clear skies. What we actually got was some pretty heavy cloud, especially over the top of the mountain, and a constant threat of rain that somehow never materialised. 

Not that I’m complaining. The conditions were actually really great for photography and I got some images that I was really pleased with. A lot of patience was required as it was all about waiting for light to break through the clouds and hoping that it happened in the right place to make the image








The video that accompanies these images is HERE 

A trip out, early in the morning, to the beach of Almadrava required some rethinking when the conditions I was expecting didn’t pan out.

I had some ideas about shooting a large flat rock that sits out of the water just off this beach. Some clouds in the sky and some nice waves could have made this an interesting scene but, when I headed out in the morning it quickly became apparent that the sea wasn’t going to play. The waves were small and barely breaking over the rock.

I still made an attempt at the original plan but it didn’t take long to realise that I had to completely rethink. Rather than the dramatic scene with crashing waves that this composition needed I had to find a composition that would be more about tranquility.

I didn’t have to explore too far before I found a small rock partway up on the sandy beach that the gentle waves were occasionally washing around. This provided the opportunity for several images with some recomposition at different points throughout the shoot to deal with the changing light and the appearance of the sun.






The video that accompanies these images is HERE

In the middle of the month I made an attempt to get up to the tower at Reixes Lloma. I have shot this from the nearby pebble beach a few times but I really wanted to climb up to the top and see what opportunities this would present.

This was another day when the weather wasn’t ideal. Pretty much completely clear skies which really didn’t go well with the scene.

The climb up the hill started in a small urbanisation nearby where I parked the car and, although neither massively tall nor a massively long walk, the climb is actually pretty steep and a bit tiring.

I explored along the narrow ridge that leads across the top of the hill and finally reached the summit that has some spectacular views and even looks down on the medieval watchtower.

A further scramble got me down to the tower but, given the lack of clouds, I didn’t feel there was anything be gained by staying there until sunset to shoot. So, I returned along the ridge and decided to see if a composition looking across to the nearby Cabezon del Oro mountains would work, especially as that was the only direction that had any cloud,

A lot of patience was needed while I waited for the light to paint the scene. This was going to be all about the play of light and shadow over the hills between me and the mountain.

In the end I managed one image that I was quite pleased with but I then managed to take a wrong turn on my way back down the hill and almost got lost. Fortunately I found my way out OK :-)


The video that accompanies this image is HERE

A trip into Villajoyosa early in the morning saw me at a rocky beach next to the Torre del Charco. This is another medieval watchtower, this time perched on the edge of a steep cliff.

Arriving well before sunrise gave me time to consider my composition options. There were no clouds again (the penalty of living in a country that has so much sunshine) so I really didn’t want to have too much sky in the scene. 

I decided on a vertical composition that I would then crop down to around an eight by ten format and waited for the light to be nice on the scene, and for the tower and cliff to be nicely reflected in the rock pool and took the shot.



I then decided to try a horizontal composition and, at the time, I wasn’t sure it worked. Once I got it home on the computer however it was obvious that the same crop factor would also improve this composition and now I’m not sure which one I prefer.


It was as I was packing up to leave that I spotted another opportunity and, despite being really hungry and more than ready to go home for breakfast, I decided to shoot it. This was a wonderfully wind bent tree on the side of the path to the beach that also allowed a view of the watchtower.



The video that accompanies these image is HERE


And so that wraps up my landscape photography for October.

I haven’t been out as much as I would have liked, just because of various other things going on, but when I have been out I think I’ve been pretty lucky with the images I’ve captured.

I should probably say at this point that not every trip is a success. Sometimes I go out and get nothing including, this month, a particularly disappointing trip when the weather and light really didn’t work out. I had sound problems in the video because it was too windy and the one shot that I thought I had managed to salvage turned out to have some motion blur issues because I hadn’t got the tripod quite as stable as I needed in the conditions. Needless to say the image was consigned to the trash. Had the video been OK I might have published it as an example of how it sometimes doesn’t all come together but, considering the poor sound, I decided not to.

With that I’m going to wrap up this months blog post. I just want to leave you with a sneaky still from the next video I will be posting. Don’t forget to head over to my Youtube channel and subscribe. If you set the notification bell then you’ll never miss one of my videos.


My Movie 3My Movie 3

My Youtube channel is HERE

Also, I have two calendars available for order right now

The first is my El Campello Calendar

You can see the calendar in more detail and place your order HERE

The second is called "Landscapes by Ralph Goldsmith"

You can see the calendar in more detail and place your order HERE

In the coming month there will be more landscape photography, hopefully some exploration, and, if all goes to plan, some images and video from a different area of Spain.

Don’t forget I’ll be posting my usual Landscape Photography tip around  the middle of the month as well. If you've already subscribed to my blog then you will get an email telling when I post. If not then you can subscribe now. Just enter your email address in the box over at the right of this page.

Until the next time

Have a great month 




(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/11/november-2017-a-look-back-at-october Thu, 02 Nov 2017 12:53:49 GMT
What's so great about f/11? https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/10/whats-so-great-about-f/11 What's so great about f/11?

Someone recently noted that a lot of my images are shot at f/11. Not all of them to be sure, but enough to make this person notice and ask me why.

It's not an accident, it's a result of a combination of research and experience with my particular camera and lenses.

When I first started out I read some books on landscape photography and got some very basic advice about aperture and depth of field.

The advice was, for a wide depth of field, to have sharpness all the way from the foreground to the background, use a small aperture (a high f number) and for a small depth of field, to blur the foreground or background or both, use a large aperture (a low f number).

Of course it's not quite as simple as that.

For a start the only part of the image that is truly in focus is the point that is focused on. Then there are areas in front of that point and behind that point that are considered 'acceptably sharp'. The size of these areas is dependant on the focal length used, the aperture, and how far away the focus point is.

Then there is the issue that smaller apertures can result in diffraction that can cause a general softness in the image.

All of this then leads on to the concept of Hyperfocal distance. Hyperfocal distance has some mathematical formula behind it but what it means is that, for a given sensor size, focal length and aperture, there is a point that you can focus on that will mean that everything from halfway to that point all the way to infinity will be 'acceptably sharp'.

So, for example. A 20mm focal length on an APS-C (1.5 x crop) sensor at f/8 has a hyperfocal distance of 8.2 feet (2.5 metres). If you focus on a point that far away then everything from 4.1 feet (1.25) metres to infinity will be acceptably sharp.

This means that you can calculate exactly what aperture is necessary to get the depth of field required and exactly how far away to focus.

There are plenty of charts that you can download from the net and, for a while, I carefully calculated the hyperfocal distance for my shots so that I could use the optimum aperture to get what I needed in terms of depth of field without having to worry about diffraction.

Of course the challenge is that the distances were all estimated. I didn't go out with a tape measure and check exactly how far away object were and exactly what the distance was that I was focusing on.

Then there's the problem of defining what is acceptably sharp. I'm not even going to get into that definition and the 'circle of confusion' in this post, maybe in a later one if I'm feeling like a challenge.

I also found that by using the hyperfocal distance charts I could often achieve the required depth of field using much larger apertures like f/5.6 or even f/4.

And this is another challenge because most lenses are not at their sharpest when they are wide open either. In fact most lenses have a 'sweet spot', an aperture when they are the sharpest they can possibly be.

I did research on the lenses that I use most often in my landscape photography. According to most information I could find they should all be at their sharpest at around f/8. But each lens, and each lens and camera combination can be different.

So I did some tests.

I took images at a variety of apertures. I made sure that the subjects were within the depth of field range for the focal length and aperture chosen and I shot them in the same light and used a tripod, cable release and mirror up mode to make sure they were all the best they could be.

I then reviewed them at 100% in Lightroom to see what differences I could make out.

I found that the lenses I was testing were sharpest at between f/8 and f/11. There was no noticeable difference on either of my main lenses between these two apertures.

Larger and smaller apertures than this did show some, very very minor, softness so both f/5.6 and f/16 would produce slightly 'softer' images.

So, for optimum sharpness I should shoot at either f/8 or f/11.

So why f/11?

Given that there is no noticeable difference between the two apertures I choose to shoot at f/11 to give me some extra leeway on depth of field, just in case I misjudge how far away the closest point in the frame is or how far away I am focusing.

Shot at f/11 for maximum sharpness and depth of field

That doesn't mean that I won't shoot at other apertures.

If I feel I need a little extra depth of field I will shoot at f/16, I may also use f/16 to get a sun star effect or to achieve a slower shutter speed.

Shot at f/16 to get the 10 second exposure I wanted

Likewise I may shoot with a larger aperture if I feel that I need to increase shutter speed (and can still get the depth of field I need).

Shot at f/8 to increase shutter speed because I was shooting hand held and with a long focal length

The difference in overall sharpness is so minor that I don't worry about it.

Having f/11 has my default starting point allows me to focus my attention on the creative aspects and making sure that I get the composition right.

Once I have the composition how I feel it should be then I will consider if my vision for the image would be better served by changing the aperture. If it is then I change aperture. If it isn't then I leave it at f/11 and shoot away.

Of course this is with my lenses and my camera. Other equipment combinations may have very different results and that's why I would also do the tests again if I changed any of the equipment. Even if I was changing to the same make and model I would still want to check for that specific set of equipment. Plus, there are still some occasions where I really want to keep my aperture from getting too small and where I know I will be pushing the depth of field limits.

For those occasions I still carry and refer to a Hyperfocal distance chart (or use the Photo Pills app) in order to be more precise.

So, what's the tip here?

Put in a bit of work up front to understand how your gear performs best. Then you don't have to worry about it so much in the field and you can get on with just taking pictures        

I hope you've enjoyed this short tip. 

If you haven't already, head over to Youtube and check out my Landscape Photography videos 

(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/10/whats-so-great-about-f/11 Sun, 15 Oct 2017 08:39:22 GMT
October 2017 - a look back at September https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/10/october-2017---a-look-back-at-september October 2017 - a look back at September 

It’s been a busy month for us here in Spain with a number of family members and friends coming to visit but I’ve still managed to get out and about a few times for some photography, and even started a new project that I’ll talk about a bit later.

We’ve finally started to feel some relief on the temperature and humidity, although that’s only really been in the last half of the month and, now that the season is coming to a close, there are less people about which does make the landscape photography a bit easier.

Photography this month has been, mostly, split between mountains and seascapes, although I did make a couple of visits to Amadorio reservoir, once for a sunrise and once for a sunset (not on the same day though).

My first photo trip of September was a hike up onto Cabezon del Oro mountain. I headed out in the later part of the afternoon with the intention of hiking partway up the summit trail. There was a good forecast for some cloud and I was hoping for some nice images along the way. It was still pretty hot and humid at the time so I knew I was going to get pretty tired so I wasn’t going to push  too far up the trail, but I did want to ‘break some new ground’.

Partway along the trail there is a ‘cross roads’ of four trails right by a large rock which is actually the end of one of the big ridges. When I got to this point I noticed that there was some nice light on the scene, even though it was still about 2 hours before sunset, so I decided to take a break from walking and get a shot of it:

Then it was time to take the right hand turn at the crossroads and start to trek uphill a bit more. I decided to hike up for about an hour, maybe a bit longer, and check out potential compositions as I went. The plan would then be to stop off on the way back to take any shots that I thought might work well.

I reached a point on the trail that I decided would be my turnaround point. I paused for a rest and a drink of water and was briefly joined by some trail runners who carried on up the trail (far too energetic for me). There was some quite impressive clouds forming towards the west and I was hopeful we might get some nice skies as the sun dropped lower. Time to start working my way back.

Shortly after I started back down there was a marked change in the atmosphere of the place. All sounds ceased and even the breeze seemed to disappear. It was quite an odd feeling and then I looked up and saw clouds rolling down over the ridge line that was just above me. It was really very beautiful and I quickly set up to capture the scene:

I reached a point that I had identified on the way up as a potential composition and I was delighted to see the dramatic sky that I was hoping for. It was still about 45 minutes before official sunset, although I knew that the sun would drop behind the mountains 10 to 15 minutes before that. 

As the sun went behind a bank of cloud the sky lit up with some beautiful rays and I was able to get a shot of them:

The rays were really impressive and I quickly moved a bit further down the trail to get a wider vantage point so I could shoot a panorama. It was a bit tricky to get set up because there was nowhere other than the trail (which is on a steep slope) to set up and the trail itself wasn’t very wide.

I eventually got the tripod level and managed to capture 8 vertical frames that I later stitched in Lightroom. I originally had it in colour but ultimately decided that it really suited black and white a lot more.

While I was checking this I saw the colours in the sky shift more to the orange and the clouds over the distant mountain became even darker. I decided to zoom in and try to capture that drama in a more ‘intimate’ shot and I quite like the result:

The sun was getting much lower and it was soon going to disappear behind the mountain. I really wanted to get one more shot and I moved further down the trail, trying to find a composition that would take advantage of the scenery, and of the dramatic sky.

In the end I pretty much ran out of time and I had to either make something work or lose the chance so I picked a spot, set up and managed one final image before the sun went behind the mountains. I like the image but can’t help but feel there was a better composition to be had if I’d only left myself a bit more time:


It was then time to start heading back down the trail. I still had about an hours hike to get back to the car.

My next trip was to a little spot on the coast called Llop Mari, which is still in El Campello. This is somewhere I have shot before but I do believed in working a good location. In this case I was looking a a different vantage point, just to the north of the cove of Llop Mari where it joins the next section of beach (Playa Amerador).

I had been there a few days earlier to check it out and found there were some lovely rocks and then the long curve of the cove edge. At this time of year I felt this could make for a really nice dawn composition with the sun rising on the horizon.

Llop Mari is about a 25 minute walk from home and is accessed along a private road. I could have driven part of the way there but I actually prefer to walk it.

On arrival I set up in my chosen spot and decided to see if I could get two different images from essentially the same spot.

My first one was a vertical format image taken about 15 minutes before sunrise. The exposure time was just over half a second so there is some blurring in the waves, but they are not completely smooth. I quite liked the effect with the subtle pre-sunrise colours.

It was then a matter of waiting until the sun put in an appearance to get my second image. 

I switched back to horizontal orientation and re-composed. I wanted to catch the action of the waves breaking in the foreground with the un out on the horizon.

As I was waiting a small group of people turned up and stood out on the end of the headland. At first I was disappointed as I thought they would ruin the image for me but, the more I looked, I realised they actually added something.

Once the sun was up I started shooting. Catching the perfect wave action often requires shooting quite a lot of images and then selecting the best one later. In this case I found one that I thought was just about a perfect match for what I wanted:

My third and fourth trips took me to Amadorio reservoir, a favourite location because it’s not too far away and because it offers a lot of different opportunities for images.

First it was a dawn shoot.

I must admit that, on this occasion, I didn’t have much of a plan. I had really decided to go on the spur of the moment and I just decided to head down to the waters edge, at the base of a small hill, and then try to find a composition.

I got there while it was still fairly dark and I did my initial exploring with the aid of my trusty head torch but it was starting to get light before I discovered what I was looking for. There were a couple of small fallen trees right on the waters edge (they may actually be all part of the same tree), and I thought they would make a nice composition. There are actually quite a lot of these fallen trees about. The water level was low here for so long (several years I believe) that these small trees started to grow quite a long way down the banks of the reservoir. When we had the heavy rains over the winter the water level rose substantially and a lot of these trees were uprooted and gradually came to rest on the banks.

I had a bit of time before the light would be right, I had to wait for the sun to clear a hill off to one side in order to get some light on the foreground, so I spent a few minutes just enjoying the peace of the scene and generally looking around. 

That’s when I noticed what was developing behind me on the top of the hill. A small group of trees  was catching some beautiful light and they were set against a sky that was developing some gorgeous colours.

I decided I had time to get a shot and I set up with a longer lens to get this image:

Then it was back to my original composition. 

I switched to a wide angle lens so that I could get in really close to the trees and exaggerate the size of them compared to the rest of the scene. Tripod half in the water to get the angle I wanted I composed the shot. The sky was really nice and I hoped it would hold while I waited for the light on the foreground. Finally the sun broke through and I got the shot:

Then (well the next day) it was an evening shoot.

I went up there a bit early to have a walk around, check out some potential compositions and then, as the sun started to get lower, I would try to get some shots.

When I arrived there were some really nice clouds in the sky. It was a bit breezy so probably not a day to try to get reflections, but it was looking promising for a nice sunset. I spent a couple of hours walking around different areas and found a couple of compositions. A short break and then I would start to set up to get some shots.

It was as I was making my way towards my first location that I realised the clouds were going to cause me some problems. Basically the wind was pushing them off to the south which was leaving clearer skies in the cereal direction of the sunset. Great for light but not so good for the compositions I had planned.

As I reached my first location and set up I could see that the clouds were clearing from one side of my chosen frame. I had intended to make this shot just as the sun dipped t the edge of the mountains but, by the time that happened, I suspected the sky in that direction would be completely clear (and boring).

So, I decided to take the shot a bit earlier. A 10 stop ND filter enabled me to get an exposure time of 62 seconds at f/16. There was a small, and completely stripped, tree trunk laying partway in the water and some nice reeds a little way out.

I like the image although I still think it would have been better if I could have waited but it just wouldn't have worked without the clouds:

By the time the sun started to set properly the clouds were all off in completely the wrong direction. I could have headed for home at that point but there was still some nice colour in the sky and I wanted to see if there were any other possibilities. 

I then spotted some kind of grass growing on top of a rocky hill that was getting some nice colours in the sky behind it. A quick change to a longer lens and I managed this image:

A little bit of recomposing and a wider focal length and I took another shot that showed a bit more of the surrounding scenery and some lovely light on the rocks:

None of these are award winners but I still like them and I was glad I had gone out for the evening.

Back to the coast for the next shoot and it was an early morning.

I’ve learned from experience that weather forecasts, in particular clouds forecasts, are not to be trusted. On this particular morning there was no cloud forecast but I was up and about so I decided to head out and see what I could get.

I wandered up to the end of the main town beach in El Campello and onto the section called Punta del Riu. This is a rocky beach and, as well as the small pebbles making up most of it, there are some larger rocks just off the edge.

Despite the forecast saying 0% cloud there was some. Not a great deal but enough to add some interest to the sky.

As I arrived on location about 30 minutes before sunrise there was some nice colours in the sky but the scene was pretty dark.

I used a wide angle lens (10mm) and fitted a 2 stop ND hard graduated filter to darken the sky and balance the exposure with the foreground. A test shot at f/11 and ISO 6400 gave me good exposure at 2 seconds so it should work out well for f/11, ISO 100 and 2 minutes (see my tip for correctly exposing long exposures).

Four minutes later (I used the in camera long exposure noise reduction so it took another 2 minute image with the shutter closed to subtract any hot spots and noise), and I had an image that I was already pleased with. In fact, this image was chosen by the editors at redbubble.com to be featured on their home page for a while.

I waited around, there might be some extra images to get as the light and conditions change.

About 10 minutes before sunrise the clouds starting to really catch fire. The really wide angle was no longer suitable as I needed to make a bit more of a feature of the clouds. I went to 18mm and re-composed to include fewer rocks. f/11 for 3 seconds produced quite a nice image:

As the sun came up the cloud actually started to reduce, particularly higher in the sky. I changed focal length to 15mm re-composed again, cutting out all but one rock, and went to f/16 to see if I could get a bit of a sun star (I thought it was unlikely as there was a bit of cloud in front of it). As the sky was now a lot brighter I also changed the ND graduated filter to a 3 stop.

The final image of the morning was this one:

Where next? Back to the mountain of course. 

This was another afternoon and evening but, instead of heading towards the summit I took another trail that leads to an area called Racó de Seva.

This walk took me along the western side of the mountain and then between the main northern peak and a tall ridge.

On the way up, about 45 minutes after setting out from the car, I came to a spot that was looking interesting in the late afternoon light. 

Because the ridge would soon be blocking out a lot of the sun this was the optimum time to shoot this scene, even though it was about 2 hours before sunset. 

I like the trees on the side of the ridge that were catching the light and also the way that the big cliff seemed to loom over the scene:

Once I had this shot in the bag I carried on to the highest point on Racó de Seva which gave some stunning views back along the valley between the mountain and the ridge. It was about an hour before sunset and, again, because of the sun about to be blocked by the ridge, this was the best time to shoot.

The image was really focused on the dramatic presence of the main part of the mountain and the trees on the slopes:

Once this was done I started back down, I wanted to get to a particular vantage point that I had checked out on the way up in time for the last light on the scene. I had to hurry a bit, fortunately it was down hill all the way and I made it in about 45 minutes.

The scene was perched on a hill on the side of the mountain looking up towards the same cliff and ridge line that I had just been to. I wanted to catch the low light on the sides of the mountain, on the shapes in the slopes and on the more distant hills which are covered in trees.

Once I was set up I added a circular polarising filter and just waited for the light to be at it’s best. I could have hoped for some nicer clouds but otherwise I was pretty pleased with this image:

While I had been shooting this scene I was keeping an eye on the actual sunset which was, pretty much, 90 degrees to my left. The sky was getting some really nice colours but the scene was far too bright. However, once the sun dipped below the mountain, an interesting scene presented itself. 

The mountains and ridges, which are at different distances, created some interesting laters with the backdrop of a very red and fiery sky.

I removed the polarising filter and and zoomed in to 50mm to get a tighter shot. I knew as I was composing the image that this was going to end up as a wide crop and so I composed it accordingly.

I waited a bit longer after this, just to see if anything even more interesting happened in the sky, but this really was the best of it and so I made my way back down to the car and then home.

Now we come to the shoot that was, I think, my favourite of the month. This was because I got my favourite image of the month from it.

I headed up to El Banyets early in the morning. Well, I say early, to be honest, sunrise was at about 07:50 so it wasn’t like I had to get up at 4 AM. In fact I left home at about 06:50 and walked up to the site which is just at the far side of the marina in El Campello. 

When I arrived I thought I had the place completely to myself but then I saw there was someone fishing there as well. Actually, when I first arrived, I saw the fishing rods and then the fisherman who was having a sleep in the shelter of the rocks. Perhaps he had been there all night, I have no idea.

I knew as soon as I got there that this was going to be good. The sky was nice, cloud and colour even well before sunrise. Also, there was some really nice waves breaking over the rocks.

I didn’t rush to set up. I took plenty of time choosing my composition and considering how best to shoot the image. I wanted to wait until the sky was quite a bit brighter so that I could get a fast enough shutter speed to really capture the water breaking and running on the rocks.

The composition I had chosen used a channel in the rocks as the foreground interest which then leads the eye out to the waves breaking over the rocks and then on to the pretty coloured sky. Often this channel is so protected that the water is completely still but, because of the strong waves, the water was being forced up the channel and creating quite a nice effect.

The cloud actually blocked the sun from showing through as it rose but this wasn’t a problem, I didn’t really need the sun in the shot.

I used a 2 stop ND hard graduated filter to balance the light and an aperture of f/11 to get an exposure time of 0.6 seconds:

At this point I was convinced I had the best image for this composition but I decided to see if there was anything else that might work.

The fisherman was stationed over to my left in an area where a curved channel with a small central ‘island’ breaks up the rocks. The waves coming through there looked quite interesting so I moved over and set up.

Shortly after I moved into position a phenomena that I have noticed here before began to occur. Shortly after the sun comes up there is a marked increase in the size and frequency of the waves. This can be quite dramatic and, in this case the waves began crashing higher and higher on the rocks, each new wave coming in quickly behind the last one.

The fisherman and I looked at each other briefly and, as one, moved our bags and other items safely out of the way while, in my case, I kept a close look to make sure my camera and tripod was not about to be swamped.

Because the waves were breaking so quickly I needed a faster shutter speed to catch them, otherwise the whole scene was just a mass of blurred white foam. Fortunately f/11 allowed me to get 1/20 second which was just about perfect. 

The sight was impressive, as was the sound. A long continues booming sound as the waves beat on the rocks with occasionally loud cracks as the water closed air pockets underneath some of the rocks.

I took several shots, it was impossible to predict exactly when the best time would be so I just shot plenty and then decided to choose the best one later.

And then it was all over. The waves settled back into a more normal size and rhythm and I was left wonderful if I had managed to capture the magic of the moment.

I think I did and it’s my favourite image of the month:

My last two shoots of the month were also seascapes and were also close to home.

For the penultimate shoot I wandered out one morning towards the southern end of the beach and set up my tripod near to the stone breakwater there. To be honest I wasn’t too hopeful as there wasn’t much cloud in the sky and, as a rule, I don’t have much success with seascapes and clear skies. Still, I was there so why not.

I tried a couple of long exposure images, 30 seconds or so, but I really didn’t like the way they were coming out. I waited a bit until it got brighter and went for a slightly faster exposure of 1 second which produced a pleasant image:

As the sun started to rise I started to get a feel for another image that might work. I would need a longer focal length to get the breaking waves further out on the breakwater, and the rising sun itself, a bit larger in the frame. I also felt that this was an image that would work best as a wide letterbox style, thus avoiding having a lot of boring sky or uninteresting foreground.

I made sure my tripod was level and zoomed in on my 18-105 lens to 105mm. The idea was to shoot 2 overlapping horizontal format images and then merge them later in Lightroom to create a small panorama. 

I think it worked:

And now we come onto the final shoot of the month and this is also the time to come back to that new project that I mentioned at the beginning of the post.

In addition to my monthly blog, and my monthly tips, I’ve decided to have a go at shooting some videos. These are not intended to be tutorials. I just thought it would be an idea to take you along on some of my shoots. Let you see the surroundings and what I’m doing about shooting them.

So… On the final shoot of this month I also shot some video.

The first thing to say is that this is all new to me. I’ve shot underwater video before but this vlog type video is something completely different. 

I’m shooting the video on an unfamiliar camera and also trying to make sure that I keep my focus on the photography.

So my first video is a bit rough. There are some parts of it where the focus doesn’t seem to have worked quite right. I’m not sure if that’s because of the low light or if it was user error (I suspect user error). I’m also very aware that I need to work on levelling the shots a bit more, particularly when I’m trying to show you what the scene is like.

Nevertheless, I thought I’d share it anyway and, if you think it shows promise and you’d like to see more, then please subscribe to my Youtube channel I'm aiming to produce a new video about once a week.

The two images that I took on this shoot are:


I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. As always I appreciate any likes or shares you would care to give me. Also as always I welcome any comments.

I’ll be back for my monthly tip tip post in a couple of weeks and don’t forget to look out for more videos



(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/10/october-2017---a-look-back-at-september Sun, 01 Oct 2017 11:03:46 GMT
Blue Skies Make Me Blue - What Do I Do? https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/9/blue-skies-make-me-blue---what-do-i-do Blue Skies Make Me Blue - What Do I Do?

One thing I've noticed is that there's lots of advice available on how to shoot landscape images in ‘bad’ weather. What to do if the skies are overcast, if it’s raining, when its foggy. What’s much harder to find is advice for when the weather isn’t ‘bad’. When the skies are blue and there’s not a cloud in the sky.

There is a saying that landscape photographers love bad weather. In general the weather before and after storms, when there’s heavy clouds and lots of definition in the sky, creates a sense of drama and dynamism that’s hard to get any other way.

Clouds are, for the most part, the landscape photographers friend. They diffuse the light create beautiful soft tones and textures. They create shadows on the landscape. They also, of course, add interest to the sky.

But what happens when there’s no cloud? What can you do to capture beautiful landscape images on clear days?

Because I live in a country that has lots of sunshine this is something I often find myself dealing with, and I wanted to share a few of my experiences about how to get good images when the sky is clear.

The first thing to say is that you are unlikely to get moody and dramatic images on days with clear skies. If that’s the kind of image you want then you really will need to come back another time when the clouds are present.

I normally try to plan my shoots for when there is going to be cloud but, as I have found over time, the weather forecasts here, particularly forecasts for cloud cover, are completed unreliable.

So, if I’m out and the promised clouds aren’t there then I have to make a decision. Sometimes it’s go home but, more often than not, I will carry on and see what I can get. 

Personally, my first choice when the sky is blue is to shoot an image where a large amount of the sky is taken up with something fairly big to break up the blue. This could be a mountain, or a tree, or a hill, or anything that takes your fancy. By breaking up the sky in this way you avoid having a great big expanse of blue that can be quite boring.

Another option is to go a bit further and almost fill up the sky with something. This often means shooting with a longer focal length and / or getting in close to a subject. I often find backlit trees work well for this kind of shot.

Or, if you have something suitable in the area, fill the whole sky up with it. It has to be something interesting and I often find this works best if the thing I am shooting is side lit rather than being in shadow or front lit.

Another way to break up a lot of blue sky is to go for the ‘frame in the frame’ approach. Find a nice focal point and then find a vantage point that lets you frame it with something else.

Another option is to get up high and look down on a scene. This way you can exclude the sky completely and, if the light is coming from the side you can get some lovely texture from the play of light and shadows on the landscape.

You can also create a feature of the blue sky. In this case I would look for something that really contrasts against the blue and try to come up with a composition. That’s what I did in this image where the late afternoon light on the mountain created a nice warm glow that contrasted well with the deep blue of the sky

A few things that I tend to avoid when the sky is clear

Shooting towards the light. 

Often, when there is a clear sky, shooting towards the light will result in the sky taking on a pale and washed out look. I normally find that shooting with the sun to one side, or behind me works best. The exception is if I am shooting something like a tree with backlighting when I’m not too worried about the sky.


In general I find that seascapes look pretty dull with a blue sky. The reason for this is normally because there is a lack of contrast between the sea and the sky and the image tends to just merge together. Of course if you have some nice sea stacks or something like that then it may well work.

Wide angle lenses with polarisers

As I mentioned in my tips for shooting with wide angle lenses this combination can be a problem, having said that, the image of the orange glow on the mountain and the deep blue sky above only worked with a polariser, I just had to be really careful not to overdo it.

Two options that I haven’t mentioned here are Black and White and Infrared.

I have seen some quite stunning images of both kinds taken when the sky is clear and blue. The contrast that can be achieved is remarkable. The reason that I’m not covering them is simply because they are not things I do often (in the case of Infrared, ever) so it doesn't feel right to make any recommendations about them when I don’t have the right experience of them.

There is a third option that I haven’t covered and that’s the sky replacement or adding clouds in Photoshop option. I have seen some beautiful images created by the addition of clouds or complete skies in Photoshop. It’s something I’ve played with out of interest, just to see how it works, but, to be honest, I’ve never had any real success with it. That’s probably down to my photoshop skills and patience. There are plenty of tutorials out there if you want to learn how to do this, just search on YouTube. Of course there are people who will say this is cheating, but I always say ‘it’s your art, create it however you like’.

I hope you’ve found this of interest. If there’s a topic you’d like me to cover in these posts then please let me know in the comments.


(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/9/blue-skies-make-me-blue---what-do-i-do Fri, 15 Sep 2017 08:21:16 GMT
September 2017 - A Look Back at Augusts Landscape Photography https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/9/september-2017---a-look-back-at-augusts-landscape-photography September 2017 - A Look Back at Augusts Landscape Photography 

August has been, pretty much, what we would have expected here on the Costa Blanca in Spain. The temperature has been high, lots of sunshine and also lots of humidity. All, that is, apart from the last few days which has been mostly overcast, stormy and raining. 

In general it’s not been the best conditions for landscape photography but that doesn't mean that good images aren't possible. In fact I’ve had some very successful shoots this month, I've just had to work harder to get them.

As I've mentioned before, the challenges of the summer have to do with the weather. This is a sunny region and we tend to get a lot of clear blue skies. Lovely for sitting on the beach, not normally so good for photography. Of course we do get some bad weather as well. In fact, the last few days of August has been raining and stormy. Unfortunately this almost always results in grey and overcast skies. The number of days with nice clouds and light is actually pretty small.

Also, the heat, combined with the humidity, can make it really difficult to do longer hikes to get to interesting locations. I did a few one hour (each way) hikes in the mountains this month and had to carry two and a half litres (5.3 pints) of water with me to make sure I could stay hydrated. 

On the upside, the sun rise and set positions have started to come around more to the south now and that opens up a lot more locations. Another month and it will be better still. Also, as the summer season comes to an end, we will soon start to see most places getting a lot quieter which also opens up more possibilities.

So… what have been the successes this month?

I’m going to start off with a shoot that I did at a favourite location, Amadorio reservoir.

This body of water is about a 25 minute drive away. I’ve done numerous shoots here in many different areas of the reservoir, and I still keep finding possibilities. It’s always worth working a good location, going back and shooting in different conditions, at different times of the day, at different times of the year.

This particular shoot started with me going out for an afternoon hike to look for potential compositions that would work if I had no clouds (I really wanted to do a shoot the next morning and the forecast was for cloudless skies).

 It was a hot and sunny afternoon and I just went for a walk. I didn't take my camera gear, just a light rucksack, plenty of water and a little compact camera in case I wanted to make some reference images.

I spent a good couple of hours walking around and I’d found a couple of potentials but, if I’m honest, nothing that was really grabbing me. 

As I was heading back to the car I looked up along the hillside on the near side of the dam and I noticed a wall that I hadn't seen before, I decided to pop up and have a look. 

When I got there I found a small, almost hidden, area that overlooked the reservoir and provided some interesting possibilities. 

I tried a couple of potential compositions with the little camera, again mostly focused on what I would choose to shoot if there were no clouds. These were just about the composition possibilities. The light at the time was not very nice and this wasn’t an image I was planning to keep.

I came up with a possible composition that I thought would work well for an early morning shot with no cloud and so I headed for home:

The next morning I was up early and, this time with my full gear and tripod, I headed back to Amadorio and the little area I had found. But I was in for a surprise. Cloud.

OK, it wasn't a lot of cloud. Just some fine wispy cloud high in the sky but something that would pick up some light from the sun which would be rising behind me and to my right. This meant I would go for a different composition, one with a lot more sky in it that would hopefully make the most of the cloud.

I set up with the camera on the tripod, I had to extend the centre column on the tripod to get the camera high enough to get the angle of view I wanted without having the wall in the frame.

I set up with my 18-105 lens on and fitted my filter holder with a circular polarising filter on the front. I could get away with quite a large aperture if I wanted but I decided to wait and see what the conditions were like once we started to get some light on the scene.

As the time for sunrise came there was some nice colours in the clouds, but no light on the foreground yet. I knew that there were some hills between where I was and where the sun was rising so it was probably going to take a while after official sunrise for the light to put in an appearance. 

As time past some light started to appear on the distant mountains and then, very slowly, on the rest of the scene. The more vivid colour had started to fade from the sky but there was still some pink and magenta in the clouds. The wind was also starting to get up a bit and the surface of the lake was getting quite a rough texture. I decided a longer exposure would improve the look.

A 6 stop ND filter (Lee Little Stopper) and an aperture of f/16 allowed me to get 30 seconds. I waited until I could see some light on the tops of the trees in the foreground and then took the shot.

Post processing was minor. In Lightroom I balanced the scene a little with the Highlights and Shadows sliders and also the Black and White points. I added a bit of vibrance and saturation and colour corrected for the ND Filter (not much of an adjustment the Lee filter is pretty good).

In Photoshop I cleaned up a few minor distracting elements on the distant mountain side and sharpened the image a bit. 

All in all I was really pleased with the way this one came out:

It's going to be a beautiful dayEarly morning view over Amadorio lake in Spain to the mountains beyond, with low side light on the scene and the remainder of the dawn colour still visible in the sky Nikon D7100 Nikon 18-105 lens at 18mm f/16 for 30 seconds ISO 100 Circular Polarising Filter 2 stop ND soft grad 6 stop ND filter

I made a couple of trips into the mountains and managed some quite long hikes, despite the heat and humidity. I really wanted to try out some different vantage points that I thought might work well for evening shoots. Basically some nice views that would hopefully pick up some side lighting as the sun got low in the sky.

On my first trip I actually went in the morning just to scout the area out. The logic behind this was that most of the trail I was going to be on is in shade until quite late in the morning because the mountain would be directly between the trail and the sunrise. Again I went light. No camera gear, just the compact camera and plenty of water.

I did a hike of about an hour to get to a particular point called Racó de Seva (which doesn't seem to actually translate very well but looks like it might mean Your Corner or Corner of Yours in Valencian). Racó de Seva sits between two ridges of the Cabezon del Oro mountain and has some quite superb views down through the valley between which is covered in trees.

