Thursday, 11 August 2011

Mont St Michel

Our French holiday had two main targets, Mont St Michel and a garden in the Loire. Due to a technical hitch we decided not to push our luck and head too far south, but Sue would have had to drag me kicking and screaming back to the ferry had we missed out the Mont.

We got the first glimpse from miles away. The late afternoon sun was backlighting the area giving a clear silhouette. A brief stop for a token long shot, which amounted to nothing, then finally onto the causeway. Campervans filled a large area to the side of the main carpark, and for €12 sounded like unbeatable value for a full day's parking and an unbeatable breakfast view!

Breakfast view, Greeny parked opposite the Mont
The sky was lacking, I'd far rather have had a more threatening bank of clouds to work with - but as the evening developed I was able to take several long exposure shots with changing light and the tide flowing from the inlet by the parking area.

Mont St Michel, backlit, 9 mins @ f10
The exposures were looking fine on my LCD, but when I got home I found some were slightly under exposed, my processing brining out quite a lot of grain  ~ I like a bit of grain! While taking my shots I became aware that there seemed to be little else but the Mont to actually photograph. It in the centre of a large empty plain - some trees way off to the west and distant headlands across the bay and a small island off to the east... then lots and lots of vehicles. It is inevitable that many shots would amount to similar compositions and content, so any variables such as water or cloud could make a large difference.

The next shot was taken shortly after the sun had gone. The colours weren't as dramatic as this shot suggests, but recent experiments using LAB colour in photoshop have revealed all kinds of weird and wonderful effects! I'm quite happy with how this one turned out, the hint of inky blue to the top right retaining some sanity. 

Sunset, Mont St Michel, 1/8th @ f14

It reminds me more of coloured glass than any sunset I've actually seen, not that the camera ever lies. The colours were far closer to the following shot taken 18 minutes later. The floodlights have been switched on, though there was still quite a lot of ambient light. My Cokin Grad have combined with one of my NDs to add a slight magenta cast to the sky..

Dusk, Mont St Michel, 30 seconds @ f7.1, 400iso
Then finally into the blue hour (OK, blue 20minutesish).

Crossover light, Mont St Michel, 25 seconds @ f9, back to 200iso
About 20 minutes later, taken at the end of crossover light. Enough sky colour to form a backdrop and enough ambient light to hold onto details in the foreshore. I moved around to experiment with the sandbanks combining with the reflections. Timing seemed awkward on location - trying to avoid car lights driving up to the causeway. I found them frustrating at the time, though the red tail lights work well. White headlights were not so good. I may have kept a 1 stop grad on the upper half to reduce the difference between the subject and reflection.

This was one of the final shots of the night before setting my alarm for 5am, a few games of Boggle, then hitting the sack.

Hot tip
Go to Mont St Michel!

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