Saturday, 23 July 2011

Wasdale – early morning mist

Having damaged my knee a fortnight ago I've not been doing any new photographs... so this 'latest' shot delves back to a week earlier. I took it on the way into Wasdale in the early hours, a fine mist covering the ground on some fields. This scene proved hard to resist, the fells around Wastwater dominating the backdrop and the subtle mist drifting across the field.

Wasdale dawn mist
Tripod mounted, half asleep, iso350(?) f8 or thereabouts, and a range of bracketed shutter speeds to cover the options as the foreground was pretty dark while the sky was getting brighter. Using the grads would have made sense, but I was keen to press on and decided the dynamic range was just enough to carry the shot through, or maybe bring in the sky from a darker exposure if I was struggling. The final photograph is from a single frame. Processing was difficult. Not so much technically difficult, but aesthetically difficult, deciding just how light or how dark, how subtle to keep it, how true to the conditions.

Staying true to the conditions is impossible with a range of light like this. The eye compensates for all the differences on location, so staying true involves interpretation. Black and white conversions are all an interpretation in any case - and the final twist is that I can't really remember just how it was anyway. However, this first version (actually version (f) in a series of attempts) does give the feel of the depth and range of light from the day. 

I was pretty pleased with that one, until the next morning when I found it a bit flat. A chance to have a play and see what would happen with some extreme treatment. Multiple layers, each taking it a step further than the last, each one making it more extreme. Pushing subtle images soon starts to break them down and bring out noise and grain. This was exaggerated by the initial exposure being made at iso350, and the fact I was working with an 8-bit jpg file. 

Wasdale Dawn, Study 2
The fun part was giving the photograph the feel of a Japanese wood block. The not so fun part was revealing the limits of the 8 bit jpg, giving an awkward stepped appearance to the two distant peaks (click on it to see an enlarged view). Without the banding I'd see this version as quite successful, but with it I have to acknowledge that its not acceptable - and going back to square one to reprocess the original NEF gave a totally different look and feel. I'll give it another go at some stage to see if I can make it work, but in the meantime its a food for thought image that will feed back into future shots and processing. 

The good news is that my knee is starting to work again, good enough to get me out again and take some new photos.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

PP – back to that tree at Hawes End, Derwent Water

I'm still working on the shot I took last week at Hawes End (so don't expect a grand conclusion). The shot I went there to take, or at least the tree I went there to take. I took several shots of it, working on the composition, exploring possibilities whilst slowly getting wetter in the rain. The setting is quite complex, so many rocks lying around, the small island in the background and the distant peaks. There are so many possibilities, the struggle being to get a balance between all the separate elements. I was keen to get the whole tree in the shot in a way that featured those amazing roots, but in doing so I had to make a decision on the left hand rock, distant rocks and the key relationship between the tree and island. Here's what I've decided was the best combination, this first version being straight out of camera with no processing. Its actually the adjacent frame to my finished photograph, but same settings. The colour version shows the potential in the sky for a black and white conversion, the quality of the light being far from ideal for a finished colour photograph.

Hawes End, Derwent Water - unprocessed
1/3rd @ f9, 2 stop ND grad
The sky to the left is ever so slightly blown even with the ND grad, but as shown in the straight black and white conversion below this was easily brought within tolerance using ACR. I also used ARC to correct lens distortion. The slight barrel distortion of the 17-55 was of no concern for this landscape photograph with no real perspective, but I habitually use lens correction to remove any chromatic aberration. If left unchecked, this can cause problems with detail then converting to greyscale as the fringes create outlines. Vignetting, I sometimes leave that on the ACR defaults, but often cancel its corrections, preferring to keep the natural vignetting of the lens.

Hawes End, Derwent Water
Distortions corrected using ACR then conversion to greyscale using photoshop converter
I used the slightest touch of highlight recovery to retain the sky and a hint of shadow fill for the dark leaves. The greyscale conversion barely touched the sliders. The yellow was increased a fraction, but for cloudy images I find I have to be very careful with the cyan and blue sliders as both can lead to ugly blotchy noise in the final image. Grainy noise isn't a problem, I like that, but blotchy noise looks like an ancient print that has been stored in poor conditions and started to go mouldy.

Working on the final image

Black and white manipulation is easy - there are only three things you can do, you either make pixels lighter, darker, or leave them be. Its just that simple matter of which ones to make lighter or darker... or not.

