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.

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