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.
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.
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
Bangour Hospital Village is a massive sprawling site just outside of Livingston and has been disused as a hospital for many years.
In it’s life it has been a Veterans Hospital, a hospital for patients with psychiatric disorders and a satellite day centre for St Johns.
The grounds are open to the public and is a great dog walking (not dogging) area, with it’s mixture of empty roads, open spaces and trees. The buildings are in severe disrepair, and all except the church have been bricked up to prevent entry (risk of collapse and asbestos).
Further information on the site can be found here.
The general Public have to leave the site by sun down, and if any linger, the on-site security team have no problem in kicking them off …
Except for two nights only, Simon and I were granted unprecedented night-time access to the site, to lightpaint some of the buildings.
The weather was absolutely horrendous; it threw it down with good old Scottish liquid sunshine – even when it got dark.
The result – unfortunately was the majority of images shot were ruined by water on the lens. Due to the size of the buildings, the average exposure time was around the 5 minutes mark, and that’s more that enough time for the lens to be totally covered in rain and the image damaged beyond my Photoshop skills.
Shortly after we shot the church, the rain re-started with vengeance, and there was little point in continuing.
I would like to thank the people that granted permission to Simon and I to gain access at night, and to the security team who thought we were made, but understood what we were doing.
It would be fantastic if we got the chance to go back one night – however that’s in the lap of the gods.
The site is in the process of being sold off, with a view to convert it in to a housing estate. The Grade A listed buildings will stay – the church, community hall and the nurses block – however the rest will be demolished if the sale goes ahead. It will be a shame, as the area is well loved among the local community, however seeing the site how it is, is also a shame.
Ok … lets get this out of the way.
Dunaskin is a place.
Its not me trying to be clever, you know, in a kind of ‘Dunroaming’ kind of way.
There is a private railway society that operates there, and Simon and I being Simon and I, we went when they weren’t there … and had a bloody good day.
All of the photos were taken on a private railway line that was not in use at the time. It is an offence in the UK to trespass on the Railway, and I do not encourage anyone to take photos on an active railway line. They are bloody dangerous places, and trains are surprisingly quiet when they are coming towards you.
Another pond, another orb … Simon is getting pretty good at these.
This was a test run of a new wirewool rig and it works pretty damn well.
I’m not going to go in to what we’re now using, but it’s pretty damn robust and can take a greater quantity of wool, allows for greater airflow through the wool, and as it’s heavier, you can build up greater speed.
Greater speed = further spark travel
Still in August …. and another pond.
Three ponds in one month. Anyone would think I like them.
This is the Dedridge Pond Dragonfly Sculpture and I thought I’d try out the new spinning rig on my own
Now, this didn’t work the way I wanted it to … I wanted the sparks to bounce along the sculpture (I gave myself a massive blister doing this from the spinning line. Wuss that I am), and accent the line of the tail.
This didn’t happen, despite using several grades of wool, and several images later I gave up on that idea and settled for the below shot, which to me looks like golden rain.
But you can make your own mind up
This is what the Dragonfly normally looks like (well, in a long exposure on a windy day)
Simon and I worked with the beautiful and talented Roswell Ivory when she was on tour in Scotland.
We started in an old deserted ruin. When I say deserted … if you didn’t include the family that suddenly descended mid-shoot and hung around for at least half an hour … and then the dog walkers …
It’s a miracle we got anything done.
We ended up in Edinburgh for a bit of light painting