The straight conversion is obviously very flat, yet a good tonal range overall. People so often say that a good black and white conversion contains a solid black and a solid white - I find that a bit blinkered, but in this case it holds true. The image splits into three simple areas, sky, subject, foreground, each of which need different treatment. Giving the sky a quick kick was the first step - duplicate layer, use curves for more contrast, add a quick mask with a graduated fill to blend this into the image.

Second, the tree itself - this breaks into two very different areas, so a layer for each, working on the separate needs of the dark leaves and the brighter roots.

Finally, the foreground. The flow of energy in from the roots on the right plus how to handle the rock on the left being the main problems.

Hawes End, Derwent Water - first interpretation
Ideally I'd have liked to take the image in the direction of the trees I shot over Grasmere, stark treatment to the roots, dark mysterious treatment to the other regions. But this composition is very different and the contextual areas need to have more say. The lighting is also a major factor in the differences. After looking at the first conversion (a) I then worked more on the photograph - the first one is too strong on the roots, the island is insignificant, the sky very heavy and the foreground area is drab.

I saved versions up to (e), each subtly different, before taking stock of the set. I do this using Adobe Bridge, its easy to display the set of images full screen, flicking between them and comparing areas. Its an interesting exercise, watching how the emphasis shifts and in some cases jumps between the different conversions. My (c) and (e) conversions showed promise, so I opened these as two layers in a new photoshop file and worked between the two to create this - currently my final version.

Hawes End, Derwent Water – Version (g)
The main differences between (a) and (g) are the peripheral elements. The sky is similar, but the area to the right brightened, the island and water around it is reworked, then the whole foreground is completely reworked, making more of the textures in the grass and giving the rock more status.

I'm reasonably pleased with this version, but I do think the photograph has more potential. I will return to it at a later date, possibly taking it in a completely different direction. The subject is a real gem, my current thinking is to get back there and explore it further, and ideally see it in different lighting.

Edit: Following Matt's comment and preference for the colour version I've had another look at my black and white conversions. Here's version (h), playing down the sky more with the intention of bringing the emphasis back to the main subject. It has a lighter, more airy feel.

 Hawes End, Derwent Water - Version (h)

Friday, 15 July 2011

Always carry your camera with you...

I'll keep this one brief.

Photography is full of well meaning advice, but that one is about as useful as being told never to run with scissors in your hand. Its just someone being smart after the event.

Although I usually make a point of taking my camera with me when going out for walks, there are times when I enjoy leaving it behind. I get that wonderful sense of freedom. Yes, countless shots come at me from all directions, but so what? Yup, leave the camera at home and I guarantee that Krawatoa will erupt, and just watch as those vildebeeste swarm by - but lets face it, had you had the camera to hand you'd no doubt be so focused photographing a bumble bee hovering on a piece of clover that you'd have missed all these other things anyway.

There are times when I see more for not having a camera weighing on my mind - so hopefully increases my awareness for the next venture...

Photography competitions

The great unknown - what happens to a photograph once you enter a competition.

I've entered a few, and enjoyed some success. In the early days I didn't get anywhere at all, but kept plugging away realising that my standard wasn't good enough or my photograph not unique in any way. My first success came from Coast Magazine. There were 4 categories, each based on the British Coastline, so I entered a photograph into each. For three of the categories I tried hard to second guess what the judges would be looking for, in the last, I thought what the hell, I'll put in a shot I like.

Excitement grew when I received an email to say that shot had been shortlisted and the overall winner would be revealed in the March issue of the magazine. Three months to forget all about it, but when the magazine dropped through the letterbox the tension and excitement was running high. I eventually got to the right page to find my photo spread right across - top spot!

Mist over Arnside Knott
Overall winner of the Coast Magazine photography competition 2009
I was obviously very pleased to have won (the prize was a 3 day workshop with Joe Cornish) - though also surprised that they went for such an interpretive image, I was sure they'd go for something more predictable. The result gave me more conviction in continuing creating personal images, and also entering them in further competitions.

Competition success rate is low, and at times can be frustrating. When I see other winning entries it is usually obvious why they won, then on some competitions I think 'What?' But that's all part of the excitement. Part of what encourages me to enter more. Competition is good. Although I rarely go out with any particular competition in mind I do try harder because of them, exploring subjects more, searching for that extra something, and in most cases I end up reprocessing my photograph. But here's the key part for me, I don't want to compromise my ideals, I no longer try to second guess the judges. If they don't like my photograph, then they don't like it - I'll pause to contemplate, but if I still believe in the image and another appropriate competition comes along I will try it again (and have done with some success). Here's a shot that didn't make it in a recent competition. A nostalgic shot for me what I enjoyed shooting and processing, bringing back memories of a Monstera plant we had at home, fondly referred to as the Monster.

