Black & White

As I stand here alone in Iceland by Neil Alexander

As I stand here alone, in the midst of an ancient sea of fire and brimstone, 
thoughts on the insignificance of life and time fill my mind and simply, it is blown. 

"As I stand here alone"
On the road to Landmannalaugar, Western Iceland

Iceland was amazing. A photographer’s wet dream. I have a great deal of emotional attachment to many, if not all of the images. Even those where I fought tooth and nail (often in vain) to keep my camera, lens front element and less successfully myself, dry still feel very fresh. The emotions the place evoked were so strong. So I’m letting them rest a while. 
I’ve pulled out a few and processed them in a manner that I felt was in keeping with the drama of the environment. Some scenes struggled with contrast though have produced beautiful monochrome images others have colours so vivid I have had to tone them down so as not to make them appear surreal (even though the landscape often was).
So here’s the first. The location was in the interior of Iceland, on the road to Landmannalaugar. The road snakes and winds through the middle of the 600 year old  Laugahraun lava field. The “road” is so rough that rental cars are banned and only 4x4 vehicles are permitted to drive the route.
There is nothing but rough uneven jagged rock as far as the eye can see traversed boldly by the completely linear electricity pylons standing like a monument to man’s fight to continually subjugate nature.


I felt that David Bowie’s Space Oddity was the perfect track to accompany this photograph, but whilst looking for an embeddable mp3 player I stumbled across this rather marvellous remake over on Soundcloud.

"For here 

Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do

Though I'm past
one hundred thousand miles
I'm feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much
she knows”
David Bowie - Space Oddity

Which would you hang on your wall? by Neil Alexander

Available as a 20" x 16" fine art gallery print on  PermajetSmooth Art Silk 300gsm fine art paper for only £49.99. Click here to buy

Man on a bicycle in the delightful Mallorcan town of Puerto Pollença

Help me out here pop pickers. I've been re-visiting some old images with a tool called Topaz Simplify creating some arty interpretations of my photographs. It doesn't work on all, but some I think it really enhances. Check the others out here. So my question to you guys, is which one would you prefer to see hanging on your wall? The Topaz enhanced one on the right, or the black and white interpretation on the right?  
Note: Click on the images above to view larger.

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.

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 10.26.00.png

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?