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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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
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