I spent a bit of time exploring the area and considering a few potential compositions with the intention of coming back in the evening when the light would be coming from the opposite side and lighting up the mountain.

A few days later and I decided to give it a go. The weather forecasts was promising some clouds but, as I’ve come to realise, you can’t trust the weather forecast and, on this occasion, I was right and there was not a cloud in the sky.

Nevertheless I carried on with the shoot, trudging up the trail, gaining a bit of height, and finally arriving, somewhat hot and tired, back at the area I had previously scouted.

I waited around for a while looking at what the light was doing and, eventually decided on a composition. I wanted to get some nice light on the tops of the trees and also on the mountain peak in the top of the frame. I minimised the amount of empty sky as much as I thought I could. 

I was using the 18-105 lens at 21mm. f/11 for 1/25 second at ISO 100. I was shooting pretty close to 90 degrees from the angle of the sun and so I had on a circular polarising filter which did a good job of adding some saturation and contrast to the scene.

Once I got some nice light where I thought it looked best I took the image.

Then it was time to start the hour long hike back.

The final image was processed to bring up the shadows and add some vibrance and a touch of saturation before being sharpened:

Cabezon del oro from Racó de SevaThe view towards the main peaks of Cabezon del Oro mountain in Spain from Racó de Seva with the sun dropping low in the sky to the right and behind the scene Nikon D7100 Nikon 18-105 lens at 21mm f/11 for 1/25 second ISO 100 Circular Polarising Filter

Actually, I did take a couple of other shots while I was there and you can check them out in Redbubble by clicking on the thumbnails below:

My third trip to Cabezon del Oro was on a lower trail that took me to the western side of the ridge. 

Again the weather forecast was wrong and the promising clouds that were in the sky when I set out all disappeared long before sunset. Nevertheless, I had hiked for nearly an hour and I was going to find something to shoot.

I played around with a couple of compositions but nothing was really grabbing me although I quite liked this shot that I took of a tree and its shadow on the edge of a small cliff top:

Tree ShadowA tree on the edge of a hill on the side of Cabezon del Oro mountain in Spain near to sunset casting a shadow over the foreground Nikon D7100 Nikon 18-105 lens at 18mm f/11 for 1/125 second ISO 100

I really wanted something else but I wasn’t sure what. This is unusual for me as I normally have some compositions in mind but I had decided to come to this spot without exploring it first.

There were several compositions that might have worked if the sun had been setting more to the south, or if there had been some nice clouds. Finally, just before the sun dipped behind the mountains to the west I spotted a scene with the northern end of Cabezon del Oro glowing almost orange in the light from the low sun and this made for a great contrast with a the deep blue sky. I tried to find the best way to shoot this and ended up shooting a vertical composition knowing that the immediate foreground was not great and that I would probably crop it to a 1:1 ratio.

Again I had the 18-105 lens on, this time at 18mm, and I used an aperture of f/11 for 1/5 second. A Circular Polarising Filter again helped to boost the contrast and saturation.

Post processing was just a boost of the shadows and some black and white point adjustments combined with a boost to the vibrance and some sharpening. It’s not my best ever image but I actually quite like it:

Mountain glow, blue skyThe ridge at the northern end of Cabezon del Oro mountain in Spain glows orange in the light of the setting sun contrasting with the clear blue sky Nikon D7100 Nikon 18-105 lens at 18mm f/11 for 1/5 second ISO 100 Circular Polarising Filter

I then started the hike back. along the trail. About three quarters of the way back, as it was starting to get quite dark, I was keeping a close eye on the trail at my feet and not really looking ahead that much. I hadn't seen a single person the whole time I had been on the mountain (lovely). 

I turned a bend in the trail and suddenly there was movement ahead of me. Something large and dark was right in front of me and I almost collided with it. I must admit my heart rate went up a bit before I realised there was a family of donkeys on the trail (a Jack a Jenny and a Foal).

Despite it now being far too dark I decided to try to get a shot of them. This was the best I could manage, it’s nowhere near good enough to sell, far too much noise and not even particularly sharp (because I went to ISO 3200 to get a shot and that's just too high on my camera), but it’s a nice reminder of the encounter.


Once they had assured themselves that I had no food to give, and the foal (which was very cute) had given my camera bag a thorough check over, they lost interest in me and I left then in peace. I don't know if they live wild on the mountain, they certainly had no ropes or harnesses on, or whether they had just been left there for the night.

Of course, not every photoshoot involved lots of walking, or even travelling far from home.

I have managed some very nice morning shoots in the area around the main beach in El Campello, all of which I can reach in around a 20 minute walk from home.

I decided to ignore weather forecasts and just see what I could get, although I did look at the weather forecasts just so I could see if they were wrong or not.

My first shoot was at a rocky beach called Playa Punta del Riu (or river point beach). This is also known as Playa Can and, because it is a beach that dogs are allowed on (they are not allowed on the main beaches in the summer season) it is also known as the Dog Beach.

I had wandered down to this area a couple of days before, just to see if anything had changed since the last time I was here, and I really thought there was the chance for some compositions here if the weather co-operated.

So.. I ended up walking down here early in the morning, arriving a bit before sunrise, and looked for a composition that would make the most of some really quite nice clouds.

My first choice was for a shot that used the whole of one of the rock pools as the foreground interest and had a quite nice sky and the distant coastline and mountains on the horizon. This looked nice because the clouds and colours were reflecting nicely in the still water of the pool.

It was still quite dark, although the sky was getting brighter. I used a 2 stop ND Hard Graduated filter to balance the light and f/16 gave me a 5 second exposure:

Dog beach dawnJust before sunrise by a rockpool on the Playa Can, also known as Play Punta del Riu, also known as The Dog Beach in EL Campello Spain. The nearby hills and even the shape of Puig Campana mountain can be seen in the distance Nikon D7100 Nikon 18-105 lens at 18mm f/16 for 5 seconds ISO 100

I had intended to stay in this spot and use the same composition just after sunrise but, as I watched the sky, I soon realised that the clouds were clearing from the direction I was shooting.

As the sun started to rise I found another composition, this time shooting more out to sea and using some of the rocks in the pool, along with the colours reflected in the still water, as the foreground interest. A vertical format allowed me to fit in what I wanted and avoid any distractions to either side. f/16 gave me 1.3 seconds, still with the ND Hard Grad in place:

Rocking a sunriseSunrise from a rockpool on the Playa Can, also known as Play Punta del Riu, also known as The Dog Beach in EL Campello Spain Nikon D7100 Nikon 18-105 lens at 24mm f/16 for 1.3 seconds ISO 100

I quite liked both of these shots but I could help but feel there was something better to be had in the general area. So I decided to head back there again in a couple of days.

The next time I went I actually didn't go quite as far and I found some nice rocks on the edge of the beach. I didn't have the nice still water of the tidal pool but I liked the composition potentials.

My first shot was taken just after I arrived, which was half an hour before sunrise. I got pretty close to the rocks and used a 2 stop ND hard grad to balance the light. Exposure worked out at f/11 for 20 seconds. There was a little bit of cloud in the sky but not much, nevertheless I quite liked the image:

Rocks waiting for the sunRocks on the pebble beach at Punta del Riu in El Campello Spain about 30 minutes before sunrise Nikon D7100 Nikon 18-105 lens at 18mm f/10 for 20 seconds ISO 100 2 stop ND hard graduated filter

I kept an eye on the clouds and, as sunrise was approaching, I saw a small cloud formation coming together in a really interesting shape. I decided to abandon my previous composition and find one that would work well with this cloud.

I settled on moving a bit further away from the rock and looking a bit more northwards. A vertical composition allowed me to fit in some smaller rocks, the edge of the pebble beach and the larger rocks in a way that I felt complemented the cloud pattern.

Just before sunrise I noticed that the light and the colours were beautifully soft and delicate. I really liked the way this was coming together.

The 2 stop ND Hard Grad balanced the exposure and a Circular Polarising Filter took some glare off of the rocks. I decided that a longer exposure would work best with the delicate colours and light and went for a 6 stop ND filter to get a 61 second exposure (lens at 18mm, f/11, ISO 100). Processing was minimal again. I didn't add much vibrance as the scene, for me, was all about the delicate nature of the colours:

Pastel sunrise at the rocksJust before the sunrise at Playa Punta del Riu, El Campello, Spain. The long exposure helps to accentuate the soft colours just before the sun clears the horizon Nikon D7100 Nikon 18-105 lens at 18mm f/11 for 61 seconds ISO 100 Lee 6 stop ND filter (Little Stopper) Lee 2 stop ND hard graduated filter

As the sun started to clear the horizon I decided on one more shot. The composition I had just used didn't feel right for the more vibrant and contrasty scene I was getting so I went to a horizontal format and a slightly longer focal length (21mm). It was a lot brighter and my 6 stop ND filter was now only giving me a 6 second exposure. That was good, much longer and the moving sun would end up looking oval:

Sunrise on the rocksThe sun clear the horizon and lights up the rocks at Playa Punta del Riu, El Campello, Spain Nikon D7100 Nikon 18-105 lens at 21mm f/11 for 6 seconds ISO 100 6 stop ND filter (Lee Little Stopper)

I found it interesting to look at these three images together and see how the light and contrast changed over the period. I actually like all three images but I think the softer light and colours of the middle image make this one my favourite.

Next there was a dawn shoot at Reixes Lloma in the north of El Campello. I headed up in the car early in the morning on a day that was forecasting lots of cloud and the potential for thunderstorms. It was a bit of a gamble as the clouds could be too much and I might end up with no light on the scene.

I parked and walked down onto the beach which is mostly made up of large pebbles. The beach is actually called Les Llomas de Reixes Platja (in Valencian). I got right up to the waters edge and arranged a composition looking towards the hill and tower (Torre de Reixes) using the surf line and the pebbles to lead the eye in towards the hill.

It was pretty cloudy. There was a little bit of light coming through but the area where the sun was due to rise was looking completely clouded over.

I waited for a while and finally, about 15 minutes before sunrise, some light started to break through the clouds and we started to get a bit of colour in the sky. Not a lot, but enough to make it interesting.

I decided on a long exposure. It was pretty dark anyway and at f/8 I was getting about a 3 second exposure. I went for my 6 stop ND filter, which should give me a 3 minute exposure. I took a test shot with the filter at ISO 6400, checked it and then went back to ISO 100 (see my article on testing long exposures), switched to BULB mode and opened the shutter.

As always with long exposures I try to keep an eye on how the light might be changing during the shot. I felt that it was getting quite a lot brighter and I decided to err on the side of caution and I cut the exposure off at 166 seconds instead of letting it run for the full 3 minutes.

I checked the histogram and it looked good, maybe a fraction underexposed but not enough to worry about.

The image required some minor colour correction in Lightroom for the filter and then just standard RAW processing (highlights, shadows, black and white points, vibrance).

All in all I like the way the image came out:

Reixes Lloma long exposureLong exposure image of the torre de Reixes taken from the Les Llomas de Reixes Platja which is a pebble beach in the north of El Campello, Spain. About 15 minutes before sunrise with lots of clouds Nikon D7100 Nikon 18-105 lens at 18mm f/8 for 166 seconds ISO 100 6 stop ND filter (Lee Little Stopper)

I then waited to see if the sunrise would bring anything.

There was just a glimmer of light at about the time the sun was due to rise but nothing worth getting excited about. I waited a bit longer.

Finally, about 20 minutes after sunrise the sun partially broke through the clouds, not completely but at least enough to put some soft light on the overall scene.

I wanted to catch the waves breaking over the pebbles. I had a Circular Polariser on the camera  with a slightly longer focal length of 24mm, which I though worked better for this composition, and an aperture of f/11 was giving me a shutter speed of 1/3 second. I thought that looked about right for the speed and size of the waves.

It was then just a case of waiting for some waves to break and then firing off some shots. As always when I’m trying to get waves breaking I take plenty of shots and then see which one is best when I get home.

I had a couple of quite nice captures to choose from but, in the end, I felt this one had the nicest shape and pattern in the wave, and also the nicest light on the hill:

Reixes Lloma and breaking wavesWaves breaking the pebble beach of Les Llomas de Reixes in the north of El Campello, Spain with the hill and tower of Reixes Lloma. Shortly after sunrise on a cloudy day Nikon D7100 Nikon 18-105 lens at 24mm f/11 for 1/3 second ISO 100

When I left Reixes Lloma I really thought that was going to be it for the month. The weather forecast for the next few days was for storms and rain and 100% cloud cover (read grey and overcast), and I didn't think there would be much point getting out and about.

For the next few days we had the storms, we had the rain (and a lot of it) and we had the grey skies, and I stayed at home and didn't bother going out. Each morning I looked out of the window to check I had made the right choice, and each evening I waited to see if I would regret not having gone out somewhere. 

Finally. On 31st August I just decided to take a gamble and head out for a dawn shoot. I didn't want to go too far so I decided to just go to the local beach, in fact returning to the Punta del Riu where I had already been twice this month.

The cloud looked pretty much solid to the horizon and I didn't think there was anything going to happen. It kept raining, not too hard, but enough to make me wonder if I should give up and go home for breakfast. However, there was a brighter bit of sky out to sea, not directly where the sun would be rising but in the right direction. 

I decided to find a composition that would work if we got anything decent and I headed back to the clusters of rocks I had photographed there earlier in the month.

This time I went for a very low view. The tripod was splayed out and the camera was quite close to the water. I fitted a wide angle lens, my Sigma 10-20, and zoomed all the way out to 10mm. I wanted to position the rocks in the foreground leading the eye up to the sky which, I hoped, might get a bit of colour at some point.

I couldn't quite get the composition right. Getting nice and close to the rocks gave me the sense of perspective that I wanted but, even at 10mm, I couldn't fit them all in. If I moved back, even just a tiny bit, in order to get the rocks in then the perspective didn't look as good.

In the end I decided to go wth the closer position and do a, somewhat unusual, wide angle panoramic shoot. 

The reason I say this was unusual is that, normally, you don't shoot panoramas with a really wide angle lens. Also, when I shoot them, I normally have the camera in a vertical orientation and then I shoot a number of images, overlapped by about a third. This time I was going to shoot two horizontal images that were only a few degrees different. Just enough to fit the rocks in.

Of course this would all depend on the light and the sky.

Just a few minutes after sunrise I started to see some light and colour in the sky. The scene had quite a bit of contrast and I fitted a 2 stop hard ND graduated filter to balance the exposure. I was hoping to get a bit more light on the foreground before the light and colour in the sky faded.

I used an aperture of f/16 because I wanted a large depth of field and also because it gave me a nice exposure time of 1.6 seconds.

It was at about this point that it started raining again. Not really hard, but enough to make me worry about rain spots on the front of the filter. I spent a bit of time sheltering the front of the camera from the rain while I waited to see if the light would deliver for me.

A few more minutes of waiting and I thought the light looked about as good as it was going to get. I checked the front of the filter to make sure there were no rain spots, took one shot. rotated the camera a few degrees and took the second shot. The exposures looked good and I thought I had something that would look really nice. I was a bit nervous about the stitching of the panorama. Very wide angle lenses and very close objects can cause some issues. The scene was looking really nice so I decided to play it safe and shoot a single frame after moving the camera back a bit. Kind of a backup in case the pano didn't work. Even though I knew it wouldn't be as good.

Happily I didn't need the backup as the pano worked perfectly. As with all RAW files it needed some punch so I added some vibrance and contrast and I also used the highlights and shadows sliders, along with some Lightroom graduated filters to balance the exposure out a bit more.

Considering I went out not really expecting to get anything I was really delighted with the way this image came out:

Stormy sky sunriseStormy skies over the Spanish Mediterranean as the sun rises over some rocks at Punta del Riu in El Campello. Hills and the Puig Campana mountain in the background Nikon D7100 Sigma 10-20 lens at 10mm f/16 for 1.6 seconds ISO 100 (x2) 2 stop ND hard graduated filter This is two overlapping images merged in Lightroom, a kind of mini panorama

OK. I think that’s about it for this month. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the stories behind some of my images and, as always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

I haven’t included every photoshoot and every image I took in August. If you want to see some more then head over to my recent work on Redbubble HERE

My next post will be in the middle of September and will be another of my tips posts. 

Do you have a subject that you would like me to cover in my tips? If so let me know in the comments.

Or, is there an image of you mine you would like to know more about? Again, leave me a note in the comments and I’ll try to cover it



(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/9/september-2017---a-look-back-at-augusts-landscape-photography Fri, 01 Sep 2017 12:22:01 GMT
Correctly Exposing Long Exposures https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/8/correctly-exposing-long-exposures Correctly Exposing Long Exposures 

Long exposure photography can create a very different mood and atmosphere in a landscape image compared to a ‘normal’ exposure. Extending exposure time from fractions of a second to multiples of a second can completely change the feel of a scene.

108 second exposure to blur the clouds and smooth out the sea


However, when you start to get to multi-minute exposures then getting the exposure right first time can be really important.

Let me explain what I mean.

You have arrived nice and early for a dawn shoot, or sunset shoot. There is some nice cloud and wind and a long exposure to blur the cloud movement is the choice you want to go with.

Long exposure images, like any other, still need ‘good light’ and light is transitory. Beautiful light on a scene may only last for a few minutes.

Of course with a ‘normal’ exposure time, or even a long exposure of a few seconds, the chances are you can take a shot, check the exposure, correct if necessary, and still get your image while the light is good. However, let's assume that the effect you want is going to need an exposure that's a bit longer than that.

Let’s say you are looking for a long exposure of somewhere around 2 to 3 minutes to really get the blurring effect that you want in the final image. Maybe you’re using an ND filter to achieve it or, perhaps the ambient light is low enough that you don't need any filters. Either way the time you have to get that shot is measured in minutes, after that the beautiful light will be gone

You set up, calculate your exposure time, manual exposure, bulb mode, click the shutter release…. and wait.

When the two or three minutes (or whatever your exposure time is) is over you check the histogram display on your beautiful image. 

And now the dismay. The image is underexposed and all of the shadow areas are far too dark. Or, even worse, the image is overexposed and the highlights are completely blown out.

(As an aside, the second scenario is normally worse because it is normally easier to recover shadow detail from a RAW file than it is to recover highlights but, if the image is seriously underexposed, then even shadow recovery will be at the penalty of increased noise and reduced overall quality.)

By the time you have done all this the chances are that the beautiful light has gone and you either have to try to make the best of the badly exposed image you have managed to get, or go away with nothing. Either way, not an ideal situation.

So, how can you check that you have the correct exposure before you start?

Here’s the tip (and it’s what I do).

My camera has a base ISO of 100 and this is what I would normally choose to shoot at. The specific details in this tip are based on shooting at ISO 100. If you have a different base ISO (ISO 200 or maybe ISO 64 if you have something like a Nikon D810) then you will need to adjust the details, don't worry I’ll cover that at the end) 

Step 1.

I set up my composition, focus, add any required filters, and set my exposure mode to manual, and dial in the aperture that I want to use .

Step 2

I then adjust my ISO from 100 all the way up to 6400.

I then use the built in exposure (light meter) display to calculate recommended exposure at this high ISO. 

Of course, in theory, if the light meter says it’s correct then it should be. The truth is, however, that the light meter is only a guide and the amount of contrast in the scene, and how the light and shadow areas are distributed, and the metering mode you are using, all have an effect and you can’t completely trust the meter.

OK. I check my exposure reading on the meter and, let’s say it comes out at 1 second. I take a test shot, it only takes 1 second so I have plenty of time, and check the histogram. If the exposure looks correct then I am ready to go to the next step. If the image is underexposed then I will increase the exposure time and try again. If the image is overexposed then I will decrease the exposure time and try again. 

After the adjustment I check the histogram again, Even if I have doubled the exposure time to overcome an underexposed image I am still only looking at a 2 second exposure. 

Once I have the correct exposure I take note of the number of seconds. Let’s say I ended up with a 3 second exposure.

Step 3

I now dial my ISO back to 100.

I then simply substitute the number of minutes for the number of seconds. So a 3 second exposure at ISO 6400 becomes 3 minutes at ISO 100. 1 second becomes 1 minute, 2 seconds becomes 2 minutes.

Really easy isn’t it?

But what about if your test shot at ISO 6400 comes up with an exposure time of less than a second or if it works out as somewhere between, like 1.5 seconds?

If you end up with a 1/2 second exposure at ISO 6400 then you can use 1/2 a minute (30 seconds) at ISO 100 and so on. Basically you can use fractions of a second to correspond to fractions of a minute. Of course the usefulness of this technique reduces with shorter exposures and, once I get below 30 seconds I just take the shot at ISO 100 and then correct and shoot again if necessary.

If you end up with, say, 1.5 seconds then simply go for 1.5 minutes (90 seconds).

I have used this technique successfully with exposures of up to 4 minutes ‘in the field’ and up to 8 minutes as a test and it has always worked out for me. I suspect, although I have never tried it, that the technique will become progressively less accurate if you start to extend exposure up to 10 minutes and beyond but I cannot think of any reason why I would ever go that extreme (although that could be famous last words I suppose)

The only warning to give on this is to consider how the light is changing and factor this in. 

For example, shooting early in the morning when the ambient light can be increasing quite quickly as the sunrise approaches can mean that the scene gets quite a lot brighter in the space of 3 or 4 minutes and what was the correct timing at the start of a long exposure is no longer correct at the end. If the light is changing a lot I will normally adjust my exposure time slightly. If it is getting brighter, like at dawn, then I will shorten my exposure by a small amount, so a 4 minute exposure may end up being more like 3 minutes and 40 seconds. I will always err on the side of underexposing slightly rather than overexposing.

What if your cameras base ISO isn't 100?

It’s not a problem. This technique works because ISO 6400 is 6 stops more sensitive than ISO 100. 

If your camera has a base ISO of 200 (one stop more sensitive then ISO 100) then you need to do your test shot with the ISO 6 stops higher which is ISO 12800.

If you have a camera with a base ISO of 64 (and assuming you don’t want to go to ISO 100 for the shot, and why would you?) then you need to go ISO 4096 (or the nearest ISO you can get to it, I’m not familiar with the ISO adjustments on any such cameras) for your test shot and the calculation works the same way.

I hope you find this a useful tip. Of course there may be other ways to ensure the correct exposure and I would love to hear if you have a different technique.

The ISO 6400 time for the test shot was 2 seconds so I intended to expose for 2 minutes. I notice partway through the exposure that the sky was getting quite a bit brighter so ended the exposure early at 106 seconds

(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/8/correctly-exposing-long-exposures Tue, 15 Aug 2017 12:28:40 GMT
August 2017 post - a look back at July's Photography https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/7/august-2017-post---a-look-back-at-julys-photography August 2017 post - a look back at July's Photography

Welcome to the first in my new format of blog posts. This format will be monthly and will be looking back at the previous months activities, showcasing some images in different categories (Events, Places and Landscapes) and telling the full stories behind just a few.

To start with July here in Spain is hot. Where we are is not as hot as the Andalucia region but it is more humid, and that makes any kind of physical activity a bit hard.

July is, however, the month when El Campello has one of it's largest annual celebrations, The Fiesta of the Virgin Del Carmen.

Carmen is the patron saint of fisherman and, despite the move in more recent years towards tourism, El Campello is still a town with its roots in fishing. 

The fiesta lasts for a week but the first part is fairly quiet. It gets a bit more interesting on the night of the 13th July which is when there is a big firework display that marks, what many consider to be. the real start of the celebration:

Fiesta starts with a bangNikon D7100 Nikon 18-105 lens at 52mm f/7.1 for 5.4 seconds ISO 100

Over the next couple of days there were quite a number of events and parades. We had acrobatic adventures with people forming human pyramids:

Muixeranga in the seaNikon D7100 Nikon 55-300 lens at 86mm f/8 for 1/50 second ISO 200

and some pretty interesting costumes:

Colla de Nanos i Gegants de SalpassaNikon D7100 Nikon 18-105 lens at 22mm f/11 for 1/25 second ISO 100

Of course these aren't landscape images but who can resist capturing some of these spectacles? So these images are in the category of Events 

You can see more images of the fiesta on Redbubble. Just click on the thumbnails below:

















We haven't been on any trips out to really explore new places so I'm not putting anything into the Locations category this month

But what about landscapes? After all, that's what I'm really focusing my efforts and attention on.

Well, July has been a good month and I've managed some results that I've really been happy with.

I'm going to start with a location that I've shot before, although not for a little while, and one that's close to home.

El Banyets, otherwise known as La Bassa de la Reina. is the rocky end of the area called La Isletta. This was once an island but is now joined to the shore to make it more of a small peninsular.

The highest part of this area is a site of important archeological interest. There are excavations that have discovered artifacts and structures that date back more than 2000 years, but for landscape photography it's the far end of the peninsular that is of interest.

Cut into the rocks are a set of rectangular 'pools'. Well, they used to be rectangular but centuries of waves and weather have softened and worn them into some slightly less regular shapes, although the rectangles are still clear to see. It is these pools that give the site it's name. El Banyets means the baths in Valencian and La Bassa de la Reine means the Queens Pools (also in Valencian).

According to the myth the rectangular pools were built for an ancient Moorish Queen to bathe in. The truth, although somewhat less glamorous, is that they were part of an ancient Roman fish farm. The pools are now a popular spot for people sunbathing and taking a dip in the waters which remain calm even when the surrounding sea gets choppy.

Having shot here before on a few occasions I know it reasonably well. I picked a morning that was forecasting quite a bit of cloud and headed out about an hour before sunrise.

I walked there from home. It only takes about 25 minutes or so to get there, including a small clamber around the rocks at the side of the site to get to the area where the pools are, and it's not really worth getting the car out. 

On the walk up I was checking out the sky. There was quite a lot of cloud and it looked like this could create quite an interesting scene. Unfortunately it looked like there was quite a big layer of thick cloud right where the sun would be coming up. If that didn't clear a bit then there would be no interesting light on the scene.

Still, I was up and on my way so I might as well carry on and see what happened.

Once around on the rocks I played around with a few ideas for compositions. The clouds were nice but there was no light on the foreground and my attempt at a few blue hour shots wasn't producing anything interesting.

I checked the exact position where the sun would be expected to rise using the app on my phone. It showed that it would actually be rising behind the Sierra Helada mountains to the north of Benidorm. This would mean that, even if the clouds cleared, it would be a few minutes after official sunrise before the sun appeared. If I wanted light on the foreground I was going to have to wait even longer. 

I picked a composition that I felt would work well if we got the sun on the scene just after sunrise.

I chose a wide angle lens as I wanted to get close to the edge of the water and still be able to pick up the shapes of the rock edges to the pools. 10mm on my Sigma 10-20 lens gave me what I needed for the composition. 

The sky was already a lot brighter than the foreground and, if the sun put in an appearance, the scene would be even more contrasty, so I fitted a 2 stop ND hard graduated filter to help balance the exposure.

Considering the state of the sea I had another decision to make. The sea was fairly calm. There were only small waves and they were not very impressive on the rocks. I decided that, with the waves lacking any drama,  I wanted to go for a slightly longer exposure, just to smooth the water out a bit more, but not so long that the movement of the sun in the sky (if it appeared) would cause it to elongate. Ideally I wanted somewhere around 10-15 seconds. 

I fitted a 6 stop ND filter and I also fitted a Circular Polarising Filter. The polariser wouldn't make much difference to the overall scene because I was shooting towards the sun and these filters are most effective at 90 degrees to the light. What it would do is decrease the light coming in by between 1.5 and 2 steps which would help me to achieve that slightly longer exposure time, and it would help to cut back on any glare from the wet rocks.

So, I was all set up. Camera with wide angle lens, filters and cable release on my tripod, which was nice and stable and everything tightened down. I had focused about a third of the way into the scene (before adding the 6 stop filter) and I took a test shot, went in to preview mode and checked that the resulting image was sharp from back to front. It was so I had no need to do anything more sophisticated than that.

I was ready, it was all up to nature now, would she deliver?

Official sunrise was 06:52. I had calculated that the sun would clear the mountains at around 06:56. But when would it clear the cloud?

07:00 came and went. The sun was just starting to break through but there was still no light on the foreground. The sky was looking nice but even then it looked like the cloud was starting to burn off. 

More time passed, and slowly the light started to creep across the pools in front of me. I waited a bit longer, hoping that the glow would make it under the small arch of rock on the edge of the pools before the colour and mood went out of the image. A quick check on exposure time, I was at f/11 and it was only 5 seconds. Not long enough.

I switched to f/16 which got me back to 10 seconds, the water under the arch started to glow and I clicked the cable release (twice because I was using mirror lock up mode). I checked the preview on the camera screen. It was looking good.

I waited around for a few more minutes but the best of the light was gone now. I had my shot and I believed it was a good one, time to head home and have some breakfast before checking it on the computer.

The image required some minor tweaking in Lightroom. I always shoot with my white balance set to sunny and it had been a bit cloudy, also I had been using a 6 stop filter which creates a very slight colour cast. I adjusted white balance for the filter first and then I moved the colour temperature a bit more to the yellow end and the tint to slightly more magenta, just to adjust for the cloud. Not as far as it would have gone if I had changed it to cloudy but just a touch.

I pulled back the highlights a bit and boosted the shadows. I used the black point and white point sliders to get a nice level of contrast, not too much as the image was already pretty contrasty and I knew I would add a little bit more later in the process. 

The vibrance was boosted a bit and I added a touch of saturation before opening the image on Photoshop. 

Not much to do here. I checked for dust spots and removed a couple. I checked for noise, all good.

Nik color efex pro also had very little to do. I tried adding a touch of brilliance and warmth but I only dialled in the perceptual saturation to about 5% and the pro contrast filter was only dialled in to about 10%. Hardly visible changes really but they added just a touch more punch to the image.

Back in Photoshop I used the dodge tool to very slightly brighten a couple of highlight areas in the foreground and then used the sponge tool to add a touch of saturation to the same areas selectively. 

I added a very light vignette and sharpened the image. All in all it took about 3 minutes to process the image and I am really happy with the way it came out:

Green and gold - sunrise at El BanyetsNikon D7100 Sigma 10-20 lens at 10mm f/16 for 10 seconds 2 Stop ND Hard Graduated Filter, 6 Stop ND Filter and a Circular Polarising Filter


My next location was a bit further away, it was at the mountain called Puig Campana (which means Bell Hill) that lies to the north east of us and is very visible all along this section of coast line.

Puig Campana is a tricky place to photograph. From a distance it is a large and imposing peak (actually a double peak) but there is a lot of built up areas around it and it can be difficult to get a good composition.

Up close the second peak is very difficult to see and there are a lot of trees growing around the foothills that often obscure any view of the mountain. 

I had been up to the outskirts of the old town of Finestrat that sits close to the mountain and spent a few hours scouting the paths and trails, and some of the small roads, all the time looking for a composition that I thought would work.

With a couple of potential compositions logged I waited for some promising weather. This was going to be an evening shoot, the best conditions would, hopefully, be quite close to sunset, and I wanted some cloud. I had previously been and capture some images of the mountain on a cloudless evening and, while I was really pleased with at least one of them, I really wanted the type of colours and atmosphere that only clouds can bring.

Finally the weather forecast looked promising. Clouds were moving from inland towards the coast and this should mean that they would end up near to the peak.

I set off in plenty of time to be there well before sunset. It's about a 40 minute drive and then I was planning on about a 25 minute hike, first on the road and then up a trail, to get to the location I though would work best.

As I arrived and looked at the conditions I began to wonder if this was going to be a waste of time. There was almost no cloud in the field of view that I planned to shoot the mountain, and I really didn't want another blue sky shot. Worse than that however was that there was a bank of thick cloud sitting to the north west which was completely obscuring the sun. This meant there was no light. It all looked flat and boring.

I considered my options. Was it worth trying to find an alternative location that might be getting some light? If I could come up with one, could I get there in time? Should I just give up and head for home? It was about 45 minutes before the sun would be due to disappear behind the neighbouring Aitana mountains and I decided to hang around on the off chance.

By this time some clouds had formed behind the peak and these looked quite nice but, without the side lighting I had been hoping for the rest of the scene looked really dull.

I set up my tripod at one side of the trail. I wanted to get the camera as high as possible so I even extended the centre column (something I rarely do but this was one occasion that called for it) and composed my shot using live view (I could no longer see through the viewfinder, it was well above my head).

My composition would use trees on the side of the trail to frame the image and the trail itself as a lead in line. I was using a wide angle lens again, my 10-20 at 14mm and this gave my a nice view. However the height of the image was an issue.The clouds above the mountain didn't extend that high and the very low part of the foreground was not so nice. I decided that this one would work best as a 16:9 crop so I composed the view accordingly.

If there was any light it would be coming from almost directly on my left. The trees would block direct light on the lens but I wanted to use a polariser to bring out the contrast and saturation in the scene.

I was set up and waiting. Now if only the light would break through.

I watched the time. I watched the scene. It got closer and closer to sunset and still no light. Ah well, sometimes that's the way it goes. Looks like I would be going home with nothing.

But then, if my eyes weren't deceiving me, some light. Not much to start with, not enough to make the scene interesting, but maybe... just maybe.

Then the clouds started to change colour and I saw the first hint of some light on the side of the peak. I couldn't see where the sun was, the trees blocked my view but it was obviously breaking through somewhere.

Over the course of about two minutes the light started to creep into the scene. I managed just a single shot when I judged the light would be at its best and then the colours faded quickly and the mountain became a big dark shadow.

I still wasn't sure if I had anything. I had needed to underexpose a bit to stop the sky blowing out and the image on the back of the camera didn't look too promising. The mountain didn't look as though it had much contrast to it.

Back at home, when I lifted the shadows in Lightroom, it revealed beautiful texture on the side of the peak and some lovely light across the top of the trees and spilling in to some gaps along the path: 

I was glad I had stuck it out. It came down to just a few seconds when it all came together but the results is an image that I am pleased with:

Puig Campana sunset mountain trailNikon D7100 Sigma 10-20 lens at 14mm f/11 for 0.4 seconds ISO 100 Circular Polarising Filter

This months final image that I'm going to cover in detail takes me back to El Banyets for another early morning shoot.

I had an idea for a shot but it was one that was causing me some challenges.

If you look at the earlier image I posted at El Banyets you can probably see that there is a kind of rough arch in the rocks. It's where part of one of the pools has a gap in the wall and, in the scene above, the light is coming though it quite nicely.

What I really wanted to do was make this a real feature of an image. I wanted to get in really close and use a wide angle lens. But there were some challenges.

The composition I wanted meant that I needed the camera very low down and partially over the water of the pool. Ideally I would have had the tripod standing in the pool but the water was too deep. 

I decided to try out a feature on my tripod that I've never used before, the 90 degree angled centre post. 

I have a Manfrotto tripod (the MT055CXPRO3 if that's of any interest). This tripod has a centre post that you can lift all the way up and then flip over at a 90 degree angle. This meant that I could have the tripod legs splayed right out with the centre of the tripod almost touching the ground. By extending the, now horizontal, centre post out over the water I could get the camera in the position I wanted. 

It was then a case of almost laying on the ground (not very comfortable, the rocks are quite harsh) and trying to compose the shot the way I wanted. 

The sky was OK lower down but, with the field of view of the wide angle lens, the clouds only went up a short way and the rest was boring, so I didn't want too much sky. That meant I didn't want to tilt the camera up too much. 

On the other hand I also didn't want to have too much of the rock on which the tripod was sitting in the foreground of the image. So that meant not angling down too much. After a bit of deliberation I decided that I was going to shoot with the intent to crop to a 16:9 format afterwards and I composed accordingly.

Then it was a case of when to shoot. I was set up and ready about 25 minutes before sunrise but I was already getting some light coming under the rock from the first part of the dawn glow. I debated whether to wait until actual sunrise but, to be honest, I felt that the light was about as good as it was going to get for this composition. At f/11 I had an exposure time of 20 seconds which gave me a nice histogram with plenty of detail, even though the preview image on the camera screen looked really dark.

Although I did hang around for another 45 minutes or so, and I did take another couple of quite nice images, this was the one that I really wanted.

Back on the computer I lifted the shadows quite a bit and also did some of my usual adjustments in Lightroom. These included pulling back the highlights, tweaking the black and white points and adding a bit of vibrance. In Photoshop I cleaned up a couple of tiny spots that were actually water splashes on the lens and then went to the Nik Color Efex Pro filters to add a tiny bit of Brilliance and Warmth (instead of adjusting the white balance in Lightroom) and a bit of Dynamic Contrast in the Pro Contrast filter. 

