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Shooting Diary | Dysart Glass | 9th March 2010

Written on Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Last updated on Monday, February 3, 2014

Ross often bangs on about Dysart in Fife. Almost to the point of me needing to kill myself. OK I exaggerate for effect and when you see the work done by Alan Arnott (Vivid Image), you can understand his enthusiasm for the area.

Anyway, I decided to head up early one morning to see what the fuss was about.


5:30am the alarm goes off but I'm already awake and half dressed.

After quickly making some unidentifiable pate sandwiches for later, I head off on the 45 minute drive from Edinburgh to Dysart. When I got there I was absolutely gutted to see the clouds.

Great texture and high, but going from horizon to horizon and not looking like they where prepared to move just for me. It didn't look as though I was going to have much joy. However I've learned that no matter what, don't leave. You're there anyway, to leave straight away is just insanity - you never know what might happen.

I wander down to the beach looking for the rock formation Alan takes advantage of. Well, I find it and I'm in for another disappointment. It's about 2m from the water. OK so the day's starting to look like a no go so I just wander around looking for stuff to shoot.

One of them was this. By far my favourite of the day but you can decide for yourself by viewing the rest of them in a slideshow here.


I stacked my LEE filters in order to slow the shutter speed down. I had a 0.3 and 0.6 ND grads completely cover the frame while the  0.9 ND grad was used on the sky alone.

The shot is made from 3 frames bracketed +/- 1.3EV. I bracket out of habit now,  although I must admit, I could have produced this without the bracketing and subsequent post processing. It's nice to get it right in a single frame, but to my mind it's harmless to bracket and gives you that little bit extra range should you want it.

Here are the three straight out of camera images: -


Post Processing

I load the 3 shots into Photoshop from Bridge, this causes ACR to start to allow me to begin the RAW processing.

I firstly look at the white balance. Usually choosing between "As Shot" and "Auto". I find the "Auto" option is usually warmer than "As Shot" and I often flip flop between the two as I can never decide which I like. This time though I really liked the cold blues the camera was finding so I stuck with "As Shot".

Next I select the 0EV frame only and do an "Auto" levels to see what ACR thinks the exposure should be at. If I'm happy with that then I'll move on to the next step, otherwise I'll adjust the exposure until I'm happy with it. Usually I stick to the Contrast, Recovery, Blacks and Exposure sliders.

Once I'm done with that I'll select all the exposures, add a touch of Vibrance (usually about +20ish) and straighten the horizon.

That pretty much wraps up my RAW processing.

Instead of pressing "Open Images" to continue loading into Photoshop, I'll press "Done" to go back to Bridge instead.

Back in Bridge, with the 3 exposures still selected I go to "Tools | Photoshop | Load Files into Photoshop Layers". This creates a new PS document with each of the exposures stacked with the file name as the name of the layer. It makes things easier for me later.

At this point I usually head down this sort of route but this time was different.

The Photoshop work here was very quick and simple: -

First 0EV is moved to the bottom layer.

Next a mask is put on +1.3EV and -1.3EV layers.

+1.33EV I mask out the sky and a little bit of the bottom right then switch the mode to "Soft Light" and lower the Opacity to 87% "Soft Light" is great for adding contrast and I mask out bits of the bottom right because it's usually a bit OTT when done on dark colours like the seaweed and darker browns of the rocks.

-1.33EV On the mask I selected from just below the two central rocks to the top of the frame. I then deleted the mask and switched the mode to "Multiply".

I then went to the "Masks" tab and changed the "Feather" setting to around 100px. This basically gradients in the the mask edges. It depends on the image what setting to use. You can do the same thing with the gradient tool. "Multiply" gives a really nice colour boost but also darkens things considerably. Therefore I always tend to back off the -EV layer using the opacity. In this case, back down to 47%.

Once I'm happy with the masking I then stamp visible (ctrl+alt+shift+e). This makes a new layer based on the content below.

I sharpened this (Smart Sharpen, 100%, 1.1px).

Next I added a new layer. Filled with black, changed the mode to "Soft Light", masked and painted out most of the mask except the corners to create a light vignette and then backed that off to 72% opacity.

Finally I slapped on my watermark and saved it.

Job done.

I've no idea how this compares to anyone else's work flow but for me this was a very fast process. Usually I can spend quite some time - especially in the layer masking - but this one didn't require very much work.

The following images where also shot on the same visit.

February 2010, Seafield, Kirkcaldy

Early morning surise at Seafield, Kirkcaldy


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