Bridgewater Canal, Lymm / by Neil Alexander

Autumn sunset over Bridgewater Canal, Lymm, Cheshire (Click for larger)

Last weekend I was over in Lymm by the Bridgewater Canal just before sunset where I made the photograph above. It wasn't quite as still as this initially looks. It was actually a little breezy, but I wanted a silky smooth feel to the water for this, so I popped on my Singh Ray variable neutral density filter and dialed it about half way in. This combined with a polariser to get the most out of the reflections in the water gave me a 2 second exposure which was perfect for smoothing out the ripples in the water. I then shot 3 bracketed frames and tone-mapped these in Photomatix. Now I'm not sure whether it's just my filters ( I really ought to look after them better considering how much the bloody things cost), but whenever I make long exposures with my ND's and then tone-map them, it looks like somebody spat pretzels all over the lens. Click on the crop bottom left and you'll see what I mean. It probably cost me an hour or more to fix this in post, and to be honest it still needs a little more work. Annoyed.

Anyway, that resolved I then added a little grad over the sky in Lightroom and began work on the moon. That same day, a little later with the moon about to set (it was particularly large in the sky) I grabbed a few frames of the moon only (see bottom right). This is actually quite a close crop as the longest glass I have is 200mm, but it served my purposes. This was made at sunset. The sky was still quite blue, but I exposed for the light of the moon (1/500 sec at F2.8) which perfectly exposed the moon and left me with a completely black sky - much easier to lasso in Photoshop.

Next I opened up the top image and the shot of the moon as layers in Photoshop and proceeded to mask the moon in, cloning out the moon that was in the image originally which was much higher in the sky, and thus smaller at that time. Following still? I added a little horizontal grad and toned the colour of the moon layer a little to replicate the orange/red light from the setting sun.

wpid17500-Neil_Alexander-01-590x392.jpg

Not bad for an afternoon's work, I hope you'll agree. Any questions on the process, feel free to hit me up in the comments.

Now off to clean those damn filters.......