I then had to decide on my crop. The 16:9 looked good but, in the end, I decided I preferred the slightly wider aspect of a 2:1 format. 

I added a small amount of vignetting and sharpened the image. here's the result:

Nikon D7100 Sigma 10-20 lens at 10mm f/11 for 20 seconds ISO 100

If you would like to see the other images I shot that morning they are available on Redbubble. Click on the thumbnails to view them:








And so that's it for this month. As we move into August I have some more locations to scout and hopefully some potential locations to shoot, of course it will all depend on the conditions.

In terms of scheduling I will be doing a post in the middle of August under the category of 'landscape photography tips' and then a review of Augusts images at the end of the month.

Don't forget you can sign up to get an e-mail whenever I post something new. 

I hope you've enjoyed this insight into how some of my images were created and I look forward to sharing more with you next month

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/7/august-2017-post---a-look-back-at-julys-photography Mon, 31 Jul 2017 13:41:13 GMT
Wide Angle Lenses. The Good, the Bad and the (sometimes) Ugly https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/7/wide-angle-lenses-the-good-the-bad-and-the-sometimes-ugly Wide Angle Lenses. The Good, the Bad and the (sometimes) Ugly

Wide angle lenses are tricky things. They can be a fantastic creative option for landscape photography but they can also be the source of much disappointment, especially when you first start using them and, perhaps, haven’t quite mastered what they are good for.

I use wide angle a lot in my landscapes and, like many people, I struggled to work out how to get the best from them to start with. I know that the mistakes and challenges I faced are quite common so I thought, by sharing some of the lessons I have learned, I could help new users of these lenses to get better results a bit faster.

So… to start off, what is a wide angle lens?

I’m not sure that there is a clear and set point at which a lens becomes 'wide angle'. If there is I guess it would be any lens that has a field of view wider than you would see with normal vision. That would mean that anything less than about 50mm on a full frame sensor and (around) 35 mm on a crop sensor would be considered wide angle.

For the purposes of these tips we will probably be looking more at lenses that are wider than about 27mm on a full frame and 18mm on a crop sensor.

And…what are wide angle lenses good for?

In the first place they have a wide field of view, sometimes you can be looking at a field of view of around 100 degrees (on the long edge of the frame). This obviously means that you can capture a very large scene, a grand vista, all in a single frame. So, if you have big wide view you can use a wide angle lens to capture it. But, before you do that wait until you hear some of the challenges, shooting big wide vistas with a wide angle lens is one of the biggest reasons people get disappointed when they first start using them.

Wide angle lenses also exaggerate perspective. Things in the middle ground look further away and smaller than they do to the naked eye. Things in the distance even more so. Telephoto lenses do exactly the opposite by compressing perspective and making the distance between for, mid and background seem less. The exaggerated perspective of the wide angle lens can be really effective at creating depth in the image but, this also has a downside that we will come onto in a minute.

Of course you can also fit quite large objects that are close to you into a single frame. This can be really useful when you have to be close to your subject and it would be too large to fit into a single frame with a ‘normal’ lens. Depending on the subject you are shooting this can also throw up some challenges.

Here’s an example of both fitting in a large object (with room for a great sky) and exaggerated perspective with a wide angle lens

Nikon D7100 and Sigma 10-20 lens at 10mm

OK. Now on to some of the challenges…

Remember I said you can use a wide angle lens to fit in a big wide scene, perhaps a grand vista? 

Well the problem is that this almost always creates a boring image unless you are very careful about composition. Because you can fit so much into the scene it often becomes very difficult to pick out a focal point and without a focal point images generally don’t look all that good. 

The secret to capturing a big wide view with a wide angle lens is to include a strong foreground element that draws the eye into the image. Of course this is a general guideline for landscape photography anyway but it becomes even more important with a wide angle lens.

You also have to be careful about distractions, particular near to the edges of the frame. With a wide angle of view it is very easy to include too much to either side (or at top and bottom) and it’s only later that you realise you have elements in the image that you don't really want. OK, you can crop the image to take those elements out but this could ruin your careful composition.

Then let’s talk about verticals. Wide angle lenses are well known for creating something called converging Verticals. This is when vertical elements in the frame can seem to lean in towards each other. Typically things above the horizon line lean in towards the top and below the horizon line lean in towards the bottom. The angle that you shoot at makes a big difference to the amount of lean. Also, the distortion becomes more pronounced as you move to the edges of the frame.

If you are shooting a scene with no vertical lines then this isn’t going to be a problem but, if you have buildings, walls, poles and even trees this can create some issues. 

There are ways to correct the issue in post processing, Adobe Lightroom (CC version) has a great ‘guided upright’ tool, but this will result in the image being cropped slightly so you have to consider and allow for this in your composition. 

Buildings near the edge of the frame can be very tricky as the amount of distortion can vary from one side of the building to the other creating a very distorted shape. I have normally found that using some of the more sophisticated transform tools in Photoshop is the only way I can correct this type of distortion.

If using a wide angle lens to shoot a scene that has any kind of vertical elements it’s worth shooting a wider composition than you think you need to allow for some cropping as part of the transformation process later.

Of course you always have the option to use the converging verticals as part of your composition, make a feature of them as they can look quite dramatic. It all depends on what you are trying to make the image look like, 

As a matter of interest, the picture of the lifeguard tower above had terrible converging verticals, because I was pointing the camera up at quite a steep angle, and required quite a bit of re-alignment. I knew this, and accounted for it in my composition so I didn’t lose any critical parts of my composition when I corrected things.

Wide angle lenses also create similar challenges with horizontal lines but these rarely seem to be as much of an issue, at least in my experience.

Wide angle lenses can produce some exposure challenges. 

Because the field of view is so wide you can often have one side of the scene much brighter than the other. or sometimes the centre of the scene is brighter, or darker, than the sides. This can be a particular issue with very bright conditions and blue skies.

Correcting the off balance exposure can often be achieved using grad filters, either physical filters in the field or in post processing.

Using a wide angle lens and a polarising filter can really cause some issues in blue sky conditions. The polariser works best at 90 degrees to the light but the field of view of the wide angle lens means that the centre of the image (assuming you’re shooting at 90 degrees to the sun)  is getting a lot of polarisation (because it’s at 90 degrees to the light) but the far sides are getting much less because they are only about 40 degrees. 

If there are clouds in the sky this is not normally too much of an issue but with blue skies it can create a problem that can be almost impossible to resolve in post.

Here’s just such an example that I did especially to illustrate the point. Notice the way the sky is much darker in the middle of the frame?


So…what are wide angles best for?

As a general rule wide angle lenses are best for shooting images where there is a strong foreground element, quite close to the lens, and where the background features can be allowed to take second place and where there are no strong vertical lines that are going to cause issues with verticals.

Like this one where I really wanted to make a feature of the shape of the rock and the light coming under it. Everything else in the frame is, pretty much, secondary.

Nikon D7100 with a Sigma 10-20 lens at 100 f/11 for 20 seconds ISO 100

Of course you can use them for other types of shots as well, it’s just that you will have to consider the implications on how your image is going to come out and, possibly, be prepared to take some corrective actions in post processing.

This image was shot at 10mm as well. There is the bridge leading into the frame and this provides both foreground interest and creates something which the increased perspective  of the wide angle lens really extends nicely. It does however have vertical lines and, in the original image, these were converging. I adjusted them slightly in Lightroom using the guided upright transformation and the effect has come out really well.

Nikon D7100 Sigma 10-20 lens at 10mm f/16 for 1/13 second ISO 100

So, before I use a wide angle lens I consider a number of key points:

  1. Do I have a strong enough foreground element?
  2. Do I have buildings or other verticals in the frame?
  3. Does it matter if my background and middle ground look far away?
  4. How is the light and is it going to cause me problems?
  5. Can I get the same, or possibly a better composition by using a longer lens and moving back?
  6. What's in the frame that I can't easily see through the viewfinder or on the screen, particularly towards the edges of the view?

I can then make the decision to use a wide angle lens, and how to compose the shot for any later post processing, or choose to use a longer lens and move back to fit the scene in the frame.

The easiest scenes to use a wide angle lens for are those that are completely natural, preferably without trees that are close by, that have something big and bold in the foreground, and a nice big backdrop, like a great sky. 

The toughest scenes to shoot with a wide angle are buildings and anything with obvious vertical lines. 

As with all things in photography the best way to get better at using a particular tool is to get out and shoot with it. So, if you have a wide angle lens that you have only just obtained, or one that you've had for a while that you haven’t done much with then maybe now is the time to get out there and see what you can achieve.

I’d love to hear how you get on 

(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/7/wide-angle-lenses-the-good-the-bad-and-the-sometimes-ugly Sun, 23 Jul 2017 11:48:58 GMT
The way forward and an evening near Guadalest https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/7/the-way-forward-and-an-evening-near-guadalest 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


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


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.

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/7/the-way-forward-and-an-evening-near-guadalest Sat, 08 Jul 2017 11:42:20 GMT
Missed and Unexpected Opportunities. Time to Look Back and Forward https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/7/missed-and-unexpected-opportunities-time-to-look-back-and-forward Missed and Unexpected Opportunities. Time to Look Back and Forward

This week I have missed a couple of opportunities. I have checked the weather forecast, seen that the forecast is for clear skies, and decided not to go out. Only to then discover the weather forecast got it completely wrong and there would have been some nice clouds and the potential for some interesting images.

I have also had a couple of unexpected opportunities when the weather has done something unexpected and I have managed to do something about it.

The first of these unexpected opportunities was one evening. A look out of the window showed some lovely cloud formations over the sea. The sun would be setting over the town but, because there were clear skies that way I knew that there would be a good chance of something nice happening with the colours out to sea as the clouds there reflected the sunset.

I didn’t have a lot of time before the sun went down and I quickly grabbed my gear and headed down to the beach.

I started off on one side of the breakwater that’s closest to where we live. The sea was pretty calm and the sand was nice and smooth. There were only very small waves coming in and I set up to try to capture the tones in the sky and some reflections in the water. I would have liked to capture some nice water trails on the sand but the waves were really too small for that to work so I played around with some compositions and noticed that there was a section of the beach that seemed to get some nice gentle wave patterns on it. I set up and waited and finally captured this shot which came out pretty well:

I decided, while the colour was still in the sky, to quickly move around to the other side of the breakwater. The waves were coming from this side and I was hoping that they would be enough to get those water trails.

When I got there the waves were certainly larger and they were making some splashes against the rocks but the frequency of the waves was all wrong for what I had in mind. The waves were small but coming in very quickly. This meant that, when a wave rolled up the beach, before it had a chance to recede properly and create the trails, another wave would roll in on top of it.

So, instead I decided to try a slightly longer focal length and try to capture the waves and some of the splashes on the rocks. I finally found an image that I liked:

Having missed those couple of opportunities this week I decided to take a chance on Friday morning and headed up to Busot before sunrise. The weather forecast was for little to no cloud and, if that was the case, I had a plan.

Busot is a village about 20 minutes drive away and there is a place there that offers a nice vantage point from which to view Cabezon del Oro mountain and some of the nearby hills. It also offers the rare opportunity to basically work out of the back of the car rather than lugging cameras and tripods up mountains. along hiking trails or over rocks.

I had reviewed the position of the sunrise and estimated that, although the sun itself wouldn’t appear over the hills until 20 to 25 minutes after official sunrise, the light might be able to sneak through some gaps in the hills and could create some interesting light on the main part of the mountain. I intended to shoot with a longer focal length and make it quite a wide panorama focused on the mountains and hills, with very little sky and foreground.

On the drive up it became pretty clear that the forecast was wrong. There was actually quite a lot of cloud in the sky and, especially, in the direction where the sun would be rising.

I set up and waited to see what was going to happen. Official sunrise came and there was no light on the mountain. The sky was looking really nice with some lovely colours and textures but the mountain was just a dark shape and it all looked really unappealing. I don't know if I misjudged the terrain and the light was being blocked by a hill I hadn't considered or if the light was being blocked by low cloud. Either way it wasn’t working.

I almost gave up but decided to stick it out for a while and see what happened. About 20 minutes or so after official sunrise I could see the first evidence that the sun would soon crest the hill that was currently blocking it, and the cloud there was looking thin enough for the light to be able to break through. I decided to drop the idea of a panorama and go for a wide view that would make more of a feature of the sky. This would give me some challenges as the foreground is not that great but I was hoping to get some nice light on the middle ground and on the mountain once the sun cleared the hill enough. I composed with the idea of cropping the image to a 16:9 ratio later.

The colour was fading from the sky and I wasn’t sure if the scene would lose it’s appeal by the time the sun got high enough to put some light on the mountains and mid ground. 

Finally, about 25 minutes after official sunrise there was a blaze of light from the top of one of the nearby hills. light rays picked out against the clouds and light fell across the mountains, on the tops of some nearby trees and on an area in the mid ground. A slight adjustment to the composition and I got the shot. The sky had lost some of it’s colour but it was still looking pretty good. A few seconds later and it was all over. The mid ground and the mountain were too uniformly lit to be of much interest and the colour disappeared from the sky. It all came down to those few seconds. In the end the 16:9 crop wasn’t quite enough and I ended up going to 2:1 which I think works better:

During the course of this week I have been thinking about my photography, considering how it has developed and where I want to take it to in the future.

What’s triggered this you may ask?

Of course the feeling this week that I have missed some opportunities may have something to do with it.

Also, I suppose a birthday coming up in a couple of  weeks might have something to do with it. It does seem that marking off another year can start me thinking about these things.

It could also be that it’s a bit over two years since we moved out to Spain and I put myself in the happy position of being able to commit as much time as I wanted to photography.

So, I guess, the question I’m asking myself is… Am I really making the most of the opportunity?

I have spent some time this week looking back over the last two years worth of images, and there are a lot of them.

Not all of them are landscapes of course. There are images from events that take place around here, like the Hogueras that I posted last week

or like the parades that I posted a few weeks ago

and I sometimes do street scenes and architecture 

and, of course, the occasional wildlife shot

However, landscapes is what I really feel I want to do and there are a lot of landscape images in my portfolio from the last two years.

Some of those images are really good (in my opinion)….. And that’s kind of them problem.

You see, while I have a lot of ‘good’ images, that’s not really what I’m aiming for. I’m aiming for GREAT images.

Just to be clear when I say good or great this is my own opinion of the images based on my taste and my aspirations of what I would like to be producing.

Now, don't get me wrong. There is a place for the ‘good’ images. They often prove popular on products that I sell via Redbubble, and there a lot of people that seem to like them. In fact there are some people who will prefer these images to the ones that I aspire to take. beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.

For example, here is an image that I took a few weeks ago. It’s a good image and it’s had very positive feedback from a lot of people:

The problem is that, if I already have some ‘good’ images in the bag in any given week then I am much less likely to get out there and seek the really GREAT images. 

What do I mean by a GREAT image?

Let’s take this one. I think it is one of the best images I have taken in a long time. I was lucky with the conditions but I put in the work to scout the location, to check the weather forecast and sun direction, To get up early and arrive there well before sunrise:

Or this one


So, what I want to do is take more images like this, and that means putting the work in, maybe not getting any images some weeks and having to go back and try again on multiple occasions. It means not taking so much notice of the weather forecast and just taking the chance.

I have no excuse. I have the time to do it. I believe I have the capability to do it, it’s just that sometimes I settle for the fact that I’ve already managed to get some ‘good’ images. The daft thing is I actually enjoy getting out there. I love being out at sunrise and sunset, seeing views that most people don’t get to. It’s just that sometimes, when I think about getting up early, or staying out late,  it’s easier to stay at home and be happy with the ‘good’ shots.

So what does all of this mean?

To be honest I’m still working that out. It will certainly mean some more early mornings and later evenings ‘in the field’ working to get GREAT images.

Will it mean that I stop producing the ‘good’ images? Probably not. I may do less of them but I think there is always going to be a place for them but I think I will treat them separately to the GREAT images.

The chances are that there will be some changes to my website. I may choose to reduce the number of images that I display here (although they all will still be available to view, and of course buy, on Redbubble).

There may be some changes to the blog, perhaps the frequency will change, I don't know yet.

Whatever happens I’m committing to myself to make the very most of the opportunity that I have to devote time to a hobby I have become ever more passionate about.

I may have more thoughts in the next post so, until then, have a great week.

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/7/missed-and-unexpected-opportunities-time-to-look-back-and-forward Sat, 01 Jul 2017 10:03:51 GMT
Alicante and The Hogueras de San Juan https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/6/alicante-and-the-hogueras-de-san-juan Alicante and The Hogueras de San Juan

This week has been hot... hot and humid. It’s made it quite difficult to get out and about and I haven’t really had that many chances for photography.

When it comes to landscape photography the conditions have definitely been against me. The combination of the northern positions of both sunrise and sunset, combined with almost cloudless skies, have left very few opportunities for the right light conditions to make either coastal or mountain shots worth the effort.

However, this week is the celebration of the Hogueras of San Juan and that has provided some opportunities to do something a bit different. 

A trip into Alicante mid week allowed us time to walk around and check out the Hogueras. Hoguera is the Spanish word for bonfire and, while these technically are bonfires (because they get burnt), these hogueras are something a bit special. 

Beautifully constructed statues, the tallest around 20 metres (66 feet) tall, are set up in key locations around the city. Made from wood, paper, cardboard and various other materials these have been most of a year in construction. They are displayed for a few days and then, on Saturday night, the are burned in a great big celebration (building of the next years hogueras starts on the following Monday.

Although we have no plans to visit the actual burning, far too many people for my taste, it is interesting to go an see the creations on display.

We headed into Alicante on the tram and started off with a short walk down to the port.

At one end of the port, near to the replica of the sailing galleon Santisima Trinidad, were a couple of displays. 

The first one was positioned on the quayside and was quite small but it had a some fun characters, a nice view across to a larger display and to the replicate of the Santisima Trinidad Galleon. I found an angle that worked with both the composition and the light, and enabled me to get a clear shot without people in:

We moved across to the larger display that was on a floating pontoon just between the Santisima Trinidad. This one had the title of Invasors (Invaders) and, again, I was able to avoid having any people in the shot by virtue of being right up against the barrier:

We then headed back up towards the city centre. Just up from the port and on a small pedestrian area near the road was another nice display. It was quite tricky getting a shot of this one. The position of the sun was very awkward and I had to use a very wide angle lens and shoot angled up to get a composition that I felt looked nice. Because of the wide angle lens I knew I would need to correct some vertical later so I tried to compose accordingly:


Some of the biggest displays are near to the town hall in the Placa de Ajuntament. This made for some interesting opportunities. First of all I had the opportunity to use the arches of the building to do a frame in frame shot of the biggest display. It changes the emphasis quite a bit but I like the way it came out:

A wide angle lens and a position looking up had an interesting effect on the perspective of this next shot. I had to straighten verticals again and I ended up doing a rather unusual crop on it (it’s a 1:2 format which I sometimes use for horizontal shots but I think this is the first time I’ve used it for a vertical) because I like the way it emphasises the height of the figure:

The buildings around the Placa acted nicely as very large reflectors and produced some quite nice light on the displays. It’s a busy spot and getting shots without people in was not going to be possible, I decided not to worry about that, they are just part of the atmosphere of the scene.  

This one, smaller, display was tucked over to one side of the square near to a cafe. I quite liked having the buildings, the cafe and also the arched entrance to the square as background elements

Moving around to the cafe side of this smaller display produced an interesting view where I could have the small display in the foreground and the really big display in the near background, with the buildings forming quite a nice backdrop:

A bit of exploration down one of the side streets and we came across another set up with some great characters on display. I tried several different views on this one. It was another tricky one to get a nice angle on and, in the end, the Hawaiian shirt on the foreground character combined with the face of the large statue and the angled view of the mirror sold me on this particular angle. I would have preferred to avoid some of the elements on the edge of the frame but it was just not possible as there was so much going on on this display. Also I chose to not completely correct the verticals so as to avoid cropping too much out of the sides and bottom of the frame:

While we were in the area we decided to take a short walk up into part of the old town of Alicante. This involved a short walk and then a climb up some steps. It was very warm and humid and we were getting a bit tired at this point. We stopped off at a bar to get some much needed water and I did a quick explore up even more steps where I found a nice looking narrow street with some interesting colours in the buildings and the plants and pots. I  was quite taken with the colours and overall scene and managed to get quite a nice shot of it, again choosing my composition so that I was making use of the light coloured buildings as big reflectors which really improved the quality of the light:

So that’s it for this week. A shorter post than normal but I am exploring some options for next week and we’ll just have to see what that brings

Until next time… Have a great week 

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/6/alicante-and-the-hogueras-de-san-juan Sat, 24 Jun 2017 12:53:18 GMT
Weather challenges and city shots https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/6/weather-challenges-and-city-shots Weather challenges and city shots 

There is a saying that landscape photographers love bad weather. The reason for this is that ‘bad’ weather normally means clouds, and clouds add interest and drama to both the sky and to the light falling onto the landscape. 

This time of year, in this part of Spain, can be a challenge for landscape photography.

First there is the position of the sun. Sunrise and Sunset are increasingly towards the north and, with the local geography, that really limits the number of places that get decent light during these critical times of the day. There are a few locations but they normally involve a bit more travelling and they also need the right kind of conditions to really work.

Which brings us back to the weather. It’s been hot this week. Temperatures running at about 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit ) and even warmer in the sun. Of course it’s not as hot as the southern parts of Spain, some of which have been 10 degrees Celsius higher. Combined with the warm conditions we’ve had fairly high humidity, which not only makes the temperature feel even higher but also tends to create quite a lot of haze in the atmosphere. And then there’s the clouds, or rather the lack of them, as we have had pretty much zero cloud cover for the whole week and what little we have had has been more of a thin hazy blanket over the whole sky.

All in all it has made it quite difficult to get out and do some real landscape photography this week. Most of the plans that I had in mind have been postponed until conditions look more favourable. 

Not to be deterred however I have looked for alternatives and this has involved some walking around one of my favourite places locally, Amadorio reservoir, and also a trip into Alicante to shoot some city scenes.

OK. Let’s start off with the Amadorio trip. I went out in the afternoon. It was hot and humid and I made a couple of decisions before I went out. First I took a lot of water with me (the risk of dehydration in these conditions is high) and second I chose to travel light. No tripod or filters, just the camera body and a couple of lenses in my backpack. To be honest this was more about the walk than the photography but sometimes you find opportunities when you least expect them.

My walk started out along one of the trails that lead along the hills on the eastern side of the reservoir. After a while this trail rejoins the main footpath and eventually comes out onto the nearby road.

Shortly before I reached the road I began to hear the sound of falling water. I know that, in this general area, there is an inlet to the reservoir that is controlled by a sluice gate of some kind. It creates a small waterfall that, although tricky to access, can be quite pretty. The last few times I have been around here the gate has been closed and the waterfall dry. Today, however, I could hear it so I backtracked to find the route down to it and have a look.

When I got there it was in full flow. In fact I have never seen it quite this strong. It’s a bit of a scramble to get down to the bottom and then it’s quite overgrown and difficult to get a decent view. Getting into the water to get a shot is not a good idea as the bottom is very soft mud and you could easily get stuck in it. I picked a composition but, without a tripod or filters a long exposure was impossible. I did want to try to get a bit of a long exposure effect so I used a small aperture (f/22) which let me get a shutter speed of 1/40 second. I braced myself as best I could against the bank and a small tree and fired off 20 shots. Later I combined and averaged these in Photoshop to get the equivalent of a 1/2 second exposure. I also used one of the shots to reduce the amount of movement blur in the leaves in front of the waterfall as these were moving about quite a bit (I blended this in using layer masks in Photoshop).

I had to crop the final image a bit as, even braced the best I could, I still moved the camera a bit between shots and when the images were aligned the edges were not all the same. Even so I quite like the way this one came out:

Later on, as I reached the northern end of the reservoir, I stopped to take in some of the views near the bridges. I have taken shots of the larger bridge there a few times but there is also a small bridge for the narrow access road that leads around the back of the reservoir. 

A bit of exploration and I found an interesting looking spot. The sun was moving around and getting a little bit lower on my left and the combination of the suns position, the light reflected from the water and the light reflected from the surrounding hills actually looked pretty nice. I found a really nice bush covered in pink and purple flowers. On the hill just to the other side there is a house and I really liked the position of the flowers, the bridge and the hill so I decided to see if I could get a decent image here. 

I decided to exclude as much of the sky as I could and I even considered a 16:9 crop that would have taken out almost all of the sky and the top of the hill and the house. In the end I decided to keep the format as shot because I actually quite liked the house up there and, especially, the big tree next to it:

I finished up my walk, completing a circuit of the reservoir (and all of my water) before heading home.

This week we also took a trip into Alicante. This was not so much a dedicated photo trip but we had a few things to wander around and have a look at. I took the camera and a couple of lenses in the hopes that I might get something interesting.

As is often the case walking around I tend to look at the scene and see what the light is doing. 

Although it certainly wasn’t perfect lighting (this was a very long way from being golden hour) I like to observe what the environment does to the light as well as what the light does to the environment.

In the city there are lots of big buildings and these bounce the light around creating some interesting light on some of the features.

The first of these was on the monument to José de Canalejas that is located near to one end of the port. The combination of the light from the sky and also reflected from the buildings, created quite a nice effect on the monument from certain angles and I managed to get this shot that I think looks nice:



Not far from the port is the town hall of Alicante. Opposite the town hall is a plaza with offices and bars and restaurants. The buildings have some character and, again with reflected light from other buildings, they were picking up quite a nice glow. There were not too many people about and I was able to get a nice wide shot that shows the scene pretty well:

The town hall itself (Ajuntament de Alicante) is having some work done. In just over a week there is the big fiesta of Las Hogueras de San Juan (the Bonfires of Saint Joan). Later next week the massive effigies will be brought out and displayed and, the following weekend they will be burnt in a big celebration. 

The town hall is obviously being decorated in preparation and some lights spelling out the Valencian word for Bonfires (Fogueres) are being fitted:

The final image of the day was of the large, and quite beautiful, fountain that sits on a road junction near to the entrance to the port.

I had a look around at the different angles, trying to decide on the composition that would work the best. I was also interested in which angle had the best light. The water jets on the fountain are not in a symmetrical pattern and I decided in the end to shoot at a very slightly off centre angle that I felt worked best for the light and composition.

Again I had no filters or tripod so a long exposure was out of the question and, to be honest, I’m not sure would have been best anyway. There was also quite a lot of traffic and people about so I had to time my shots carefully to try to avoid them in the scene if I could.

I couldn’t quite decide if I wanted a really fast shutter speed to completely freeze the movement of the water or if it would look better with a little bit of blur.

In the end by adjusting the aperture, I shot several images ranging from 1/400 second to 1/60 second and decided to make the final choice when I could see them on the computer.

My final choice was an image that was shot at 1/100 of a second because I felt the really fast shutter speeds didn’t really give enough of a sense of the beauty of the water moving while the 1/100 had just a tiny hint of blur. This was shot with a wide angle lens (10mm) so I had to correct the vertical lines to make it look right:

That’s it for this week.

So, what will next week bring?

To be honest the weather is looking like more of the same, although that could change as weather forecasts are rarely reliable.

This may be a time to look at doing some more urban and architectural images until the conditions for landscapes improve.

If you check back next week I’ll let you know what happened.

Until then, have a great week


(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/6/weather-challenges-and-city-shots Fri, 16 Jun 2017 10:04:03 GMT
My Top 5 Tips To Improve Your Landscape Photography https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/6/my-top-5-tips-to-improve-your-landscape-photography My Top 5 Tips To Improve Your Landscape Photography

I was recently told I should do one of those “Top 5” or “Top 10” tips type posts and I started giving it some thought. I have always felt reluctant to do this kind of post. I didn’t want do the usual combination of “rule of thirds, leading lines, golden hour, use a tripod, shoot in RAW etc. They may be great tips but there are already many posts, videos and articles out there that cover them and I just thought "what’s the point in me just rehashing them?" So I started to think about the development steps I have taken as a photographer and what has really helped me to grow. This led me to the top 5 tips presented here. I would have tried to do them in reverse order of importance but, to be honest, they are all pretty much as important as each other, with the possible exception of number one, which might be the most important tip of all. So, here we go

Top Tip Number 5

Take control of your camera

If your camera has program modes (Landscape, Portrait etc.) then it can be really easy to use them for convenience. By doing so you are giving a lot of your creative control away and I believe it’s important that you understand what the different settings on your camera do and how they change the final image. So learn how to shoot in the three key modes, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual. I shoot about 70% of my images in Aperture Priority and the rest in Manual mode, but I know how to shoot in shutter priority and what changes it makes to the images I shoot. It’s important to understand how different apertures will impact the images you shoot, The depth of field, the exposure time and even the effect on light sources like the sun or artificial lights. Also learn how your metering system works, most have several different modes including spot, centre weighted and matrix (or evaluative). These will change the way your camera interprets the scene for exposure calculation Then there are different focusing modes. Focusing on a single focus point or allowing the camera to select from the available points based on the scene. For landscapes you rarely need that kind of dynamic focus capability that is essential when shooting fast moving objects but it’s still good to know how they work. And don’t forget manual focus. It can come in really handy. And finally, practice changing settings so that you can do it quickly and accurately in the field. If a magical moment of light is happening you really don’t want to be fumbling around trying to remember how to dial back your ISO or change from manual to aperture priority That’s how you miss the shot.

Top Tip Number 4

Learn how your lenses work

Different focal lengths can have a massive impact on how your images look. A wide focal length will increase perspective, Close things will look close but things even a short distance away will look further away and smaller. A long focal length will compress perspective. Things that are actually at quite different distances can look much closer together. Learning how your lenses work and how the different focal lengths effect the scene can help you decide if you are better to zoom in (or out) for a shot or change your position to get closer (or further away) It’s also a good idea to understand the effect that aperture has on the quality of your images. Most lenses have a ‘sweet spot’ where they are sharpest and if you use a larger or smaller aperture they will start to become softer. This effect may be almost unnoticeable or may be quite pronounced. It depends on your lens and your camera. There are many pieces of advice out there to use a small aperture to get maximum depth of field for landscapes. This works and, if your lens and camera combination doesn’t suffer from quality issues at small apertures then you can do this. However, if you experiment to see how aperture impacts the sharpness of your images then you can make appropriate choices in the field about which aperture to choose to get the best combination of depth of field and overall quality. On the subject of depth of field it’s also worth having a basic understanding of this and how to use Hyperfocal Distance focusing (it’s easiest to download a chart, there are loads of them about) Also understand the controls on your lens. Most will have an Autofocus (AF) on or off switch. With some lenses you can still manually focus with AF switched on, on some others this is a bad idea. Some lenses also have some kind of image stabilisation (sometimes VR) and this can be really useful for shooting hand held but can cause problems if you are shooting on a tripod. Get to know what your lens(es) have and get into the habit of checking how they are set before and during a shoot.

Top Tip Number 3

Learn how to process your images

All digital images are processed. If you shoot in JPEG then your camera processes them based on algorithms designed by the software developers for your particular cameras manufacturer. If your going to go to all the trouble of taking artistic control of how your camera captures the image then why leave it up to the automated process to decide how the image is finished. Shoot in RAW (if your camera supports it), so that you have the maximum amount of data in the image file to work with, and then process it yourself. How much processing you do is up to you. Some people like to do a very light touch, tweak a few tone sliders in Lightroom (or a similar product) and leave everything else as is. Some people prefer to do a whole range of adjustments to an image including using third party digital filters, exposure merging, dodging and burning and a whole lot more. The important thing is that you have control about how the final image is processed. On the subject of processing software. I know there are lots of different solutions out there. Some of them are free and some of them cost money. I know that many people begrudge paying for this kind of software when there are free options available. I understand that. Personally I pay to use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop under the Creative Cloud agreement. This means I pay monthly and I get continuous updates with the latest features. It costs me less than a couple of coffees a month (probably a lot less if you buy your coffees at some of the big name chains) and I don’t consider this to be a lot of money for the amount I use it. I haven’t really used the free software for quite a number of years and I’m sure it offers some great functionality. I choose the Adobe products for two reasons. The functionality of the products and the wealth of information out there on blogs and youtube channels to help me learn how to make the best use of it.

Top Tip Number 3

Practice seeing light

The most important thing in landscape photography is the light. The most beautiful and awe inspiring scene can look dull and boring if it’s shot in bad light. The best light is to be had around sunrise and sunset when the sun is low in the sky and the light is soft and warm, but it’s also important to understand the other conditions around that light. Which direction is it coming from? How strong is it (filtered by clouds or straight through a clear sky)? How else are the conditions changing the light (clouds can reflect light onto a landscape that is not being directly lit by the sun)? What kind of shadows are being created and how strong are they (shadows can add a lot of texture to a scene but, if they are too strong can cause exposure issues and result in excessively dark areas)? While the hour around sunrise and sunset is normally the best time for great light (it’s why it’s called the golden or magic hour) great light can be had at other times of day, perhaps into late morning and as soon as early afternoon, particularly in winter when the sun is normally a lot lower throughout the day, so it’s worth observing this and understanding how it can work for your images. Plus there are, of course, other light sources than the sun. Night photography brings in the moon, the stars and artificial lights for example. The great thing about this tip is that you can practice it all the time, even if you haven’t got your camera. As you go through your day look at how the light is falling on the world around you, and try to imagine how it will look at different times of the day or year when the light is coming from a different position. It’s amazing how doing this over a period of time will give you new ideas on where and how to shoot.

Top Tip Number 2

Practice seeing compositions

If light is the most important thing in landscape photography then composition is not only the second most important thing, it is potentially the ONLY other thing. A great view, even a world class view, can look dull and boring if the composition is wrong. Conversely, a fairly routine view can look spectacular if it is composed well. There are ‘rules’ of composition. The rule of thirds, the golden ratio, lead in lines, foreground, middle ground and background etc. These are not so much rules as starting points. The idea of composition is, normally, to create an image with depth and to lead the observes eye to where we want them to look, ideally by following a path through the frame. Adding foreground interest as well as a background helps to show the third dimension in our two dimensional images. If you have a clear foreground, middle ground and background then you have depth. If you have some kind of line that runs from the foreground to the background then this will lead the eye in. Of course don’t forget the focal point. The main piece of interest that you want to observers eye to rest on. I’m not going to get into the rules and technicalities of composition here, again there are a wealth of articles, books and videos out there that do that. What I am going to suggest is that you start to look at the world around you in terms of composition. Once again this is an exercise that can be done even if you don’t have your camera. If you see an interesting view, don’t just stand there looking at it, have a bit of a look around the area and see if you can spot a composition that would work. Find some foreground interest, a nice focal point, etc. If you can do that, and then imagine the scene in different light conditions (as per Tip 3) then you will start to see all sorts of photographic possibilities.

Top Tip Number 1

OK, so this is my most important tip…

Take photographs!

Sounds obvious but here’s the trap that’s easy to fall into. We want to get beautiful pictures so we want a beautiful location. We find some but they are all a long drive away. We want to shoot them in the best light so we have to find time to make a long trip early in the morning or stay late in the evening We want the sun to be in the right direction so that limits the months when we can shoot at this location and get the best results We really want the right kind of weather, some clouds to create interest in the sky and perhaps reflect some light on the scene but not so much that no light can get through Add all of these limitations up and when do we actually go out to take pictures? Maybe we’ll get a chance in a couple of months if the weather looks promising. It’s an easy trap to fall into and, when we do eventually get there we may well end up being disappointed with the results. Not only may the conditions not be what we hoped for (this happens a lot) but, because we haven’t been practicing, we end up making a mess of the opportunity. Poor exposure, composition or focus means we end up with disappointing pictures. So… Shoot When and Where You Can! If that means going out in the middle of the day to the local park, or even in your own garden, so be it. With the right composition even images that are taken in “run of the mill” places, and in the “wrong” kind of light can be beautiful, and by getting out and shooting you have a great opportunity to practice tips 5,4,3 and 2 and, as a result you will be developing your skills, in all aspects of creating an image from composition to processing, and improving the chances that, when you do get to that special location, at the right time of day, and in the right weather conditions, you will get some shots that are what you hoped and dreamed you would get.

