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Shooting Diary | The Kip | 21st February 2010

Written on Sunday, February 21, 2010
Last updated on Monday, February 3, 2014

The trip to Coldingham was the 3rd outing in a 3 day bender! Believe me I struggle to get out once a month, never mind 3 times in 2 days! 

I'd been keeping an eye on this spot though my "Virtual Scouting" which involves OS maps, Google Earth and The Photographer's Ephemeris. What I hadn't found was many pictures that showed this sea-stack. This had me worrying that maybe it was just a poor location.

I decided to risk it anyway and set the alarm for 5am. I also had the sense to make my munchies before I went to bed - a rare bit of forethought!

The drive from Edinburgh to Coldingham took just over an hour and was fairly uneventful - except when my GPS told me to run left and I told it to take a hike. Bit of luck that in hindsight. The road it wanted me to go down turned out to have lots of snow drifted over it - I came back that way.

Anyway, getting there wasn't an issue although I did have a moan to myself (friends will be shocked and appalled I moan even when on my own!) when I noted the lack of activity in the sky. I needn't have worried as there was lots of other things to wow about.

This shot, although not particularly stand out from my point of view seemed to do quite well on Explore - reaching a high point of #20. You can view this and the other shots from the same trip here. Follow the jump to read more about taking the shot and the post processing behind it.


  • For this I used my LEE filters (soft grad). Both the 0.3 ND and 0.6 ND to completely cover the frame then the 0.9 ND to graduate the sky.
  • Obviously on a tripod,
  • I used a Phottix remote to reduce shake further.
  • I probably didn't use the mirror lock up as it's a pest to remember to switch it on.
  • This is a bracketed shot of +/- 1.3EV

Post Processing

My work flow goes from Bridge > Adobe Camera Raw (ACR)  > Bridge > Photoshop - At least it does for bracketed shots. I group the bracketed shots in Bridge so they are easy to find in relation to each other then select them all and hit Enter. This loads up Photoshop. But before Photoshop can open the files, ACR intercepts them.

I do all my RAW processing in ACR.

One of my eternal battles is deciding which white balance to use. I'm not so worried about which one is "correct" rather which one looks best.

My camera seems to go for a much colder white balance than that which ACR selects when you select "Auto" from the white balance drop-down.

This time I decided to stick with "Auto" because it made the pinks in the clouds look positively neon!

For the 0EV shot I often click the "Auto" link just above the "Exposure" slider. This tells ACR to automatically set the contrast, exposure, black, fill light & recovery based on the content of the image. I've no idea if it's a good or bad thing to be doing but the results are often quite satisfactory. Certainly for this frame I used the "Auto" levels.

For  -1.3EV frame I added about 0.45 to the exposure and the +1.3EV I did nothing at all.

I've then select all the frames and added +20 to the Vibrance slider.

For once I didn't have to straighten the horizon!

That about wraps up the RAW processing. Instead of clicking the "Open Images" button at the bottom right of ACR I click the "Done" button. This sends us back to Bridge. From Bridge I go to "Tools | Photoshop | Load Files into Photoshop Layers". This creates a nice new PS document with each of the layers named from their original file names.

Dynamic Range Increase (DRI)

The next part takes me ages to do. It involves layers, masks and fine brushing around the edges to blend elements of the 3 exposures I want to keep together. Instead of me explaining it, take a look at this tutorial which visually shows you exactly what the process involves.

In summary, I took the sky from -1.3EV, the foreground finger of frosted seaweed on a rock as well as the Kip itself from +1.3EV. The rest is made up of the 0EV frame.

Once I'd done that, I cloned out some bunnies from the top right. I really must clean the sensor! Next I added a Saturation layer and set the saturation to -100. I then switched the mode for this layer to "Multiply". This darkens the image considerably and adds a colour punch.

I then selected the RED channel on the channels pallet and deleted this from the mask. This has the effect of applying the darkening and colour punch more to the blue and green channels rather than the red channel. The red was already nice and strong.

I then darkened the highlights slightly using the curves and only applied it to the the Kip and the finger of rock.

Next up I sharpened the whole thing (Smart Sharpen, 100%, 1.4px) and masked out the very edges of the Kip. I was finding the high contrast edge was giving strong sharpening artefacts so I simply masked out the edges - along with the sky which I don't usually sharpen anyway.

Finally I cropped the image square and splatted on my watermark.

Job done!

I wish I knew how long it took from start to finish. If memory serves I'd say around 30 minutes. The vast majority of that time in the DRI part of the post processing.

This is another shot I took on the same trip: -

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