Category Archives: Landscape Photography

Cold Snap in The Peak District

Higger Tor Frosty Sunrise, The Peak District
Frosty conditions on Higger Tor, The Peak District. Fuji X-T3 with Fuji 10-24mm lens at 11mm. ISO160, 1.4″ at f/13.0 tripod mounted and 0.9 Soft ND Grad on the sky.

This winter the weather hasn’t been very wintery here. In fact, I think I can count on one hand the number of days that we’ve had a proper frost. Then the other day I saw freezing overnight temperatures forecast and decided to head over to the Peak District to meet a friend.

We met at Higger Tor around 7:15, well before the sun was due to rise. The temperature was down to -3C and as I drove up the frost was clearly visible on the rather slippery road. I’ve always wanted to shoot frosty conditions there, but something has always prevented me.

Initially, we headed up to the far edge of the Tor where we normally shoot. But then we decided the frost didn’t look as good. Further back towards the road the frost was much heavier, covering the rocks and heather and turning them white.

I made my first few shots facing towards where the sun would rise, and I could already see the sky turning orange there. The sky was quite bright in comparison to the foreground rocks, so I used a 0.9 Reverse ND Grad. I thought this would help control the sun as it neared the horizon, without needlessly darkening the rest of the otherwise clear sky.

As I stood and waited for the sun to rise, I turned around to see the image above. The light was beautiful, and the landscape looked soft with thin mist in the valley. I quickly switched my reverse grad filter for a 3 stop soft grad and managed to capture this image.

I hope you like it.

Photoshop Masking Problem

Recently I’ve noticed an increase in the number of photographers on my Masking Courses who are experiencing problems. Typically, they will try to create a mask, or a series of Luminosity Masks and the results are wrong. They follow my advice exactly, but it doesn’t work correctly. What makes this problem even more frustrating is that it appears inconsistent and can start to happen without you making a change.

Following a lot of head scratching and working with a few people, I’ve been able to identify the cause and importantly a solution. If you edit photos in Photoshop and use masks, you need to look out for this happening to you.

To see the problem together with the fix, watch my video “Photoshop Masking – How to Fix this Common Problem”. This really is bizarre and was very difficult to track down.

If you use Photoshop or know someone who does, I hope this helps.

Have a great weekend.

Where to Find Great Light

Formby Beach at Sunset. Fuji X-T3 with Fuji 16-80 lens.

If there’s one location that seems to always deliver great light, it’s the coast. There’s something almost magical about the quality of light there. If the weather is good and the time of day right, you’re likely to get great light. This image I shot at Formby is no exception.

Formby can be a very challenging location to photograph. For a start, the beach is completely flat and largely featureless. For interest, you need to focus your attention on the streams, gullies and sand patterns of the beach. It’s true that it has great sand dunes, but these are equally as challenging in other ways.

For me, the best time to visit this beach is for sunset as it’s facing west. Although I’m not a fan of shooting into the sun at sunset, I like the colour it produces once the sun dips below the horizon. If there’s high cloud in the sky it can produce a magical sunset and if the sky is clear you can still get great colours.

But what’s really made a difference in this shot is that the tide has turned and is on its way out. When this happens, it leaves the sand ripples filled with water. It also leaves the surface of the beach free from footprints and more importantly, wet. Wet sand acts as a huge mirror, reflecting and intensifying the light from the sky. When you can bring together a sunset/sunrise and receding tide, that’s the best time to shoot a beach.

I used a Fuji X-T3 to capture the image with Fuji 16-80 at 25mm. The camera was set to ISO160 and aperture f/14.0 giving a 1” shutter speed. Although there’s a lot of reflected light on the beach I still used a 0.9 Soft ND Grad on the sky. When I removed the grad, the beach appeared too dark, and I like to get the image looking good in camera.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

Better Panorama Stitching

Higgor Tor Panorama at sunrise, Peak District
Higger Tor sunrise in the Peak District National Park. Fuji XT3 with 16-80 lens. See below for full details.

It’s Friday again and I want to share another image from a recent trip.

Last week I shared a shot from Burbage Edge in the Peak District, looking back to Higger Tor. I shot the image at the end of the day, but this image was from earlier that morning on Higger Tor.

Ordinarily, I like to get to the edge of the Tor, in amongst the rocks. This time I decided to walk around a little more which is when I noticed the sun coming up behind this rock formation. I realised that if I timed it right, I could create a starburst effect with the sun.

This was much easier said than done. The lens I used was the Fuji 16-80 with a 3 stop soft ND Grad filter. I attached this to a Fuji XT3 body mounted on a tripod before stopping the aperture down to f/18.0 (you need a small aperture to create the starburst). Now I just needed to line up the camera on the tripod and that was the hard part.

I just couldn’t seem to line everything up to create the starburst with a good exposure. I kept trying and each time I thought I had it, the effect vanished. The sun then started to fade as the fast-moving clouds came in and I started to panic. I thought I wasn’t going to get the shot.

