Monday, 17 October 2011

Mont St Michel and beyond

Whilst reviewing some old shots I came across the raw file for this image. I had originally attempted to process it along with the other images from North France, but not managed to produce anything worthwhile. But I've finally come up with a version that I'm happy with.

Mont St Michel
So now that's out of the way I can get back to taking new photographs!

The light has been good on the bay today, and after a long period of un-noteworthy channels, one had emerged that asks to be photographed. From now until March generally gives the best light, the majority of my bay images have been taken during the shorter days. The sun is far lower in the sky as it tracks across giving a far more dramatic backlight than the higher summer sun.

I've found that skies are generally lighter than the foreground. Something which often looks wrong is when the sky is over-filtered when using grads, or overly darkened in pp (both tend to be more a problem with realistic colour renditions). A low sun above a bank of cloud can often give a naturally brighter foreground than sky. Bring water into the equation, and the brilliance of reflections leads to high contrast and chiaroscuro lighting.

The other quality at this time of year depends on the movement of clouds. They alter the filtering of sunlight and how different surfaces reflect. Within the space of seconds the bay can change completely. One moment the channel of water will be reflecting the sunlight, contrasting with dark sand. Then the next moment the effect is reversed, positive turns to negative as the sand suddenly reflects the brightness whist the water goes dark.

Here are two similar compositions taken 4 minutes apart. Note the clouds in the first appear to be light on dark, where in the second they appear dark on light. Also the direct light on the sand bank to the left is displaying negative characteristics. There is a 2 stop variation between the exposures, the second having unfiltered direct sunlight shining off the wet sand. When I took these the second interested me most, but so far I prefer the processing on the first image. One to revisit.

Bay 1
f7.1 @ 1250th

Bay 2
f7.1 @ 6400th
This is a case where bracketing exposure proves very useful. I don't find the light meter tells me much in such contrasty conditions, the dynamic range is bound to be beyond the scope of the sensor, and the best way to asses it is using the histogram and LED rendition. This isn't easy when tripod mounted as the strong ambient light drowns out the faint LED image - borrowing a dark cloth from an nearby 5x4 photographer would be rather useful! But checking the LED is essential.