Another trip to Blea Tarn / by Neil Alexander

Back in February I was up in the Lakes again with the sole purpose of making pretty pictures. Alas, the light was not for playing really. I still did my utmost to come away with something usable though. The image above has come to be one of my favourites from the trip and I thought I'd give you an idea how and why I did what. Before I go on, if you want to try the same location for yourself, it's here 54°25'46" N 3°5'27" W.

So first up, the taking of the original photograph. The hotel I was staying in (I'm not the type that'll camp in February!), the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel is only a couple of miles round the other side of the tarn and down a hill from here so I was easily here long before sunset to set up, compose and wait. Civil twilight was 6:42 with sunrise around 30 minutes later. 

I'd set up both tripods with a Nikon on each. One with a Sigma 10-20mm and the other with my Nikkor 17-55mm, both opened up fairly wide and waited for something to happen. And waited. Sunrise came and went, and all that occurred was a lot of moving around of some huge very grey clouds, and little else. There were occasional glimpses of obscured sunlight on the tops of the fells, but nothing to write home about. I made several photographs using slightly different compositions, but I knew pretty much what I was looking for, so didn't move too far. 

 

The resulting image below was a 4 second exposure at F11 made with my Singh Ray Warming Polariser and a Lee ND Grad filter. 

This is the initial Silver Efex black and white conversion of the image immediately above.

This is the initial Silver Efex black and white conversion of the image immediately above.

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Once back home and downloaded into Lightroom, I made a bunch of changes. You can see the LR development history pane to the right here. As always with shooting long exposures with a variety of filters, I had a few dust spots to remove. Once I'd done this, I opened the DNG file up in Silver Efex Pro and performed a black and white conversion - the results of which are above. Returning to Lightroom, I then tweaked a bit further primarily trying to bring out the rocks in the foreground a bit more along with the area in the middle ground, the far shoreline and above. I also brought down the highlights in the water quite a bit.  Silver Efex's work on the sky I felt was just right.

Looking at the image further still, I have to say that I find the piece of floating wood above the rock to the left rather distracting. I think that'll be coming out. I have absolutely no qualms digital removing unnecessary intrusions into my photographs particularly if they distract the viewer's eye. However unless I'm specifically performing a composite, then adding things into an photograph in post-production is a strict no-no for me.  

And that's pretty much all there was to it. No magic. No fairy dust. Just lots and lots and lots of practice. 

You'll be unsurprised to learn that the rest of the trip was a complete washout. Other than a rather lively trip half way up and down Helvellyn on my trusty pushbike through the snow, it was a complete grey washout, but them's the breaks right?