Bonus tips!

OK, I wanted to mention a few bonus tips that I’m not going into too much detail about

Bonus tip 1

Look at other peoples work and learn from it. I don’t mean try to copy it but look at what elements (light, composition, reflections, processing styles etc,) you particularly like about an image and then try to factor these elements into your own images. You don’t just have to look at photographs. Paintings and even TV programs can provide great inspiration. Conversely you can also decide what elements you don’t like and exclude them from your work.

Bonus tip 2

Learn patience and persistence. A lot of landscape photography is waiting around for the light to be just right. By all means take pictures while you’re waiting but don’t be tempted to rush off too soon. Also be prepared to try, try and try again. Sometimes, despite what the weather forecast says, the weather is not what we hoped for. If it doesn’t work out then you may just have to go back again if you really want that shot. Of course you can sometimes find alternative shots so you don’t go home empty handed.

Bonus tip 3

Enjoy being outside. Finding locations and checking out compositions in advance is a fundamental part of landscape photography. Sometimes I might scout a location and decide to come back in 6 months. For me, the scouting process is enjoyable, I like to get out and about, I enjoy being outside, getting exercise and relishing the scenery. If you enjoy that too then you will have a great time regardless of what you find.

Bonus tip 4

Several times in this article I’ve mentioned that there are a lot of articles, blogs, and videos about a variety of subjects including composition, post processing and a lot more. Use them. They can be a great learning source and you will get a lot of different viewpoints on how things can be done that you can then try out and decide what works for you

Bonus tip 5

Have fun! While there’s a lot of things to learn and practice, photography should be enjoyable. So have fun doing it. Sometimes when I’m out and about I’ll just take pictures for the hell of it. It might be some flowers or birds, or some other random thing that catches my eye. I may never use them but it soothes the shutter junkie within and sometimes I get some really nice images this way. I hope you have enjoyed this article, If so a Like or Share is always appreciated and please feel free to leave any comments below

(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/6/my-top-5-tips-to-improve-your-landscape-photography Tue, 13 Jun 2017 11:45:00 GMT
Orxeta, Guadalest and El Hondo https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/6/orxeta-guadalest-and-el-hondo Orxeta, Guadalest and El Hondo

This weeks photography has been about three very different shoots. Different locations, different weather and very different styles.

An afternoon shoot in cloudy conditions, with the threat of rain, in the mountains to the north of Orxeta.

A morning hike around the reservoir at Guadalest with blue skies, sunshine and very little in the way of cloud.

A beautiful and tranquil dawn shoot at the lakes of El Hondo nature reserve.


On Monday afternoon I decided to head up to the northern end of Orxeta and to explore on a marked hiking trail (called the PR-CV353). The afternoon was very cloudy, with a threat of rain. I was hoping that I might get some nice dramatic looking light conditions, even if I wasn’t shooting at the best time of day.

There is a small car park on the outskirts of the village and the trail headed off towards the nearby mountains. It first dipped down into the Sella valley, the Sella being the river that feeds into the Amadorio reservoir, before climbing again up into the nearby hills.

Not far into the walk I came across a group of trees at the side of the trail and a great view of a small but dramatically shaped peak a little way into the distance. This is a peak I have seen, and even photographed, before from a distance but this was a completely different view. I have not been able to find a name for this peak. It is surrounded on three sides by much larger and taller mountains (The Sierra Aitana, Sierra Amadorio and Puig Campana).

I decided to try a long exposure shot to get some movement in the heavy clouds and I ended up shooting a total of seven 20 second images (20 seconds being the longest exposure I could get with a 10 stop filter at f/16) which I knew I could then average in photoshop to get the equivalent of a 140 second exposure. The only problem was that the wind was quite strong and all of the leaves and branches, and the grass, was moving in the wind and would come out blurry. So I did one additional shot without the filter at 1/60 second that I could use for the foreground:

You can read my technique for extending long exposures in Photoshop HERE 

At one point the trail crossed the tiny stream that is the river Sella via a small wooden bridge. I considered a shot but the light on the scene was flat and uninteresting so I moved on.

I then started a fairly stiff climb up the winding path. After a while I came out on a cross path with a few options. I chose, this time at least, to head up a small path that had some steps cut into it. This proved to be quite a steep climb and the steps were only available in a few places. Despite the heavy cloud it was very warm and humid but I eventually reached a spot that had some beautiful views out over the rugged landscape and a really nice view of that unnamed peak.

I set up and waited as the clouds moved across the sky. After a while I got a nice pattern of light and shadow on both the landscape and the peak and this was the result:

While I was in the spot I decided to also get a closer shot of the peak. A longer focal length and then it was just a case of waiting for the right patterns of light and shadow again:

It had taken me the best part of an hour to climb up this far from my first shot with the trees, it was going to take me an hour to walk back (it was more downhill on the way back but although that means it should be easier it also means it’s much more tricky as the risk of slipping and falling is much greater on the steep down slopes.

Also, while I had been taking these shots the sun had started to break through the clouds that were over my current location, and it was getting hot.

I started the descent, taking my time all the way and, after about 45 minutes, I made it back to the little bridge over the Sella river. 

What a difference. The sun was now shining and the bridge and it’s surrounding plant life was full of colour. OK, it’s not the most impressive river or bridge but it was pretty in its own way:

After that it took about another 20 minutes or so back to the car and I headed for home

My second trip out was to Guadalest. Specifically I intended to walk the circuit of Guadalest reservoir.

I headed up there fairly early in the morning. It wasn’t the crack of dawn but I was hoping that some reasonable light would be possible on the route around.

I parked up in a small parking area near to the dam and started the circuit by crossing the dam and taking the Camino Rural (rural road) up onto the slopes of the Serella mountains.

This is an easy walk. It’s about a 10 km circuit (6.2 miles) and about 65 % of it is on the tarmac Camino Rural which, although open to traffic, is very quiet. I only saw 3 cars and 2 cyclists on the whole route.

Shortly after crossing the dam I found quite an interesting view down onto the water with some trees in the foreground and more trees on a piece of bank that sticks out. These trees were reflected in the water as was a small part of Serella mountains that were visible over the trees in the distance:

A bit further along and I was treated to a great view of El Castell de Guadalest sitting high up on its rocky ridge. This is not the view that most people see as the normal tourist stop off is within the village itself. In fact, this road is probably the only place that you can get such a viewpoint and I decided it was worth an image:

For a while the road climbs the slopes, not steeply, it’s still an easy walk, and then slowly descends again. After about 4 km the road crosses the small river that feeds into the reservoir. It’s not a very impressive amount of water and most of it is hidden by trees and overgrown plants. I even found a very small waterfall tucked in near to the bridge but there is absolutely no way to get anywhere near of it short of abseiling (and it really isn’t that impressive).

The route continues on for another couple of kilometres during which it does climb again until one particular vantage point offered a great view down the winding length of the reservoir from the entry point of the river with the mountains in the background:

Shortly after this the trail leaves the road and drops down steeply towards the waters edge. There is a small stream that has to be crossed (the walking guides refer to stepping stones but this is either a very generous description or perhaps they have moved due to the unusual weather over the winter) and then the trail heads back towards the dam and where I had left the car.

It was a pleasant walk. I will be doing it again at some point but I may actually end up diverting off and trying to find some side trails that would get me different views down closer to the water.

And so, to the final shoot of the week. 

The previous week I had originally planned to do a dawn shoot at El Hondo nature reserve but, at the last minute, I had changed my mind and went to Albir instead.

So, this week I decided to give El Hondo a try. A check of the weather forecast showed some ideal conditions. Quite a lot of cloud and almost no wind. If that worked out it should be good.

I headed out about one and a half hours before sunrise. It’s about a 45 minute drive to get there and then I allowed myself 10 minutes to walk around to where I intended to shoot and then, with some set up time, I should be ready to start taking pictures from about 30 minutes before sunrise (and staying while the light lasted of course).

When I arrived the place was deserted (and it stayed like that until I left, absolute heaven). I parked up and walked around to the long wooden bridge that extends across the closest lake. I was intending to use this in my shots.

I actually needed to get to the far side of the bridge and it was quite disconcerting to feel the number of spider webs I passed through as I walked the length of the bridge. I shouldn’t be surprised, there are a lot if insects there.

Conditions were looking superb. As the blue hour started to shift into the golden hour the sky started to get the first hints of colour, which was also reflected in the water, while the rest of the scene retained that blue tone of the ‘almost night’. The wooden boards of the bridge do tend to flex as you move around so I tried to avoid super long exposures as even the slightest movement I made could result in blurry images.

A 10 second exposure while I did my best impression of a statue resulted in my first image of the shoot:

Time passed and I watched the changing conditions, I tried a few more shots but nothing that was better than the one I already had.

There was a bank of cloud low down in the sky, right where the sun was rising. As the sun came up behind the cloud it created a beautiful scene with subtle tones and really soft light. Re-composing to place the brightest part of the sky out of the frame to the right I captured this shot:

More waiting, it wasn't much of a hardship as the the scene was beautiful and peaceful. The birds around the area were waking up and moving about. There was the occasional splash of some kind of hunting, or maybe it was fish.

I could see that the sun would soon hit a gap in the clouds, assuming the gap didn’t close up, and I hoped that it would do so before the quality of light and colours faded.

I quickly set up a shot looking towards the rising sun, nothing man made in this shot, just the sky reflected in the water with some plants to break up the foreground and the plant covered banks of the lake in the distance:

I re-composed again. If the sun broke though soon it would produce some beautiful colours. If it took too long then the colours would be gone and, although still pretty, the scene would not be as good.

Finally, about 25 minutes after actual sunrise, the sun briefly broke through the cloud and everything lit up. I took a couple of shots as the sun traversed a gap that was too small for all of it be visible at the same time. In the end I chose this one as the best:

I waited around for a bit longer, I wanted to see what happened when the sun cleared the next block of cloud but, as I expected, the colours were going. I waited for about another 10 minutes but I could tell that it as all over and it was time to pack up, drive home, and get some well earned breakfast.

That’s it for this week. I have a few plans for next week, all depending on weather conditions, and I’ll share the result with you in the next post.

Until then, have a great week 

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/6/orxeta-guadalest-and-el-hondo Fri, 09 Jun 2017 14:27:00 GMT
Albir Lighthouse, El Campello Marina and Statues at Dawn https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/6/albir-lighthouse-el-campello-marina-and-statues-at-dawn Albir Lighthouse, El Campello Marina and Statues at Dawn 

So… that’s May over and done with and June is now underway. 

There are more people on the beach, particularly at the weekends but we're also seeing more during the week as well, and the lifeguards have arrived on station now that the season is officially here.

This weekend there is a big lifesaving and swimming event happening on the beach near us, apparently there will be over 300 competitors although I’m not really sure exactly what they will be competing at.

Speaking of the beach, this week has seen the beach returned to its pre-winter storm glory. A big dredger has been sucking sand up from the entrance to the marina and this sand has been redistributed along the beach to bring it back to the depth that it was before a lot of it was washed away over the winter.

Photographically it’s all been about dawn shoots. Of course, as we are into June, the sunrise is getting earlier and that means I have to get up earlier in order to catch it.

The sunrise is also getting further north which means that some nearby locations are not getting any light until far too late to be of any interest.

I’ve managed two early morning shoots this week, one a bit of a trip and one close to home in El Campello.

For the first one I had a plan, and then changed it. The weather was supposed to be quite cloudy, which meant the chance of some interesting skies and colours, and I had decided that I was going to do a return trip to El Hondo nature park to get some early shots on the lakes there.

To be honest I had my doubts about the location at this time of year. If I was really lucky then it could be really good but, anything less than ideal conditions and the chances are I would come back with nothing.

Nevertheless I planned an early start and set an alarm accordingly.

Now, as it happened, I woke up early and made a last minute change of plan. Instead of heading south to El Hondo I decided to head north to Albir. My idea was to take some shots from the cliff walk on the Sierra Helada with the lighthouse providing an extra point of interest.

Albir is about a 40 minute drive and I needed another 15 minutes or so to get to where I was planning to shoot. I was actually there in plenty of time and I was immediately happy with my decision. The sky was looking quite interesting, the only thing I would have preferred was a bit more movement in the water below.

I took my first shot 50 minutes before sunrise. It was still pretty dark and I needed a 25 second exposure to get the scene. I was pleased that I managed to capture the light on the lighthouse flashing. 

Looking at the scene at the time, and later at the image I took. I can see how these cliffs get their name. Sierra Helada means frost mountains. They are so called because, at night and from the sea, they are supposed to look like ice.

With the cool tones of the early morning light I could see how that could happen:

Then it was a case of waiting to see what would happen as the sun came up. The initial moments of sunrise were pretty unspectacular. There was some cloud sitting right on the horizon and this blocked the first part of the sunrise and the light was pretty flat on the scene, although the sky looked quite nice.

After about 5 minutes the sun broke through a gap in the clouds and it painted the sea and the sides of the cliffs with light. I went for a wider composition to have both the lighthouse, albeit very small, and the sunrise in the same frame. There was a lot of contrast and I shot three exposures that I merged later (one for the highlights, one for the shadows and one for the mid tones):

I decided there was one final shot, this time showing a bit more of the Lighthouse. I recomposed with a longer focal length and waiting until the sun was nicely lighting up the rocks and the side of the lighthouse itself and that made for my final image for the morning:

My second shoot of the week was very close to home. For a while now I’ve had in my mind to shoot the marina at El Campello in the blue hour. The lights on the boats, and around the marina, as well as the floodlit medieval watchtower, should make for a good image. I wanted a still day so that the marina was nice and calm and the boats were not moving too much. A little bit of motion blur on the boats would be inevitable with longer exposures but I didn’t want too much. I also wanted the waters to be still as this would produce some nice reflections.

The marina is only a 10 minute walk from home so I didn’t have to get up too early. I wanted to be there at least 45 minutes before sunrise to maximise my chances.

I arrived in plenty of time and set up for the first shot. This was definitely blue hour. Both the water and the sky had a lot of blue tones and the warmth of the artificial lights on the boats and the floodlit tower with this blue made for an appealing combination. The reflection of the tower is not pristine as there was some water movement, especially with a 25 second exposure, but I preferred it that way anyway:

I then decided to shoot a quite ambitious panorama. I wanted to do a 180 degree view of the marina while the lights were still on. I needed 16 vertical frames to get the whole lot in and each frame was a 25 second exposure. It was a nightmare to process because the final image is a 234 megapixel file but I liked the end result :

When I planned this shoot I had a very specific image in mind over and above the two I already had. This image would include a bit more of the quayside and some of the streetlamp's in the foreground. This needed to be timed for when the ambient light got a bit brighter but before the streetlamp’s were turned off. This was important as I needed to balance the natural light and the artificial light and, with the streetlamp’s being in the foreground they would overpower the image if the overall scene was too dark.

Finally the light looked about right for this composition and I think the end result was worthwhile:

I had already worked out that there was no point hanging around the marina for the actual sunrise so I quickly walked up onto a section of the coastline that is called “Voramar de les Escultures”. I believe this must be a Valencian name as it doesn't seem to translate into Spanish.

This section of the coast has a walk that has three separate statues by an artist called Vicente Ferrer. They are all of women and one of them is of a girl or young woman lying on her front and reading a book.

I thought there was a shot to be had here of the statue in the foreground and the sun rising in the distance (over Sierra Helada north of Benidorm at this time of year). I just had to hope that the small amount of cloud in the sky would hang around long enough to provide that little bit of interest, and it did:

So… that’s it for this week. Next week may include another trip up to Albir to see if I can find my way to a better viewpoint of the lighthouse plus there will, almost certainly, be at least one dawn shoot somewhere. 

I’ll tell you about that in the next post. Until then… Have a great week.

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/6/albir-lighthouse-el-campello-marina-and-statues-at-dawn Sat, 03 Jun 2017 08:06:43 GMT
El Hondo and Amadorio. Mostly Wildlife https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/5/el-hondo-and-amadorio-mostly-wildlife El Hondo and Amadorio. Mostly Wildlife 

This week my photography has been more wildlife than landscape focused. In part this has been because of the weather conditions, clear blue skies are not generally what I am looking for when I plan to go out and do landscape shots.

There have been two trips out this week.

One of them was a nice long walk around that old favourite of mine, Amadorio reservoir, the other was to El Hondo nature reserve.

Starting off with El Honda, which was the earlier trip.

I have been here before, quite a while ago, and I had always intended to come back armed with my long lens (Tamron 150-600) so that I could really see what kind of images I could get of some of the wildlife. Well, this week was the week.

El Hondo is about a 45 minute drive away and I headed off in the afternoon. Once parked up I started to explore, beginning on the wooden bridges that cross one of the lakes and, almost immediately, I found something worth getting a shot of. 

Nestled in among some reeds was a Squacco Heron. I moved carefully to avoid making too much noise and managed to get quite a nice angle on it:

I made my way around to some of the hides that are provided and was rewarded with a really nice view of a flamingo. I spent a bit of time watching and waiting, looking out for a nice ‘flamingo like’ pose and finally captured this image:

This particular hide is very well placed with views on three sides. I was not alone here as there was a small group of birdwatchers, from England, also taking advantage of it however, after a short while they left and I had the place to myself for a while.

Before they left they were spending quite a bit of time looking at a Pied Avocet Chick that was wading in the shallows near to the hide. After they had gone I spent a bit of time myself trying to get a nice shot of this cute and fluffy little guy and ended up with this one:

All the while the chick was wandering around the adult (I assume the mother) was keeping a close eye on it and, it has to be said, it was a very interesting looking bird with it’s long legs for wading and a very long and curved beak. I had to get a decent picture of it:

What I really wanted was a shot with the two of the them (mother and chick) interacting in some way. I waited around for a while and eventually I was rewarded when they came together for a brief time on the shoreline:

Some more people arrived shortly after and I decided to move on and explore a bit more of the reserve finally coming back around to the area near the entrance to the park where I spotted a Hoopoe perched on a railing by the walkway. 

Unlike the last time I saw a Hoopoe, this time I had the right lens for the job and I managed, what I think, is quite a nice shot of it:

Finally, while I had been walking around the park, I had noticed some really large dragonflies about. These were around 3 inches or 75mm long and were mostly coloured yellow with some black on them and some greenish colouring about the eyes. 

They were moving pretty fast but, on one of the wooden walkways, I spotted one come in to rest. I really wasn’t set up for macro work. I had the 150 to 600 mm lens on the camera and the closest this will focus is about 2.7 metres. However I decided to try a shot. Zoomed almost all the way from about 3 metres distance I managed to get focus and fire off a quick burst of shots, hoping that one would be clear. I didn’t hold out too much hope but, when I got home, I was pleasantly surprised by one shot that I think has remarkable clarity given the distance and the lens used:

My second trip out was to Amadorio reservoir. This is a location I keep on going back to, partly because I really enjoy walking there and partly because there are still so many things to explore.

This time I set out with the intention of doing a complete circuit of the reservoir, which is about a 7.5 kilometre (4.7 mile) walk, with a bit of a detour off on some rough trails to see if these would lead to any new photo opportunities.Including the detours I ended up doing about 9.7 kilometres (6 miles).

The rough trails, sadly, did not get me anything worth re-visiting but it was a lovely afternoon for a walk and there was almost nobody else about for most of it so I enjoyed it for the walk alone.

At one point I stopped at a location that has a view over one side of the reservoir. There is a large pipe there that is now floating on the surface of the water (last summer when I was here this whole section was dry and the pipe was resting on the remains of some kind of old bridge).

The pipe was providing a really handy perch for loads of gulls that were, I believe, using it as a hunting platform.

A longish focal length let me get a nice composition and then I waited hoping to catch something interesting with the gulls flying in or out. I turned the ISO up to keep the shutter speed fairly fast as I wanted to freeze any action rather than having any blurred wings if the gulls were flying.

I finally settled on this shot that I think works pretty well:

I moved around to an area that overlooks the road bridge that passes across the northern end of the reservoir. This vantage point allowed me to fit in the water, the bridge and the rocky peak and distant Aitana mountain range.

There was no cloud about and I decided to minimise the amount of sky, there were also some nice coloured flowers in amongst the bushes below me. 

As the afternoon was moving on the sun was a bit lower and the light was looking quite nice. Sunrise or sunset shoots here at this time of year would not be great as the area is surrounded by mountains and tall hills and the light on the scene is only there when the sun is a bit higher in the sky.

I took one image that I was quite pleased with, it was only when I got home that I realised I had forgotten to turn the ISO back down. Fortunately there was still almost no noise in the image and what little there was (mostly in the blue sky) was easily dealt with using noise reduction in post:

So, that’s it for this week.

Next week I am hoping for some nice weather conditions, by which I mean some nice cloud, for an early morning shoot, possibly at El Honda. I will also be looking at some exploration options to see if I can find some new locations and potentially doing a walk all the way around Guadalest reservoir.

More on all that in the next post. Until then…. 

Have a great week.

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/5/el-hondo-and-amadorio-mostly-wildlife Fri, 26 May 2017 09:34:57 GMT
Parades, Towers and Sunrise on Dune Covered Beaches https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/5/parades-towers-and-sunrise-on-dune-covered-beaches Parades, Towers and Sunrise on Dune Covered Beaches 

I think we can say that summer has arrived. We’ve had warm temperatures, verging on hot, all week. The long trousers have been packed away now for the next few months and shorts are the standard dress.

It’s been a diverse week with quite a few things going on. We had to do a trip up to Denia towards the end of the week to see our new accountant and we had a bit of a look round the town and the port while we were there. No photos from this trip but it may be a place to revisit another time for a better look around.

Also, towards the end of the week, a huge dredger has turned up off the beach here in El Campello and they are in the process of starting to repair the damage that was caused by the winter storms. We’re not sure how long that’s going to take but I guess they will probably want it finished in the next week or so before the season starts properly.

Last weekend was our wedding anniversary and El Campello put on a celebration. OK, so the celebration was nothing to do with our wedding anniversary but rather it was the Celebración del Mig Any de Moros y Cristianos. This appears to mark the half year point between the big Moors and Christians celebrations and was a good enough reason for some noise and some parades.

We headed into town on Sunday and watched one of the parades. It’s not as big an event as the main celebration but there was still quite a lot of people out marching, several bands and even some people in full costumes:

As this parade was not as busy it was possible to move around the route and photograph it in different areas. This meant a lot more opportunities than doing the big parades in October where you are pretty much restricted to one spot.

This week I also achieved something I have been wanting to do for a while now. I climbed up to the old Tower of the Barranc d’Aigües that sits on the hill of the Reixes in the north of El Campello. 


I had been struggling to find the route up there but, this week, I came across some new information that gave me some clues. I drove up to the area called Poblets, parked the car and started the climb.

It’s not a particularly big climb. The actual ascent is only about 115 metres to the apex of the hill above the tower (where the picture above was taken) as the start point is well above sea level. The high point of the hill is at about 201 metres.

Now, having said that, it’s not an easy climb as the path is not well marked (or indeed marked at all in many places) and it can be hard to find the way. There are a few places that look like trails but then they come to dead ends. 

After a while I made it to the apex and then had to try to find the trail down to the tower. I paused partway to take another shot that gives some idea of the views from up there:

After a while I made it down to the tower itself which is pretty much a ruin and has, sadly, been graffitied on one side. It’s still quite impressive to see and I did take one more shot of it while I was here:

To be honest I was scouting the location out for either a sunrise or sunset shoot however some considerations need to be made regarding the difficulty of finding the trail in the dark. While I’m sure it’s possible I do feel slightly concerned about the possibility of going wrong and possibly falling and hurting myself if I try this route in full dark. So, my current plan is to wait until winter when the sunrise moves further around and then aim to get to the trails at first light. This should allow enough time to get to a good vantage point for some nice side lit shots of the tower and scene while allowing me to make the climb in slightly brighter conditions, and therefore with a bit more safety.

And so… to the final shoot of the week. 

I was looking for the right conditions to head down to the Arenales del Sol near to Elche. This is a beach that is backed by some lovely sand dunes. In order to protect the dunes the access to the beach is via some wooden bridges or walkways that run through the dunes.

For Wednesday conditions were looking promising. The weather forecast was for 70 to 80% cloud cover at around sunrise and this should have made for some interesting skies.

An alarm was duly set and I rose on Wednesday morning with enough time for the 35 minute drive to get me there some 30 to 40 minutes before sunrise. 

As I headed out I started to note that the sky looked a lot clearer than I expected. In fact there was very little cloud and I knew this could mean that I would have real trouble getting any decent shots in this location. Nevertheless, I was up and in the car so I carried on.

On arriving on location I headed out onto the bridges and checked the conditions. There was some cloud out on the horizon in the general direction of where the sun was due to rise. It didn't extend very high in the sky but it was already picking up some nice colour and there was enough light already appearing on the foreground to create some interest.

As it approached 25 minutes before sunrise I set up for a shot looking down the short section of the bridge that leads to the near end of the beach. I needed to add a 2 stop ND hard graduated filter to balance the exposure but the result was quite nice:

I really wanted to get some shots looking more to the north, this is where the long and winding section of bridge is, and there was some cloud in the sky that would add a bit of interest, especially with the colours really coming in as we got within 15 minutes of the sun coming up. 

As sunrise approached the clouds were clearing even more. There was still some cloud in the general direction of the rising sun and this was the only area where the sky was of any interest. I hadn't planned to do a shot into the rising sun here but I decided it was worth a try. 

I moved onto the short section of bridge that I had started out on for the first shot. The contrast in the scene was now huge. I changed the 2 stop ND hard grad for the 3 stop but I was still getting a blown out sky and a very dark foreground.

I decided to shoot 6 exposures, The first 3 would be for merging to cope with the contrast. These would be exposed for the brightest part of the sky, the mid-tones and the shadows respectively. The other 3 would be identical compositions and exposures but shot with my thumb blocking out the sun so that I could avoid lens flare from shooting straight into the sun.

If you want to you can read my technique for avoiding lens flare HERE 

I could have stacked the ND filters but I felt merging the exposures would give me better control of the light, in particular the sky. This was the final result:

After the sun came up I looked around for a final shot. Moving a bit further north along the walkway I came to a section where the sun was just breaking across the top of the dunes on my right and picking out the tops of the rails on the bridge and the distant mountains. 

I decided to minimise the amount of sky as there was now very little cloud to make it interesting and, although I wasn't sure this composition would work when I checked it in camera, I am now quite pleased with the way it came out:

I left shortly after this to head home for a well deserved breakfast and coffee. Despite the inaccurate weather forecast I was sure I had some nice images and I was glad I’d made the effort.

So, that’s about it for this week. Next week I may consider a return to El Hondo nature reserve, I’m thinking that some wildlife photography may be worth while and I may also consider scouting it for a dawn shoot.

Other than that I’m not sure on my photographic plan for next week but I’ll let you know in the next post.

Until then… Have a great week

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/5/parades-towers-and-sunrise-on-dune-covered-beaches Sat, 20 May 2017 11:50:48 GMT
Villajoyosa north and Cabo de Huertas https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/5/villajoyosa-north-and-cabo-de-huertas Villajoyosa north and Cabo de Huertas

Another warm week here in El Campello, definite signs that we are heading into summer. During the daytime shorts have become the standard attire and even in the evenings and early mornings it is generally warm enough without resorting to long trousers. 

Of course, with the warmer weather comes more people and we are definitely seeing more about, especially at the weekends. 

Also, as we move into summer, sunrise gets earlier and sunset gets later and, just to add to that, the position of the sun at each end of the day gets more restrictive in terms of where I can go locally to get good conditions for photography.

During this last week I have had two outings. The first was a photowalk on the cliffs between Villajoyosa and Benidorm. I did this as part photo opportunity and part scouting trip and I managed some unexpected images.

My second outing was a dawn shoot at Cabo de Huertas which is on the border with Alicante itself.

So, let's start off with the photowalk.

I headed up to the northern end of Villajoyosa and parked up. The plan was to follow the coastal trail up to the cliffs overlooking the southern end of Benidorm and pay another visit to the watchtower there called Torre El Aguiló.

The last time I did this route I managed to find the hard way. Steep, rough and, in some cases, almost non-existent trails. This time I knew better and I followed the path I had discovered on the way back last time.

The weather was warm and sunny, very little wind and just a bit of light cloud. It was afternoon and a long way from sunset so I wasn't expecting great light but part of the fun is to go and find locations and work out when will be best to shoot them.

After about an hours walk I arrived at Torre El Aguiló. I spent some time looking at possible compositions for both early morning and late evening shoots. I checked the sunrise and sunset positions for various times in the year and came to the conclusion that this would have to be a winter shoot to get the best from the location, At either end of the day I would want the sun to be as far out to sea as possible and that means coming back around December.

Nevertheless, while I was there, I took advantage of a period when the sun was partially obscured by thin cloud, and therefore the light was a bit more diffuse, to take a couple of images of the tower itself.

The first one looking from the immediate seaward side of the tower and slightly down the cliff:

The second one looking away from the Benidorm end and using a fallen tree as some foreground interest. I suspect this tree will be gone by the time I come back in the winter which is a shame as it could work really well for a sunset image later in the year:

I started the walk back and, as I got back past the halfway point I decided to try exploring some smaller trails that led up higher on the hills and cliffs. Again I was looking for potential locations but, as I was walking along some of the less used trails, I noticed a number of butterflies darting around the small flowers and plants.

I'm not much of an expert on butterflies but my research later has identified them as Swallowtails. I am also not much of an expert in macro photography, and I didn't have a macro lens, but I decided to try to get some shots of them using the 'long end' of my normal 'walkabout' lens which is an 18-105 zoom.

I settled in and tried to watch the patterns of the butterflies, striving to predict where they were going to settle so that I could be in the right position. They flittered about all over the place, sometimes one would almost crash into me. When they did settle they were too far away, so I relocated and, of course, they then started settling back where I had previously been. 

I'm used to being patient for landscape shots, waiting for the light to be 'just right', waiting for the wave to break in the perfect place, but this required a whole new level of patience. Before I knew it the best part of an hour had gone by and I needed to see about heading for home, I still had about half an hours walking to get back to the car.

Even as I left I wasn't sure if I'd managed any decent shots but I was pleased to find that I had a few that were worth keeping:

My second shoot was a dawn shoot in the middle of the week and it all started with a check of the weather forecast which was forecasting 70 to 80% cloud cover around dawn. This could result in something pretty nice but, the big question, where to shoot?

I checked a variety of locations on The Photographers Ephemeris and finally decided to head to Cabo de Huertas.

This is a location I have been to before and I have shot the lighthouse here several time. This time I was planning on shooting the rocky ridges that make up the shoreline, hopefully with some great light and an interesting sky.

An early rise and a 25 minute drive followed by about 15 minutes walking got me to the general area and I checked out the conditions. The sky was looking really promising but the sea was almost completely flat. That meant no waves breaking over the rocks.

As the sea movement was going to be fairly uninteresting I decided to not go for a really low point of view but to shoot from a slightly higher vantage point and go the long exposure route to flatten out what little movement there was in the water. 

My first shot was about 10 minutes before sunrise and I used a 3 stop ND graduated filter to balance the sky with the foreground and a 6 stop ND filter to slow the exposure time down to 91 seconds:

As the sun started to come up I changed position slightly. Moving slightly higher to fit in more of the rocky foreground. The sun was blocked by cloud as it came up and what little breeze had been moving the clouds completely disappeared. I waited and, about 10 minutes after sunrise I started to see light breaking out of the top of the clouds. I really wanted a very long exposure and I swapped my 6 stop filter for a 10 stop. This meant I could get about 60 seconds at f/8. Of course I could have gone for f/16 which would have given me about 3 minutes but this could cause me some problems.

I know that my camera starts to develop noise on long exposures over about 2 minutes. Also the light was changing quite a bit and, in the course of a 3 minute exposure I ran the risk that I would end up getting the exposure wrong, potentially blowing out the highlights or underexposing the shadows and, if I did, there would be no time for a second try.

So I ended up shooting three 60 second exposures (they ended up being 61 seconds each) and then I averaged them in Photoshop to get a final image that is the equivalent to a 183 second exposure. Even with this long an exposure the wind was so low that the clouds are hardly blurred at all:

By the time the sun cleared the clouds the best of the light was gone and it was time to head for home, I was looking forward to my breakfast.

If you are interested in the technique I mentioned to average exposures in photoshop to extend long exposure times then you can read it HERE

That's about it for this week. I hope you have enjoyed this post and I'll be producing another one next week.

Until then, have a great week




(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/5/villajoyosa-north-and-cabo-de-huertas Fri, 12 May 2017 09:27:53 GMT
Dawn and Daytime on the Costa Blanca https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/5/dawn-and-daytime-on-the-costa-blanca Dawn and Daytime on the Costa Blanca

Lovely weather for most of this week. Of course that really means warm with blue skies which are not really the best conditions for landscape photography but we have had a few more interesting days thrown in which have kept me happy.

Let's start off with a dawn shoot last Saturday. This was the last day in April and the weather forecast for the period around dawn was for a mix of cloud and clear sky. I had, as always when doing a coastal shoot, looked at the weather for a number of different location including El Campello, Villajoyosa, Benidorm, Calpe and Alicante. The reason for this is simple. I was going to be in El Campello but the plan was to shoot towards the rising sun which means I was interested in what the conditions were going to be like in that direction, hence checking Villajoyosa, Benidorm and Calpe. Alicante is in the opposite direction but I quite often find that, after the sun rises, there can be some really nice conditions with the sun at my back.

I chose to head up to Cova del Llop Mari. It's pretty much as easy to walk there as it is to drive as part of the route is a private road that I couldn't drive down anyway, and it only takes about 25 minutes to walk it from home . So I set off a little more than an hour before sunrise in order to get there while we were still in the blue hour.

Access to Cova del Llop Mari is via a small 'alley' between buildings with a set of steps leading down. The steps stop at a vantage point with a nice view out over the coastline and, as it was quite early, I decided to shoot a panoramic view from here before heading down the rocky path to the actual cove below:

Then I moved down onto the rocks below and played around with a few potential compositions. I was looking for where I would get some nice waves breaking around the rocks and, at the same time, keeping an eye on the clouds that were starting to clear. If they cleared too much then it would make the scene pretty boring, fortunately there was still quite a bit of cloud towards Alicante so I had that as a back up.

I took a few shots in the lead up to actual sunrise but there was nothing that was really appealing. Then, as the sun started to appear over the horizon, some more clouds moved into the scene. I waited for the sun to rise a bit more, I wanted to get some nice colours in the clouds and also get some decent light on the foreground. The optimum time came a few minutes after the sun rose and I fired off a few shots, trying to catch the best moment for the wave patterns. This was the result:

While this had been going on I had kept an eye on the other direction, looking back towards Alicante, pretty much 180 degrees away from the rising sun. As the sun climbed a bit higher it became tricky to keep shooting towards it so I turned to see what I could do with the scene behind me.

Using a rocky outcrop that has some trees and railings on from a house, and also keeping some waves breaking in the foreground, I picked a composition that would show off the colours that were both in the clouds and being reflected down into the sea:

And then it was time to head for home and a well earned coffee and breakfast

A little later in the week and I headed out for a scouting trip. I wanted to pay a visit to Cala El Charco at the southern end of Villajoyosa and explore the nearby cliff paths to see what opportunities they presented.

The access to this area is via a narrow road that has an, almost hidden, turn off from the main coastal road (the N332). I drove down and parked up near the pebble beach and then explored the paths. 

I had timed this for a late(ish) afternoon so that I have the chance to get some reasonable light, sometimes these scouting trips can produce some halfway decent images.

I climbed up onto the cliffs and checked out the scene, It was quite pretty and colourful and there were some lovely views. I took this shot of the view along the trail looking back towards El Campello. It's not going to win any awards but I think it's quite a pretty scene:

The main interest point in this area is the medieval watchtower that is perched up on the cliffs overlooking the sea. Unlike the tower in El Campello, this one has not been through the massive restoration work and so it is largely a ruin. There is actually someones house built into the peninsular right below the tower as well.


...but the light and conditions were not really doing it any favours and I knew that there was a great potential here. I didn't think it would be worth doing a sunset shoot here until much later in the year but, if we had the right cloud conditions, there was a potential dawn shoot in the next few days. I decided the keep an eye on the weather forecasts and see what I could get. More on that a bit later.

