Ambleside, the Lake District / by Neil Alexander

View up The Struggle in the Lake District on an Autumn morning (Click to view larger)

Last week I made it up to the Lake District again, and although this time I was up there for less than 24 hours, it proved quite a productive trip. The light on the evening I arrived was good. Not great, but workable. I'd clambered half way up a hillside overlooking Derwent Water getting a few decent images on the way, but my primary goal was to capture a dramatic sky over the peaks on the other side of the lake as the sun went down, but alas it was not to be. I waited and waited until it was nearly dark, having left my coat and torch in the car and then had to blindly stumble down the hill in a very cold wind and near darkness without breaking my neck or suffering from exposure. The next morning didn't look like I was going to fare much better. Out of my B'n'B before dawn I could barely see my hand in front of my face it was that misty. Worse once I was up "The Struggle" on the way to the Kirkstone Pass. Here and there the mist lifted a little, so I shot a little, capturing some nice eery misty scenes but eventually I gave up and headed back for a good ol' Cumbrian breakfast. As I was finishing my coffee whilst reading the paper on my iPad I realised that I was having to shield it from the sunlight - the mist was lifting and the sun was making an effort to break through the clouds. That was my cue. I grabbed my gear, thanked my hosts and headed back up into the hills again. By this time, there was quite a bit of drama beginning to unfold in the clouds after the previous day's blue sky. Here and there the sun was poking through and then disappearing again. Almost perfect! I really couldn't have asked for much more. Well maybe it didn't have to be quite so windy and cold. I would find a scene, set up and wait for the sun to come into the frame and light a part of the landscape, shoot and move on. This I did quite successfully three or four times running, with the sunlight arriving in my photograph almost as if I had summoned it. And almost as soon as I'd captured the scene as I wanted it, the sun would disappear behind the clouds again. This is exactly how it happened for the scene above.

And to the processing. After listening to Martin Bailey's podcast on Nik's Colour Efex pro 4, I felt obliged to download it and give it a whirl and see if it really was much of an improvement on version 3 for myself. I was pleasantly surprised and used it to great success on this image. I made this photograph with a 3 frame HDR, though I was being lazy and hand holding, so the +1 stop exposure is soft and I had to discard it. So it's really just two frames merged in Photomatix Pro. But it was sufficient, fortunately. I then opened up the tonemapped image in Colour (sorry, color) Efex Pro and added a couple of different styles, and little selective toning. I love the result. Below is one of the original exposures straight out of the camera, dust spots and all (I really must get my sensors cleaned), so that you can see how much difference a bit of an effort in post processing can make. More posts to come from this shoot methinks, and I'll put some of them up on my Lake District gallery in due course.

Unprocessed - View up The Struggle in the Lake District on an Autumn morning