A quick trip to Mars, Lancashire by Neil Alexander


A little detour on a trip back from Lancashire earlier in the week found me at the entrance to the field above just as the sun was setting around 6pm. The countryside around these parts is rather flat and uninspiring and it was hard to find a composition that I liked. So with minutes to go before the sun actually set, I plumped for this. It gave me the hedges on either side as a frame within a frame, and the gate post and puddles as a bit of a foreground accent. Now before you exclaim,"But dude, the grass is red...", yes it is, and I like it like that, thanks.

This image was a 5 frame HDR sequence, and I've included the +2,0 and -2 EV frames straight from camera so you can see a little better why HDR works. The 2 stops over image captures all the detail in the sky, but the hedges are black with no definition whatsoever. The 2 stops under has a completely white and lifeless blown out sky, but the hedges and the foreground are all "properly" exposed. I couldn't have got away with an ND grad filter here either, because the hedges on either side of the frame extend so far up to the top.

So HDR was the only way to go. So the image just below is that sequence tonemapped in Photomatix Pro, which is the main piece of software I use to process HDR sequences. But this is just really the beginning of the processing. Once I have a single tonemapped image, then the fun really begins. Of late my processing toy of choice has been Nik's latest incarnation of Color Efex Pro - version 4. It's a delight to work with, and many of the presets (and there are many) produce some great results. However I try and put a little more effort in than simply applying an off the shelf preset and thinking "job done". The final image above is actually 4 separate filters with different degrees of levels applied and selective use of Nik's amazing U-point technology control point features.

I like the red grass. It's almost poppy-esque, but it's also got a slightly alien feel to it too.

Puddles in a field, New Longton (Click to view larger)

Anyway, as always I'd love to hear your comments and feedback so feel free to hit me up in the box below.



Lydiate Lane Farm, Cuerdon, Lancashire by Neil Alexander

Lydiate Lane Farm, Cuerdon, Lancashire (Click to view larger)

As I was headed up the M6 earlier this week, I decided to come off a couple of junctions earlier than I would normally and see if there was anything that caught my eye. I was specifically looking for old farm machinery and old barns with a particular project in mind. I took a couple of random turns and rather happily stumbled across pretty close to what I was looking for. It was around 10 to 15 minutes after sunrise, and the light was golden and very soft - it would have been perfect for some portraits, but as it was, it was great for my farm too. I shot around 7 or 8 different 5 frame HDR scenes until the light became, what I felt was a little too harsh and then headed off.

Dutch - Lydiate Lane Farm, Cuerdon, Lancashire

I did stick around a little while to see if "Dutch" would make an appearance, whoever or whatever he was, but alas no such luck. Maybe next time.....

I 've added a few other images I made on this particular morning to my Lancashire gallery, which you can find here.

Snowy Cheshire by Neil Alexander

Snowy Massey Ferguson by Neil Alexander

Just a quick post with a couple of images I made on my way home the other night. The M6 was in a state of traffic chaos, so I decided to pull off and try and head home via the back roads. It took me a while, but as the temperature plummeted to -12˚C I found that my tripod legs began to seize up and the zoom on my Olympus EP-1 (my carry around camera) began to get quite stiff.

The first image of the tractor was a rather fortuitous find - I'd pulled up a track to turn around and head back the way I'd come when I stumbled across a dilapidated barn on a farm. The farm was clearly in use, and I was concerned that I was probably on private property. The light was fading fast, and not keen to come across an irate farmer I cranked up the ISO to 1600 and made sure that the Image Stabilisation was enabled. Leaning against a post and breathing calmly, I managed to get a sharp shot at 1/5 sec. Hooray for IS!

Snowy farmhouse by Neil Alexander

The second shot of the farmhouse wasn't quite the image I'd intended to shoot. I'd pulled over as the moon was full and low and large in the sky. I spotted a silhouette of a farm with the moon over it, but with the 14-42mm lens I just didn't have the reach. Turning around I saw this scene with yet more snow clouds approaching from the South. Using my tripod I made this 40 second exposure to try and soften the clouds in the sky, get some car light trails and to try to capture the plume of smoke that was coming out of the chimney of the farmhouse.