St. Peter’s Square, Manchester / by Neil Alexander

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If you’ve been following this blog for more than a few posts, you’ll know that I’m immersed in an A-level photography course at the moment, and I’ve been so focused on it of late, that I felt I needed to get out and shoot something different for a bit of mental exercise.

Lately, I’ve been looking more and more into High Dynamic Range photography and found myself drooling over the work of Brian Matiash. He’s a “commercial architecture photographer, writer, and lover of all things social media” based over the pond in Framingham, Massachusetts and I absolutely adore his work. His modus operandi is to shoot specifically for HDR images with a tilt / shift lens and his blog is just a constant stream of inspiration. I’m also conscious of having neglected my Manchester Calendar for quite some time (The last cheque I got was for a sum total of 2 calendars!), so I figured the next available opportunity, i”d head into Manchester for dawn and have a play.

Typically, after all the beautiful sunrises and sunsets we’ve been having of late, the first available opportunity I get to do this is on what looks like is going to be a typical grey and damp Manchester morning. Armed with a fully laden CompuTrekker AW, my tripod and a flask of coffee, I headed into Manchester around 5am.

I had a pretty good idea in advance of what I was going to try and do, in fact I had two or three specific shots in mind. This is the first. Unfortunately it was clear from pretty early on that the best I was going to get was the occasional glimpse of direct sunlight, but generally the light was going to be diffused, soft and cold.

For this image, taken around 20 minutes after sunrise (about 10 to 6), I tried shooting St. Peter’s Square from the very end of the tram platform with the Sigma 10-20mm F4/5.6 right out at 10mm with a 7 stop bracket of a 1/20 exposure. I then processed the image in Photomatix. Unfortunately, as I don’t have the pleasure of owning one of Nikon’s stunning tilt/shift lenses, I ended up with a whole bunch of converging verticals.

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I just felt that I had to open up the image in Photoshop and apply a little “verticalisation” to it – looks a whole heap better if you ask me – my eye certainly didn’t see it and think “but those converging verticals make the scene look so odd”!

Oh, and I used the brilliant new content-aware spot-healing fancyness of CS5 to remove the cone in the foreground.