Simon and I decided that we would travel North for a change.
A casting was produced, and from the respondents, the wonderful Kat Folan was chosen.
This was primarily a research and testing mission, and as Simon and I have very little knowledge of “The North”, Kat was our guide.
Our favourite spot was the fantastic Slains Castle, somewhere north of Aberdeen.
And no one called us to the land
And no one knows the where’s or why’s.
Something stirs and something tries
Starts to climb toward the light.
Simon came round last night and on the spur of the moment, we went up to the old Fever Hospital at Thornton. We’d previously visited the site in May and while there discussed the shoot potential of the site.
It’s popularity as a location seems to be growing amongst photographers in this neck of the woods, even with people bringing their own props – and leaving them there – as well as models.
Last nights visit was a spur of the moment thing, and after wading through soaking wet nettles, grass and thistles (rain seems to be a predominant feature of us visiting this site as it was tipping it down last time too) we went for a wander around in the fast fading light
Simon did his bit, go his shot, and then I did my thing. We always try to do different things when out together, with varying degrees of success, and sometimes we do use bits of each others setups. In this case, the prop was already there (it wasn’t there in May).
Simon and I went to Glasgow for a bit of urban street photography.
(We also bumped in to and assisted a friend who was having a shoot in the park that we were in … and none of us knew that the other party was going to be there, in that city, on that day, at that time. Spooky)
Being us, we don’t really do traditional street stuff, so here’s my take …
Grangemouth is a massive, sprawling petro-chemical plant in central Scotland.
Different sections of it produce different products, ranging from fuel to polyethylene. When in full flow, the steam from the cooling towers and light from the flare stacks can be seen for miles.
It has a futuristic skyline, born out of requirement, and it wouldn’t look out if place in Bladerunner …
There was some major sun-spot activity, and increased sun-spots means an increase in the Northern Lights activity.
There had been solar-storm warnings, and this was expected to make the Lights visible as far south as Estonia.
So, armed with camera and tripod, off I went.
I didn’t go far, as the fog had come in, and the sky was 100% cloud.
So I shot this instead …
Staying local, there is a large old Scots Pine (if it wasn’t for the fog you could see it in the image above) near me that I’ve been wanting to shoot for a while … but make it different.
No cloud, no moon … hmm why not.
Off I trundled, camera, tripod and timer in hand and shot some star trails over the top of the tree.
This is 60 x 30 second images that have been layered together to show the motion of the Earth. I could have done this as one exposure, however the amount of light pollution would have meant a really rubbish image.
The Milky Way over the top of this tree would be a great shot, but unless there is a power cut that affects the entire central Scotland belt, I don’t think it’s going to realistically happen.
Simon and I went out to a local woods in the dark to mess around a bit.
OK, let me re-phrase that in a slightly less innuendo kinda way.
Simon and I grabbed our camera kit and went off in to a local woods for a bit of night-time experimentation using a couple of lighting rigs I had lovingly fashioned out of bits and bobs and loads of sticky tape (I got mine before the rush to B&Q following the release of a certain film).
There was plenty of atmospherics about – low grey cloud reflecting the street lights and a mist / fog that was thick enough to be a pain, but not thick enough to be useful – with it being a really moist night.
We parked up – for once not in the local dogging hotspot -, grabbed our kit and off we jolly well went.
After a bit of the normal fannying about the photographers do in the dark we eventually came upon a plan, and set forth realising the dream.
This is my final image, and Simon’s image can be found by clicking here
How the Superlight Highway was made
The Superlight Highway is a composite image of 5 different shots taken with the camera on a tripod and not moved during each shot.
Composite images tend to work better if you have an idea in mind – this means that all the component parts will drop together in the frame without any major issues.
Simon and I were essentially shooting the same shot, but if you look at Simon’s you’ll see he has a different image, caused by locating his camera in a different place to mine. This means that we can share each others lighting ideas and methodologies, but we get different images.