Monstera Delicosia - The Monster
Unsuccessful competition entry

At the presentation for Coast magazine the manager from Corbis told me that the second place image was a great photo, but they see 20 similar shots of that same view every day. Winning shots are generally unique, different from the rest. Competition has certainly pushed me harder and raised the level of my game, and it is great fun taking part.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Monitor Blues

For some time I've known my monitor has been hiding a multitude of sins in the shadow areas. People seeing things in my images which I thought weren't there or talking about each others photos in a way that made me feel like some passive background entity unable to contribute. I've used a Sypder3 calibration device for some time, which did help, but it was still obvious that I had problems.

Two days ago I switched monitors, reviving a second one that has been left dormant attached to an unloved PC in the corner of the room. Well it made a difference alright. Suddenly nice enjoyable blues took on a weird turquoise quality - I was scared to look up any of my favourite images to see what they looked like. Out with the Spyder, and a giant step in the right direction, but those shadow areas, they still didn't look right. And my black and white images were distinctly greenish!

Finally, I discovered an extra layer of controls on the Spyder software. Half way through the calibration process it paused and asked my to manually tinker with the separate rgb values. I thought the idea was for me to go and enjoy a cup of tea while the Spyder made the world perfect. Its all a bit hit and miss, altering the rgb settings, then asking the Spyder to take another look. After about 3 cycles of this, the software then plodded on to complete its process.

At last... or was it? The colour temperature left the highlights looking a touch warm. No choice but to repeat the cycle, and a closer look at the °K options.

Weeeheee, another 20 minutes gone, but its now working great. The tonal range gives lovely deep blacks, shows me things I've never seen before in shadow areas - and gives pure white highlights. Its taken a lot more effort than I expected, but the results have been well worthwhile.

Just in time too. I've found a Landscape Photographer of the Year competition run by Charlie Waite what I want to enter. The deadline is tomorrow, and I know that I need to reprocess several images before pressing the button.

Not so much a tip as a moral. I think the moral of this story is that labour saving devices such as the Spyder can be hard work, but ultimately worth it. After all, the monitor is the window to your computer's soul.

Time to go and search through my photographs to decide what to enter into the competition!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Returning to Derwent Water

A week on, a chance for a return visit to Derwent Water. I was due to meet with friends at 11pm, which meant I had the best of the evening light alone on the shores of the lake.

Earlier this week I'd been catching up with Joe Cornish's website. I had the pleasure of attending one of Joe's landscape workshops last September, a most enjoyable, inspiring and informative three days based in Whitby (highly recommended). His site has been completely revamped since I last looked so well worth catching up with some of his latest work. Among the latest was tree photograph that I'd not seen before - Hawes End on Derwent Water. A splendid specimen right on the water's edge with an amazing tangle of roots typical of a lakeside tree - a touch of Cornish frost around the foreground. So although I fancied returning to Friars Crag to reconsider last week's images, I decided instead to drive round to Hawes End and see what was on offer.

The road is narrow on the west side of the lake, with few parking bays. One advantage of arriving late on a wet rainy Friday is having the place to myself. I parked near the zig zags and walked down to the shore from there. First up is the landing jetty for the lake's ferry boats. A nice shaded spot with large mature trees, their branches reaching low to the ground. Conditions were awkward with constant rain, so I ended up working one handed, or wedging a large umbrella between my chin and shoulder for two handed operations.

Word of warning - MIDGES CAN KILL be prepared and either wrap up in midge-proof clothing or coat yourself in chemicals to keep them at bay. The rain helped keep them at bay, but I was still nibbled thoroughly.

Hawes End Jetty, Derwent Water
This photograph may as well be full colour, the scene was almost monochromatic. Raindrops splashing in the water.

The next tree along the shore bowed even lower to the ground. I'm not sure if the growth of the tree had adapted to the higher water levels of the lake, the leading edge being parallel to the ground. the exposure proved slightly tricky, requiring a two stop graduated neutral density filter to the sky even though I was only after a graphic silhouette. 

