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This is the very famous and very beautiful Buachaille Etive Mor overlooking the Rannoch Moor and guarding the entrance to Glencoe from the south. It is one of Scotland’s most famous “Munro classified” 3000ft mountains and probably the most photographed of all of them. This was another dip into my Lightroom archive from 2007 and I had discounted this image at the time due to a lack of a decent foreground. (The classic view from this side is usually from the river at Kings House hotel). I was just grabbing this shot quickly in passing and wasn’t near the river. Tonight I realised that I could simply crop and treat it as a postcard style panorama. It is a bit of a cheap trick to make something of an incomplete composition, but the light was beautiful. Apropos of nothing, this is the “Munro” that I climbed more than any other in my hill climbing days. I also climbed one of the simpler rock climbs, “Agag’s Groove” on the Rannoch Wall on the right of the cleft that drops straight down from the summit. “Curved Ridge” is the finger of rock to the left again and between the two clefts straight down from the summit. Just in case anyone cares:-)

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This is from the lochan a little further on at Rannoch Moor. I posted one from the same shoot a few days ago but spent some more time looking tonight. (sadly I have corrupt files in the folder – a real worry and a reminder to backup).

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A different format of the recently posted shot and a different treatment. A bit darker.

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And finally, a black and white take on the Black Mount from a different part of the lochan.

It really is fun to go back to old images but with more advanced software and more processing experience.

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The observations a couple of friends made about processing the landscape images have prompted me to start sharing a bit about the process. This image of the incredibly bizarrely dressed HB shows a screenshot of the before/after comparison in Adobe Lightroom after doing 5 minutes of work on the image.

When you shoot in jpegs, the camera does the processing of the image for you. It optimises brightness and darkness, colour intensity and balance of shades, it sharpens the images, (digital images need more sharpening as a result of the filtering on the sensors), and finally discards the now unneeded data from the file. It is all baked in by an algorithm which is characteristic of your particular camera.

Raw files are un-optimised. They are more or less the pixel by pixel brightness and colour values as seen by the sensor. They are usually anything up to 5 or 6 times the file size of jpegs, but they allow you to use software to make the optimisation details yourself. Truthfully, they also allow you to forgive some of your own photographic sins, as they give you a fair bit of latitude to correct bad exposure. (They are particularly useful for pulling out shadow details or darker pixel data as you can boost these within reason, burnt out pixels sadly are gone in any file format! This is why digital cameras are more forgiving of underexposure). The before image above shows the scene as the pixels recorded it. The same camera with film instead of a digital sensor would not look the same, it would be sharper and more colourful. The raw file is flat and dull; however, the detail is all there to be pulled out!

On the right, the sky has been darkened, colours saturated a bit, contrast pushed, HB’s face a little lightened with a brush tool to make it stand out, the midrange contrast has been boosted to give a sharper, textured look. This is the history box from lightroom showing a record of 5 minutes of actions leading to an image I am happy with. Naturally it then gets saved as a jpeg and goes from 20+ mb to about 4-5 mb for printing or sharing. Raw is extra hassle, but if you view the process of choosing and styling the final image as interesting and important, then it is worth it.

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From Sunday; I had the pleasure of actually setting up my tripod and 7D with 17-85 zoom on. I had the further fun of using my Cokin grad ND filters to cope with the relatively bright sunset sky. I use a little Infra-Red remote to trigger the shutter (£5 from ebay and utterly reliable) and with mirror-lockup engaged and my solid Manfrotto tripod, all is nicely still and steady!

This is the beach at Seamills near Ardrossan and the magnificent mountains across the Clyde are the Arran hills including Goat Fell. From various parts of the Clyde coast, these hills are known as the “sleeping warrior” and I love them!

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I have long maintained that HB is to become an astronaut and save the world or some such heroic stuff. Today I got the clearest sign yet that she has the “right stuff”. Here she is addressing her attention to the moon, and I don’t think you have to try too hard to find a certain Brian Cox – cosmologist thing going down!

We were freezing to death on this beach, and my fingers were no longer working. This was a rushed shot with the pop up flash on my Canon 7D to fill her face a little with the strong low backlight. Her face was still a little dark, but with no fill-flash she was merely a silhouette. Getting focus was a nightmare too as her face was so strongly in shadow that the camera couldn’t achieve focus-lock. The Sigma 28 f1.8 is perhaps my favourite lens, but it is sloooooooooow in low light conditions to grab focus. Mercifully HB stood still for just long enough. A fun shot.

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I went to Tiso’s outdoor shop in Glasgow today to buy some snow-grips for jogging. While there HB and I went into their cafe for a capuccino and babyccino. There was a really bright sun streaming in the window of the cafe (45 mins or so till sunset), and after she chose her seat, I deliberately chose one that put her between me and the sun-streaming window. It was extreme to the extent that I couldn’t see the waitress who attended our table except in silhouette. As HB and I were chatting, (for chatting, read, HB was correcting my manifold misconceptions about everything), I pulled out my 500D with 40mm pancake lens on and HB and I spent a few minutes trying to get a picture I was happy with. HB looked at each exposure in-between shots and acted a bit like a grown-up portrait subject in that she was slightly interested in the effects of her poses. After 5 shots, this was my favourite; it wasn’t her best, it was one of two in which she covered the food around her mouth! I placed the bright sun behind her, and of course used the pop-up flash to fill her face from the front.

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What was particularly interesting was the very organic way I was playing with Lightroom to post-process the image. It was fun to shift the “clarity” slider and watch the effect; in this case the fascinating observation that a 3 year old has nothing to fear from the sharpening effect on the skin! Sliding the “saturation” until the eyes suddenly seemed to “pop”. Deciding to use the paintbrush tool to remove all colour from the image except her eyes. The realisation then that the warm brown of her eyes was too mismatched against the monotone of the desaturated image and then reintroducing a brown hue to the rest like a slightly sepia treatment. The hue isn’t really noticeable, however, it lets HB’s eyes sit more naturally in the (admittedly stylised and playful) image.

I am tempted to try these “recording my Lightroom” session posts for viewers interest. Would that be of interest to anyone?

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