So, I’ve shot my images, banged them in to Lightroom (keyworded them as I’m getting better at using LR) now what?
I’m not the worlds best post-processor, far from it, and there are many different ways to do the same thing – and what I like someone else may not. I’m not telling you what you should do; I’m saying what I did.
I opened the base layer in Photoshop as a smart object:
The I opened the smart object in Adobe Camera RAW
and messed around a bit with the colour sliders as I didn’t want all the same colours
Then I opened the middle section in to Photoshop, which I left in the original blue colour
This was then Select All > Copy and Pasted as new layer above the Base layer
I then messed around with the blending options until I found the one I liked the best
I mucked around with the final layer to get the colour that I wanted,
and then added that as a layer above the other two, and once again, mucked around with the blending options until I found the one I wanted.
That just left me with 4 bars of colour, and a black(ish) background with loads of light bleed.
So … say hello to Halogen …
This was added to the layers and the blend mode changed … again to one that I liked
I was then left with an image that was a bit too light, so introducing …. CREE LED …
Again, this was added to the top of the stack and the blending mode played with a bit.
I played around with the opacity of both the Halogen and CREE LED layers after the blending modes to try to get the right balance between the two colours of light and the shadows …
The finished Photoshop stack looks like this:
You can see that a layer mask has been added to the Dark Blue layer … this was because there is a lot of light bleed in the dark blue, which I believe is due to the moisture in the air. I just tided it up a bit by painting the layer below through.
I also added a Brightness Contrast layer, and upped the contrast a touch.
Compositing an image doesn’t need to be hard work – there is very little brush work here, it’s all just messing around with blending modes and opacities.
1st February saw William, Kenny and I on a trip out.
We met at midnight at mine, with a view to driving to a loch near Eyemouth for some star trails and lightpainting.
When we got there at a little after 0100, things were a bit wild – the loch was throwing up white horses, and it was a tad windy.
So, we went for a stroll around the loch, looking at the wind and the very heavy amount of moisture in the air – well, sleet, actually and decided we would head off in to Eyemouth it’s self.
The wind was throwing the breakers over the storm wall of the harbour, and over the promenade – which would have been great for a daylight shot, but totally useless for long exposure – all the drama would have been lost in the long exposure as the sea would have been left somewhat milky looking – so again the camera stayed in the bag.
We went back to the loch, and it was just as bad as when we left it, so we then went to a cliff top … probably not the best idea given the wind, but determined to make the best of a bad lot, we sat there for a while having a brew and hoping for a break.
The break didn’t happen, so we went out there anyway and set up for some long exposure and light painting work.
It was dark – really dark
It was cold – 3 degrees C
It was windy – gusts of up to 35 mph … wind chill factor of minus 6
The cloud didn’t break, and even a couple of hundred foot back, and about 70 foot up, the kit was covered in spray.
It’s been cold, wet, windy and snowy. In fact, the weather has been against me as every time the skies been clear, I’ve gone out to try to re-take star trails over Dedridge Pond, and within 10 mins of setting up, the clouds have came and hidden every thing, so I’ve given up and gone home.
I set out to take some long exposures of the weir at the pond and I’d just shot this image
and out came the snow Snow’s a bit of an understatement. Blizzard, really.
So I retreated under the bridge to keep the kit dry … and to carry on shooting
and from a slightly different angle
So I went out one night around the pond in the snow. It was clear – and bloody cold – and after I set up, out came the clouds and the clear skies vanished, along with the stars, leaving a flat, boring orange sky.
I’ve done this before, so I thought I’d try again.
It’s really quite easy to do (even more so in a car the size of mine), but the effects are simply stunning.
These were all shot with the posted 30mph speed limit (probably a bit slower than that), and are 13 second exposures.
I stood the tripod in the back of the car, with a leg wedged in to the seat fold, focused to infinity and used my remote sequence timer to activate the shutter. This meant that at no time while I was driving, did I have to touch the camera to activate it