Tag: monochrome

20 Jun

Exorcising the Dunstall Castle Ghosts

On a family visit up to Worcestershire, I got the urge to get out and about with the camera. Scanning the OS maps, I settled on Dunstall Castle, a late 18th / early 19th century folly just a few miles from Upton on Severn on the Croome Court estate. This place used to give me the creeps in a “Dr Who, behind the sofa” way when I was a kid. When Mum & Dad drove home the “back way” from my Gran’s house, they would go over a small hill, come around a corner, and the spooky “castle” would come into view. Somehow its derelict state, and position on a small back road at the side of the common would put the shivers down my spine.

No such effect now – but then I am 35 years older.

It was a showery day, with stormy clouds moving quickly across the sky, and I thought it would make for a good long exposure shot with the 10-stopper. When I parked the car, I left Helen inside. Young Connor had just fallen asleep and Helen said I should wander off for a few minutes to get my shot. Well, it was difficult, with telephone wires crossing the road right in front of the structure, and the road passing right by, to find a decent composition. I wandered around and found my inspiration fading away, especially as I got caught in a shower.

I managed to set up shop directly opposite, and under the wires for my long exposure. If I got down low enough, the foreground grass might block out the road. A three-minute exposure later, and the LCD screen told me I might have something to work with.

That shot in the bag, I wandered off with the camera and tripod seeking out some unique viewpoints for straight shots. A small path worn into the grass near the folly itself tempted me into some wide-angle shots with the path as lead-in and the clouds as a backdrop. I quickly got into “excited mode” and rattled off tons of shots from several angles. Just as I thought I was getting a bit “click happy” I went back to the car to find a none too pleased wife telling me that I’d been gone for an hour and twenty minutes. Whoops. But I think the photographic mojo is definitely back.

And I’m not scared of this place any more.

Three Minute Exposure, Dunstall Castle

Dunstall Castle

05 Apr

I’m Liking Silver Efex

Somebody recently recommended Nik Software’s Silver Efex to me for producing monochrome images. Well, I thought, the last thing I want is to buy yet another expensive plugin to layer on top of already purchased expensive software but, being a curious type, I went to the Nik website and downloaded the 15 day demo. Three days in and I’m loving it, and am already not looking forward to next Saturday when it stops working.

Using the software via Photoshop is simple, presenting itself as an option on the Filter menu. Once loaded, there are a number of easy presets on the left hand side of the screen which range from dark to light effects, subtle to garish, soft to harsh. I’ve found that it takes a little time to calculate updates when a preset is selected but on balance this is a small price to pay. In the middle of the screen is the image preview itself, while on the right is the full control set with global settings for Brightness, Contrast, and something called Structure which seems similar to the mid-tone contrast of the Lightroom Clarity control. There are also local settings, using what Nik calls u-points but I’m finding these harder to get to grips with, as I’m used to applying grad filters not circular adjustments. Film grain and coloured filters can also be applied globally, with finishing effects such as vignettes and borders also available.

I’ve only really had a cursory play so far, but I’m really liking the tonal range it gives me without encountering some of the monochrome conversion artifacts I always seem to produce in Photoshop. It could be argued that I’ve been a bit broad brush with my experimenting so far, having been seduced by the effects on offer, but I’m really really liking it. Whether I’ll like it enough to part with cold hard cash after another 12 days is another matter though ….

Rows of cloud above a row of beach huts at Walberswick, Suffolk. Processed with Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro 2
04 Apr

Megalithic Scorhill

Back in February, we took a family trip to Scorhill (pronounced scoril) stone circle on the Eastern edge of Dartmoor. The photos have lingered on my hard drive ever since, until a friend recommended Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro software for doing monochrome conversions. It seems an incredibly powerful piece of software and makes monochrome conversions a breeze. These two photos are my first attempts at playing (admittedly without too much thought) with the 15 day free demo. I’ve deliberately processed them dark to accentuate the wildness of the moor.

Whether I can afford, or justify, the 160 quid to take the software beyond 15 days is another matter, but I think I would have found this very useful for my mono picture a week challenge last year.