A personal challenge.

I am not a great photographer. Let’s get that out in the open right from the outset.

I like to think that I am fairly good and can capture nice images of sailing boats doing what sailing boats do. As long as the sun is shinning, the wind is blowing and boats are sailing, then the pictures, sort of, fall into your lap. Fill the frame with boat and the composition takes care of itself for the most part. Provided I have the horizon level and the subject in focus, it’s all good. Rule of thirds? Yeah, if you like.

There’s a bit more to sailing event photography than that of course but I am pretty comfortable in that environment. When it comes to landscape photography however, Ansel Adams I ain’t! My images always seem to be a bit hazy and, without any spray flying, lack interest.

I would like to improve though and I am going to take advantage of being on holiday, close to the banks of a Scottish Loch, to set myself the personal challenge of capturing an image that I can print and hang on my wall at home.

During the process I will be learning some new skills into the bargain. Between throwing tennis balls for Pip of course.

So this morning I took Pip, and tennis ball, for a walk along the loch shore in search of inspiration. After fifty yards and after stepping over several large dead jelly fish I was awash with ideas. Scotland certainly delivers when it comes to landscape opportunities. Wall to wall mountains, water and dramatic skies. Surely I just have to point my camera roughly ninety degrees to the sun and squeeze the shutter release?

Well, that is certainly the way that I have approached landscapes in the past. The results have never been great let alone good enough to hang on a wall. No, this project is going to take some time to plan but at least I have decided on a view.

I want to capture this series of receding mountains from across the water…..

…… with this rock as foreground interest.

I realise that the chances of the bird being in place at the right moment when the picture is taken are remote, but I am patient and have twelve days to get this done. Then again, do I need foreground interest?

With the subject decided I need to get my equipment together. First on list is to select the correct camera and lens. I only had my Nikon D3400 with me today which is a great reconnaissance camera as it is light and small so easy to carry . It produces nice photos but has a cropped sensor which means that the ultimate image quality is not the full deal when it comes to fine art photography. Fortunately I have my Nikon D800 back at the digs. These camera bodies have the reputation of being a great landscape camera with all the light gathering advantage of a full frame sensor. So that will be the body of choice, just as long as It don’t have to carry it too far!

I thought that I also had a wide to medium angle zoom lens that would be ideal. Sadly, when I checked my camera bag, I discovered that I have been a stupid boy and have traveled five hundred miles with a crop sensor lens to put on to my full frame D800 body. Dooh! Clearly, I packed in a hurry but this could scupper my plan before it begins. The problem is that if I use that lens on the camera in full frame mode I will get the effect that Hollywood directors use to imply an actor is looking through a telescope.

To compensate I can use my D800 in cropped mode to remove the extreme vignette, but this means a reduction in the size that I can print the image. Or should I use my D3400 to get maximum pixel density? Is that important?

Tomorrow will give me a clue with my first opportunity to size the composition up and I can take a couple of test shots with each body to see which is going to give the best result. That will be a great learning experience in itself.

I have my tripod with me so I should be able to eliminate any camera shake.

Then come the clever bits. There’s the question of depth of field. Can I get everything from the foreground rock to the background mountain into sharp focus? 

Do I need to?

If so should I use focus stacking or rely on a very small aperture? 

And exposure. I am hoping for a dramatic sky and will need to set my exposure for that but will I end up with a very dark mountain if I do?

Graduated neutral density filter perhaps?

Should I stack the exposure too?

Is it even possible to stack exposure and focus at the same time?

So many questions! I’ll have to sleep on it. 

Another practical consideration is that I’m going to need my wellies as to get the two compositional elements lined up will require me wading into the water or waiting for the tide to go out. Fortunately it is a sea loch so waiting for the water level to drop is an option.

So, until tomorrow then here’s another photo of Pip. Without a tennis ball this time (rare)

Please follow me over the next few days to see what that all means and find out if I can capture an image worth printing and hanging on my wall. Please also feel free to comment. Any critique and suggestions will be gratefully received.

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