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How the image May on the Moor by Simon Plant was created - Award-winning photographer Simon Plant shows us how he created one of his images. See how he plans, shoots and edits his work.
Back at the beginning of 2008 I was approached by one of the galleries who represent my fine art photography to shoot for an upcoming exhibition called Level Light. One of the images which was shot in May and is typical of the way I currently approach location shooting is called "May on the Moor" and here is how I produced it.
These days I normally refer to the internet to gather information about the location I'm planning on shooting. My usual stop is Google Earth which is fantastic for working out the layout of the surrounding area. Some questions it can help with are:
- Can I get my shot of X with the river,tree etc in the foreground?
- Is my best angle likely to be at dawn or Dusk?
- Is there road access or do I have to allow time for a good hike?
Google Earth does not replace visiting the location but it sure helps with the planning and narrowing down areas to visit.
The photo below shows the location I decided to take the photograph in. Which I decided after I visited the location.
|The arrow shows my first location|
By visiting your locations you can discover problems with access or many other obstacles you may find. You can also come away with some unexpected angles and other shots you had not previously visualised.
The last check a day or so before the planned shoot is the weather forecast. Obviously planning for the weather is very important especially if you require sunshine and live in the U.K!
|One of the images shot in the first location.|
With my pre planning complete the alarm went off at 3.45am on the morning of the shoot. I arrived at my first location about 45 minutes before sunrise and set-up to wait and watch the changing light.
With my first shot complete I travelled to my next location which was located in a field full of wild flowers in bloom about a three minute drive away. My proposed location did not match what I expected but I decided to shoot a few frames anyway seeing I had hauled myself and gear all the way across the dew soaked field!
It was on my way back to the car that I turned into the sun and the image appeared. I instantly saw the shot in my mind. What caught my attention about this was the fantastic light and the way it was back lighting the wild flowers. I decided to focus the image on the flowers in the foreground and I did this in two ways. Firstly I set the camera up very low and secondly I set my point of focus on the foreground flower stalks. This allowed the background to blur slightly and concentrated the viewer's attention in the sharper foreground.
Back at the ranch
By 8.00am I was back home off loading the images and drinking my well deserved cup of tea. Once downloaded I weeded out any rubbish, converted from Canon Raw into Adobe DNG and finally I renamed the images. I normally do things in this order although it is tempting to start working on the shots straight away. A good work flow is vital especially key wording and I'd advise you to implement one from day one. You can soon rack up gigs of pictures and finding the ones you want without a good work flow will be no fun at all.
| Raw images straight from the camera.|
You may have noticed from the images (to the right) that there are two images not one. This is because recently I have been shooting more panoramic format images and stitching them together in post production. When shooting like this I'd advise a tripod and a hot shoe spirit level which will help the stitching process.
Some of you probably already know the process of how to stitch images together. But if you don't it's a fairly simple task.
| Finished stitched background layer.|
From Bridge select the 2-3 images you want to stitch then from the menu bar go Tools, Photoshop, Photomerge and this will take you through the process. With your images already in Photoshop you can go File, Automate, Photomerge. If you need a little more help the internet is the perfect place to look, there are plenty of sites that can assist you with Photomerge.
To make sure the stitch was as near perfect as possible I also did a little retouching on a few flowers in the foreground as some had moved between exposures.
Once the stitch was done I could get on with the more creative and fun stuff. First of all I added some selective contrast to the field using a curve adjustment layer and I painted in the contrast with white. On masks "White Reveals and Black conceals" so painting in white revealed the extra contrast in those areas.
| Painting in contrast on a curves mask.|| With curves applied to the field.|
My next step was to add a new sky or at least a faint tint of one to help balance the image. I have a large archive of skies, trees and other bits on file for this very purpose so it was a simple task of finding a sky that had the correct lighting and subtle feel I wanted.
| With the new sky added.|| Final Image.|
At this point I was happy with the result but later on reflection I decided it needed something a little extra to finish the scene. Back in my archive I found the perfect image of a bird which I felt added something special to the image. My final step was to custom sharpen the image. Again I concentrated most of the sharpening on the foreground to hold the viewers attention in this area. Once the sharpening was finished so was my image.
Simon used the following equipment to produce his image:
- Canon EOS 1Ds Mk2 (16.7Mp)
- 28-70mm Canon L Series Lens
- Hotshoe Mounted Spirit Level
Post Production Equipment
- IMac 2.8 GHz
- Adobe Photoshop CS3
- Wacom Graphics Tablet
You can see more of Simon's work by visiting pro photographer insights.