While I was in the general location I headed down onto the pebble and rock beach at the base of the cliff with the tower on. The sun position was better here and I noticed that a small pool of still water had formed that was producing a subtle reflection of the cliff and tower:

As I was not far away I decided to do a quick trip up to the old faithful location at Amadorio. I wouldn't be hanging around for sunset but there may be some options for this later afternoon light.

A bit of exploring led me under some trees and I decided to try a shot with the water and the dam framed by the branches. This was an exercise in what do when the sky is too blue and clear (and therefore boring) and I think it makes for a pleasant enough image with the nice colours of the water and the shadows in the foreground:

A bit of exploring around the trails and I found a derelict house. The house itself didn't really appeal to me but there were a number of outbuildings and one of them, nestled in some trees and with some mountains in the background, grabbed my attention. The frame was nice and the light was pleasant and I decided to get a shot of it:

So...After scouting at Cala El Charco I needed an early morning, with some nice clouds, and I needed it fairly soon as the sunrise would be in a good position for what I had in mind for only a few more days and then I would need to wait until Autumn.

The weather forecast for Friday morning looked promising. Heavy cloud cover breaking up just a bit around sunrise. Of course the weather forecast could be wrong (they often area) but you have to make your plans based on something. 

I set my alarm, rose early and headed out in the car. The first challenge was to find the turn off from the coast road. It's a little bit tricky in daylight but even trickier in the dark. I was glad that I didn't have any cars behind me as I tried to find it. After negotiating the rough and narrow road down to the beach car park I climbed the trail up onto the cliff top.

I picked a spot, set up, composed a shot and then settled in to wait for the light.

The clouds were quite thick and I began to wonder if the promised breaks around dawn would happen. If they didn't then there would be almost no light on the scene and this trip would have been for nothing.

About 10 minutes before sunrise the clouds started to break up a bit and some light started to come through, I decided on a nice long exposure, used a 6 stop ND filter and a polariser (not because I needed a polariser but because it blocked about another two stops of light) and managed a 108 second exposure that blurred the clouds nicely and smoothed out the sea:

I knew I had one decent shot in the bag but I was still hoping that the sun would put in an appearance. And so I waited. 

The sun wasn't going to be appear on schedule at the official sunrise time because it would actually be rising behind the distant Sierra Helada mountains north of Benidorm. It would take about 5 minutes after official sunrise for the first glimpse of the sun itself. I took the time to recompose the shot slightly. The composition I used for the long exposure would have put the sun a bit too far to the left of the frame for my taste.

Finally, the sun started to be appear and I was treated to some lovely, upward pointing, crepuscular rays (also known as sun beams, sun rays or god rays). I had swapped out the 6 stop filter and the polariser for a 2 stop ND grad, just to balance the sky a bit. All I needed now was some reflected light on the sea on the bottom right of the frame. Patience paid off and this was the final shot:

I waited around for a bit, just to see if anything interesting happened with the light but, again as per the forecast (will miracles ever cease), the clouds closed in again and the light was gone.

I packed up, climbed back down to the car and headed for home, a longer trip than the one here as I had to drive up the next exit and part way into Villajoyosa in order to turn around to head back to El Campello. It was well worth the early rise and I was pretty pleased with the results.

As for next week. I'm not sure what that holds. As we move towards summer I will be focusing more on early morning shoots so I expect a couple of early rises during next week. Why not come back and find out in the next post? (You can always enter your e-mail address and subscribe, I will send you an e-mail whenever I publish a new post.)

Until next time, have a great week.

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/5/dawn-and-daytime-on-the-costa-blanca Sat, 06 May 2017 11:56:37 GMT
Wind and waves and about town https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/4/wind-and-waves-and-about-town Wind and waves and about town 

Quite a changeable and busy week this week. The weather as we went into last weekend continued to be very windy with rough seas but, as the weekend progressed, the wind dropped and we got some lovely sunshine and warmth for the first half of the week and then it cooled down a bit and we had some rain as we moved into Thursday and Friday.

It's also been a week that just seemed to be busy with 'stuff' to do. The car needed to have a service and was also due to have its ITV (Inspección Técnica de Vehículos) which is like the MOT in the UK. Somehow the combination of the weather and all the other stuff to do seemed to get in the way of me getting out and about as much as I would have liked. Having said that I did still manage to get some interesting, and quite different, images when I did manage to get out.

Starting off when the wind was still strong and there were some big waves crashing into the beach, I decided to try something different and just shoot some close up of the waves. Not the beach, not the sky, not even most of the sea, just the waves themselves. 

This mostly involved using a long lens, watching the sea and trying to predict where the waves were going to break and if they would have some nice light on them when they did,  and then firing off shots and hoping for the best.

I ended up with a couple of interesting shots from this exercise. The first one was shot from the beach looking straight out towards the breaking wave. A fast shutter speed was essential to freeze the movement and bring out all of the texture and foam:


The second one was taken from a little way out on one of the breakwaters, this enabled me to get a slightly more sideways view of the waves and I liked the effect of this one:


A bit later in the week and the weather had changed. The wind dropped and it was nice and warm. As sometimes happens the sea turned a beautiful turquoise colour and I had to get a shot of the beach and the beautiful sea, I included the marina, watchtower and even the distant Puig Campana mountain in the frame along with some rocks for the foreground:


This was another walkabout in El Campello itself and my route took be around by the marina. It was near here that I spotted that someone had planted a sunflower near to the shrine to the Virgin del Carmen. Sunflowers are a bit of a rarity in these parts so I decided to get a shot of it:


A bit later I wandered up to the park. While I was at the far end I spotted some movement and a bird landed on the path in front of me. This was not a bird that it is common to see in this part of Spain. although they are more common further south. I knew that there was a least one around El Campello as my cousin had spotted one when he was visiting a few weeks ago, but I hadn't seen it yet.

I had the wrong lens on the camera but there was no time to do anything about that. I quickly zoomed in, changed the aperture to the largest possible, focused and shot, all in about 2 seconds. And this was all the time I had because the bird flew off pretty much as soon as I made the one shot. I had to crop it quite a bit but I was pleased I managed to get it. The bird is a Hoopoe:


Pleased with the image I had captured I headed for home.

And so, the final trip of the week.

I decided to head up to Cabezon del Oro mountains for a bit of a hike. The weather was nice and I spent a couple of hours wandering around some of the trails, not really doing much in the way off photography as the conditions and the compositions just didn't seem to work out. That's the way it is sometimes. 

As I was making the return trip to the car the trail led me by a small house that I have walked past on many previous occasions. It is a small place, some kind of agricultural set up as there is a coop with some chickens in and definite signs of working the land. It's perched on a rock just off the trail and is the only occupied place for some distance. I'm not sure what they actually do there but it's certainly a place to 'get away from it all' 

As I said I have passed it many times before but, on this occasion there was some lovely light on the scene and just a small amount of cloud in the sky. I decided today was the day to get a shot of it and here it is:


That's it for this week. I'm hoping to get a couple of trips in next week and I'll report back in the next post. Until then, have a great week 

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/4/wind-and-waves-and-about-town Fri, 28 Apr 2017 09:34:14 GMT
Accessories for Landscape Photography https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/4/accessories-for-landscape-photography Accessories for Landscape Photography

When people look at my images I quite often get asked either what kind of camera I have or if I have special equipment to get a certain kind of shot Of course, it's not about the gear. Landscape photography is about the imagination and vision of the photographer, and about being in the right place at the right time. Having said that, there are some things that make realising the vision a lot easier. I'm not getting into cameras and lenses here, I'm talking about the accessories that, for me, improve the chances of getting the shot I want. I thought I would share that list with you, maybe you already have all of this stuff, maybe you find that some of these things aren't helpful for you. maybe you have accessories that aren't listed here, in which case I'd love the hear what they are. OK, let's start of with something that I don't really count as an accessory. I think of it as a pretty much essential piece of kit for the photography I want to do. And that thing is... A tripod


You don't have to shoot from a tripod. Unless you want to shoot in low light around sunrise and sunset without pushing up your ISO. Unless you want to be able to shoot long exposures. Unless you want to be able to shoot a number of exposures of the same scene to merge later. Actually a tripod is also great for really fine tuning the composition and for making you carefully consider the framing and all of the other elements. I have two tripods. One is a large tripod, very sturdy and able to absorb vibration from wind or water pretty well. Despite being carbon fibre it's quite heavy and that's it's downside. It takes a bit of lugging around. Especially as I have a three way geared head on it (more on that in a minute). Nevertheless it is still the tripod I will choose to use unless I have to do a lot of hiking or if I'm going to spending a lot of time in a town when carrying this big around will get in the way.

If it's not practical to take this tripod then I will take my small 'travel' tripod. It's a lot smaller, a lot lighter and I can strap it onto my rucksack without it being off balance or getting in the way.

Tripod Head

The second thing is the tripod head. I've already mentioned that I have a three way geared head on my big tripod. The advantage to this is that I can make really precise adjustments to my composition while keeping everything else the same. The disadvantage is that it's heavy (back to the carrying issue again). Some other people also dislike three way heads because they are 'not as quick' to position as a ball head. Personally I don't think that's an issue in landscape photography but it's something to consider.

My lightweight tripod has a small and simple ball head. The advantage is the weight (or lack thereof). the disadvantage is that it is not as precise and it also doesn't have the same load capacity as the bigger head.

Cable Release

If I'm going to all the trouble of putting my camera on a tripod to avoid camera shake then I really don't want to disturb it by pressing the shutter button. A cable release lets me release the shutter without touching the camera. I use a cable release because I find it more reliable than the infra red type. Some people prefer to use the self timer mode on the camera to avoid the shake. Press the shutter button and 5 seconds (or whatever you have the self timer set to) later the shutter releases which allows that much time for the vibrations caused by pressing the button to die out. I have used this technique and it works. One of the issues about it is that you can't be precise about the timing of your exposure this way. Say, for example, you want to catch a wave breaking over a rock. You have a much better chance of catching it with a cable release than trying to predict 5 seconds in advance when it will happen.


There are a variety of filters available for landscape photography. I did a separate post on filters and you can read it HERE

An L Bracket

This is a bracket that screws into the tripod mount on the base of the camera and has a right angled section that fits up the side of your camera. Both sides have a tripod quick release plate on and this means you can simply switch from horizontal to vertical shooting without having to swing the head over 90 degrees. Properly set up (and this normally means having a battery grip fitted unless you have one of the big pro DLSRs like the D5) the position of the lens remains exactly the same regardless of the orientation of the camera.

A Stop Watch

If you get into the realms of long exposures then I find a stop watch to be a really useful tool. Of course you can buy cable releases that have built in timers but they cost more and are a bit less robust than the ordinary ones (my cable release has been in seas, rivers, mud, sand and all sorts and it keeps on working)

Cleaning Cloths

You can NEVER have too many of these. I always carry at least two in the camera bag so I can clean off lenses and filters if they get sprayed

A Camera Rucksack

A good rucksack will carry all of the camera gear you need, plus have some space to fit in clothes, a drink, maps etc. Personally I use a Flipside by Lowepro. It has the advantage that access to my camera gear is against my back. This means that nobody can sneak up behind me, unzip the bag and help themselves to my camera or lenses. It also means that I can slip off the shoulder straps and swing the bag around in front of me where I can open it and use it as a kind of 'table'. This can be really useful if you're working in water or mud and you can't really put the bag down. There is a downside to this type of bag and that is that the items at the bottom of the bag can be tricky to get to. If you're smart about how you pack it that's not much of an issue.

A Head Torch

Walking along footpaths in the hills or mountains, or along coastal paths or even open fields while it's dark, either because you are heading out to shoot at dawn or because you're heading back from a sunset shoot, means you need to be able to see where you're going. Once you get to your location you need to be able to see to set your gear up. A good head torch will allow you to see and keep your hands free. I also carry an additional more powerful torch which I use if I need to be able to see to focus the camera when it's dark and this is my backup if, for any reason, the head torch fails.

Planning Apps

The direction of the light, the position of the sun, or moon. The timing of sunrise and sunset. These are critical elements in planning a landscape shoot. I personally use The Photographers Ephemeris as my home planning tool and I use the PhotoPills app when I'm out scouting

Processing Software

Post processing your image yourself (as opposed to letting the camera do it if you shoot in JPEG) means that you have full creative control over how the image ends up. I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I have the CC subscription which I have to pay for every month and I know that some people object to that. Personally, given the quality of the software and the support available through Adobe (which I have used several times) I don't think it's a lot of money and these programs have the bonus of a mass of tutorials on the web to help you get the most from them. Whether you choose to pay for Adobe, or something else, or go for the free solutions, having some good processing software and learning how to use it can make a lot of difference to your images. It's not necessarily about doing more processing, it's about being able to do the right processing to get the image the way you want it to look.    

(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/4/accessories-for-landscape-photography Thu, 27 Apr 2017 11:45:00 GMT
It's All About The Coast This Week https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/4/its-all-about-the-coast-this-week It's All About The Coast This Week

Quite a bit of contrasting weather this week. Over the Easter weekend, and right up until Tuesday evening, it was very warm and sunny. There was very little wind and that meant there was very calm and flat sea conditions. The beach and sea front was pretty busy, to be expected over the holiday weekend, and we had a real taste of the summer to come.

On Wednesday things changed. We saw a big increase in the wind and, with it coming from the North East, it brought some cooler conditions with it. For the last few days the sea has been pretty rough with some big waves crashing over the breakwaters and coming up onto the beach.

So there were some opportunities for some very different images this week.

On Tuesday I decided to head up to Villajoyosa and get onto the coastal trail heading north east towards Benidorm. I had been studying the layout on Google maps and thought I had found some new trails to follow that would get me further up than I had been before. My target was to get to Torre El Aguiló which sits up high on the cliffs right at the end of Villajoyosa and before you get into Benidorm.

I parked up in my usual place for this area and started my walk. After I while I reached new territory and started to find the going a little bit tougher. The trail was much less defined than it appeared on the map, and some of it was pretty steep.

I pushed on and decided that I would try an alternative for the return and hope it was a bit easier.

I finally came in sight of the Torre and realised that the path I was on was quite a bit lower on the cliff. There was a possible route up but it was a bit of a scramble, I would definitely need to find an easier way back.

I made the scramble up and finally made it to the torre, which is another 'defensive' tower, built in the 16th century to help guard against piracy. Unlike most of the towers along the coast this one has a square rather than round profile and it has been significantly restored.

Torre El AguilóThe Torre El Aguiló; is a defensive tower built in the 16th century under the reign of Felipe II , located in the municipality of Villajoyosa in the province of Alicante ( Spain ) and part of the coastal surveillance system against piracy. The towers of Benidorm and the mountains of the Sierra Helada are visible in the background


A little more exploration of the area and I found a view of the coastal area of Benidorm. It has some impressive towers that make for an interesting view:


This wasn't the first view I had of Benidorm on this trek. In fact, the route I had taken had given me a view that I don't think I could have achieved anywhere else and, before I had made the climb up to the torre I had stopped to take a shot of the scene:


When I started to head back I found that there was a nice, well maintained, wide and well travelled trail leading all the way back. It even has some benches along the route if you want to stop and have a rest.

Ah well, I will know for next time and I'm still kind of glad I did it the hard way as I got some views that would be impossible otherwise.

After the weather changed I saw an opportunity for an early morning shoot. Thursday was forecasting mixed clouds and clear sky around dawn and it was also forecast that the wind would still be quite high, which should produce some nice waves. So, on Thursday morning, I headed up the La Bassa De La Reina to see what I could do.

La Bassa De La Reina, or the Baths of the Queen are only a short walk away, just on the other side of the marina, and can be access by following a narrow path along the rocks on the South Western side of the archeological site at La Illeta. I hoped, with the wind coming from the North East that this path would be sheltered and safe to use. Fortunately it was and I made my way around to the rocky area on the end of this island (although it has been artificially joined to the shore so I'm not sure it's still an island).

When I got there I spent about 5 minutes just watching the waves. There were some big ones crashing over the edge of the rocks and I wanted to see where it would be safe to stand while still being close enough to get the kind of images I wanted. getting it wrong could be bad. I didn't want to get hit by a big wave on these rocks, at best that could destroy my camera, at worst it could wash me off the rocks, and that would be really bad!

After a while I worked out the safe spots and set up for some shots.

My first one was a long(ish) exposure of 10 seconds nearly 30 minutes before actual sunrise. I used one of the channels in the rock to capture the blurry, misty water as a kind of cloud:


I was fairly happy with this shot but I was still hoping for more, especially as the sun started to come up.

After a while the sky started to get brighter and I fitted a 0.6 (2 stop) ND hard grad to darken it a bit compared to the foreground and waited for the sun. I was keeping a close eye on the waves. Partly because I wanted to catch the waves breaking in the image and partly because I had moved closer to the edge and I needed to keep watch for any big ones. Just as the sun was clearing the horizon a big wave came in and broke over the rocks. I fired off a quick shot and then realised that this one was bigger than any I had seen before. I grabbed the tripod and half jumped and half ran a few paces back. I ended up with a good soaking from about the knee down, all from spray rather then the actual wave, but no other damage to either me or the camera:

After a few moments to get the heart rate back down I set up again and kept my eyes peeled. I was carefully watching the pattern of the waves and waiting until they broke. As the sun was getting a bit higher a shallow pool in the rocks started to catch the reflected colours of the sky and I re-composed slightly to take advantage of that. 

The sun was behind some thin cloud, not blocking the light much but meaning that the shape of the sun was lost, there would be no sun stars today but the waves were looking really nice and I fired of several shots until the sun got too high. It was then a case of selecting which one was the best in terms of the water patterns breaking on the rocks. In the end this was my favourite:

So... That's it for this week. A busy schedule next week so I'm not sure where I will be heading for photography. Tune in next week and I'll let you know where I've been. Until then, have a great week 

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/4/its-all-about-the-coast-this-week Fri, 21 Apr 2017 09:27:00 GMT
A Tale of two Reservoirs https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/4/a-tale-of-two-reservoirs A Tale of two Reservoirs

It's Semana Santa (or Easter) and the weather is nice so it's been really quite busy down on the beach and along the sea front. Easter is kind of a mini season here when lots of people flock to the beach and we have the lifeguards here for the first time in the year.

After next week it will quieten down a bit for a few weeks before the proper season gets underway in about June.

After all that talk about beaches I find that my photography this week has been focused away from the sea and more inland. In fact I have been seeking out freshwater in the form of two very different reservoirs.

First, a return trip to Tibi. You may recall that I visited Tibi for the first time last week and posted about it in last weeks blog.

This week I wanted to explore a little more.

I followed the same basic approach. Coming off the motorway at the services, finding the narrow road off the back of the car park and then driving down as far as I could. Once parked up I set out on foot down the road heading for the bottom of the dam.

I had, by virtue of scouring the earth view on Google maps, worked out a number of possible routes to get on to the top of the dam. before I tried any of these I wanted to check to see if I had missed something obvious on my last trip.

According to information written about the dam there were supposed to be steps leading all the way from the bottom of the dam to the top. I hadn't seen them when I had been here before, could I really have missed them or was the information wrong?

I followed the path down the side of the cliff to the bottom of the dam. Tucked right into the corner I could see a few stone steps that appeared to dead end in the cliff. I looked closer, peering around the corner, and lo and behold it wasn't a dead end. The steps went through a small gap in the cliffs and carried on.

Tibi dam is 46 metres tall (151 feet). The path I was on was about 3 metres (10 feet) up from the bottom so I had quite a climb ahead of me. The steps are cut into rock and there are some handrails, mostly steel cable mounted on posts sunk into the rock, for most of the way. The steps wind their way between parts of the masonry of the dam and sections cut out of the cliff and it can be a bit tight in places.

To cut a long story short (I know, too late), Some reasonably stout legs and a reasonable head for heights was required, but I made it to the top of the dam.

The top of the dam is pretty much flat and there are some pieces of machinery here that don't appear to have been used in a long time. Although the dam is still in use I believe that the reservoir is not used for drinking water anymore as it is too difficult to arrange the necessary filtration.

I took this shot of the top of the dam:




From this vantage point I could actually see that the other paths I had considered to get here were blocked off. I'm sure I could have made it past the obstructions but I began to wonder if I was actually supposed to be here. Near the base of the dam is a sign saying that only authorised personal could access the 'workings' of the dam. I had assumed that meant going inside the dam walls but perhaps it also meant climbing up to the top.

Anyway, I decided to return using the same route as I came and, if anything, the steps were more of a challenge on the way down.

When I eventually reached the bottom I started the trek back up to where I had left the car, but the exploration wasn't over yet.

I had found a trail that looked like it headed down to waters edge and that might provide some interesting views.

About 20 minutes of hiking got me to some areas quite close to the water and I started to look around for an interesting composition.

I wanted to get the distant Maigmo mountain in the shot as well and, once I found a vantage point that would give a nice view of the lake and showed the mountain I tried out a few ideas for compositions.

In the end I went for a panoramic view to fit in all of the scene while avoiding the mountain looking too tiny and far away (as it would if I had gone for a wide angle shot). As with all panos I recommend clicking on the image to open it in the gallery and see it larger:

So, by this time i was starting to get a bit tired so I headed back to the car and then drove home.

As the week went on I kept looking at the weather forecast. I had intended to do an early morning shoot on the coast but I needed some clouds and the weather just wasn't playing ball. Oh well, maybe next week.

Instead I headed out for an afternoon shoot back at Amadorio reservoir. This is a location that I just keep working and it keeps on delivering for me. It's a very different place to Tibi. Just considering the age of the construction highlights some major differences. The dam at Tibi was finished in the 1590s,  the dam at Amasorio was built in the 1950 (same numbers different order). 

After arriving and parking up I started walking around looking for opportunities. The sun was a bit too high when I first got there so I was really just scouting around.

One of the things I noticed was that there were a lot of big insects flying around. These turned out to be some very pretty coloured dragonflies and, after a bit of patient waiting I managed to get a shot of one when it settled on some rocks near the water edge:

Because the water level is still very high here there are a lot of trees that have been partially or totally swamped. I found a spot tucked in amongst some trees, with my feet almost, but not quite, getting wet, and found that there were some lovely colours in the leaves and also out on the water:

I was employing my "alternative approach to landscape photography". Instead of the traditional approach of finding a location and then planning to be there when the light is good my "alternative approach" is to wander around looking at what the light is doing and, when I find it doing something interesting, I set up and take my shot. It's a more opportunistic approach and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.

As I began to extricate myself from the trees there was a loud quacking sound and I realised I was almost tripping over a duck. Having warned me off it then seemed to be quite comfortable with my presence and I noticed that the light coming through the trees was quite nice with its colouring and so:

I then decided to leave it in peace and continue my explorations.

As I was crossing the dam I noticed the light on a small group of trees on a little spit of land sticking out of the water. The little piece of land was the top of a hill a few months ago but the high water level meant that now it is only a little out of the water and, unusually, the water immediately in front of it was nice and flat, meaning there was some nice reflections. I lined up for this shot with the Aitana mountains visible in the background:

I briefly explored further to the North and managed to find my way onto a cliff top that I hadn't been on before. The valley beneath was flooded and I immediately noticed that the water here had a really strong green colour. A bit of working around some bushes and trees and I managed a shot:

I then started to head back towards the car. After I crossed the dam again I headed up to one of the 'observation' spots which gave me quite an interesting view over the dam. I've been up here before but the light has never seemed quite right. Today I thought it looked promising and this was the end result:

So, that's it. Two dams. Two reservoirs. Two very different scenes. I enjoyed both of them but, although Tibi certainly has some nice scenery it doesn't quite have the same appeal for me as Amadorio. I may go back to Tibi at some point but probably not for a while, whereas I will probably be back at Amadorio pretty soon.

As for next week... I'm not sure yet. I'm still watching the weather forecast and hoping for the right conditions for some early morning shoots on the coast. Maybe I'll have some to share with you in the next post.

Until then, have a great week



(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/4/a-tale-of-two-reservoirs Sat, 15 Apr 2017 12:06:31 GMT
Aitana Mountains, Guadalest and Tibi https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/4/aitana-mountains-guadalest-and-tibi Aitana Mountains, Guadalest and Tibi 

It's been a good week for getting out and about, seeing new places, or old places from new vantage points, and for capturing some new images. We've had some very nice weather, warm and sunny but also a bit of cloud to help keep things interesting. For my trips out I've been wearing shorts and it has been plenty warm enough.

I'll start the week with an unplanned dawn shoot on the beach at El Campello. 

I happened to wake up early and just decided to grab the camera and tripod and head out before the sun came up. I had no idea on what the conditions were going to be like but I was only going to be a few minutes walk along the beach so I didn't worry about it too much.

It turned out to be a mostly clear sky, just a bit of cloud down near the horizon, and I decided to use a long focal length, put the end of the stone breakwater in the middle area of the frame and try to capture some wave movement in the foreground. The longer focal length meant that I had a bit more interesting sky and I took several shots as the sun rose. I eventually picked one shortly before the sun cleared the clouds as I felt it was the best overall and I liked the tones and the wave patterns in it:

My first trip out this week was a return to the Aitana mountains. Further research meant that I hoped to be able to find the trails that I couldn't locate the previous week and this time I met with success, at least on the navigation front.

I had hoped to locate, what was described as, the waterfall cliff. The literature did say that the waterfall was only there occasionally but, given the amount of rain we have had over the last couple of months I was hopeful. Alas, it was not to be. I found the cliff and there were definite signs that water runs down it from time to time but, at the moment, it was bone dry. I suspect that there is only water coming down immediately after heavy rains.

Still, It was a beautiful area and I very nice hike on some lovely trails and with some spectacular views and I decided to make the most of it.  The result was a couple of nice images:

The overall hike ended up being about 9 kilometres on some fairly hilly terrain so I was feeling pretty tired afterwards. nevertheless we had another trip planned for the next day. This time we were going back to Guadalest.

We'd only been there a couple of weeks ago but this time I was planning something different. I parked in the normal area by the town and then walked down the road that leads to the dam on the reservoir. It is possible to drive down and park up but I wanted to do it as a bit of an exploration and to get a chance to take in the views, hence the decision to walk it.

The first thing was an opportunity to shoot a familiar subject, the bell tower on its high rocky outcrop, from a different angle:

As I headed further down the road I started to get to where the end of the reservoir and the dam were visible. The surface of the water looked very still and the sun was still low enough in the sky to create some pleasant lighting conditions. I took a long shot of the scene that I really like, and that really shows how full the reservoir is at the moment:

Getting down to the dam itself was easy and offered up another couple of opportunities for reflections shots. I had to be fairly quick because, as the sun was getting higher, not only was the light starting to become less appealing, but the surface of the water was starting to get a few more ripples which would soon break up the reflections. I managed two more shots before that happened:

I then had to face the prospect of the climb back up a pretty steep road back to the car park. I confess that my legs were aching a bit by the time I got back.

After a day of rest I headed out to another location on the 'to do' list. Tibi.

Specifically I was interested in the reservoir and dam at Tibi and I had some directions on how to get there.

A drive down the motorway for about 30 minutes and then exit at a service station. At the back of the service station car park is a small road that winds its way along the sides of the mountains until, after about 5 kilometres (say about 3 miles) it ends with a locked gate. I parked up by the gate and walked around a small trail to get back onto the road on the opposite side of the gate and then followed the road on foot for about another 1.6 kilometres (about a mile) to get down to a couple of old stone bridges that lead to the base of the dam.

As I was walking down I started to hear a loud noise. It sounded like a big helicopter. The noise increased and, suddenly, it burst over the top of the nearby mountains. It was one of the helicopters equipped with a 'bucket' to collect water for fire fighting. I believe they may have been doing practice runs over the reservoir. It was gone all too quickly but I did manage to get one shot of it:

The dam at Tibi is the oldest masonry dam in Europe that is still in use and it was built between 1579 and 1594. Following flooding of the dam in 1697 a spillway was constructed that results in a waterfall running down the cliffs in the valley. I played around with a few different shots here. I finally decided to use a combination of a 6 stop ND filter and a circular polarising filter to get a 1 second exposure of this view. I just had to wait a few minutes for the sun to break through some clouds:

Moving further along the path and I switched the 6 stop filter for a 10 stop filter in order to get a 20 second exposure of this close up view of the waterfall, again I had to wait a few minutes as the sun was appearing and disappearing behind clouds every few minutes:

As I couldn't find a way to get up to the top of the dam, more research is required I think, I decided to head up the road, back towards the car, and perhaps explore some of the narrow trails I had seen further up.

It was a hard walk back up. The road is pretty steep and the temperature was quite high. Once I got back near to the car I picked a trail that looked promising and started out to explore.

The path led higher and higher up the hillside. I kept getting tantalising views of the reservoir some distance below but always with lots of trees in the way. I finally found a spot with a good view, perhaps not as completely unobstructed as I would have liked but I felt the view worked well. There was quite a bit of cloud about and it was creating some nice textures and patterns on the landscape and on the distant mountains. 

I waited until I felt the light was at its best and managed this shot which worked out pretty well:

I retraced my steps along the narrow trail and eventually made it back to the car. There is definitely some more exploring to be done around Tibi and I think I will be back here soon.

That's it for this week. I hope you've enjoyed the read. Until next time, have a great week 


(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/4/aitana-mountains-guadalest-and-tibi Fri, 07 Apr 2017 14:18:20 GMT
Warmer Weather, Amadorio and a first trip to the Aitana Mountains https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/3/warmer-weather-amadorio-and-a-first-trip-to-the-aitana-mountains Warmer Weather, Amadorio and a first trip to the Aitana Mountains 

The weather certainly seems to be picking up now. We've had some pretty warm conditions and, although there is still the occasional chill, either in the wind, or at either end of the day, the temperature during the daytime has certainly increased and my hiking trips this week have called for shorts to be worn rather than the long trousers that have been present for the last few months.

It's also been a week that seems to have flown by. As I'm writing this on Friday afternoon I can hardly believe that a week has gone by since our visitors were here. It also feels like I haven't got that much done. Oh well, there's always next week.

Having said that, I have managed to get out for a couple of trips, one of these was to my old faithful location at Amadorio reservoir and one was to a new place on the Aitana mountains.

So, let's start off with that new place.

The Aitana mountains are a fairly high range that sit inland and can actually be seen from El Campello looking north. It was these mountains that had the most snow over the winter, although that's all gone now.

I had found a promising looking walk on the internet that looked as if it would have some interesting features from a photographic standpoint. I decided not to do the whole walk as per the instructions but rather to work backwards to get to the features I was most interested in and then double back. Sounds easy right?

The walk had two optional starting points and one seemed easier than the other. I programmed the recommended parking area into the trusty Tom Tom and set off for the predicted 1 hour and 10 minute drive.

As I got closer I noticed that the directions I was getting looked different from the map I had looked at. I decided to follow the Tom Tom as it normally has more up to date information.

As I turned off of the main road I began to get suspicious. I was showing 4.5 kilometres from my destination but 22.5 minutes. That would mean a very slow drive. Sure enough, the route was on a very rough and unpaved road and I really didn't feel like ripping the bottom out of the car. So I turned back and tried to find the route I had looked for on the map. The problem was that the road was no longer open so that meant I couldn't get to the recommended parking spot.

Now, as I said, the walk had two optional starting points and I then set out for the second one. I found it easily enough, got parked up and then started to try to follow the walking directions. 

It soon became apparent that something was wrong. I couldn't find a critical turning point in the trail and without it I couldn't get to the features I was interested in. After some time exploring, while the time ticked past, I finally decided to give it up and settle for taking some pictures off of the trail I was on. Fortunately this was quite a pretty spot with some nice trees and the Aitana mountain peaks in the background. I also had some nice late afternoon light and some quite nice cloud so I was able to get one pretty nice image from it:

After that it was time to head for home and try to work out where I had gone wrong. Much investigation and scanning of Google Maps and Earth view later and I now think I have the answer so I will be heading back up there next week. I'll let you know how I get on.

My second trip was back to Amadorio reservoir. You may wonder why I keep going back there, well the answer is simple. It's a great place to go for both walking and photography. It's only about a 20 minute drive away, it's easy to park and there are an abundance of walking options ranging from paved roads to rough and rocky tracks. Photographically, because of the extra water in there after the winter rains, it is still changing. Add to that some different weather and cloud conditions and it offers a lot of possibilities. Plus, I believe that a good location is worth working and I intend to keep working this one for as long as I can.

So, what did I do there this time?

To start with I headed out onto one of the areas right near the waters edge. Only a few months ago this was nearly the top of a hill but now it's just barely above the water line. The conditions were pretty calm and the mountains on the far side were reflecting quite well. There was a piece of a broken tree upturned in the shallows, one of many that have been victims of the increased water level, and I decided to use this for some foreground interest. I played around with a long exposure using the 10 stop filter but, in the end, decided I preferred the image looking more natural with the texture of the small ripples in the water:

I then spent a bit of time walking around the far side of the reservoir and exploring some of the narrow and, in some cases, hidden trails. One of these led me out onto the edge of a low cliff overlooking a valley that is now filled with water. I liked the way the distant cliffs, with their pale colouring, were reflecting in the water and decided to get a shot of the scene:

Exploring a bit further around the path (and getting a bit lost in the process, always fun) and I found a trail that led through between some trees and one of the old rock walls that support the terraces that are all over this landscape. I tried to get a shot of it but I was struggling. Fitting it all in with an 18mm lens wasn't possible but going wider angle made everything look too small and far away. I ended up shooting a 9 shot panorama (3 frames wide and 3 frames high) that, after cropping gave me a normal looking 3x2 format image that still had the type of perspective and angle of view that I wanted:

After that I turned back and started the return walk back to the car. Before I finished though I decided there was one more shot worth doing. This was a view from back near the waters edge, where I had started, but looking towards the big storage towers and the dam. By this time the light was looking quite nice, although it was still quite a way off of 'golden hour', and I decided to shoot a wide panoramic view of the scene. 14 shots stitched in Lightroom produced this image that I think has come out pretty well:

Storage tanks and dam at Amadorio - panorama_A panoramic view of the large storage tanks and the dam at Amadorio reservoir between Villajoyosa and Orxeta in Spain - 14 shot panorama

and that was it... Time to head for home.

Next week, all being well, I am planning a return trip to the Aitana mountains. Let's hope that I do better with my navigation this time. I'm also looking at a couple of potential sunrise shoots, depending on the weather of course.

Until next time, have a great week 

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/3/warmer-weather-amadorio-and-a-first-trip-to-the-aitana-mountains Fri, 31 Mar 2017 15:38:26 GMT
Visitors from England and trips to Guadalest and Torrevieja https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/3/visitors-from-england-and-trips-to-guadalest-and-torrevieja Visitors from England and trips to Guadalest and Torrevieja 

This week we've had some family from England staying with us. When we have visitors we always like to try to show them some of the beauty of the area and, with any luck, I get to take some pictures as well.

We did a trip up to Cabezon del Oro mountain for a picnic but that wasn't really much of a photo opportunity due to the time of the day and the bright sunshine.

We did however make a run up to Guadalest, which always seems to impress, and this was an opportunity to get some shots.

When we arrived there was some minor confusion as the car park we used to use is now only for residents and coaches. We soon found another one but I can imagine this one gets pretty packed in the summer and the next nearest is quite a walk away, worth bearing in mind for the future.

It's been over a year since we were last here and I was interested to see what the reservoir looked like now that it's full as, in the past, it's always had very low water levels.

There's certainly a lot of water in there now and I managed a quite nice panoramic shot that I think works quite well:

There was actually some quite nice light about as we weren't too late arriving and I managed, with a bit of patience, to get a shot of the path leading up to the old town without any people on it. The bell tower always looks impressive from this angle, perched on top of the cliff:

There was some really nice mottled cloud overhead and I thought it would look good from just inside the old town with the bell tower as the main feature. Lighting was tricky but I managed it with a single exposure:

The same couldn't be said of trying to get a similar shot of the castle with the cloud behind it. I resorted to exposure merging for this one but it worked out OK I think:

We spent a bit of time up by the castle and the shops, had a cuppa at one of the bars and also went and looked at the old water tank and prison that is located under the town hall. I don't recall being able to get into it before but it was quite interesting to see and I managed to get a shot of the inside:

We also did a trip down to Torrevieja to visit someone who lives there. The only place we'd been to in Torrevieja is the salt lakes, and we considered making a stop there this time but the pink lake didn't look very pink as we drove past so we decided against it. Perhaps the rains over the winter have had an effect, or perhaps the water gets more of its pink colour as we move towards summer.

