August 2017 post - a look back at July's Photography

July 31, 2017  •  4 Comments

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
Thank you Michael. glad you enjoyed it
Michael Carroll(non-registered)
Hi Ralph,

I have enjoyed reading through your blog and looking at your images. Very nice indeed.


Ralph Goldsmith
Thank you Michaela, glad you enjoyed it
Michaela Perryman(non-registered)
Most enjoyable reading about your wonderful photos.
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