Sunday, 9 August 2009

Introspective ...Sky Lambs

Before I feature an introspective here, it's usually been on my main site's home page first.

So if you want an early preview of the next inrospective, have a look there. It may be a few hours or a day or so before the new one goes up. You know how it is—the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglay...

On being ready for the unexpected

or You make your own luck...

Sky Lambs—by the A303 in Wiltshire, Winter 2008
A beautifully framed and signed A2-sized print of this piece is available
at the Martin Bush Studio Gallery, Royal William Yard (map)


I was returning from my paying day job in Staines last year, following the A303 on its winding, wending way through the fields of Wiltshire, following the contours of the land. The lighting and weather conditions were real nice and I had been stopping every handful of miles, looking around for shots.

Making the capture

Spotting the shot

On this stop, I was trying to find an angle and composition for something entirely different but it wasn't working out from where I was.

I was about to walk back to my car and noticed these extremely low, scudding clouds coming at me quite fast. So low, I felt I could reach up and touch them and this was accompanied by a slight shiver as my mind felt their cold clamminess on the back of my hand. All this flashed through my mind as I quickly scanned around, looking for a decent backdrop for them. This scene looked promising and turned out to be just perfect, I hope you'll agree.

Exposure, ISO etc.

As I'd already been trying stuff in pretty much the same lighting conditions, I knew that leaving the camera set to ISO 100 was right for this one.

By default I always have the camera set to aperture priority so I can control the depth of field easily. I know that f9 at the wide-angle end of my zoom lens (17mm focal length) means pretty much everything from my feet to infinity will be in focus.

As an aside, this knowledge is great for when you can't spare any time fiddling with settings and have to make the capture before the opportunity is gone. As long as there is enough light around so that the shutter speed to accompany f9 (or whatever aperture you choose while composing) is fast enough for the scene. Knowing that everything is going to be sharply in focus means you have one less thing to worry about. Heck, you can even switch to manual focus and shave some time off how long before the camera is ready to take the shot.

Anyway, with this set-up it was straightforward to quickly exposure-lock on the brightest part of the sky, recompose and make the capture before the clouds were gone.

Digital darkroom

To summarise, I converted from RAW and pulled it into Photoshop where I cloned out a telegraph wire that was intruding into the top left corner. Also consigned to oblivion by the clone tool were a couple of distant birds that were just black specks on the clouds.

As an aside, some folks get a little prissy about this, but a serious photographer knows it's the distractions which draw the eye and that they can ruin a shot.
Being somewhat of an image tart, I have no such qualms—and by this, I mean that they didn't feature anywhere in my artistic intent and they were a distraction, therefore they didn't deserve to be in the image.

I then converted to black and white using a bw adjustment layer, juggling the sliders to get a close fit to the tonal relationships I was after. A bit of dodging and burning in the field to enhance its contours as I recalled them and that was it.

A final bit of sharpening and size reduction as I saved as a jpeg, and it was ready for upload.

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)
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