Ten days ago I returned from leading a 6-day tour to southwest Ireland – more specifically Killarney and Dingle – two very contrasting regions which presented the group with innumerable opportunities. A wonderful (I hope!) time was had by all and normally, a week or two later, I would sit at my pc and ’craft’ a trip report which would include lots of images of those locations visited and anecdotes in the usual trip report fashion. As much as I enjoy doing this (it’s always nice to reminisce as well as showing potential clients what can be tackled on such a tour) I think it’s time for a change and so, for the time being at least, trip reports are history!
Instead, I’ll select an image or two from the trip (or of whatever I have been photographing most recently) and give the story behind creating it. I’ve always been a stickler for the backstory, assuming that most photographers are as interested in the thought process leading up to the making of the image as they are of all the technicalities and I hope over the coming months you’ll enjoy some of the posts I’ll be writing.
The first to be given this treatment is one of the last images from the trip of sunset at Clogher bay. Clogher, on the Dingle Peninsula, is a wonderful place at any time of the day and we were lucky to experience a very special sunset. You have to be careful here, however, as it has one of the most unpredictable tidal surges whereby in 2014 I almost lost a Nikon D610 (the tide came to within 2 inches of the base of the camera) and in 2015 I wrote off a D750. On this occasion I clung on tightly to my D810!
I was late to the party. While I was faffing back at the car the group had ventured onto the beach and were merrily photographing the bay in dwindling light. At the time there was no sign that the sun was going to appear and when I eventually joined them on the beach I felt as though I had plenty of time to seek out a composition of my own. I was struggling. I had visited this same bay several times previously and I wasn’t going to copy what I had achieved previously. Following several hops over boulders I settled on the composition shown here. I found the nearest rock to have some interesting features and liked how the other two beyond pointed towards the headlands. The rock on which the tripod was standing was extremely slippery and I was struggling with getting a firm footing. It seemed to take an age and while doing so the sun appeared below the bank of cloud (I knew this because one of the group – James – suddenly shouted “sun!”) creating the kind of sunset we photographers yearn for. After much fiddling (which seemed to take an age and I was sure I was going to miss the opportunity) I eventually steadied the tripod and began tweaking the composition. I wanted to illustrate the water’s flow while at the same time retaining definition in the swirling sea beneath and in front of me. A Lee 0.6 (2 stop) ND grad was used to balance the sky/land exposure and in order to produce a starburst of the sun, an aperture of f/22 was selected. As you can imagine I shot a number of exposures (all of exactly the same composition) to be sure of securing the kind of image I had hoped for.
Nikon D810, 20mm, ISO 100, 4 sec. f/22, Manfrotto 055 tripod with Markins M10 ball head.
Exposure and post-processing
In keeping with shooting RAW and wanting to maximise detail in the shadows I exposed to the right as much as I dare without clipping the highlights which when viewed on the camera’s rear LCD screen looked very washed out. Not being a slave to the image I concentrated solely on the histogram which showed plenty of detail in both shadows and highlights. Once imported into LR I reduced the exposure and did the usual tweaks of contrast, highlight and shadow recovery. A very small amount of clarity provided additional contrast in the mid-tones and the Graduated Filter tool was brought into play to reduce exposure in the sky further. As with all my processing I endeavour to arrive to an image that is a faithful representation of what I saw and although the tiniest amount of Vibrance was added, Saturation was left well and truly alone.
Note on Saturation
I rarely, if ever, use this feature as it affects every pixel in the image. Instead, I much prefer to use the HSL tools where I can individually select elements within the scene thereby allowing greater control over the ‘feel’ of the image I wish to create.