Anyway, we spent some time around the sea front and harbour in the town. There's quite an interesting statue there, the monument of the man of the sea:

During the rest of the week we did a trip to Alicante but I decided not to take the camera this time. We also did a bit of walking just around El Campello.

A return trip to the airport on Saturday morning was more complicated than expected as the normal route off the motorway to the airport was closed and we had to find an alternative. Of course, as I know the airport route well I left the navigation system at home, there's a lesson to be learned there, next time I'll take it just in case.

That's about it for this week. There will be some trips out this week at some point and some photos to share in next weeks post. Until then.... Have a great week

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/3/visitors-from-england-and-trips-to-guadalest-and-torrevieja Sun, 26 Mar 2017 11:38:38 GMT
Amadorio, Polop and the full moon https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/3/amadorio-polop-and-the-full-moon Amadorio, Polop and the full moon

What a week for changeable weather! We've had some gorgeous sunshine and warmth, and also some torrential rain and thunderstorms. Still, summers approaching and we'll soon be basking in the heat and over using the air conditioning.

Let's start the week almost immediately after I published last weeks blog post. I normally aim to publish on Friday, occasionally it's Saturday and very occasionally it's Sunday. Last week I was doing well and published on Friday morning.

On Friday afternoon I headed out to get some exercise, do some exploring and, of course, see if I could get any decent photos.

I headed up to Amadorio with the intention of exploring some more side trails and seeing what views I could find. It was later in the afternoon and I hoped that I would get some nice light as the afternoon wore on. It was a clear blue sky so I doubted it would be worth hanging around for sunset.

That clear blue sky was accompanied by some really warm weather. In fact, for the first time this year, I headed out wearing shorts, and very glad I was that I did because it was really warm.

My first stop off was an old ruined building that sits on the top of a hill almost overlooking the reservoir. I decided to have a little bit of an explore and, having established that there was no interior as such to photograph, I looked for outside possibilities. There were lots of the yellow 'Bermuda Buttercup' flowers around and the area was quite green with moss and grass. I felt that these elements, with the texture of the old building, a stone wall and the blue sky made for a nice image. The sun was getting a  bit lower and, after walking around for a few minutes I decided on my composition that was planned to make the most of the brightness of the overall scene:

I then moved on to explore some other paths that led through trees and out onto some interesting looking areas that were once terraces used for growing trees (probably almond or maybe oranges and lemons). These areas are now abandoned but they provided some interesting views out over some of the more hidden parts of Amadorio that are now flooded due to the high water level. There were also plenty of the yellow flowers again. A scout around and I found a shot that I thought looked like it would work. Interestingly this is not a shot that would work either early in the morning or late in the afternoon as the scene would not get any light to make it pop. One of those times when shooting out of the golden hours is the right thing to do:

I didn't find anything else on this trip but I had a couple of images in the camera that I thought would be reasonable.

The warm weather stayed all through Saturday and most of Sunday. On Sunday afternoon it started to feel a little bit cooler, not exactly cold but not as warm.

Around seven thirty in the evening I looked outside and saw a beautiful orange full moon rising over the sea.

Panic ensued. I rushed around grabbing my camera, fitting a lens and fitting the whole lot onto the tripod. Then it was a race down to the beach before the moon got too high and the colour faded.

I really only had time for one or two shots, and no plan on composition. I first thought that a long focal length, to make the moon big, and capture it in the dark and clear sky with the light reflecting in the sea, would be the way to go but... It looked boring.

I moved back and zoomed out a bit. Using the lifeguard tower as a point of interest. The moon was really bright. I could see there were some stars in the sky but, even with the lights from the passeo (promenade) behind me the beach and tower were very dark.

I ended up taking three massively different exposures.

I needed thirty seconds to get some detail on the beach and the tower. This blew out the moon completely and left the sky looking a bit too blue and meant that the stars were stretched out in short lines. A second shot of ten seconds got me a nice dark sky and meant that the stars stayed pretty much round. The moon was still blown out though. A third shot of just 1/10 second exposed the moon correctly and I merged all three shots in Photoshop to create a single image:

It's amazing to look at this now, with the crystal clear sky evidenced by the stars being visible, and to know that, less than three hours later it was raining. Not just a shower. This was torrential rain with thunder and lightening that lasted for more than twenty four hours.

Finally, we did a trip out this week to check out a village called Polop.

Polop is an old village to the North of us and inland, about a fifty minute drive. It has some nice winding narrow streets and old buildings that make for some quite pretty scenes:

It also has an old castle. To be fair there isn't much castle to be seen. The hill on which it sits seems to be mostly an old cemetery, but it does offer some great views out over the village and to the nearby mountains.

I wanted to get a shot of this that really took in the scale of the scene. I could have shot with a wide angle lens but this would have increased perspective and made the mountains look smaller and further away.

I decided I wanted to get an image that was closer to what my eyes were seeing and that meant a longer focal length and taking multiple shots to fit it all in that I would stitch together later. The end result looks pretty good:

After a bit of time exploring Polop we headed over to the nearby village of La Nucia. Not because there anything much in the village we wanted to look at but because it sat on a nearby hill that might give an interesting view over to Polop.

Again I wanted to capture the scene close to what my eyes were sing and that precluded a wide angle lens. Nothing for it but to shoot another panorama, and here it is:


Polop is a place I think I will be visiting again, maybe in a couple of weeks for an early morning shoot when conditions look promising. It may also be a location for an evening shoot later in the year.

Next week we have visitors so I'm not sure what we will be doing photographically, also the post is probably going to be a bit later, maybe Sunday

Until then... Have a great week!


(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/3/amadorio-polop-and-the-full-moon Fri, 17 Mar 2017 15:53:36 GMT
Are filters redundant? https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/3/are-filters-redundant Are filters redundant?

With the capabilities of modern digital cameras and processing software, is there still a place in the camera bag for physical filters that fit in front of the lens? Here are the three types of filters that I use. When I use them, when I avoid them and what the alternatives are in post processing. The first thing to say is that I always think twice before using any filter. Putting an extra piece of glass or plastic in the front of the lens increases the chances of capturing spots or dirt and also increases the risk of lens flare. I only use filters if I have a specific need of them to get the shot, or effect, that I want. The first type of filter is  the

Circular Polarising Filter or CPL


  These screw onto the front of the lens (or, as in the case of the image above, onto the front of a filter holder so that it can be used in conjunction with other filters). I'm not going to go into the technical detail of how these work, suffice it to say that they can boost contrast and saturation and also reduce glare and reflections. They are made up of two elements. Once screwed onto the lens the outer element can be rotated which will increase or decrease the amount of effect the polarising filter has. These filters are most effective when they are at 90 degrees to the sun. If the sun is directly to your left, directly to your right, or directly overhead, then the filter will have the most impact. If the sun is directly in front of or directly behind you then it will have little or no effect on the image. Perhaps not surprisingly I use a polarising filter when I am shooting at 90 degrees to the sun and mostly when I am shooting with water in the scene as it can help to reduce glare. I am very cautious about using one if I am shooting with a very wide angle lens, and especially if I have a lot of blue sky. The reason for this comes back to the 90 degree effectiveness. If I am shooting at 90 degrees to the sun but with a lens that has a 100 degree field of view, then the effectiveness of the filter will vary greatly across the image. If there is a lot of blue sky this can create an uneven effect that can result in unpleasant colour banding which can be almost impossible to correct. I never use one if I am shooting into the sun. As far as alternatives in post processing go. Saturation and contrast are easy to boost in tools like Lightroom or Photoshop. In fact it is easy to boost them too much and create images that look unrealistic. By the same token it is also possible to overdo the polarisation on the filter with the same unrealistic result. Glare and reflections are more difficult to deal with in post and this is when I think the polariser really shows its worth. As a side note on these filter they do block a certain amount of light, normally between one and two stops. For this reason they can be useful as a way to extend exposure times a bit. Conversely they can be a problem if shooting hand held in lower light conditions.  

Neutral Density Graduated Filters or ND Grads

These are filters, normally rectangular or square that are half dark and half clear, they are used to reduce the amount of light coming into the lens in one part of the image. The filters come in different versions that depend on how dark the dark part is and how sharp the gradient is between the dark part and the clear part. So, for example, a three stop hard grad would block three stops of light in the dark part and would have a fairly sharp transition from dark to light (note, some manufacturers would call this a 0.9 hard grad as each 0.3 equates to one stop)

A three stop soft grad would block three stops of light in the dark part and have a more gradual transition from dark to clear


These filter are particularly useful when shooting a scene with a bright sky and a darker foreground. By sliding the filter in it's holder so that the transition between dark and clear is on the horizon it is possible to balance the light and get a good exposure across the entire scene in a single shot. Of course the challenge is that anything that sticks up above the horizon is also effected and could end up underexposed. I tend to use these filters when I am shooting seascapes and there is very little sticking up above the horizon line. There is something quite satisfying about being able to get a high contrast scene in a single shot. I avoid them when I have objects (tree, buildings, mountains etc) that extend above the horizon line as it can be a real pain to get the detail back in them later. The alternative is exposure blending (or HDR if you prefer that term) where several exposures are taken that are then merged in software to get a good balanced exposure across the entire scene. You can read my tip on creating HDR images in Lightroom HERE It's probably also worth noting that the dynamic range of modern cameras is much better than older models and so it's possible to capture even very high contrast scenes in a single exposure and recover detail in both shadows and highlights (assuming you're shooting in RAW of course). I still use the ND grads but not as much as I used to and, if I'm stuck for space in the bag I will take them out because I know I can always exposure merge.   The final filters on my list are

ND Filters


ND (or Neutral Density filters) have one purpose. They reduce the amount of light that gets to the lens so that the exposure time is extended. They come in a variety of strengths and styles. Most of them are square and fit into a holder in front of the lens although there are also some that are round and screw straight on to the lens thread. They range from one or two stops (blocking one or two stops of light) up to fifteen stops in extreme cases.

Personally I own two ND filters. A six stop (Lee Little Stopper) and a ten stop (Lee Big Stopper).

Just to put that into perspective.

A ten stop filter will increase the exposure time from 1/30 second to 30 seconds for the same aperture and ISO settings. This means that you can get some fairly long exposures even in quite bright lighting conditions.

I use these filters when I want to smooth out water movement or blur cloud movement to create an effect. It can also be useful if you have an otherwise static scene but there are people moving around in it. By extending the exposure you can reduce them to blurs. Extend it enough and, assuming they keep moving, they will disappear completely.

I don't bother using these kinds of filters unless there is movement.

ND filters are supposed to be colour neutral, thats what the neutral part in the name means. In general the cheaper versions tend to have a noticeable colour cast and the more expensive ones don't. In truth, even expensive heavy ND filters have a slight colour issue but this can always be corrected in post.

You can read my tip for correcting ND filter colours HERE

There are two alternatives to using these types of filters.

The first is to shoot when there is very little light anyway, the second is to use an averaging of multiple exposures to get the same effect.

You can read my tip for creating and extending long exposures in Photoshop HERE

This averaging technique works well to create moderately long exposures, say taking thirty 1/30 second exposures and creating a one second equivalent. You can use this technique with longer gaps between each individual exposure. say taking one 1/30 second exposure every thirty seconds and then averaging them. This would give a much longer exposure effect but it does tend not to look as smooth and silky as using a good filter in the field. For that reason I almost always have my ND filters with me so I don't miss out.

I will also just mention that ND filters and the resulting long exposures is one of those topics that people feel strongly about. There are those that shoot every scene that has some water or some cloud in with a long exposure. There are those that think the ND filter is a terrible idea and that the effect it produces (while once being innovative and creative) is now overdone and something of a cliche.

Personally I think there are occasions when it works really well and actually makes the image something special but I also think there are times when showing the texture and movement in water is a much better option. As with everything in this game it's all about what you choose to do with your art.

I hope you've enjoyed reading this, if you have, and if you have gained something from it, then I would be delighted if you would share it

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(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/3/are-filters-redundant Tue, 14 Mar 2017 12:30:00 GMT
One Tree, One Dawn, Five Images Plus a Few https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/3/one-tree-one-dawn-five-images-plus-a-few One Tree, One Dawn, Five Images Plus a Few 

This week we've seen some nice weather, a real taste of the summer to come. Not sure if we might not still get some cooler weather over the next few weeks but we'll see.

Most of the shots from this week come from a single dawn shoot on the coastal path at Villajoyosa. This is a location I've visited before and I scouted it again only last week. I was really waiting for the weather to look promising and that meant a forecast of some clouds, but not too much. Of course, as I mentioned in last weeks post, sometimes (often) the weather forecast is wrong, even here.

Before going on to that shoot I did spend a bit of time walking around El Campello. Sometimes just a walk around the local area can bring up some interesting opportunities and one of these was literally 30 seconds from home.

Quite often there is a nice Harley Davidson Road King parked near to the beach, just across the road from us, but it's normally surrounded by other bikes and difficult to see clearly.

On one day this week it was sitting in splendid isolation so I decided to get a shot of it. A long focal length and a wide aperture enabled me to blur the background to make it stand out more:

I also like to wander around the marina in El Campello. It's only small and is mixed between the fishing boats, that are on one side, with the remainder being more "pleasure craft". While I was there late one afternoon this week I was struck by the way the low sun was making the wood on a sailing yacht almost glow with rich colour. I couldn't resist a shot:

Some nice clouds in the sky and low sun was creating some nice light on the marina and, in particular, on the water:

Sadly, as the sun went down, it hit some heaver cloud and the sunset lost all of it's colour and beauty so I was glad I captured this image when I did.

As I kept an eye on the weather forecast I finally saw something that looked promising for a dawn shoot back up on the coastal path at Villajoyosa. An early alarm and I set off in the car about one and a half hours before sunrise. A 25 minute drive and another 25 minutes hiking would get me to my location about 40 minutes before sunrise.

As I was driving I began to doubt the weather forecast. It's difficult to tell the cloud cover when it's dark and you're in a car but, as far as I could tell, there was none. I had been hoping the forecast of 40 to 50% cover would be accurate. Still, I was up and out so I might as well see what happened.

As I arrived at my chosen location it seemed my concerns were justified. The only cloud in the sky was a thin band along the horizon near to where the sun would be rising. This cloud was already starting to pick up some rich colours so I decided to get a shot with the silhouettes of a tree and Benidorm island against the colourful clouds:

With at least one shot 'in the bag' I started to consider my options with a clear sky. I was tempted to set up to shoot the sunrise under the branches of the tree to avoid having lots of boring blue sky but, as I was looking around, a single cloud drifted over the tops of the cliffs. Not only was it a cloud but it was quite an interesting one. Another quite dark shot, largely keeping the tree and landscape as silhouettes but showing the colour near the horizon and the interesting cloud with just a hint of light starting to fall on some of the foreground:

As I looked inland I could see more cloud starting to drift over. It was quite windy and the cloud was moving quite fast. This was looking more promising.

A larger bank of cloud started to drift in overhead and, at it's leading edge, there was some fine streaks of cloud that started to pick up some lovely colours. I really needed to get some more of the scene in so I quickly changed to my widest lens and captured this shot:

The larger bank of cloud was rapidly overtaking the small isolated cloud that had first appeared. If it joined up with it we could have an interesting formation. I decided to work on the basis that it would happen and set up a composition on the edge of the cliff, looking towards where the sun would rise and using the tree again as a point of interest in the frame. 

The cloud started to join up and get some really nice shapes and textures, it was then a case of waiting until the sun cleared the little bit of cloud on the horizon and got high enough to start putting some nice light on the rest of the scene. A few minutes after official sunrise it finally happened:

As the sun continued to climb I abandoned shooting towards it and instead looked almost 180 degrees around to see what the light was doing on the rest of the coastline.

The clouds now extended in a lovely line, almost matching the shape of the coast, and they were picking up some nice light. I re-positioned to the other side of the tree and used it as a point of interest again for my final shot of the morning:

and then it was time to head for home and some well earned coffee and toast. It had been an excellent morning and I knew I had some good images to show for it. Sometimes it all comes together and you go home with 3, 4 or, as in this case, 5 images from a single shoot. Other times it doesn't work at all and you go home empty handed. That's all part of the fun and the challenge.

I hope you've enjoyed this post. Until the next one, have a great week

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/3/one-tree-one-dawn-five-images-plus-a-few Fri, 10 Mar 2017 10:58:20 GMT
Weather Forecasts, Blue Skies and Lessons Learned https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/3/weather-forecasts-blue-skies-and-lessons-learned Weather Forecasts, Blue Skies and Lessons Learned 

This week has been one for learning, or perhaps more accurately, re-learning, some lessons about photography. Most of these lessons have to do with the weather.

As we have moved into March the weather has gotten a bit warmer. We've seen quite a lot of blue skies and, on a couple of walks out and about, it has been really very warm. Plenty warm enough to be in short sleeves and sometimes warm enough to wish I'd worn shorts.

But not every day has been like that and we have had some cloud, on one occasion quite heavy cloud.

For the most part the images I have captured this week have not been during the 'golden hours' around dawn and dusk. Instead they have been shot in mid to late afternoon which, in the winter, can still result in some nice lighting conditions. I have been looking for opportunities this week to do both a sunrise shoot and a sunset shoot. I haven't done either because the conditions have not been right to make the most of those times of day. The exception being one morning and one evening when, after consulting the weather forecast, I decided not to go out only to realise too late that I had missed a great opportunity. Oh well. There's always next week.

So the main lesson has to do with weather forecasts and not really trusting them.

Last Sunday I headed out for a late afternoon walk in the mountains with the aim of completing a sunset shoot. The weather forecast was for 50% cloud cover and this would mean that, with any luck, there would be some nice light and some interest in the sky.

It wasn't long after I arrived that I started to have my doubts. The cloud seemed to be getting really heavy over the top of the mountain peaks, even though there was still some nice light breaking through and painting the lower areas of the scene:

There was still the possibility that the clouds would clear over the next hour or so and, with that in mind, I continued on.

About an hour later I had to stop kidding myself. The sky was now almost completely full of cloud and the whole area was starting to get pretty dark. I decided to try to get the best out of the last bit of light breaking through and captured this shot before the clouds closed in completely:

I decided that I would give it up for the day and started the hike back to the beginning of the trail where my car was parked. It looked like my sunset shot would have to wait for another day.

My next trip out was Monday afternoon. I was heading out to scout for a possible sunrise shoot location along the coastal path north of Villajoyosa. I was on a time limit as we had plans for the evening so I couldn't hang around for sunset but, I took the camera and lightweight tripod just in case there was something worth getting later in the afternoon.

One of the shots I captured is something that I might go back and do again at dawn, the composition will need to change a bit but, what I have in mind would make for a very different image on a morning with clear skies. Nevertheless, with some late afternoon light I quite like the way this one came out:

The same tree also provided the subject matter for the second shot of the afternoon. This time I was taken by the way the clouds seemed to line up along the wind shaped side of the tree. The sun was a bit higher than I would have liked but some careful composition produced an image I am pleased with:

​​​​​​With a couple of shots in the camera and some potential future locations scouted it was time to head for home. The weather forecast for the next few days was for clear skies and I was waiting to see if we were going to get something better to make an early rise worthwhile. 

However we both went out for a bit of an exploration on Tuesday. We headed off to a location near to the village of Aigues but that proved to be much less appealing than I had hoped for. We then drove up to Relleu in the mountains but there were a number of closed roads and, after we parked up and started exploring on foot, some closed paths. I suspect there are repairs underway following the impact of the winter weather.

As the afternoon moved on we decided to loop back around to Amadorio for another look.

This time I parked up at the northern end and we set out for a small exploration. 

A short pause looking up a part of the Amadorio valley revealed a nice scene now that there is some water there to add interest, and also to reflect the white clouds in the blue sky:

We then headed back down the path I had explored the previous week to check out the orange and lemon groves. As the sky was much clearer this time I couldn't resist another shot, this time with the sun in the frame:

On Thursday i decided to head out again for another afternoon scout. The plan was, as with most afternoons, to look for potential morning locations and, if at all possible, get some shots in the later afternoon light. I couldn't stay out until sunset as there were other plans in play for the evening.

I decided to head up to Malladeta in Villajoyosa. This is an area that I have been to, and photographed, before and it is the site of the derelict Villa Giacomina.

I quickly established a couple of potential morning locations although they would need the right conditions to make them worthwhile, and so I decided to see what kind of afternoon shots I could get while I was there.

Climbing up to the old tower on the hill overlooking the sea provided a nice vantage point for a view south along the coastline. Some low hazy cloud was blurring the distant features but the water colour was looking lovely so I decided to get a shot from here:

While I was in this area I thought there may be an opportunity to get a shot of the tower with the sun in the sky above it:

And then I decided to get a completely different viewpoint and climbed the hill at the northern end of the rocky beach to see what was on offer. 

I was rewarded by a rocky ridge and an interestingly shaped tree to provide some foreground interest. The tower on its hill fills in the middle ground nicely and the coastline curves away into the distance:

Once again I headed for home. I had an idea that I might return the next morning but it would all depend on the weather forecast. If there was going to be some cloud (but not completely overcast) then it might be worth it. 

When I got home I checked the weather forecast and found that it was looking like total cloud cover. That wasn't going to work so I put off the trip for another time.

What I found when I woke up the next morning was that, at least in El Campello, the cloud cover was a bit less than forecast. It was too late to change my mind, the sun was already up and climbing in the sky, and even so it might not have been as good in Villajoyosa. 

and that's it for this week. 

The lesson about not relying too much on weather forecasts has sunk in (hopefully). If the destination isn't too far away then I may just go anyway and see if I get lucky.

Maybe I'll let you know how that works out in the next post.

Until then, have a great week

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/3/weather-forecasts-blue-skies-and-lessons-learned Fri, 03 Mar 2017 14:52:54 GMT
Further exploration of Amadorio https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/2/further-exploration-of-amadorio Further exploration of Amadorio

This weeks photography has been centred around Amadorio reservoir which is near to Orxeta and lies just a short way inland and about 25 minutes drive from home. For those that view my portfolio or blog on a regular basis you will know that this is a favourite location for me for both walking and photography. I revisited it this week with some new purpose because, following the massive amount of rain and even snow over the winter, the landscape has changed considerably which has created all sorts of new possibilities.

I actually ended up doing two trips here this week. Both were afternoon trips that were intended to get me to some nice locations as the sun was starting to get lower in the sky.


While I was still on the western side of the reservoir I came across a view that really showed just how full it is right now:

When my route reached the main road at the northern end of the reservoir I turned south along a rough trail that took me to areas that had, in all my previous trips, been dry and boring. At the moment though there is quite a lot of water in the area and I stopped to get a shot of a scene that will, I'm sure, be gone in the next couple of months when the summer weather starts to dry things out again:

After exploring here for a bit I headed back up to the road and my second detour, which was a narrow track leading off into some trees to the north of the reservoir. I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself in a very pretty area of lemon and orange groves:

After spending some time exploring in this, very pleasant, area I headed back to the road to continue my clockwise path leading back towards the area where I had parked the car. before I started the walk I decided to try and get a shot looking north along the river valley in the general direction of the Aitana mountains. I have taken some pictures from here before but the river valley was completely dry on those occasions whereas, at the moment, it is well flooded.

After a bit of exploration I found a good vantage point. Ideally I would have liked to get down near to the water but there is simply no way to do that at the moment.

The river is not flowing as much as it was a few weeks ago but it is still moving quite a bit and I decided a smoothed out look would be nicer. I used a 10 stop ND filter (Lee Big Stopper) to get a 30 second exposure that produced the effect I was looking for:

I then needed to get moving and start the walk back to the car as the light was fading and I was on a bit of a time limit with some plans later. It was still about 45 minutes walking back to the car and, partway back, I heard the sound of rushing water. I spent a few minutes figuring out roughly where it was coming from but decided to leave it until the next trip.

A couple of days later and I was back again. I parked in the same spot but this time I decided to make the walk around in an anti-clockwise direction with a couple of detours.


The first detour  was to try to find the source of the rushing water sound I had heard on the previous trip. After a bit of exploration I found where the sound was coming from. Water was flowing through from an underground part of the river into a pool, creating a kind of water fall. I spent a bit of time working out how to get down to it and, after a bit of a scramble down a bank, set up to take some shots. 

I decided a cropped in view would be best and used a 6 stop ND filter (Lee Little Stopper) to get an exposure time of 1/3 second. Long enough to blur the water but still fast enough to leave in some texture:

After spending a bit of time here I carried on with the walk. I headed up the road and across the bridge, starting down the narrow road on the far side before diverting off down a narrow trail that ran by the side of the water. It was quite overgrown and a bit of struggle to get through in places but I pushed on, trying to see if there was a good shot to be had. At one point there was an almighty crashing and splashing and an egret that had obviously been hiding somewhere near the banks suddenly took flight. I don't know who was more startled, the bird or me.

Eventually I found a nice area with some interest in the foreground and some nice reflections of the valley wall and trees in the water and some reasonably blue sky. I went for the 10 stop ND filter again to get a long exposure of 40 seconds which flattened the, already quite still, water even more and made the reflections more prominent:

And that was it. The light was not too great in most directions, there was a lot of haze in the sky, probably from the sahara sand that we have experienced here, and I decided to head back to the car and home.

That's it for this week. We may plan for a day trip somewhere next week and, if the weather looks promising, I may aim for an early morning shoot somewhere on the coast, all of which will form part of next weeks post. Until then... Have a great week.


(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/2/further-exploration-of-amadorio Fri, 24 Feb 2017 13:14:50 GMT
An Andalucian Adventure Part 2 https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/2/an-andalucian-adventure-part-2 An Andalucian Adventure Part 2

Welcome back to our Andalucian Adventure.

We left it, last week, at the end of the post, as I was heading out to the end of the Roman bridge to get ready for some sunset and night shots.

I got to my chosen location and explored some potential compositions, finally deciding on a couple of possibilities, and set up to await the sunset. It was at this point that I started to wonder if the sunset shots were going to work.

The sun would be setting off to the left of the scene and I was hoping for some nice side lighting on the bridge and some colour in the sky. The problem was the amount of cloud out where the sun would be setting. There was quite a lot and it was pretty much blocking out the sun.

I decided to shoot some long exposures. With the cloud and the water movement this would be the best option if the colours didn't appear and I ended up going for black and white. 

As the light started to fade there came an all too brief moment when some light managed to get through. Not the vibrant colours I was hoping for but enough to make the scene interesting. I decided to stick with the long exposure and kept my 10 stop ND filter on to get a 76 second exposure that has some subtle light from the setting sun and also a nice soft effect due to the blurring of the sky and the water:

I then settled in to wait for the lights to come on. 

After a while the daylight really started to fade and the lights came on along the bridge. This looked nice but I was waiting for the lights on the Mosque to come on as well. After several minutes I saw a faint glow and, very slowly, the mosque started to light up.

I changed my composition just a bit and took a 25 second exposure (it was now dark enough that I didn't need a filter to achieve this) and I liked the result:

While I really like this shot there is one problem with it. It's kind of a classic view, one that I've seen lots of times. I decided to see if I could get something a bit different and set out to get to the other side of the bridge.

When I arrived I found a good viewpoint that put the bridge on the left of the frame and the mosque almost straight ahead, This also gave me some nice light in the water:

I then headed up onto the bridge to check out the view from there and see what opportunities there were before it got fully dark.

This view of the lights reflected on the river appealed to me:

as did this shot of the statue of the Archangel Rafael ( the patron saint of the city) that sits in the middle of the bridge:

and then it was time to head off for a nice dinner after the activities of the day. I was pretty happy with what I had in camera and was looking froward to getting them on the computer, but there was going to a couple of more days of shooting first.

The next day saw me heading up to a reservoir a short distance away for a quick exploration. I had one evening and one morning left and I was trying to decide how to use them.

The reservoir sits in some nice rolling landscapes and, once again, I was struck by the difference to the Costa Blanca region and, specifically, the amount of green:

After a look around I decided that I probably wouldn't come back here later for an evening shoot. It was pretty but the sun direction wouldn't be that great. That didn't mean I couldn't get in a few shots while I was here. The beauty of the winter is the sun is pretty low, even in mid afternoon, and so the light was reasonably good.

I decided to focus on some of the shots of the fields and trees. As I was exploring I came into a dip in the landscape with some trees and spotted a short jet trail in the blue sky. I thought it kind of looked like a shooting star so I tried a shot that I think works quite well:

On the other side of the reservoir there was a nice view. I liked the division between a brown field of ploughed earth and a green field of grass. With some trees, a hill and some rocks I thought it made for an interesting scene:

There was actually a very impressive vista here and I really wanted to capture the whole thing. I ended up shooting a 16 frame panorama of the entire view. In the middle of the frame you can see the old chimneys at the derelict mines in the nearby village of Pueblonuevo del Terrible. The village is named after the mine El Terrible. The mine is named after the dog that is reputed to have discovered it. It was, according to the story, a particularly nasty mastiff, hence the name El Terrible:

A final stop off was in the actual village of Pueblonuevo del Terrible. The search for a parking space led me to discover a wonderful and elegant looking building that is a residencia de mayores (literally an elderly residence), a retirement home. I have to say I can think of worse places to spend my later years:

With the decision made not to return to the reservoir for an evening shoot I decided to head back up Belmez, where I had photographed the castle and stars on the first night.

I headed up there early enough that I had time to explore while waiting for the sun to get lower. I wasn't expecting an actual sunset shot. The sun was not going to be in a good place and there was far too little cloud for that to work out. Instead I was going to focus mostly on side lit shots as the sun moved lower in the sky. 

My first opportunity was when I spotted a horse grazing in the fields nearby. I wanted to just have the horse as some foreground(ish) interest and still have the main feature being the castle. There was already some nice light and shadows going on so I set up, waited for the horse to be in the right position and captured this shot:

I then considered moving in a bit, making the horse more of a feature. However, as I did so the horse decided to wander off and it was no longer in a good place for the shot I had in mind, Just then, a small Shetland (or similar) pony put in an appearance. Far from being shy, this little guy just kept on coming towards me and I had to keep moving back in order to frame the shot:

Finally, after he'd had a bit of a stroke on the nose, and had satisfied himself that I didn't have any food for him, he wandered off and left me to find some other views.

Moving a little further along I found a nice view that included some of the village and where the low sun was creating long shadows from the nearby trees.:

Finally, I wandered along one of the trails that led towards the village and castle. There I found a puddle of water and, with the low sun, it was possible to get the castle reflected in it. I'm a sucker for a nice reflections picture so I set up to take one:

By this time the sun was almost gone and, just a few minutes later, the light disappeared from the landscape. With very little cloud in the sky there wasn't any colourful interest and, while I was tempted to hang around and see what night shots would be possible, I had no idea what time they turned the illuminations on and I really needed to get back so we could get ready to go out for dinner.

And so we came to the final morning. We had a long drive ahead of us, about 6 hours plus a rest stop, but there was still time for one more morning shoot. 

Almost opposite our hotel was a wooded area and, on this morning, there was a bit of light frost on the ground. I headed in shortly before sunrise to see what I could find and quickly spotted an interesting looking tree that I could shoot straight through with the sun coming up behind it. 

There wasn't any real colour in the sky but, as the sun started to break through, I got an unexpected bonus. A thin low mist rose up from the grass and the rays of the sun picked it out and made it glow. I shot three exposures to keep some detail in all areas of the image and merged them later in Lightroom. I really like the way this image came out:

Then it was time for breakfast and to start the long drive home.

Next week it will be back to normal on the posts with some information about what I've been doing back in the Costa Blanca area.

Until then, have a great week 

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/2/an-andalucian-adventure-part-2 Fri, 17 Feb 2017 10:36:28 GMT
An Andalucian Adventure Part 1 https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/2/an-andalucian-adventure-part-1 An Andalucian Adventure Part 1

Something a bit different for this weeks post (and for next weeks as well as this is going to be a two parter)

We spent most of this week in Andalucia, specifically in the area in and around Córdoba.

We were staying in a small village about 60 kilometres (37 miles) north west of Córdoba itself so our trip started with a 6 hour drive from El Campello.

It's funny. A 600 kilometre (370 plus miles) trip in the UK would have been quite a stressful time. There would, undoubtedly, have been numerous traffic problems and delays to deal with and it would probably not have been a pleasant time.

For us it was quite a pleasure. No traffic issues for the whole trip, great roads, often with very few cars on, and some lovely scenery to look at, especially when we were passing the Sierra Nevada mountains that have a nice blanket of snow on them.

This wasn't solely a photography / sightseeing trip. We had family reasons for making the journey, but I wasn't going to come all this way and not make the most of it.

The climate and landscape in this part of Spain is somewhat different than the Alicante area where we live. In the summer it is much hotter. In fact Córdoba is supposed to record the highest temperatures in Europe in the middle of summer. In the winter it's a bit colder than the Alicante region and, because we were in a small village in the mountains it was a bit colder still. The landscape here is much greener and so there must be more rain and less arid conditions, although it stayed dry for us while we were there.

The photography started on the first night when, after dinner, our host took us out to see "something special".

This turned out to be a nearby village (called Belmez) with a floodlit castle perched high on a rock.

It was a bit difficult to set up for a shot here as I hadn't seen the location in daylight and had to try to compose a shot in the dark without much of an idea of what was around. Also, it was getting pretty late and the rest of the group were getting tired so I didn't want to spend too long. Still, it was a clear night with some nice stars in the sky and the the castle looked very pretty all lit up.

With the benefit of hindsight I should have shot this one a bit differently. The exposure should have been quite a bit shorter (and the ISO higher) to avoid the elongation of the stars, but even so I'm quite pleased with the way this has come out. It's not one of the greatest night sky shots ever taken but I think it looks pretty enough to include:

The next day we were planning on heading into Córdoba itself. There were some scenes there that I knew I wanted to get, especially around sunset and the blue hour at the Roman Bridge, and I was looking forward to exploring the old town and seeing some of the sights.

Before breakfast, and around sunrise, I looked outside and saw a wonderful sky. I couldn't let it pass so I dashed out with my camera and tripod and started searching for a suitable composition. 

This was another unplanned shot but sometimes you just have to go for it. I found a lane which was lined with trees and bushes on one side and had a view that included a river valley in the distance that had some mist over it. A quick set up and I got this shot:

After breakfast we headed into Córdoba. We parked up in the newer part of the city (you can't park in the old city unless you are a resident and have a permit) and crossed the Roman Bridge on foot to get to the old area. I took this opportunity to do a first scout of the bridge area for later and then we moved through the huge stone gate that marks the entrance to old Córdoba, pausing briefly to look back through the gate and get this shot of it with the sun just peaking over the top:

Córdoba is a beautiful old city with some wonderful, typically Spanish, narrow streets and some lovely buildings. We could have chosen to take a tour in a horse and buggy (no idea what it would have cost) but we preferred to make our own way around so I settled for getting this image of one of them while it was waiting for some customers:

While on the horsey topic we then paid a short visit to the Royal Stables. There was nothing much going on there but it was a lovely piece of interior architecture so I decided to get a shot of it:

All around the city there are special 'patios'. These are open to the public and you can just wander in to have a look. They have small shops inside that sell a variety of things and I assume this is how they make the money to support the mass of flowers and plants that line every available surface. They are certainly beautiful to visit and I couldn't resist getting at least one image. The white walls created some challenges with contrast and I ended up shooting three exposures to merge in Lightroom later:

Some of the streets are extremely narrow and one of them, with white painted walls and flowers in bright blue pots, provided an interesting view of the bell tower on the huge Mosque and Cathedral (Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba):

Making our way towards the tower and a clear shot shows some of the detail on this wonderful structure:

A bit of lunch followed and then it was time to pay a visit to the Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba.

This is a fascinating place. Also known as The Great Mosque of Córdoba, it is a huge structure with an interesting history. The site was originally a Christian church. After the Moors conquered the area in the early 8th Century it was divided into Muslim and Christian halves and remained so until later that century when it was demolished and the Grand Mosque was built.

When Córdoba returned to Christian rule in the 13th Century the building was converted to a Roman Catholic church, culminating in the insertion of a cathedral nave in the 16th century.

