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Shooting Diary | Rannoch | 2nd January 2010

Written on Sunday, January 3, 2010
Last updated on Monday, February 3, 2014
Buachaille Etive Mòr

Buachaille Etive Mòr by orangep33l | View On Flickr

Ross and I spent the large part of November and early December talking about getting out during the holidays. I had particularly itchy feet as I wanted to make sure I had a photograph for a Christmas card for 2010.

I run my own business providing IT support and web development services. Every year I send my clients a Christmas card which I shot. I'd used up my "stock" of Christmassy type images so I needed to get a new one before the snow left.


With the weather being "interesting" we where a bit worried deciding if we should even attempt heading north. As it turned out we needn't have worried. The roads where completely clear and the weather was lovely too. I can't even confess to being cold as Rossco had got me a super duper warm jacket for crimbo! The best part was Ross doing the driving for once. o/

The trip didn't start off that well. Due to a brain fade on my part we missed sunrise by 3 hours. Not that we where aiming for sunrise, the sun doesn't hit the Black Mount till a good couple of hours after. I'd forgotten my walking boots so it meant we had to drive back into Edinburgh (from South Queensferry), pick them up then hit the road proper. But even before that I managed to break Ross's car and we had to bump start it down the shallowest hill in the world - no mean feat with a binding brake calliper!

Eventually we got on the road and after an uneventful but relaxing drive up (for me) we arrived at Rannoch. Ross kinda regresses back to childhood when he sees lots of snow and today was no different as we got out the car to chase some really nice light on the mountains. We got about 20ft from the car before Ross was up to his waist in a snow drift and the light had changed already! That pretty much summed up the day. Lots of snow and the light changing in a blink of an eye.

I did manage to get my Christmas card but that was about it for me. Oh, there is one other non-photography related item worth reporting. I'm now leading the "Who can fall over while carrying a camera and manage to not hurt said device" championship. Almost every time we go out, one of us takes a tumble. Ross took an early lead one morning in North Berwick with a stunning pirouette on some seaweed covered rock. Later in Skye I equalised with a slow motion slide down a muddy slope onto my ass.

Well today I took the lead with a step into oblivion. It happened about 5 minutes before the shot above was taken. We where walking down towards the river when I took a step into a peat bog. Lovely smelly things those are! What was annoying was as soon as my foot left the ground to take the step I knew it was gonna happen. Sadly inertia took over :) My camera was safe in the rucksack so maybe this one doesn't count though.

Our locations for stopping where: -

  • Rannoch looking toward the Black Mount.
  • Blackrock Cottage (my Christmas card)
  • River Etive looking towards Buachaille Etive Mòr (above)
  • Rannoch Dead Tree

You can see all 5 of my uploads from this trip here - including the one I'll use for the Christmas card. For Ross's you'll have to dig through his stream.


I shot on the tripod using a LEE 0.9ND & 0.3ND soft grads stacked. Triggered with a Phottix remote.

The shot is made from 3 frames bracketed at +/- 2EV as per my habit. I try to get the first frame exposed as near to perfect as possible - the other two are just a bonus. It's not like storage space is expensive so there isn't really any harm. Here are the 3 shots straight out the camera: -


Post Processing

My work flow goes from Bridge > ACR > Bridge > Photoshop. In Bridge, I select the 3 files and hit enter. Instead of them loading directly into Photoshop, the are "intercepted" by Adobe Camera Raw where I do my RAW processing.

RAW Processing

For 0EV I did an auto-levels. This added to the exposure, increased the contrast, lowered the brightness and upped the blacks. For -2EV I manually added some contrast and increased the exposure 0.85. For +2EV I wasn't planning on doing much with it. It is completely blown out so I just did an "Auto" levels for the hell of it. Next I selected all the frames and added +17 to the Vibrance.

DRI + Effects

I spent many a minute doing my usual DRI (Dynamic Range Increase) layer blending technique. Instead of my explaining it, why not watch a video?

In summary I took the sky from -2EV and the rest from 0EV. With the +2EV layer I very lightly painted at the right hand side of the mountain and some of the foreground lumps of snow. This makes it look as though there is light coming from the right of the image.

I must admit, I've written this post 3 months after doing the processing and I didn't notice the use of the +2EV layer until I went back to my PSD to investigate. It's quite a nice subtle touch. Subtlety isn't normally my strong suit :)

In the left hand corner you'll notice the grass. I did make an attempt at cloning out the worst of it but quickly lost patience. I really should go back and finish the job properly! Once I got bored with the cloning I sharpened the final image and completely forgot to watermark! That's it. Nothing else was done.

Effects Again

I came back to this again - this time trying to clean up the grass. This time I cropped off the bottom and shifted up the rock with the "cat's tail" of snow near the center bottom of the frame.

I've still got to go back again and fix another couple of bits I'm not happy with. This is the latest version of the image: -

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