Branches, Hawes End, Derwent Water
There was something happening to the left which influenced this composition, but I can't remember what. It must have been something pretty ugly as the branches to the left need more space, though the rock in the water to the right is an important element in the overall composition. I could have done with having my ultrawide lens which would have opened up some interesting options. A subject to return to at a later date.

The shore at Hawes End is dominated by trees and great round boulders - presumably having rolled down the fell, Cat Bells, above this area. The kind of boulder that would really hurt if it landed on your toe.
Blencathra from Hawes End, Derwent Water
Blencathra forms a nice backdrop across the lake from here. I was balanced on some slimy rocks for this photogarph, using my tripod as a crutch while walking out (wellies would have been useful though I may have disturbed the otherwise flat water!). The sunlight was fading fast, lights starting to come on in Keswick. A big bonus, the rain had finally stopped, so I was able to leave the umbrella. 

A final image for the evening taken from a similar location to the previous photograph. There are infinite permutations for the rocks along the shoreline, and to be honest, they all looked pretty good! The tricky part here is the relationship with the left edge of the image. I couldn't find an angle to keep this clean and simple, but felt this composition worked well. This collection of stones are far smaller than the previous shot, allowing the mountain to take control of the final photographic composition and become the main subject. An important aspect of the composition is the spot of light from a house in the background neatly reflected in the water.  From time to time I combine the original colour photograph with my finished black and white conversion, and in this case the result worked out pretty well with deep inky darks and pleasant highlights. The colour balance of the final light of the day had shifted into the blue hour, giving a classic duotone print appearance.

Last light on Blencathra from Hawes End, Derwent Water
I need to get into the habit of carrying my head torch on shoots in the dying light!

Compositional tip - composing square photographs
When composing for a square image using a rectangular viewfinder it is often easier to use the camera in vertical format.

I'm not completely sure why (and it doesn't always work) but I find it easier to visualise where the boundaries are. The final square composition should really be in the centre of the rectangle to optimise the lens performance and minimise distortions. There is one undeniable advantage to using the camera in vertical orientation. It avoids certain distortion issues of cropping from a wide shot. If a shot is cropped to a square from a wide rectangle the square should really come from the centre of the frame. If the square is taken from either end and not the centre some unsightly distortions can occur.

Although it won't make a difference for a lot of subjects, there can be tell-tail clues from some subjects which just look plain wrong, such as reflections not aligning as expected with the source. With a vertical original shot this doesn't happen.

Here's a subtle example of the effect. This is the right hand end of a landscape shot. The trees on the right should be vertical, but they clearly slope outwards at the top. A shift lens or technical camera would be the best way to correct them, though it could be done with software, preferably before the crop.

Tree roots, Hawes End, Derwent Water
Below is the corrected version using Transform - Skew. Its a poor man's workround after the event type solution. As the shot wasn't composed with the correction in mind, it seemed like the best option to minimise the resultant crop as any correction cuts into the image. Had I corrected it before the crop I could have used Filter > Lens correction, which is preferable - though maybe losing the ragged clouds on the top edge is a bonus in this instance?

Tree Roots, Hawes End, Derwent Water
Vertical perspective corrected

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Derwent Water - the prettiest lake

Much as I enjoy the drama of Wastwater, I do find Derwent Water the prettiest of all the lakes here in the Lake District. My only regret is that its over an hour away, so as I'm spoilt for choice with Grasmere and Rydal around the half way point I don't get up to Derwent Water as often as I'd like.

I had to be up there at 6pm last Friday so decided to make more of the day be setting off early, giving me an extra hour and a half to enjoy the Keswick end of the lake and Friars Crag. This is a near level walk from a large carpark near the Theatre By The Lake, and its excellent views over the lake mean it is always popular. My intention was to photograph the overly complex tangle of roots that hold the trees to the rocky crag - but these have now been covered over by a compacted gravel path for safer walking. Understandable, but a disappointment for me!

Working out a composition proved quite difficult. Overhanging trees area favourite foreground interest - and quite fascinating to work with. The typical usage is to use the tree as a fringe to the top of the photograph - I like to use the background as a fringe to the bottom of the image. When using a standard or wide angle lens the trees are very close to the camera. This means that slight movements cause huge changes in the foreground/background relationship.