In all honesty you could spend a whole day inside this building (so it's well worth the €10 entry fee). It's a massive space with some incredible ornamentation and architecture, and some of it is outrageously ostentatious.

The main features are the pillars and arches that support the entire structure. Interior shots were quite a challenge as the light is quite dim and, I believe, that tripods are frowned upon within the structure. So I pushed the ISO up and hoped for the best:

There are so many beautiful features here and I'm going to let the images speak for themselves:

Back outside and the afternoon was pushing on. I knew I wanted to get back to the opposite side of the Roman Bridge well before sunset so that I could find the best locations for the shots I had in mind but, before that, there were still some things to see.

There are lots of squares and plazas in the city and in one of them this proud statue stands atop a fountain:

Córdoba also has a strong Roman history and one of the features that dates back to this time is the remains of the Roman Temple that date back to the first century. The main feature here is the columns that were excavated in the 1950s:

Roman columns - CordobaPart of an ancient Roman temple excavated in Cordoba, Andalucia, Spain There was also a huge plaza that we stopped at briefly. Wonderful buildings surround it and there are lots of bars an restaurants with tables out in the square. As it was winter, and late afternoon, it was pretty quiet and I was able to get a shot without many people in (it would also have worked if it had been very busy but it would have been harder to get an unobstructed view into the scene):

And then it was time to make my way across the Roman Bridge to prepare for the sunset and night shots. 

How did that go? Well, you're going to have to wait for part two to find out, and also to see what happened for the rest of the trip which includes a great sunrise, some lovely countryside and a return to the castle at Belmez.

As a taster, here's one of the night shots at the Roman Bridge:

Until part 2... Have a great week 

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/2/an-andalucian-adventure-part-1 Sat, 11 Feb 2017 10:28:55 GMT
Scenes from El Campello and Villajoyosa https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/2/scenes-from-el-campello-and-villajoyosa Scenes from El Campello and Villajoyosa 

Another week over, where does the time go?

Well, this week some of the time was spent on some photo shoots

But first a quick weather update. The cold and rainy weather appears to be mostly over although it is still a bit chilly out of the sun and there was a bit of rain to go with grey skies on Thursday. Looking out across the local landscapes and the snow has now all gone from Puig Campana mountain but there is still a dusting on the Aitana mountains that are further inland. Even that has started to look a bit more grey than white and I suspect it won't be there much longer.

OK, the photography.

Well, first off, a bit of really local stuff, all shot in El Campello.

On Sunday morning there was some quite odd and hazy light and an almost eerily flat sea. I took a shot of a sailing boat cruising past one of the stone breakwaters on Carrer La Mar beach with a long lens. The combination of the hazy light and the long focal length produced an interesting effect that I chose to enhance a tiny bit in my post processing rather than trying to correct it.

It’s one of those images that I’m not sure about. Maybe it works and maybe it doesn’t. Either way I think it has a certain something different about it compared to my usual work:

Later that same day I did a walk along the front, heading up towards Playa Muchavista. It was quite late in the afternoon and I was prepared for the possibility of some interesting shots as the sun got lower in the sky.

Before too long I started to notice that there seemed to a lot of flowers about. Some of them were growing in the 'flood' area at the end of the Rio Seco and I decided to have a quick look.

The more recognisable flowers were some Daisies and I decided to get a close up of one of them:

I wasn't using a macro lens so I was reasonably pleased with the way this came out.

There were also some other yellow flowers around, seemingly in considerable numbers. I decided to get a shot of them and use it to find out what they were. Some investigation online seems to have identified them as Oxalis pes-caprae also known as Bermuda buttercup or Sour-grass:

I ended up around at Zofra corner, the point where Play Muchavista ends and Playa Carrer La Mar begins (or the other way around if you prefer). 

While I was wandering around the area I came across a beautiful Snowy Egret in the water but, as I didn't have a long lens with me, I couldn't get a decent shot of it. Oh well, maybe another time.

The beach here is all pebbles and rocks and I discovered a whole mass of flowers and plants along the edge of part of the beach. The light over the buildings of Muchavista and San Juan was looking quite interesting so I decided to try a shot with the buildings as the background and the flowers in the foreground:

Zofra corner is best known for the upturned boats on the rocky beach and I have used some of these in shots before. The clouds out to sea looked quite nice and I found one of the boats that had plants and flowers growing all around its bow. The light on the scene was nice and I got down low to the ground to get the image I wanted:

I then started the walk back and, as I was crossing the river (it's really the dry river because most of the water is taken for irrigation further inland, although there's a bit more water in there than usual at the moment) I noticed that the recent rains had left it looking quite green with plants and that there was some nice clouds over the distant mountains. That made my final shot for the day:

My second trip of the week was to Villajoyosa. I planned to make this a duel purpose trip. First I wanted to scout out some potential locations for a morning shoot. Second, if conditions looked promising, I was going to see what I could get as a sunset shoot while I was there.

I started out with a hike along the coastal trail that leads along the cliffs from Playa El Torres towards Benidorm. I checked out and discounted a number of potential locations for either shoot and decided to start heading back and look at the opposite end of Playa El Torres which involves a climb up some steps. 

As I was working my way back along the trail I stopped at an area that had a lot more of the Oxalis pes-caprae flowers (also known as Bermuda buttercup or Sour-grass) and I liked the look of them in the foreground with a low wall and tree in the mid ground and a blue sky with some cloud as the backdrop. 

This shot meant getting the camera as low down as my tripod would allow but the end result is quite nice:

I also stopped off on one section of the coastal path to take a sunburst shot looking out to sea with the path catching the light quite nicely.

I recently wrote up my tip for avoiding lens flare when shooting directly into the sun. You can read it HERE 

I headed back along the length of the beach and climbed the hill. I looked around for my possible sunset shot but I wasn't really seeing anything that I felt was going to work. I did however find a scene that I felt would work well for a sunrise. 

While I was looking at this scene I realised that it was looking pretty nice right now. The sun was behind me and to the right, and getting quite low, but still putting some nice light on the scene. I felt it was a shot. If it didn't work out at least it would be a good reference shot for when I came back at dawn.

In the end I think it worked out well as an image in it's own right, a little bit earlier in the day, or even a little bit later, and I don't think the light would have been any good:

I still hadn't got a sunset shot and I wondered if I should have explored another area back at the far end of the beach when I was there. It had possibilities and I had time so I climbed back down and walked quickly back along the beach to the cliffs at the other end.

Once I climbed up the hill  I went down a side path and I found an interesting spot. 

The sun was still over the sea and getting lower. It was about 50 minutes to sunset and I set up for a shot. I thought there might be a couple of opportunities here. The first one with some nice side lighting on the scene would work, if I kept the sun just out of frame on the left and waited until it was in some thin cloud, so I set up and waited for the right moment:

The second possibility would only work if there was likely to be some gaps in the cloud over land where the sun would be setting. I waited for a while and it soon became clear that the clouds were thickening up and my idea wasn't going to work.

I had one more idea that I thought might work but it meant getting back up to the top of the hill, right at the other end of the beach again.

Another brisk walk and climb followed and I made it up on to the top of the hill which has a fine view of the landmark mountain Puig Campana.

This mountain is actually quite difficult to get decent shots of. Get up close and you can't really capture the shape. From further away there are all sorts of buildings and things in the way.

I decided on a shot that would include the buildings and roads on the edge of Villajoyosa (where I was) and use them to draw the eye towards the mountain. The clouds were moving quite a bit and I ended up shooting with a 10 stop filter to get a 100 second exposure that created some nice blur in the colourful and moving clouds. In the end I quite liked the way this came out:

I managed only one decent shot before the clouds closed in and the light on the mountain disappeared, so it was time to head home.

Another day and another chance to take some pictures. Earlier I mentioned a missed opportunity with the Snowy Egret. Well, I decided to try to do something about it.

I went for a walk back up to Zofra corner, only this time I put my long zoom lens on (a 150 to 600 zoom), and hoped that I might spot the Egret again. 

I was in luck, as I came around the corner there it was. I lined up a  shot of it standing in the shallows and, before I got a chance to press the shutter release, in a burst of sound it took to the air. I frantically swept the lens around, trying desperately to get the focus to lock on the fast moving bird and hit the shutter button.

The rest was, if I'm going to be honest, more luck than skill but at least I got it:

Finally, when the weather forecast looked right, I did my early morning back at Playa El Torres in Villajoyosa.

Arriving nice and early I parked the car and climbed up to the vantage point I had been at the other day. 

I like to arrive early because, sometimes, the best images are shot well before sunrise, during the blue hour.

About 40 minutes before the sun came up it was quite dark. The section of cliff I was standing on was quite exposed and the wind was chilly. We were just starting to get some nice light in the sky and there were still streetlights illuminated on the paths near to the beach. I needed a long exposure to capture the scene in the near dark and 61 seconds worked out perfectly to bring out some detail in the darker areas without blowing out the highlights. Because there wasn't any light on the foreground I decided to crop a lot of it out of the final image so this is a 2:1 ratio crop:

It was then a case of waiting for the sun to put in an appearance. It looked like there was some cloud sitting on the horizon right where the sun should appear so I guessed it might take a few minutes after official sunrise before we actually got to see it.

I was right, official sunset came and went and, although there was diffuse light and colour coming through the clouds, it wasn't the scene I was hoping for. I fired off a couple of shots, just while I waited, but I didn't think any of then would make the final cut.

Eventually, about 12 minutes after sunrise, the sun broke through. I got the light on the foreground I was looking for and also the chance to include the sun in the frame. It was now quite a high contrast scene and I shot three exposures to get detail from the bright sun through to the darkest shadows so that I could merge them later. The result came out pretty well:

I thought that was about it but, while I was looking out from this vantage point my eye was caught by some scrubby gnarled trees down on the rocky beach. The light wasn't quite hitting them yet so I had a bit of time.

A quick walk back down the hill and out on the beach and I found that one of the trees was not very nice, but the other had some interesting shapes and textures, exposed roots and some nice colours. 

I set up with the camera low down and waited just a little while for the light to hit the tree. 3 exposures again as there was a lot of contrast and the final result, after merging and then cropping to a square format finished off the morning nicely:

So that's it for this week. Plans for next week are shaping up and I'm sure there will be something worth capturing in camera and I'll share it with you in the next post.

Until then, have a great week

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/2/scenes-from-el-campello-and-villajoyosa Fri, 03 Feb 2017 10:40:51 GMT
Weather Improves, Reservoirs, Rivers and Mountain Scenes https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/1/weather-improves-reservoirs-rivers-and-mountain-scenes Weather Improves, Reservoirs, Rivers and Mountain Scenes 

Following the, frankly horrible, weather conditions last week this week has been a major improvement. While it's still a bit chilly out of the sun we've seen a lot more light and a lot less rain.

The first signs of the weather improving came on Sunday evening. It hadn't rained for a while and as I looked out of the window I could see some really nice cloud formations. I took a few snapshots off the balcony, nothing very exciting but just an excuse to shoot something, and then I noticed a change in the light. As the sun was dropping down behind the buildings it was also breaking through the cloud. With the shape of the cloud this could be interesting.

I had almost no time, I grabbed a jacket, stuck some shoes on and almost ran down to the beach. No time to mess around with a tripod. I tweaked the ISO up a bit so I could get a better shutter speed, picked a composition with included the lifeguard tower, adjusted a bit to allow for the fact that I knew I would have to correct the verticals after the event (the penalty for using a wide angle lens), and managed to grab one decent shot before the light faded and the magic was over:

With the improvement in the weather I decided to head out on Monday afternoon to check out conditions back at Amadorio reservoir. I had been there less than a week before but, in that week, there had been a massive amount of rain and even snow in some local areas, so I was interested to see what had changed.

I timed my excursion so that I could do a circuit of the reservoir on foot (about an 8 kilometre or 5 mile walk) and be roughly at the far end of the area as the sun was getting down towards the top of the surrounding hills.

I parked the car and walked across the top of the dam. On the Eastern side I stopped at a vantage point just off the path to check out the view. There was some snow visible on the mountains in the distance, there was also some nice clouds and, as the water was very still and I had the sun almost behind me, some nice reflections. 

I decided to get a shot that showed the snowy mountains but also had some reflections in the water. I tried several compositions, the challenge being to get a shot without too much foliage in the way. In the end I went for this vertical shot that I think works pretty well:

One of the nice things about winter is that the sun is lower in the sky, even some time before sunset. The low sun that was almost behind me, was creating some really nice reflections in the still water and, because there was some nice clouds in the sky, this made for an interesting view. I moved around a bit to get a clearer view without some trees in the way and composed a 9 shot panoramic image of as much of the scene as I could get, including the dam on the far right of the frame:

I thought this was going to make for a nice image but I also wondered if there was a composition that made more of a feature of the dam and it's reflections. I shot another series of three vertical images that I stitched into a 16:9 view that I thinks works really well:

 A quick check of the time and I realised I had to get a move on. I had a good 45 minutes walk to get to where I wanted my final shots to be and I needed to pick up the pace.

What I wanted to do was check out the northern most part of this area where the river bed joins the reservoir. Six weeks previously I had been there and the river bed was completely dry. I had actually walked down into the middle of the river bed to check for potential compositions while standing amongst dry and brittle bushes and grass.

What a change to this scene when I got there. The river was now in full flow and rushing beneath the road bridge. This was what I had been hoping for and I walked around for a while deciding how I would shoot it. I decided on my composition, I had to make a choice to focus on the river and the bridge and ignore the mountains in the background, there was simply no composition that would let me get both. A long exposure seemed to be the way to go and I used a 10 stop ND filter to achieve a 15 second exposure to nicely blur the water, while the now very low sun painted some nice light on the scene:

With this shot in the bag I started the walk around the western side of the reservoir as the light slowly faded. As some of this is on the road I ideally wanted to complete this section and get onto the walking trails before it got too dark. All in all a pleasant afternoon. I knew I had some interesting shots captured and I'd had a nice bit of exercise as well.

On Wednesday the weather was also very nice, Mostly blue skies (although that's not normally the best for landscape photography) and fairly warm. I decided to head up onto Cabecon del Oro mountain for an afternoon hike and see what opportunities I could find. 

Because I was heading to a bit higher altitude, and because the weather on the mountain can be unpredictable, I went prepared. I had a nice warm fleece with me, a shell jacket that would help to keep me warm if the wind was cold, and keep me dry if it rained, and a hat and some gloves. I ended up spending the entire walk in my tee-shirt because it was lovely and warm. Still, better safe than sorry.

The recent heavy rains had caused a few mud slides that had left mud and rocks across some of the main paths. The paths on the lower half of the mountain are wide enough for vehicular access, and there are some isolated houses (I assume fincas) up there that people presumably drive to, although I wouldn't fancy it in anything other than a 4x4. While I was there I came across a couple of crews working to clear these areas and even had to get one of them to stop so I could inch my way past.

I took a bit of a diversion off the paths at one point, heading into a wooded area and picking my way through some quite lush long grass and around some prickly bushes until I found a spot that was bathed in some very nice light from the fairly low sun. A very low point of view and using the trees to break up the sun a bit and prevent flare produced this image:

Moving back out onto the trails I headed off down one that I hadn't explored before.

When I'm doing these walks I spend a lot of time looking around for opportunities. Sometimes these are to be filed away for another time, when the light is better, but sometimes the light is good right now and I'll see what kind of shot I can get.

In this case I spotted a bush on the edge of the trail with some bright orange and red leaves. I liked the splash of colour and started to view different angles. Finally I saw a view that had the bush in the foreground, one of the stone walls that retain the terraces leading away and some trees and a hill a little higher up. The composition was good and, as a bonus, the scene was being nicely lit from the side so the time was good to shoot it. This was the shot that resulted: 

A little more exploration and I came to a side path that wound up a little hill (this is a little hill on the side of a mountain by the way). I followed it up and discovered a large and quite imposing tree that leaned in over a flat area but with a view out to one of the large ridges on the side of the higher part of the mountain. Using the tree to partially block out the sun meant I could get a nice sun star effect without problems with lens flare and with some really nice shadows to lead in to the scene. There was, however, a lot of contrast and I ended up shooting three exposures to maintain detail in the highlights, shadows and mid tones and merging them later in Lightroom:

A slightly different part of this hill top let me get a view out over the distant valleys with the sun as a burst in the sky and a tuft of grass in the foreground. This was another three exposure shot to deal with the contrast but, in this case, there was nothing blocking the sun to avoid lens flare. So I took another series of shots with my thumb blocking out the sun and used layer masks in Photoshop to remove the unsightly flare from the foreground. A bit fiddly but overall I think it was worth the effort:

As sunset approached I knew we weren't going to get anything great. The clouds were leaving the sky and there was a lot of haze developing over the mountains where the sun would be due to set. I decided that I would explore for a few more minutes and then start heading back.

As I rounded a bend in the trail I discovered a lovely view down into a valley. There were trees on both sides of the valley wall, some nice shapes in the landscape, and some abandoned buildings that I thought looked quite interesting. 

As the sun was dropping I felt there might be a nice play of light and shadow on the scene and, from this high vantage point, I could shoot with a longer focal length and exclude any boring sky.

So, I set up and waited. The sun dropped lower and then the light that I was hoping for happened. I took a few shots as the light moved across the scene and waited until it disappeared altogether. I would choose one of these images later at home based on which one had the best combination of light and shadow, and this was my choice:

And then I started the walk back as the sun dropped lower and lower. I was right about the sunset, nothing too spectacular, but I was happy that I had managed to get some interesting shots aided by the lower winter sun. This type of thing will be harder to do in the summer when the sun gets that much higher and when sunset is so much later.

That's it for this week. I hope you have enjoyed the read and the images. If so a like or a share is always appreciated and please do feel free to leave any comments.

Have a great weekend and week.


(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/1/weather-improves-reservoirs-rivers-and-mountain-scenes Fri, 27 Jan 2017 12:43:42 GMT
Shooting into the sun, removing lens flare https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/1/shooting-into-the-sun-removing-lens-flare Shooting into the sun, removing lens flare

There was a time when shooting into the sun was a bad idea. For a start there are the concerns about peering through a viewfinder straight at that big ball of fire and the impact on your eyes. Fortunately, with digital cameras we can avoid that by using live view to set up our composition. Then there were issues with that much light damaging the sensor. I've heard of this but I don't think it's an issue with modern cameras. Perhaps if you do it all the time then, eventually, it will cause problems but I don't think occasional shots are too much to worry about. What can be an issue is sun flare. Even with the cleanest of lenses there is the chance of getting flare that can ruin an otherwise beautiful image. Fortunately there is a way to deal with it, and here's how. Let's take this image as an example. This is a RAW file made out of three exposures in camera to deal with the contrast and combined using the HDR merge function in Lightroom (you can read about that HERE). I've done some basic tonal adjustments on it in Lightroom (highlights, shadows, black and white points)

I shot this on the side of a mountain in Spain and, as you can see, I shot straight towards the sun. Overall I really like the image but there is this horrible lens flare on the lower part of the image, you can see it even more clearly in this zoomed in view.

Now I could probably do something using the clone tool in Photoshop but it's going to be difficult to avoid making a mess of some of the grass that way. Fortunately, as I knew this was going to be an issue, I have another way. Immediately after I took these exposures I took three more, exactly the same, but this time I blocked out the sun with my thumb (note, you really need to be shooting on a tripod in order to do this as the compositions really need to be the as close to identical as possible).


After combining them using the Lightroom HDR merge I copied and pasted the develop settings from the first image so that the it has the same tones and colours as the first one. You can see that, by blocking out the sun I have removed the lens flare from the foreground. The next steps are really easy I select both images in Lightroom  

and then open them as layers in Photoshop

Once in Photoshop I make sure that the image with my thumb in is the top layer. As there is a possibility that I may have moved the camera very slightly between shots I Auto Align the layers

The auto setting is what's needed here

Now I apply a layer mask to the top layer and invert it so the top layer is completely hidden (the standard layer mask fill is white and I want black to hide everything. Cmd and I on a Mac or Ctrl and I on a PC will invert the layer and make it black)

Now I can see my image that has the lens flare in the foreground, the layer with my thumb in, that doesn't have the lens flare is completely hidden by the black mask. With my layer mask selected I select a soft round brush, make sure that it's white, set the opacity at 100% and simply paint over the area where the flare is. In this case, in addition to the obvious big flare there were several smaller spots when I zoomed in so I chose to paint over a bit more of the foreground. You can see how much I painted in the layer mask here


This is what the image now looks like, after the blending that I have done. The ugly flare is gone it's ready for the rest of the processing workflow.

If you're interested in my landscape photography processing workflow you can read it HERE  After processing, this was the final image

One additional note. If the camera has moved a fraction between the shots you might find that the Auto Align leaves some odd effects around the very edge of the image. You can either clone these out or, as I did in this case simply crop the image in by a few pixels to get clean edges. I hope you've enjoyed this and will find it useful. If so a Share or Like is always appreciated and please feel free to leave a comment below

(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/1/shooting-into-the-sun-removing-lens-flare Thu, 26 Jan 2017 23:30:00 GMT
Rain, Wind and Snow https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/1/rain-wind-and-snow Rain, Wind and Snow

Apparently it has been the worst winter for this region of Spain for 35 years. It's certainly been a rough week for the weather here in El Campello.

At the start of the week the forecast was not looking great. The temperature was supposed to drop and there were several days of cold conditions, overcast skies and rain forecast.

As the week progressed the area started to get warnings of snow. Yes, that's right, snow. We never got any snow in El Campello but there was quite heavy snow just 20 km away in Benidorm and also to the south of Alicante, and inland. We could see snow on the slopes of the mountains up near Benidorm, not just on the peaks, on the lower slopes as well.

In El Campello it has been cold and windy. Heavy clouds in overcast skies and rain, lots and lots of rain. The beach here has suffered further erosion as a result of the rain and the waves so that the sea is almost up to the wall of the passeo (promenade) in many places. There will need to be a lot of work done to repair the beach for the summer season.

As far as photography is concerned the opportunities have been few and far between, so I've had to manage as best as I can to get some shots. 

Of course, one of the plus sides of heavy clouds is that, if the sun does manage to break through, you can get some interesting skies. If that happens near to sunrise or sunset it can be quite spectacular.

An example is this shot of the beach huts that are very near to where we live. With the sun setting out of view on the left of frame and slightly behind me it was creating some quite dramatic light on the huts. It only needed a nice sky as background, and fortunately the sky opposite the sunset looks really quite impressive:

This shot was taken before the really heavy rains started and before the last round of erosion of the beach.

The poor weather has had one other benefit, it means that the reservoirs have got a lot more water in. This is, of course, good news from the point of view of the water supply, especially as the area has been suffering from a shortage, but also means that there are a lot of new possibilities for pictures at one of my favourite locations, Amadorio reservoir.

The last time I was at Amadorio was early December, about six weeks ago. At that time I shot this image of the building that had been revealed by the low water levels:

This week there was a gap in the bad weather for one afternoon and I decided to make the most of it and drive up to Amadorio to see what conditions were like. I was amazed to see that not only was the building completely submerged but so was the big rock that you can see near it. In fact the water was so deep that it wasn't possible to make out where the building and the rock were.

What this meant was that the sloping banks that had previously been high up and away from the water were now under the water, and the bushes and trees growing there were partially submerged, leaving some interesting compositional possibilities.

I had arrived a bit early so spent some time scouting around for good compositions and checking on how the light would be as sunset approached. As always in this location the sun would disappear behind the surrounding hills quite a while before official sunset and I used my Photo Pills app to check where the sun would actually vanish.

I decided my first few shots would make use of side lighting. Although there was quite heavy cloud and overcast skies inland from the reservoir there was an area of sky over the reservoir that was a mix of cloud and clear, perfect for the types of shots I was hoping for.

My first shot was about trying to get the reflections of the clouds and blue sky in the water, while still having some of the plants breaking the surface and the mountain as the background. The temptation was to use an ND filter to get a long exposure but I knew that, as it was quite windy, this would blur all of the leaves and branches and I wanted them to be sharp.

So I accepted that the water wouldn't be flat and went without the filter for this first shot which has the low sun just out of frame on the left. I think the colours and reflections in the water came out pretty well:

After a while I moved around a little bit and got in much closer to some of the orange coloured bushes. The sun was moving in and out of some cloud so I waited until the sun came out and captured this shot for which I used a circular polarising filter to cut down on glare and also to boost the contrast and saturation:

I also felt there was a vertical shot to be had here. I waited a bit for one of the clouds to move around. I felt that it would make an interesting shape, almost mirroring the shape of the lake bank just under the surface, and then I waited for the light to break through again:

Then it was to set up for the sunset shot. I decided to include the dam in this shot and use some of the branches from a submerged tree for the main foreground interest. As I was shooting into the sun I had to watch out for flare, and the Polarising filter was off as it would be of no use at this angle. 

I timed my shot for the point at which the sun was just dipping below the edge of the hill, which was blocking the direct light just enough to prevent flare, and used a small aperture (f/16) to get the sun star effect, I was pleased that I also managed to get some cloud reflections in the water:

At about this time it was getting quite cold. Once the sun was gone the temperature dropped even more rapidly and I notice a new dampness in the air. A quick clamber up the bank to check what was happening to the North and I could see a band of rain heading my way. I decided that I wouldn't hang around to see if there was any nice post sunset colour and started the climb back up to the car, arriving just before the rain really started and saving myself a soaking.

And that was it for this week.

So, what about next week? At the time of writing this the weather forecast is for steadily improving weather over the next few days. If conditions look good I am planning to do a complete walk around the reservoir sometime next week, basically so I can see what opportunities the higher water levels present. 

I may also do another trip out somewhere, not sure where yet.

All of which I'll report back on next week

Until then, have a good one


(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/1/rain-wind-and-snow Sun, 22 Jan 2017 13:57:38 GMT
The Vinalopó, the Monastery and El Hondo https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/1/the-vinalopo-the-monastery-and-el-hondo The Vinalopó, the Monastery and El Hondo 

It's been a lovely week here, a bit chilly in the evenings and early mornings but generally pretty sunny and nice.

Now that the Christmas and New year festivities are over my thoughts turned to exploration once again and there has been a couple of trips this week, one on my own and one when Tracy came with me.

The first trip was one I did on my own and it was a return to Novelda.

Once again I parked at the sight of the castle, and the church of the Monastery of Santa María Magdalena, and headed out for a late afternoon walk.

The church etc where I parked the car is on the top of a hill but I was heading down into the Vinalopó valley to see what opportunities there were along the river. The journey down is easy but I knew the journey back up would be a lot harder as it means climbing back up a steep hill to the car park. Oh well, it's good exercise.

I found a path that led alongside the river and followed it for a while. Unfortunately it headed away from the water for a while and I didn't think I was going to find anything interesting. After  exploring a bit further however, then the path and the river came back together and I found an interesting looking spot with a couple of potential compositions.

The light wasn't quite right yet so I explored a little more and found another couple of potential locations a little further around and heading back towards the hill where the car was parked.

Down in the valley I knew that the light would be at its best around an hour before sunset. Any later than that and the sun would be behind the surrounding hills and mountains and the valley would not get any light at all.

I went back to my first spot and set up. I had decided on a long exposure to smooth out the moving water so I used a 10 stop ND filter to reduce the amount of light getting into the lens.

My first composition here used some stepping stones across the river and the path leading towards the hill and the distinctive looking church. The ND filter allowed me to get a 15 second exposure at f/11 which created an effect on the water that I quite liked:

Moving just a short distance away I had another shot in mind. This time it was a vertical composition with the river and some rocks in the foreground and the church in the background. This time I went to f/16 for 25 seconds to get a bit more blur in the water and in the cloud:

I quickly made my way across the stepping stones and up the path to a spot that was a little to one side of the river where there were some interesting pruned back trees creating an interesting line towards the church. This time, with no water to consider, I left the ND filter off and shot at f/11 for 1/60 second:

I didn't have long left in the valley as the sun was getting lower and I quickly moved around to my final spot near a bend in the river. 

I wanted to do an even longer exposure here so the ND filter went back on. I experimented with one at 52 seconds (at f/16) and, as it started to get a little bit darker I went to f/22 and shot one at 104 seconds. When I checked them later I decided that I really liked the effect that the 104 second shot had on the cloud but that the 52 second shot was better for everything else. So I combined the two images using layer masks in Photoshop and this was the final result which is my favourite shot of the day:

The light down in the valley was no longer very interesting but, if I got to a higher vantage point, I might find something else of interest. 

I climbed up a path that led further up the valley walls, on the opposite side of the river, and walked along what is part of the wine trails. Shortly before sunset I came to a vineyard with some flowers growing just outside. A helpful sign told me that the grapes here were the Cabernet Sauvignon variety.

The sun was dropping towards the mountains in the distance and I looked around to see if there was an interesting shot to be head. I ended up shooting directly towards the sun with the vineyard and the flowers in the foreground. It was a very high contrast scene so I shot 5 exposures ranging from 1/8 second to 1/2000 second so I could merge them later. 

I had no idea if this was going to be a good image or not. When I processed it later I decided that, even though it had some lens flare and even though the composition was a bit cluttered, I actually quite liked it. Whether I feel the same about it in a few months remains to be seen but. for now, here it is:


Our second trip of the week was to El Hondo nature reserve (also called El Fondo) near to Elche. This is about a 45 minute drive away and we went along with the intention of checking the place out, taking a few pictures and generally having a walk around.

The nature reserve sits in an area that is very flat, at odds with most of the region that is pretty mountainous although there are mountains visible in the distance, and is made up of a number of shallow lagoons with paths around and, in some cases, wooden bridges over, the water.

Of course, this place is mostly about the plants and animals but I couldn't resist some landscape shots of such a pretty scene, like this one with reeds and reflections in the shallow water of one of the lagoons and even a coot swimming in amongst it all:

Of course there is plenty of wildlife around and, even though this isn't my speciality, I had to try to get a few shots of some of the birds, like this little chap wading through shallow water near to one of the hides placed around for bird watchers and photographers to use:

 and this one, which I've been able to identify as a Black Winged Stilt that I managed to capture from the same hide:

Of course I also had an eye for the scenery and, although it was closer to the middle of the day than I would normally choose to shoot landscapes, the light was pretty good due to the lower winter sun.

This shot was taken near to the bridges that cross the main lagoon and I really like the reed hanging over the water and creating a distorted reflection:

and the bridge itself was worthy of a capture. The sky wasn't all that interesting but I wanted to capture the extent of the bridge and the reeds and light in the water in the foreground. So I took a fairly wide angle shot that let me fit it all in with the intention of cropping down to a 16:9 format later that would remove some of the less interesting sky. After doing that I really like the way this shot came out:

and finally, as we were heading back toward the car I manage to get a shot of a little bird perched on some reeds. T

And then it was time to head for home. I will definitely be coming back here again, both to see if I can get in early in the morning for a dawn shoot, and also to come with the big lens and see if I can get some more nice wildlife shots.

The final event of this week, and the most important one by far, was Tracy's (my wife) birthday so we popped out for a picnic in the mountains for lunch and then had a very nice meal out with Tracy's mum in the evening at one of our favourite restaurants called La Cova.

A very pleasant week all round.

Next week is forecast to be cold here. Not snow and ice (we hope) but certainly much colder than normal. I'll report back on that in next weeks post. 

Until then, have a great week

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/1/the-vinalopo-the-monastery-and-el-hondo Fri, 13 Jan 2017 12:37:10 GMT
Three Kings parade in El Campello https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/1/three-kings-parade-in-el-campello Three Kings parade in El Campello 

Christmas and New Year all over? Well it wasn't here in Spain because the main event is Three Kings Day which isn't until the 6th of January, although, for us the interesting part is the big parade that takes place on the afternoon / early evening of the 5th.

Before we get to that I did do a bit of beach based photography this week. Not the nice sandy beaches but the, in some ways, much more interesting rocky beaches that are to the north of El Campello.

One of these is Amerador beach that lies about 4 km away (walking the coastal route as much as possible). 

I was there fairly late in the afternoon. There was no point in shooting too late as the sun would disappear behind the surrounding buildings and hills well before sunset but, an hour or so before sunset created some lovely light in the scene.

I decided to shoot from a very low POV, the camera was almost at the water level, and go for a long exposure, using a 10 stop ND filter to block the light.

The end result was a nice colourful scene with some nice reflections in the water:

Now back to the Three Kings. 

The parade was late afternoon on the 5th of January. We went out for lunch and then headed up to Tracy's mums place to watch the parade. She has a large balcony overlooking the marina and this gives some wonderful views for part of the parade, although it does make it tricky to get some angles due to being quite high up.

Due to the time of day the light is also starting to fade as the parade gets underway and this can make shots quite challenging as a fast shutter speed is needed to avoid motion blur from the people. I had to push the ISO on my camera pretty high to get some of the later shots but I was pretty pleased with how well they came out.

While we were waiting for things to get started I was idly watching a gull circling around and decided to fire off a quick shot as it moved over the marina with the buildings near the marina entrance catching some quite nice afternoon light, sometimes these "from the hip" shots can be quite rewarding:

After a while the boat with the Three Kings on headed out to sea and did a few manoeuvres off shore to allow time for the crowds to gather and then headed back in to signal the start of the festivities:

As they arrived back on the side of the marina a series of fireworks and flares were launched from the top of the old watchtower, it was a very clear afternoon and Benidorm is easily visible in the background:

The parade is not just about the Three Kings. There are all sorts of bands, and people walking, and lots of dancers, like this group who were wearing golden masks and appeared to be doing some kind of jungle dance:

There was a nod to to historical links with the moors with several warrior women like this one:

and of course, in Spain, you have to have some Flamenco dancers:

and then it was time for the Three Kings. They come riding on a large trailer with their assistants and they throw sweets mixed with confetti out to the waiting children:

And that was it. All over for another year. Time to take down the decorations and return to normal, and that should mean a lot more trips out and a lot more landscape photography for yours truly.

Until next week, have a great time 

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2017/1/three-kings-parade-in-el-campello Sat, 07 Jan 2017 10:50:23 GMT
Last photos of 2016, Christmas, Novelda and Zofra corner https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2016/12/last-photos-of-2016-christmas-novelda-and-zofra-corner Last photos of 2016, Christmas, Novelda and Zofra corner 

It's new years eve and there's only a few hours of 2016 left. It's been a great year, the first full 'calendar' year in Spain and full of opportunities to add beautiful images to my portfolio.

Last weekend we celebrated Christmas. The celebration on Christmas day was at our place and Tracy went to town on the table setting (not to mention the food):

It was a lovely day and we enjoyed it, we also enjoyed Boxing day which gave us a chance to just chill out and relax after the festivities.

Of course, in Spain, the really big Celebration is the Three Kings and that's next week. I'll hopefully be getting some shots of the parade on the night of the 5th to share in next weeks post.

I've managed a couple of photo shoots this week.

The first was a combined exploration trip and shoot at Novelda. 

This small town is inland from us and a bit further south. I've previously posted images of the wonderful church at the Monastery of Santa María Magdalena

I had a shot in mind for late afternoon / early evening that would make use of the high vantage point afforded by the tower at the ruined Castillo de la Mola but I wanted to spend some time scouting the nearby area first to see if there were other opportunities.

I climbed a nearby hill to start with, this did give some nice views of the church and the castle but also highlighted just how industrial the landscape was. There were lots of large buildings, probably big warehouses, and they really didn't make for an attractive shot.

So I then headed down hill into the Vinalopó valley where I managed to get to a small path alongside the Vinalopó river. A short way along, and pretty much level with the base of the hill on which the church and the castle stand, I came to a tall and narrow bridge that had a powerful rushing weir under it. This was too good to pass up and I set up my small hiking tripod near to the weir, added my 10 stop ND filter and proceeded to take several long exposure shots. These ranged from 1 second to 15 seconds. Because the water coming over the weir was quite turbulent I decided to use the longest (15 second) exposure for the final image:

I was keeping a close eye on the sun. I knew that the shot I wanted from the top of the castle would need to be well before sunset as the sun would disappear behind the nearby hills and I would lose the light on the scene if I left it too late. So I started the climb back up to the church and it was then that I realised how far down I had come and how steep the climb back up was. 

