I’d seen photos of a gorge near Loch Lomond called The Devils Pulpit and decided I wanted to go and have a look at it.
Simon, Linda and I jumped in the car and headed off to the deepest darkest depths of Finnich Glen near Drymen.
When we got there, there was a couple walking around and looking lost. The bag gave the chap away as either a fisherman, or photographer; the presence of the female made the fisherman unlikely so that left photographer. It turned out that they were from Spain originally, but were living in Winchburgh (just around the corner from here) as they found the Spanish climate disagreeable. So they moved to Scotland ….
Anyway, the 5 of us strolled around for a bit, and eventually found the gorge – you’ld be surprised at how cunningly disguised a 100 odd foot hole in the ground can be – but couldn’t work out how to get down to the bottom.
Help arrived in the form of a returning group, who rather nicely gave us (correct) directions
There are some pretty steep and worn steps leading down to the central chamber, so be careful if you go. I didn’t shoot these as I wanted to get something different than most of the shots I’d seen, so off came the boots and on went the waders …
I thought I’d take the kids wild-camping (or as us of a certain age know it – camping) and things were looking bleak.
The night was chosen, and the bags packed.
And it rained. In fact, it didn’t just rain … it rained. I thought I was going to have to buy a boat, not a tent.
So we cancelled that night and picked another. These weather apps are bloody amazing. Never has it been possible to have so much incorrect information to hand about the weather at any one time.
Anyway, night chosen and it had to be stuck to, rather than face the looks of trembling disappointment again.
So off we went, to the deepest darkest depths of rural Dumfries and Galloway, with the fine Scottish sunlight falling from the sky in an almost horizontal direction. Yep, it was bloody raining again.
Pride before a Fall and all that
I had mentioned to Jen, my wife that I was considering buying a bag of dry firelogs to take with us. These are bricks of compressed wood chippings that have a burn life of about 4 to 6 hours. We were going overnight, so a bag of 6 was going to be more than enough.
After a stern talking to, where my male pride was dented with taunts along the lines of “Bear Grylls can light a fire with a dishrag and a damp boy scout” I caved and decided that we would use the resources that nature provided; camping in a wood the bounty should be plentiful.
And it was.
To say the branches laying around was water-logged would not do it justice. You could wring the water out of it, and what wasn’t wet, was still growing.
Cheat? Or Get Eaten Alive by Indigenous Wildlife
BBQ lighting gel may be suitable for lighting BBQ’s, but it’s chuffing useless at lighting wood that’s been underwater more times than HMS Astute.
After a couple of hours of giving the midges a free meal, I’d had enough … and the kids weren’t fairing too well either.
Out came the special pot … chaffing gel. You know, the stuff they use in restaurants to keep your food warm.
As a fire lighter, it is bloody superb, it really is. Built the fire around the tin, lit the gel and off it went.
And because the wood was soaking wet – possibly deck planks from HMS Astute – we had a great little smoky fire, and the midges had to feast on what ever it is they eat when there isn’t a human about.
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).
Messing around with long exposures at the local pond.
The weir is in full flow with both flood routes active beside the 3 main sluices, leading to a horse-shoe shape of white water.
These shots were taken in the evening. When I returned in the morning with the dog, the weir was back to it’s normal trickle
Simon and I went up Binney Craig.
I’ve lived here for about 10 years and I’ve never been there before – in fact, I didn’t even know how to get there.
For those not in the area, it’s a volcanic outcrop and local legend has it being one of the four rocky tumescence formed when the Edinburgh volcano erupted. These outcrops are supposed to follow (roughly) the points of the compass.
Niddry Castle is a private dwelling in West Lothian. It’s spent most of the time that I’ve been here under scaffolding during it’s refurbishment.
We’d left the Craig and was just looking for something else to do (we can be so good at planning) and stumbled across the castle.
This is shot just after sundown and has no additional illumination
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 …
Simon and I went out for a couple of hours to a few churches in the area. Unfortunately, all bar one of them were locked.
It did however give me a chance to shoot a few images with a view to testing the new merge to HDR feature in Lightroom …
This is a HDR image made up of several individual frames shot at different settings and merged together as a HDR image. The different settings allow for an underexposed, a perfectly exposed and an overexposed images (or however you want to do it) to be merged and so the resultant image features the best of each individual frame
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.