Working out the composition without the tripod is the only practical way to establish a viewpoint. Initially, I walk around simply looking, studying the way the trees fit to the background. Standing tall, crouching low, leaning over a bit - moving and moving, then refining the spot. Once relatively happy the camera comes into play, checking the viewpoint through the lens - different zooms - minor tweaks. Eventually the spot is found and the tripod set up to match the camera position - then final tweaks.

I tried some long exposures from here, but the tree movement was frustratingly slight and the clouds didn't flow sympathetically in the frame - so the final photograph is 500th second at f8. The distance to the tree gave no real dof problems. PP was relatively straightforward, the key being to maintain the feeling of depth in the image. I processed it using three layers - two different black and white conversions using CS5 as the blue component needed to be played down in some areas, but held in others. The tricky part being to blend the two conversions seamlessly.

Time waiting for the light: Once more I seem to be in a rush. As I knew the light would not be changing any time soon I didn't wait long. The cloud shadow was changing in the distance, so it was important to wait for good separation on Castle Crag - the small peak in the lower centre. The real changes in the light weren't due for a further 3 hours - but I'm due back up there tomorrow, so I'm hopeful for something different.

Friars Crag, Derwent Water
Processing tip
Trees that bleed off the edges of a print can create a serrated edge resembling rodent damage - it can be quite distrating. On this image I created a final layer to dull the highlights at the top of the photograph, then blended this with a simple graduated mask so as to avoid bright white highlights running into the upper frame which would draw the viewer's attention from the main subject.

Compositional tip
Complex and chaotic shots of trees filling a frame can produce some great results. I've found the weakest compositional aspect to be in the top corners. Watch out for branches which cut diagonally across the corners creating a small triangle - these invariably draw attention and can distract from the overall melee.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Wastwater, England's Favourite View

Wastwater always looks good. Its menacing screes running steeply into the water set it apart from all the other lakes. In grim conditions it is foreboding, very atmospheric. In bright conditions it is quite spectacular. Running roughly east-west is ideal for golden hour photography at the start and end of the day. Despite being one of the more difficult lakes to reach, you have to either walk over the tops or drive all the way around to the west side, it always proves a popular tourist spot. Especially during the longer days when hoards of walkers taking part in the Three Peaks Challenge migrate to Wasdale Head to start their second peak of the day, Scarfell Pike, the highest mountain in England.

First light, Wasdale
130 seconds ƒ8

I was there on Saturday morning supporting a different challenge. A Dallam Running Clubmate, Jarv, was racing against the clock, 24 hours to scale 42 peaks and return to Moot Hall in Keswick - The Bob Graham Round. This meant I was arriving in Wasdale around 4am, the dawn light well underway. Access to the north side of the lake is easy from the narrow road leading to the head, assuming there is space in the small parking places (not the passing places!). The best views are looking up the valley from the shores of the lake towards the western end, though there are great views along its full length. Groups of rocks provide plenty of foreground interest (possibly too much when the water level is low), the peaks of Yewbarrow on the left, Great Gable heading the Valley and Lingmell on the flanks of Scarfell Pike to the right create a dramatic backdrop.

My previous blog entry questioned how long a photographer waits for the right light. A tinge of irony, I was tired having only had an hours sleep so far that night, and knew I needed more if I was going to function in my support role later in the day. My total time on location was maybe around half an hour. Another photographer was already stood by the rocks, tripod set, bacon frying in a pan, messing about with filters. We chatted briefly, mainly about how stunning the scenery is and how disappointing the morning colour was. I doubted it was going to improve, so set up a couple of compositions before heading to the end of the lake for more sleep. But there's the problem - I don't know if it improved or not. However, I'm pleased with this image with its bold graphic shapes.

Stark lighting with no real colour present - not the most flexible image to process, though the kind of light I enjoy in landscape photography. Do you see in black and white? When the lighting is like this the question doesn't really apply, there was no real colour present to the naked eye. I generally do look for colours in compositions, being mindful about subtle nuances of hue which can be exploited when creating black and white conversions using photoshop in order to hold separations between what would otherwise be similar tones. In film photography there is a need for careful previsualisation at this stage as a filter my need to be selected to modify colour - and once committed to an exposure on film, the photographer has largely determined the way the image may finally be printed.

Ansel Adams excellent book, 40 Examples, covers this topic. Its an interesting read and gives an insight into how Adams worked in the field and how he related this to his knowledge of the darkroom and printing techniques. The importance of previsualisation to his process. The book also brings out how, despite his skills and knowledge, he'd often end up with a negative that wasn't quite ideal for his purposes and could prove tricky to create repeat prints consistently.