I arrived back at the castle entrance (only a bit out of breath) and proceeded to climb the dark and narrow staircase to the top of the tower. As a side note, the tower itself is pretty unique as it is only three sided. Most castle towers are four sided (i.e. square when viewed from above). This tower is three sided and so is a triangular shape when viewed from above.

I set up on the top edge of the tower and tried a couple of shots as the light started to be where I wanted it. It was looking quite good but the sky wasn't doing justice to the scene. I wondered if a long exposure would help by getting some movement in the clouds. It wasn't very windy but even a bit of movement might help.

So I fitted my 10 stop filter once again and managed this shot which was a 92 second exposure. It certainly made the sky look a lot more interesting:

My second trip was a lot closer to home, in fact just a 25 minute walk away at a little spot called Racó de la Zofra or Zofra corner.

I went down there on Thursday afternoon to check the location out. I wanted to make sure that nothing had changed since the last time I was here, in particular that the storms a couple of weeks ago hadn't had a major impact.

The weather forecast for Friday morning was looking promising so I headed out early and got on location about 50 minutes before sunrise.

There was a lot more cloud about than forecast and, while it was still pretty dark, very much the Blue Hour, I decided I liked the look of the clouds over the buildings and lights to the south at Muchavista and San Joan.

The main feature at Zofra corner is the numerous small boats that are upturned on the rocky beach. They never seem to move, and I'm not sure if any of them would actually float anymore, but they made for some foreground interest. Because it was still quite dark I needed a 30 second exposure which created a nice smoothing effect on the sea: 

Dawn at Racó de la ZofraRacó de la Zofra (or Zofra corner) in El Campello, Spain just after sunrise looking roughly to the East and out to sea. Racó de la Zofra is best known for the small boats that seem to be permanently upturned on the rocky beach. I then waited around to see what sunrise would bring.

It wasn't long before I knew that the sun itself was not going to put in an appearance. The amount of cloud sitting around the horizon was sure to block it. Higher in the sky the cloud was more patchy and I hoped that, as the sun rose, it would bounce some light up into those clouds and create some nice colours and patterns. 

The sea was quite calm and a bit boring so I decided to fit a 6 stop ND filter to get a long exposure of 46 seconds which flattened the sea completely. I combined this with a three stop ND hard graduated filter to block some of the light coming from the sky, which was a lot brighter than the foreground. It was about twenty minutes after official sunrise that the light was at its best and I managed to get one shot that worked really well:

Then it was time to head for home and some coffee and breakfast.

In this post I've talked about using 6 stop and 10 stop ND filters to slow down exposures. These filters can result in a slight colour cast to the images that needs to be corrected in post processing. You can read my tip for easily correcting ND filter colour casts HERE

That's it for this week and for this year.

Thank you for reading, I hope you've enjoyed my posts in 2016 and will continue to do so in 2017. It only remains for me to wish you 

A Very Happy New Year 

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2016/12/last-photos-of-2016-christmas-novelda-and-zofra-corner Sat, 31 Dec 2016 13:45:22 GMT
Lots of rain and a climb to the summit at Sierra de San Pascual https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2016/12/lots-of-rain-and-a-climb-to-the-summit-at-sierra-de-san-pascual Lots of rain and a climb to the summit at Sierra de San Pascual

Last weekend was all about the rain. For three days we had heavy rain, strong winds and even the occasional thunderstorm. Actually we got away a lot better than some other places in the region where there were significant floods. 

Here there was some standing water in some of the streets but no severe flooding. The wind whipped up the sea into some really big waves that churned up loads of seaweed onto the beach. 

I ventured out on Sunday afternoon to try and get a shot of this. I was surprised at how colourful the fresh seaweed was and used it as foreground with the rough seas, dark skies and rain as the background. It was, of necessity, a short photo shoot as I wanted to minimise my cameras exposure to the rain and salt spray. I did get one image that I think captures the scene pretty well:

By Tuesday conditions had improved a lot. It was interesting to see the changes to the beach after the rough seas and the rain, the level of the beach had dropped quite a bit, a good metre or so, which meant the the sea was coming in a lot more. There will need to be some work done to restore the level of the beach before the season starts again.

So, with the rain and the preparations for Christmas (gathering at our place on Christmas Day) I only really managed one trip out, but it was a good trip.

After last weeks trip up to the Cueva de San Pascual near Orito I had decided I wanted to go back there and properly explore the trail that leads from the back of the cave and leads up towards the summit of the Sierra de San Pascual.

I started out mid afternoon. The trail didn't look to be either too long or too hard. There were a few places nearer the top where it got pretty steep and rocky but I eventually made it up to the summit:

It's not the tallest mountain around, the summit is only at about 550 metres, but the views from the top, especially when the air is pretty clear, are superb in all directions.

As the light was already looking pretty good I started out with a shot looking South East, basically looking towards Alicante. There were some nice clouds and the bushes on the ridge at the edge of the summit made for some foreground interest:

I then decided to try a panorama covering the field of view that included the visible stretch of coastline. This meant that I had Benidorm in the distance to the North and Alicante in the distance to the South. That covers about 40 kilometres of coastline. The resulting shot was made up of 11 vertical frames stitched in Lightroom (as with all panoramas much better to click on it and see it in the gallery at a larger size:

The view to the North was also interesting. Mountains in the distance and one quite nearby plus a small reservoir down at the base of the two mountains:

and a turn to look to the West reveals even more mountains in the distance, another small reservoir and the town (or maybe it's a village) of Orito:

I had spent quite a bit of time up on the summit by now but there was some interesting light developing. Looking down one of the steep sides revealed a valley bathed in light and a single tree growing out of the steep sloping ridge:

 I could see some nice clouds forming up to the East and the light was just about the best it was going to get on the slopes in that direction so I decided on one more shot before leaving the summit:

I started the hike back down, which was a bit tricky in places due to it being steep and having a lot of loose rocks. After a bit of a clamber I reached a fork in the trail and here is where I made a bit of a mistake.

I knew that the trail I came along would get me back to car park near to the cave in about 20 minutes. The other trail would lead me further down and bring me back to the cave along the pilgrims trail. I had looked at this trail on Google maps and it didn't look too far so I decided to give it a go.

Well, it may not have been all that far but it was further than I thought and it was very much up and down some steep inclines that started to make my legs ache. The sun was almost setting now and I really wanted to be back at the car before it got full dark. I came around a bend in the trail and could see a wooded hill in front of me with some quite interesting trees in the foreground and some really nice light and colours forming up. I could also see, a lot further away than I thought, the tower at the cave (in the following image you can see it about one third down from the top and one third in from the right of the frame) but I still had to stop and take one shot:

I then decided to try and get a bit of a move on. The trail was still quite rocky and I had to be careful, but I made it to the  pilgrims trail a few minutes before the sun dropped behind the distant mountains. I liked the way the trail headed off into the distance so decided to try for just one more shot (it was actually three shots merged in Lightroom to manage the contrast):

Sadly that nice gentle looking path was not the way I had to go, behind me was the trail up to the cave that the pilgrims use. It was steep and rocky and I have since found it that it has an incline of 42 degrees so my legs were definitely feeling it by the time I got to the top. I have read that the pilgrims used to do this climb on their hands and knees, I'm not sure but it might actually be easier that way.

I arrived back at the car a bit weary but, in some ways quite glad I had made the choice to try the other trail. Sure, it was exhausting, but if I hadn't done it then I wouldn't have got the last two images and I think they were worth the aching legs the next day.

So that's it, it only remains for me to wish you a very Merry Christmas 




(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2016/12/lots-of-rain-and-a-climb-to-the-summit-at-sierra-de-san-pascual Fri, 23 Dec 2016 13:11:01 GMT
HDR in Lightroom, What, When and How https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2016/12/hdr-in-lightroom-what-when-and-how HDR in Lightroom, What, When and How

HDR is one of those topics that gets very different reactions from landscape photographers. There are those who use it a lot and, at the other end of the scale, those who consider it to be the worst possible thing you can do to an image. To be fair, a lot of the negative reaction comes from people who have seen the overuse of 'tone mapping' which can create images that look excessively detailed and also have haloes around objects that can be very off putting. In reality HDR is a way of capturing details in a scene that would not be possible any other way. I use HDR quite a bit but I don't use specialist HDR software to do it. Instead I use the HDR merge capability on Adobe Lightroom and I find this produces quite natural looking images. But before we get into that, for anyone who doesn't know, or isn't completely clear, let's look at what HDR actually is. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, so it's probably best to explore what is meant by Dynamic Range. In simple terms, the dynamic range of your camera is the amount of contrast it can deal with without losing information in either the shadows or highlights. A good way to show this is with the histogram.

The far left hand side of the histogram represent pure black. If you have bars in the histogram up against the left hand side then there are parts of the image that are so under exposed that your sensor hasn't recorded any detail. The far right had side represents pure white. If you have bars stacked against the right hand side then there are parts of the image that are so overexposed that your cameras sensor hasn't recorded any detail. The histogram above is a nice exposure. information all the way across the range but no clipped shadows (pure blacks) and no blown highlights (pure whites). Modern cameras have a lot more dynamic range than older models. basically this means that the amount of light difference between the sensor recording pure black or pure white is a lot wider. Even so there are limits and very high contrast scenes can exceed what your camera can cope with. Take a look at this histogram and you can see that I have problems at both ends of the scale. The shadows are stacked up against the left hand side and the highlights against the right.

This is the image that this histogram is for taken at a recent shoot at Orito in Spain

Even if I pull the highlights slider all the way back and push the shadows slider all the way up I can't recover all of the detail, and I will certainly risk adding noise into the darker parts of the image by doing this:

In the image below I have turned on the warnings that show underexposed (blue warning) and overexposed (red warning) parts of the image.

If I want to keep detail in the sky I need to reduce the exposure This is the histogram of an exposure that is correct for the brightest parts of the sky

and this is what the image looks like with the warnings turned on

This has made the problem with the shadows a lot worse. I couldn't correct the shadows in the previous image so I have no chance now. Of course, if I expose correctly for the shadows I get exactly the opposite problem

Again, there's no point in trying to correct the highlights, they are just too extreme. So, basically this scene has exceeded the dynamic range of my camera, it simply cannot cope with the amount of contrast. and that's where HDR comes in. The camera isn't actually capturing an image, it's creating a file of data that represents the light that was recorded by the cameras sensor. So I have three files in my camera. The first file has great data for the mid tones in the scene but is lacking data for the darkest shadows and for the brightest highlights. The second file has all of the data for the highlights but is lacking data for the shadows The third file has all of the data for the shadows but is lacking data for the highlights So my computer can now merge those files and create a new file that has all of the data from the three separate files. In Lightroom I simply have to select my three files and either right click and select Photo Merge and then select HDR (or I can go to Photo in the top menu and then select Photo Merge and then select HDR)

Once I have done this Lightroom will create a preview of my HDR file (it may take a little while depending on your file sizes and speed of your computer)

I always have Auto Align on just to make sure that the image is perfectly aligned.  In this case I selected a deghost amount of NONE because there was nothing moving in the shot. If I had some movement I could use Deghosting to cope with that I can also choose to Auto Tone the image by Clicking on the Auto Tone box. I sometimes use this to get a preview of the image but I normally turn it off before I click the merge button. I prefer to start with all of the Lightroom sliders in their default position rather than allowing the software to start the process for me.

A click on the MERGE button and Lightroom will create a new RAW file that has all of the data from the three individual files and therefore has a much great dynamic range than any single image.

I can then process this the same way that I would any other image (you can read my Landscape photography processing technique HERE) and here is the final result

The Cueva de San Pascual is a sanctuary built into a cave outside Orito in Spain. Additional structures have been added including this tower that is built right into the rock face Nikon D7100 with 18-105 lens at 18mm f/16 and 3 exposures at 1/80, 1/320 and 1/1250 second merged in Lightroom

I hope you have enjoyed this and if so please like or share it. Also please leave me any comments below    

(Ralph Goldsmith) landscape photography tips https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2016/12/hdr-in-lightroom-what-when-and-how Fri, 16 Dec 2016 23:15:00 GMT
Goats and Trees at Busot and Orito https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2016/12/goats-and-trees-at-busot-and-orito Goats and Trees at Busot and Orito 

An interesting week in the lead up to Christmas as our fridge freezer chose this time to play up and we've had to rush around trying to get some food out of the freezer to Tracy's mums and also wait around for engineers. It's still not fixed but we are hoping maybe on Monday....

Aside from that it's been quite changeable from a weather point of view, chilly at times and warm at others with some occasional rain.

My first trip out this week was a combined exploration and photography hike around Busot.

Busot is a small village about 25 minutes drive away near the foothills of Cabecon del Oro mountain. I parked up fairly late in the afternoon, hoping that I would get some decent light as the sun got lower, and spent a bit of time wandering around the village itself before heading out onto some of the narrow roads nearby. 

As I walked up one narrow and hilly single track road I could hear some strange sounds coming from around the bend. As I turned the corner I discovered a man, his dog, and a whole lot of goats on the side of the road.

I stopped for a while and took some pictures, after a couple of minutes he got them all moving and they headed in a steady stream across the road and down onto the surrounding slopes:

I spent some time exploring the hills and found an interesting little stunted and bare tree sticking out of a slope. There was some nice side lighting at this point and I decided this was worth a shot. It was an awkward place to shoot as I had to pretty much lay on the ground to get the angle I wanted, and the ground is covered in sharp and spiky little bushes, but I liked the composition with the tree right in the foreground against the blue sky and the mountain in the background:

I then started to head back towards Busot and stopped on the road leading back towards the village to get this shot which shows the village and the ruins of the small castle:

There was one final stop I wanted to make which is on a raised area with a great view out towards Cabecon del Oro. I decided to use the railing and concrete benches as a foreground element and the mountain in the background. The sun was pretty low by this time so the light was nice:

I didn't bother hanging about much after this. The best of the light was gone for this location so I decided to head for home, and dinner.

My second trip was to Orito, or more specifically to the Cueva de San Pascual that sits on a hillside about 2 km outside of the village itself. The Cueva de San Pascual is a sanctuary that is in a cave in the hillside. Some buildings have been constructed into the rock faces around it and it has some impressive views of the Valle del Medio Vinalopó with a number of vineyards and this scene is backed by distant mountains. 

Tree with a view at OritoA tree on the edge of the hill near to the Cueva de San Pascual in Orito, Spain with a view across the Valle del Medio Vinalopó; with many vineyards to distant mountains Again I arrived in the second half of the afternoon and did a bit of exploring. I found the trail that leads around the back of the sanctuary and discovered that it leads back into some of the higher parts of the surrounding mountains. I am going to return and properly explore this path another day when I have more time. 

While I was there I did clamber up to the rocks almost above the sanctuary to get this shot of the small tower that is built into the rock face. I just had to wait for the sun to be in the right place in relation to the clouds but even then I had to shoot three exposures to capture the full range of light and then merge them later:

Heading back down I moved over to a nice tree that sits on the edge of the slope in order to get a shot with the sun coming through the tree and a view out over the Valle del Medio Vinalopó:

The tree, the sun and the viewThis tree is perched on the edge or a rock near to the Cueva de San Pascual outside Orito in Spain. The high elevation gives a great view of the surrounding Valle del Medio Vinalopó; that has many vineyards and there are mountains in the background Every May there is a event where pilgrims from the area, and from surrounding regions, walk up to the sanctuary to deposit votive offerings. The trail leads up from the nearby village and comes out right by the lone tree. I had a composition in mind that would use the top of the trail, the tree and the distant mountains. I set up and waited for the light to be at it's best, which was going to be a little bit before sunset while there was still some nice light on the valley. Finally I thought I had the optimum moment and this was the result:

The pilgrims trail at Cueva de San PascualThis is the point that the pilgrims trail arrives at the location of the Cueva de San Pascual. Every May pilgrims from the local and adjoining areas walk this trail to deposit votive offerings at the cueva (or cave) which is located just outside Orito in Spain and has stunning views over the Valle del Medio Vinalopó; with it's many vineyards Conditions were really good, with some gorgeous light, and I really wanted to make the most of it. I felt there was a shot to be had from the wide steps at the entrance to the Cueva (or cave). This was going to be shooting straight into the sun, although there was a bit of filtering going on with the clouds, nevertheless I shot three exposures, which I would merge in Lightroom, to keep highlight and shadow detail, particularly as I wanted to be able to see the red flowers in the pots in the foreground as well as keeping detail in the sky, and this was the result:

The view from Cueva de San Pascual at sunsetA near sunset view from outside the Cueva de San Pascual near to Orito in Spain with views across the Valle del Medio Vinalopó;. The 6m high statue to San Pascual can be seen on the left of the frame On the left of the above image you can see the statue of San Pascual which stands 6 meters high and looks out over the Valle del Medio Vinalopó.

I moved down towards the statue and noticed that, as the sun was dropping out of view, it was creating some lovely upward sun beams (or god rays, or sun rays or, if you want to be technical, crepuscular rays). I didn't know how long these would last so I set up as quickly as possible to get a shot. I decided as I composed that I was going to crop this one to a 16:9 format and I was pretty pleased with the result:

The sun was getting lower now, I knew it would drop below the mountains before official sunset time and I was also noticing that the clouds were now only in the lower part of the sky. The beautiful higher clouds were almost completely gone. I decided there was probably one more shot. There is a strange 'half' tree along with some potted plants and cactus plants along the edge of the hill. I decided to try to get shot of this with some light on the cactus and the sun in the background above the mountains. There was a lot of contrast here so I merged three exposures again:

I hung around for a while, waiting until the light had faded from the landscape. If there had been some higher cloud I might have been tempted to wait and see what happened after sunset but as it was I decided the best was over and so I headed for home.

A pretty good week for photography, I'm pleased with the shots that I got

That's it for this week, until next time, have a great week


(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2016/12/goats-and-trees-at-busot-and-orito Fri, 16 Dec 2016 11:16:09 GMT
A hike around Amadorio plus an honour in El Campello https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2016/12/a-hike-around-amadorio-plus-an-honour-in-el-campello A hike around Amadorio plus an honour in El Campello

More changeable weather this week. Quite a lot of rain at the start of the week and this, combined with an on-going ear problem, was curtailing activities a bit. By Wednesday both issues were resolved, the ear problem by a visit to the doctors and the weather by the end of the rain and the appearance of some nice looking skies.

Before going on to the excursion on Wednesday I also wanted to mention an unexpected honour I received this week. 

The department of tourism of the city council of El Campello requested permission to use one of  my images for their Facebook header and Christmas card. I was pleased to allow them to use it and have received some excellent feedback as a result:


OK, my excursion this week was to an often visited area, the reservoir at Amadorio, near to Orxeta.

In the past I have walked along both sides of the reservoir, and also scrambled down the sides to try out different vantage points. For this trip I decided to take a walk all the way around the reservoir, with maybe the occasional diversion if I spotted some interesting possibilities.

I timed my walk for mid to late afternoon. The plan being that I should (hopefully) get some nice light by the time I got up to the far end of the reservoir and (again hopefully) I would be back to the near end before sunset. One of the beauties of winter is that the sun is lower for much more of the day, and of course sunset itself is not too late either.

I parked up and then walked out across the top of the dam. I checked where the sun would be and made a note of some possible views that I might want to shoot when I came back this way later, for now I felt the sun was too high.

The roadway around actually takes you a long way from the water for the most part but it is surrounded by hills and trees and it was very pleasant to just be out and about and enjoying the countryside.

After about an hour of walking, with only a couple of quick side trips to check out possible views, I came in sight of where the road bridge crosses the dry river valley. I assume that this does actually flow with water on rare occasions but it looks like it's been dry for quite a while at the moment.

The sun was getting a bit lower in the sky and there were also come quite nice clouds that not only made the sky look interesting but were also putting some nice light and shadow onto the mountains. The bridge is tall and made up of various arches.

I climbed down into the valley first but really felt that the best shot was from higher up with the mountains as background. This was my final choice of composition for the scene:

I then carried on with my walk which took me across the road bridge and onto the outskirts of a small village, or perhaps it's an urbanisation, called Bella Orxeta. It had taken me about 15 minutes after taking the shot of the bridge to get across to this point and I felt that there was some really nice light and shadow play on the peaks, in particular the sharp jagged looking one that was quite close to me. A longer focal length meant I could get quite a good close up view of it, it was then just a case of waiting for the clouds to be in the right place to create the best pattern of light and shadow and the image was made:

I also felt there was another shot to be had here, a slightly wider view with a bit more foreground interest. I scouted around until I found a bush with some nice red leaves and composed my next shot. Another short wait for the right lighting and a somewhat different view of the scene was achieved:

I then started my walk back along the near side of the reservoir. The first part of this was on the road but, after about 20 minutes I was back on a trail which runs along the hills at one side of the lake. Sunset was supposed to be at about 17:38 but, because of the terrain here, I knew that the sun would actually disappear about 25 minutes earlier than that as it would drop below the surrounding mountains. 

I paused for a while at a point that offered me a view of the unknown building that sits in the water, still almost totally exposed despite the recent rain. I thought this high viewpoint was quite interesting and decided to take a shot. I really felt that there were too many ripples in the water and, because I was travelling lighter than normal, I didn't have any filters with me to slow down the exposure.

So... I shot thirty exposures of 1/30 second each and averaged them later in Photoshop to get the equivalent of a 1 second exposure. This was not quite long enough to completely smooth out the water but it looked a lot better especially with some nice light falling on the building and on the rocks:

 A quick check of the time and I knew that I only had about 30 minutes before the sun disappeared. I needed to get a move on.

I walked quickly back around to the dam and headed out towards the centre. The low water makes the reservoir look quite long and narrow, almost more like a river, and this, combined with some nice light and clouds on the distant mountains made for a nice view. 

I started with a vertical shot that emphasises the perspective and long view:

The low sun was really starting to make a nice glow on the clouds and the mountains in the distance and I decided on a horizontal format shot that showed a bit more detail of the overall scene:

I had about 15 minutes until the sun disappeared, and one more image I wanted to try and get. I dashed back along the dam and up to an area with a great vantage point looking across the dam. 

I got there just as the sun was slipping behind the hills and creating some lovely light on the small clouds in that part of the sky and also nice some sun beams coming up as the sun went down. I decided to shoot a panorama of the scene but, because there was so much contrast I decided to make this an 'HDR Panorama'.

The overall image was going to be made up of five overlapping vertical frames but each frame would be made up of the three exposures, one correctly exposed to preserve the details in the brightest part of the sky, one exposed to show the details in the darkest parts in the shadows and one in the middle. It would then be a case of using Lightroom to merge each of the three exposures for each of the five frames and then stitch each of the five new images together to make the panorama. It took a bit of work but the end result was an image that I'm pretty pleased with:

And then the sun was gone, and so was all of the light on the scene. I had walked about 11 kilometres, or about 7 miles, and managed to get some nice shots in the bag. All in all a good afternoon and it was just a case of heading back to the car for the drive home, a little tired but very pleased.

And that's it for this week. If you want to read up on any of the techniques I have mentioned in this post then you can always go to my Photography Tips, Tricks and Techniques.

The specific techniques used for this week were about Extending or creating long exposures in Photoshop  and Shooting and editing panoramas

You can also read my normal landscape photography post processing workflow

Until next week, have a great time ...

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2016/12/a-hike-around-amadorio-plus-an-honour-in-el-campello Sat, 10 Dec 2016 10:49:27 GMT
Rainy days, close to home and an afternoon on the mountain https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2016/12/rainy-days-close-to-home-and-an-afternoon-on-the-mountain Rainy days, close to home and an afternoon on the mountain 

It's been raining quite a lot. I think we've had more rain in the last couple of weeks than we've seen in the last 18 months. Of course it's really needed because there has been so little rain that there have been some very dry conditions and potential water shortages (although there doesn't seem to be any fuss over it, like in England when you get a couple of dry weeks and there's a hosepipe ban)

Although there has been a lot of rain it is still really for a limited amount of time and the clouds, and left over rain water, have created some photographic opportunities.

Like this long exposure black and white image of the medieval watchtower near the marina reflected in a puddle after a heavy rain shower:

and this shot of one of the statues not far away that I manage to get reflected in another large puddle near to sunset:

Both of the above shots were taken one afternoon. I decided to just go for a walk around, near to home, by the marina and the beach. I took the tripod with me and I was glad I did because there were some nice shots to be had but they would have been more difficult hand held.

I headed over to the marina and went around to the far side, which means crossing a bridge over the entrance to where they remove boats for maintenance. Once I was there I soon spotted a nice composition that I though would look good in the current conditions. The clouds after a storm, or at least after heavy rain, can be very impressive, especially when the sun breaks through and lights them up. If this is near sunset then the light can be lovely. A view straight along a jetty, with some boats, the town in the background and a really nice sky was too good to pass up:

After I took this shot I headed back to get around to the beach. I then hit a problem. They were in the process of bringing a boat in and the bridge had been retracted. I had to find an alternative route out and, fortunately, discovered I could get out around the roadway at the back of the marina. After that bit of a delay I barely got back to the beach in time and only just managed to get final shot as the sun was setting behind the buildings and creating some nice light on the wet sand:


I also managed another trip up to Cabecon del Oro mountain this week. It's a big area and so there are lots of opportunities and therefore it's well worth working it as a location. 

This was a later afternoon trip and I intended to scout out some locations and then shoot as many as I could in the hour leading up to sunset.

I was looking for a nice scene to make use of the light coming from the low sun and found that a nearby ridge was beautifully lit with the distant mountains mostly hidden in cloud and some nice light on a nearby outcrop:

As I explored around I found a pathway into a group of trees. I followed it to a dead end where I was taken by the light coming through and the colours of some of the leaves (we don't see any real autumn colours in this part of Spain):



Then it was time to find my final location for sunset. I wasn't planning on shooting into the sun, but rather getting some colour in the sky and some side lighting. 

I picked a spot on top of a rocky hill on the side of the mountain that had the sun setting off to my right, some nice light on the slopes ahead of me and the trails back down leading away into the scene. Some clumps of grass were catching the light nicely as the sun went down and I used this as foreground interest and then, as hoped, the sky picked up some nice colour just before the sun dropped out of sight and the light vanished from the scene:


And that was it. Time to head home for dinner

That's it for this week.


Until next week, have a great time 

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2016/12/rainy-days-close-to-home-and-an-afternoon-on-the-mountain Sat, 03 Dec 2016 14:53:23 GMT
Sunset at Malladeta near Villajoyosa https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2016/11/sunset-at-malladeta-near-villajoyosa Sunset at Malladeta near Villajoyosa 

The weather has been very changeable this week. We had almost a full day of rainy conditions and also quite a lot of overcast skies.

I've done a bit of work this week on Facebook, I've even set up a Facebook page that you can see HERE

And I also managed to get out for a photo shoot.

This was a later afternoon / evening shoot and I headed up to a place called Malladeta, which is on the southernmost outskirts of Villajoyosa, about a 25 minute drive away.

This is an interesting place. The surroundings are an area of archaeological interest as there are ancient roman and iberian workings all around the area. It is also the site of the ruins of the Villa Giacomina. This once imposing building was completed in 1920 on the coastal hill of Malladeta, by doctor Alfonso Esquerdo, on part of the land acquired in the late 1870s by his uncle, a psychiatrist and head of the Spanish Republican Party José María Esquerdo. At the top of the hill is a tower built at the end of the 19th century by Dr. José María Esquerdo for use as a library and private study. Both the tower and the villa are now, sadly, derelict. 

The area does, however, make for some interesting photographic opportunities.

I have been here before, and managed some nice sunrise shots from the top of the hill. I had checked on when the sun would be in a good position for an evening shoot here and this week looked good. The weather forecast was for some heavy clouds but with quite a few clear areas so I decided to give it a go.

One of the features in this area are the trees. The hill is very exposed and the prevailing wind is from the sea. The trees and shrubs are rugged and windswept, and this makes for some interesting shapes.

I arrived about an hour and a half before sunset and spent some time walking around and checking out potential compositions and working out when they would be best in terms of closeness to sunset, and factoring in where the cloud was likely to be.

Once I had my plans clear I moved around to my first location which was going to be shot a little way before sunset, when there was some really bright light coming from the sun and creating quite a lot of contrast. I had picked a wonderfully shaped and bent tree that also had plenty of plants growing around it. I decided to get really close to it, use a wide angle lens and also include the tower in one side of the frame. The image would need some correcting later as the wide angle lens and the steep view would cause the vertical lines, such as the tower, to lean in to the frame. Fortunately that's pretty easy to deal with in Lightroom.

Once I felt the conditions were right I took three exposures to try to get maximum detail on the bright sky, the dark areas beneath the tree and also in the mid tones. I combined these three exposures in Lightroom before correcting the verticals. Here's the result:

Tree and tower at MalladetaThe tower on the hill at Malladeta, near to Villajoyosa in the Costa Blanca area of Spain.

My next shot was going to be of the Villa itself. I decided to make this another fairly wide angle with the villa in the background and using a path as a lead in line to the image. I also chose to include the tower on the other side of the frame. I waited for a while for the clouds to look there best and for some nice light on the visible side of the building. Sunset was getting a lot closer now and I knew I would have to be careful of the time if I wanted to get my other shots. This was another three exposure shot to deal with the contrast:

Villa Giacomina and towerVilla Giacomina, Malladeta, Villajoyosa, Spain. Shot shortly before sunset. The sun was soon going to drop into a bank of cloud a little above the horizon, once it did the light on the foreground would be gone. I had noticed a small gap in the clouds lower down  that, hopefully, the sun would peak through again after a few minutes. I decided that I had just enough time for my third composition while the sun was still above the clouds.

This time I was looking out to sea with some nice colours in the sky and a few scrubby trees on the steep slope leading down to the rocky beach and water. This would also be nicely side lit by the low sun. I took a test shot but decided that, what this really called for, was a long exposure to flatten out the texture in the water. Time was getting really short and I decided that, as I didn't need a really long exposure, just about a second would do, I wouldn't waste time fitting my filter system. Instead I shot 40 exposures of 1/40 second each knowing that I could average them later in Photoshop to create the equivalent of a 1 second exposure. You can read my technique for creating long exposures in photoshop HERE:


As I completed this shot the sun went behind the clouds. I quickly moved to my final location and prepared for the final image. This was going to be a panorama with one of the wind gnarled trees in the foreground, the tower in the middle ground and the sun (hopefully) peaking through the clouds in the background.

I set up, checked exposure and then waited for the sun to break through the gap in the clouds I had spotted earlier. The gap had shrunk a bit and I knew that there would only be a matter of a few moments when the sun would break through. I had originally intended to shoot 3 exposures for each frame in order to retain the most detail for highlights and shadows throughout, Given how small the gap was I decided to shoot a single exposure for each frame of the panorama, exposed to retain detail in the brightest parts of the sky, and hope that I would be able to recover enough detail in the shadows later.

Finally, it happened. The light came back over the foreground as the sun peaked through the gap in the clouds and I started shooting the six frames I need to cover the entire scene. Just as a clicked the shutter for the final frame the sun went behind the cloud again and the light was gone. It almost didn't happen but I got the shot that I wanted:

Sunset at Malladeta - panoramaThe sun setting over the Mediterranean from Malladeta, Villajoyosa, Spain. 6 shot panorama

By the way, you can read more about my technique for shooting and stitching panoramas HERE

That's it for this weeks post, until next week, have a great time 

(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2016/11/sunset-at-malladeta-near-villajoyosa Fri, 25 Nov 2016 08:32:45 GMT
Low water at the reservoir and a trip to the lighthouse https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2016/11/low-water-at-the-reservoir-and-a-trip-to-the-lighthouse Low water at the reservoir and a trip to the lighthouse

Winter is settling in now, long trousers are on all the time and sleeves are required out of the sun, or if the wind gets up. I went out for an evening photo shoot this week and wished I'd got a hat with me because it was pretty windy and my head was cold. 

We haven't been out on any exploration trips this week but I have managed a few photo shoots.

The first one was just a wander along the beach early in the week. It was late afternoon and the sky was clear, the light was nice and, as I made my away onto the pebble beach area at the southern end of Carrer La Mar I saw that someone had stacked a few larger stones up. I decided to get as low down as I could and get a shot of them. The light was nice but the colours were pretty uninspiring and I thought the subject would work well as a Black and White:

My second trip was to a favourite location, Amadorio Reservoir between Villajoyosa and Orxeta. The last time I was here I noted that the water level had dropped quite a bit. There is an old building that is normally completely submerged and, at the time, the roof and the top of the building was clearly visible. 

I arrived on location this time about an hour before sunset, I did this because the area is ringed by hills and mountains so the sun actually vanishes about 30 minutes before official sunset.  I wasn't sure if the water level would have changed much so I was really surprised when I saw that almost the entire building was now revealed. I set up for a shot shortly before the sun went behind the nearby mountains but was still casting some nice light over the scene and on the edges of the nearby mountains in the background. It was very windy and the surface of the water was quite choppy as a result. I decided to use a 10 stop ND filter to extend the exposure to 25 seconds so as to flatten out the water and also to blur the clouds a bit:

Shortly after this I moved around closer to the building and was joined by another photographer who had clearly had the same idea as me. Meeting up with another photographer on these shoots is quite rare and we chatted for a bit while we both worked to capture some images of the scene as the light started to fade.

There were some really nice clouds over the nearby hills that, because of the strong wind, were moving pretty fast. I used the 10 stop filter again but, as the ambient light was much less, I managed to get a 2 minute exposure that really created some nice blurring in the moving clouds, as well as completely flattening the water:

It was starting to get really chilly by this time as the sun was gone and the wind was pretty cold. My fellow photographer and I packed up and headed off.

My final shoot was on Friday morning. The weather forecast was for 46% cloud cover around sunrise and I thought this sounding like a good opportunity. I decided to head to the lighthouse at Cabo de la Huerta. This is a section of coastline that sticks out between the long beach of San Juan / Muchavista and the large bay that is where Alicante is located.

When I set out I had my suspicions that the weather forecast had been wrong. The sky looked far too clear. Still, I was up and I might as well give it a go. 

On arriving it was clear that the cloud cover was minimal. There was a clump of cloud to the south and a small amount just inland. 

Looking in the direction of the where the sun would rise there was  a completely clear sky. This meant that the sunrise would be clear but the sky would be pretty dull and boring. My only option was to look at the clump of cloud to the south. This was now getting some nice colours as the sunrise approached so I did a long exposure with a 6 stop filter to create a misty effect in the moving water but didn't completely blur the clouds and composed with one of the rocky spurs in the middle foreground. I'm pleased with the effect this created:

Once the sun came up it was all over. There was some really nice light on the rocks but the scenery here really needs some clouds to make it work. So I decided to pack up and head for home, and breakfast.

A number of the images I have shot this week have used ND filters to slow down the exposure and blur movement. ND filters do have a downside in that they create a colour cast on the image. I recently wrote up my technique for colour correcting ND filters in Lightroom and you can read it HERE 

So, that's it for this week, I'm sure there will be more photography to report on next week so, until then, have a great week.


(Ralph Goldsmith) photography blog https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2016/11/low-water-at-the-reservoir-and-a-trip-to-the-lighthouse Sat, 19 Nov 2016 09:53:51 GMT
White Balance for ND Filters https://www.ralphgoldsmithphotography.com/blog/2016/11/white-balance-for-nd-filters White Balance for ND Filters

Shooting long exposures can produce some very interesting effects. Especially if you have moving water and / or moving clouds. There are three basic ways to shoot long exposures. The first is to shoot when the ambient light is low, such as early morning, before the sun comes up or late evening, after sunset. The second way is to merge exposures in Photoshop. This is a useful technique to get moderate length exposures or to extend exposures. You can read my technique for this HERE The third, and most common way, is to use an ND filter to block some of the light coming into the lens. I use two different ND filters. The first is a 6 stop ND filter (the Lee Little Stopper) and the second is a 10 stop filter (The Lee Big Stopper). As an example, the 6 stop filter will turn a 1/30 second exposure into about a 2 second exposure. The 10 stop filter will turn a 1/30 second exposure into a 30 second exposure. This is great but there is a downside to these filters. They create a colour cast in the image. As a general rule, the better the filter the more 'neutral' it is and the less it creates a colour cast. However, even with the Lee filters, that are among the best out there, there is still some unwanted colour on the image. As an example the image below was shot with a 10 stop filter:

  The image below is how it should have looked (without any additional processing - this is just t