Finally, everything came together, and I managed two frames. It was only when I came to process the images that I realised in my excitement, I hadn’t set the camera to manual exposure. I left it on Aperture Priority and the second image was a stop brighter than the first. One image was a 0.6-second exposure whilst the other was 0.3-seconds (both at ISO160). Fortunately, I was able to manually adjust the image in the RAW converter before stitching.

You can see the two starting images as well as how I stitched them, in my latest YouTube videos. One demonstrates the processing in Adobe Photoshop and the other in Affinity Photo. Both videos include the RAW processing in Capture One 20 before the stitching.

Panorama Stitching in Photoshop

Panorama Stitching in Affinity Photo

I hope you like the image and video. Have a great weekend.

Sunrise at Higger Tor

Rocks on Higger Tor at sunrise, The Peak District. Fuji X-T3. See text for technical details/settings.

Yesterday morning I managed to drag myself out of bed at 05:00am and drove over to the Peak District. I had been watching the weather for weeks waiting for the right conditions. It had been warm during the day but then the temperature was forecast to drop overnight, with only thin cloud cover and no wind for the next morning. The conditions were perfect for Landscape Photography and all being well there would  be mist/fog in the Peak District.

As I drove past Ladybower on my way to Higger Tor I ran into a few fog banks. I could also see the mist rising off the surface of the reservoir. As I passed the fishery, the high cloud was turning pink and reflecting on the calm surface of the water. I decided to stop and shoot a couple of frames, but I’ll save that for another time once I’ve processed them properly.

When I arrived at Higger Tor, the sunrise was in full swing and unfortunately, I think I missed the best of it having stopped at Ladybower. This shot was my second frame, the first being a reference shot to check the camera setup. As the sun was now just above the horizon and starting to catch the ground, I found this position where I could capture the light on the rocks and still retain a good sky.

Capturing a good shot was relatively easy as the sun wasn’t in the frame, but I still needed to use a ND Grad filter on the sky. Without it the ground and rocks just became too dark. I also took the opportunity to shoot the image with exposure bracketing. This would give me 5 frames from which I could select the best exposure to work with and if necessary, do some exposure blending.

In the end, the best image was a single exposure without any exposure compensation. This had a nice sky, but the rocks were a little too dark. I was able to correct this during my RAW conversion in Capture One. I’m now a huge fan of Capture One for processing the Fuji RAW files and swear by it.

Following RAW conversion, I applied additional adjustment using the Nik Collection and a little Dodging and Burning in Photoshop.

I shot the image using a Fuji X-T3 and the newly released Fuji 16-80 lens. This gives a focal range of 24-120 in full frame terms which is very useful. I like the lens and have a few observations to make in a future article. I had the camera set to ISO160 which is the base ISO. The aperture was f/11.0 which gave a shutter speed of 0.7”. I had the camera mounted on a tripod for this and used a Kase 0.6 (2 stop) hard ND grad on the sky.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

More Landscape Photography from the Scottish Highlands

Lake Assynt, Scotland. Three shot panoramic with a Fuji X-T3. See below for full description.

Today I wanted to share another image from my recent Scotland trip. I suspect there will be a few more yet to come. Originally, I had intended this to be a black and white shot, but it doesn’t work as well when converted. The problem is that the trees become lost against the background.

To be entirely honest, it doesn’t quite work in colour either, but the scene is so tranquil that I still love it. Had I been able to, I would have liked a little more height so that I would be looking down on the island. This would have placed the trees against the water, balancing them with the reflection. Unfortunately, I was already on the highest point; such is the challenge of landscape photography.

I shot the image using a Fuji X-T3 camera. In case you’re wondering, yes, I do think it’s an improvement on the X-T2 but it’s difficult to put into words why. It just is. I was using a Fuji 18-55 lens which is the kit lens that came with my X-T2 and is simply excellent. I also used a Kase 0.9 ND Graduated filter which I inverted to darken the light reflecting off the water in the foreground (I appear to be using the Soft ND Grad filters a lot more these days). Without this the exposure became too unbalanced. I had the camera mounted on a tripod to capture three frames of 1/17” at f/11.0 using ISO160 (the base ISO on the X-T3).

I then stitched the three frames to a panoramic using Adobe Lightroom. I used the Pro Contrast filter in Nik Color Efex Pro to fine tune the colour balance after which the Detail Extractor filter to open the shadows in the land. I then enhanced the Contrast and Structure of the foreground in Nik Viveza. This may sound like a lot of processing, but the changes were all very minor and subtle.

DxO Sale and the Nik Collection Free

I had an email earlier this week from DxO announcing their 30% sale on all their products until the 14th May 19. I wanted to share it in case anyone waiting for a DxO sale had missed the announcement. Unfortunately, the sale doesn’t appear to extend to the Nik Collection which I used for editing the image above.

But did you know you can still get the Nik Collection for free?

Whilst this is the old Google edition of the software it still works well for lots of people. It also appears that it’s not common knowledge how to do this, so I’ve published an article explaining how.

That’s all for now.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.