The digital photographic process has removed the need for such detailed knowledge and skills. The principles may well be the same, but the fact is black and white conversion performed with software are not a one way process. The data is flexible and many different conversions can be created from one original, effectively using a different colour filter for each conversion. What's more, these can easily be combined so give the best result from multiple filters in one final image. The sky may well benefit from a very different set of conversion values to the land -  though the success of the final image is how those separate images are combined.

Back to Wasdale: The exposure was straightforward. A test exposure with no filter using the camera meter, 1/6th @ ƒ10. Checking the histogram showed the highlights nicely held but quite a dense shadow block. Then an exposure with the 10 stop, 30seconds @ ƒ8 - way underexposed for most tastes, though I think it could give an interesting result. However, 30 seconds wasn't really long enough to flatten the water fully. Finally, 130seconds @ ƒ8 proving to be about right - just holding the highlights, smooth water. The day was slowly getting brighter, so subsequent exposures were getting correspondingly shorter.

I also processed a colour version of the shot... this shows how little colour there was!

First Light, Wasdale (colour)

Technical tip:
Shooting raw files captures the most data possible when using a digital camera. The exact exposure of a shot may not be too critical, especially if the total dynamic range is well within the capacity of the camera (ie, the full histogram fits comfortably on the screen, neither end extending beyond the limits). 

If you are used to standard exposure lengths of fractions of a second, when adapting to long exposures it is too easy to think the duration needs to be within a few seconds of perfection. Pause for thought - if the exact exposure should be say 1 minute, but its an image with a limited dynamic range, the tolerance is actually pretty wide - what constitutes a 1 stop variation?

One stop under would be 30 seconds, one top over would be 2 minutes. The exposure tolerance would be one and a half minutes! Make the most of the subject and lighting - if the dynamic range is too great for your camera, then the exposure will need to be fairly accurate, but in other circumstances its not worth getting down to the last second or ten. It is often better to err on the long side rather than the short. 

Photographers will often debate what the correct exposure should be for a given situation, but for a creative photograph the correct exposure is the one which captures sufficient data for you to process you final image. 

Friday, 1 July 2011

Question - how long do you wait for the light?

Here's a guy who could help you redefine yourself and your approach to photography.

Michael Fatali

He has some stunning photography. Stunning.

With the exception of shots that I've taken from my bedroom window where I could argue I'm still waiting for the light, I reckon the longest I've waited for the light is, ooooh, I'm guessing now, but maybe 35 minutes. I suspect I'm typical, I'll go out there, see something I like, reckon the light is OK, set up, glance around to see how clouds are changing, then hey presto. I'll move around, though I will take note and consider returning the the same spot either later that session or on a different day or season.

I suspect I'm not alone in being guilty of chasing light rather than waiting for it. Knowing good light when I see it, so try my hardest to capture that before it goes. The opposite approach to seeing the potential in a location and knowing the right kind of light to make the most of it... so waiting... waiting...

If you're going out to take photos, how many do you come back with?

How many are any good?

Now come on, I mean goooood.

Under each of Fatali's images is a link to field notes. In here he has all the usual techno stuff, but also includes that all important one which I'm sure most of us pay little regard to: Waiting for the light.

I've flicked through most of the shots on his site. For most, his wait is measured in hours, for many the wait is in days.

I'm not really sure what this means. Did he set up his tripod then sit there in the lotus position for a week? Did he set up and then play frisbee for a few hours. Did he arrive, take note of a potential shot - then go take all the usual crap we all have while his third eye scanned the sky waiting for the moment?

I've seen vids of Michael Kenna working. He seems to be constantly on the move, constantly trying different things - but he's using a hassy, far quicker to move around than a technical camera.

These 5x4 guys need to take more time to set up - so before they even start they need to take more time in selecting exactly where to set up. But I still have a minds eye view of Michael Fatali stood like a praying mantis, not moving...

Viewing sites from these 5x4 guys makes me realise my approach to photography is opportunistic. That's not to say portability and spontaneity don't have advantages, but its difficult to argue with waiting for the light. Here's one I prepared earlier - though I'm afraid I didn't set my stopwatch to determine how long I waited for the light.

Morecambe Bay Dawn
Long exposure using 10 stop plus 6 stop plus 3 stop ND grad