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Shooting Diary | The Leithies | 20th August 2011

Written on Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Last updated on Sunday, January 26, 2014

I was out a week or so before this trip, almost the first time this year, to do some images for a tutorial I'm writing on how to use the very excellent Image Averaging technique I saw mentioned on Flickr.

When I posted the image below, I got an interesting comment regarding a crop.

Basically the Flickrite preferred the look of a more minimal crop and I agreed. Sadly, as the image had already been cropped square, there wasn't the pixels to do another one - especially as I feel cropping both axes means you've framed incorrectly.

So the point of this trip was to go and shoot the Bass Rock again but in a more minimal manner - to be honest I've done this before but I wanted to try again with my new favourite technique.

So there was the job, a minimalist long exposure shot of the Bass Rock

The first hurdle was where to shoot from. I've been to Seacliff a LOT so wanted to try somewhere else. I was targeting Canty Bay as I think this is about as close as you can get to the Bass Rock from the mainland but unfortunately these East Lothian types seem to hate strangers. I couldn't go down the road to Canty Bay, the great big PRIVATE sign was enough deterrent. Nor can you park outside the gate as the yokels have dumped a pile of earth you need a 4x4 to park on. So I had a look further down the road at Castleton. Same story, "Piss Off" signs everywhere.

So instead I went back to North Berwick and The Leithies. It's easy enough to get parked at the east end of Milsey Bay in North Berwick. And while there is a walk, it's not much for even me to complain about!


Due to the use of the Image Averaging technique, I didn't bother with my usual bracketing routine. So that saves some work - albeit only to be replaced by something else :)

I stacked my LEE grad. filters, all three of them. The 0.9ND and 0.6ND covering the field of view completely with the 0.3ND just covering the sky.

The only other notable thing I did for this shot was set-up my Intervalometer to shoot 15 frames with a delay of 5 seconds between each frame and, as I was in manual mode, an exposure time of 2 seconds.

OK so the question I'd rather you didn't ask is "where do you get those numbers from?" :)

In summary, the camera and a few test exposures gave me the exposure time, the delay I pulled from a hat and the choice to do 15 frames was because of the thought of averaging more is scary on the donkey of a PC I use.

Post Processing

I'll break the processing down into three steps. The RAW processing I do in ACR, the image averaging and finally the rest of the Photoshop tweaks.

Because this was taken with the image averaging technique in mind there's 15 shots that need blended together. This increases the workflow more than usual but much of it can be batch processed making it slightly less painful than it could be.

RAW Processing

Step one is prepare the individual RAW files. Using Adobe Bridge, I selected all my frames that make up the shot and loaded them into ACR. I then hit the select all button to make sure I'm applying the changes to all the frames.

My perennial problem is they where squint. Always with the squint! So step one is to straighten them up.

Next I had a mess with the white balance and settled for "Daylight" - gave it the yummy blackcurrant sorbet look.

Pumped the vibrance up a tiny bit, added some contrast and gave the clarity slider a right good sliding.

Now for the long job...

Image Averaging

Step one is to load these into Photoshop. Instead of loading all 15 images then dragging them into a single document - which you can do, if you're a masochist - I simply use Adobe Bridge to do the grunt work.

In Bridge, I select all 15 frames, go to the Tools menu, select Photoshop, then Load Files into Photoshop Layers.

Step two is to wait while the images are stacked. This is the long bit. Longer if you have a computer from the dark ages. Go make a coffee.

Once you've grown considerably older, your new Photoshop document is ready for you to do the averaging.

For each of the layers except the bottom one I set them to an opacity level defined by a simple formula 100 x (1/number of layers below current +1) (This not making sense? See here).

Once that's done I then go to the Layers menu and choose Stamp Visible

With the image averaging done I can now get on with the rest of my Photoshop processing.

Photoshop Processing

There was 4 things I did: -

  1. Removed some distracting rocks from the image as well as a couple *cough* of dust bunnies.
  2. Added a black and white adjustment layer, chose "High Contrast Red Filter" then set the layer blend mode to Multiply. This really darkened down the image so I rolled back the opacity to 30%
  3. I stamped a new layer and using Smart Sharpen added a little sharpening (I went with 100% & 1.9 pixels on the sliders). I then masked out everything except the Bass Rock - IE I only sharpened the Bass Rock. I took a bit of care around the edges as the sharpening had created a nasty halo so that got masked out too.
  4. Finally I added my watermark.

That's it. Hope you like it.

Here are all the images from this particular trip.

August 2011, The Leithies
Bass Rock
Bass Rock
Moonlight Bass Rock
Bass Rock
Bass Rock
The Bass Rock in Blackcurrant Sorbet
Bass Rock
Bass Rock
Craigleith Fruit Salad

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