Category Archives: Photography

Turning Day into Night

Last weekend, I was watching some extras for the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away and it was showing the filming of one of the night scenes… in the day. I thought that I might see if i could try the same with a photograph.

A few weeks ago I went out to take an early morning shot of the local church. However, it quickly clouded over and there wasn’t really anything worth taking but I took one anyway. This was at 11mm, so there as quite a bit of distortion.

I thought that this might make a good candidate to turn into a nighttime graveyard scene.

I started in Lightroom and the first thing was to correct the vertical distortion and remove the spots (I really must get my lens cleaned).

To get the night effect, I adjusted the white balance to make the image a lot colder, reduced the exposure and made a few adjustments to the highlights, etc. Click the images below to see the settings that I used.

I then used split toning to make the sky a little deeper blue and the darker grass a little more green.This is already quite a nice moody night looking shot, but I thought it would be better if the lights were on in the church. To do this, requires using Photoshop. SO, right click the image thumbnail in Lightroom and Edit In-> Photoshop.

The plan is to create two layers, the top layer is the image as created above and the background layer is warmer and over exposed. Then edit the top layer mask so that the lower layer shows through where the windows are. That last bit is quite fiddly.

Once open in Photoshop, I added the following adjustment layers:

  • Exposure -set to +5.6
  • Hue/Saturation – hue -144, saturation +27

This gave me an image with orange/yellow windows:

I then duplicated the background layer, placed it on top and added a layer mask.

Next comes the fiddly part, requiring much patience! Zoom in and using the brush tool, paint in black over the windows. This will reveal the warmer and brighter background layer.

Once all of the windows are done, you’ll have something like this. Apparently, it’s not normal for a church to have the tower illuminated, but I’m sure that they would if they want to look pretty at night 😉

Finally, wouldn’t it look better if the moon was out?

Using a photograph of just the moon, add that to a third layer above the other two. It’s best to resize it and cut just the moon from your photograph so that there is no background before adding it to the layer.

Set the layer to “lighten”, which will blend the moon into the sky and add a layer mask. There may be easier ways to do the next bit, but I then opened the original photograph into a new image, made it into greyscale and increased the contrast to emphasise the clouds. I copied a section of this into the moon’s layer mask. To do this, you need to go to “channels” and select the mask before pasting. I moved the mask around until the moon appeared to have some wispy clouds in front of it.

Finally, I saved this and went back to Lightroom. In here, I did a few more exposure tweaks and added two radial filters around the moon. A larger filter had an exposure of +1.39 and a smaller filter an exposure of -1.39. The result is a brighter ring in the clouds around the moon. The final image is shown below:

Thetford Forest

It was the Sunday morning after the end of BST, so as I was awake anyway, I took a little drive into Thetford Forest, despite there being no fog or mist and too much low cloud for a decent sunrise.

I’ve never been able to take any decent woodland photos and it’s something that I want to be able to do, so I used this as a bit of a reconnaissance trip for when the conditions are a bit better.

There are quite a few tricky things with woodland photography is finding a good subject such as an interesting tree or bush, separating it from the background, which is why it’s better to have some fog or mist and exposing the subject which is always quite dark without seriously over exposing the sky.

I drove along a road through the forest where there are a number of places to pull in, so I looked for one near an interesting bit of forest and stopped about 20 minutes before sunrise then had a wander.  I saw quite a few areas that looked very pretty, but not much that would make a nice photograph, maybe with some fog it would have been different.  I eventually came across a nice tree which had turned nicely autumnal against a background of trees which were still green and this separated the tree from the background somewhat.  As there was a reasonable amount of sky in the photograph, I used a graduated filter to darken it by a couple of stops, which helps with over exposing the sky.

I then found an area with a tree and again, the leaves on this tree had turned nicely autumnal.  The sun was also hitting it through gaps in the forest, so the leaves were bright and stood out against the rest of the forest.  It wasn’t until I took a look at the photograph at home that I spotted a nice bag of dog poo that someone had thoughtfully left hanging off one of the branches.  Luckily, Lightroom is pretty good at being able to remove stuff like that!

The last photo was of a small oak (I think) tree next to a birch.  Although both the tree and the background were all green, this one was illuminated by direct sunlight and it stood out against a quite dark background.

After that, I headed back home and had a nap for an hour!

Oxburgh Hall

We had a visit to Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk last weekend.  The Hall was built around 1482 by Sir Edmund Bedingfeld, and is a good example of a late medieval, inward-facing great house.

It was a very windy day (30mph), and the clouds were moving quite quickly, so the first photograph that I took was an 8s exposure at f/11 and with a 10 stop ND filter.

The sun was low but very bright and it was almost impossible to see the camera’s LCD clearly so I composed the shot through the viewfinder before inserting the filter.  I needed quite a wide depth of field, and I couldn’t check the focus by zooming in on the LCD as usual, but as I was using a wide angle lens, The gears in the foreground were about 1.5m from the camera, so I set the focus to 2m.  I shielded the camera from the wind and waited until the speed dropped a little before taking the photo to minimise camera shake.

The next photo was from within a little woodland area and the trees were framing the hall.  I didn’t go for a long exposure as there would have been far too much movement of the branches.  I used a polariser to bring out the contrast in the sky a little and opened aperture up to f/8, waited for the wind to die down a bit and took a shot at 1/60s.


Processing older photos

After uploading a few photos to Trover, I noticed a little line on my profile.  “Range”, it says referring to the distance between the photos.  A challenge!  I’ve been lucky enough to do the occasional bit of personal and work based travel around the world, so I thought I’d try to get my score up.

The thing is, although I’ve been “into” photography for most of my life, it’s really only this year that I’ve actually made any effort to learn how to take better photos.  Also, my previous camera equipment wasn’t particularly high quality:

So, most of the photos that I had were either on film and slightly faded and blurred or with the Fuji Finepix at 3.5Mpx.  Even most of the Nikon photos were shot as JPG, rather than RAW prior to this year.

Nevertheless, I had a go at scanning and processing some film shots and processing some of the Finepix shots in Adobe Lightroom and the results weren’t too bad, considering.

Processing mainly consisted of saturating the faded shots, tweaking the exposure and contrast, sharpening the edges and cropping.

This is part of a photo of a church in Boston reflected in a very shiny building, taken with the Canon EOF-1000f.



I took a few more liberties with some shots as they looked a bit flat.  This involved a few localised colour and light level adjustments.  It’s personal taste, but I think they’re better for it.  This one is from Spain, taken with the Fuji Finepix 4900Z.





End result… I now have a score of 12136 miles 😉

I joined Trover

After many hints from Brendan Van Son on his You Tube Channel, I joined Trover, which is a photography site with the motto “Great experiences trump just about anything you can buy in a store, and you know how to track ’em down”.  I’ve just been dumping quite a few photos on there, including some older ones from my travels over the years.  It’s a great photo site with photos organised by location, so good for people traveling or armchair traveling!

View Geoff MacDonald’s photos on Trover

Another misty morning

This morning wasn’t going to be an epic sunrise, but was nicely misty.  There’s a field of horses nearby and I thought they might make a nice photo in the mist.  So, out I headed to their field.  It was still a bit dark.  And misty.  And it’s a big field.  And so I spent quite a bit of time walking around it all.  And the horses that were there last night weren’t there.  And my walking boots need waterproofing.

Despite the lack of horses, I did get some shots on the walk back.

Early morning mist

It looks like we’ve skipped summer this year and gone straight from late spring into early autumn.  I checked the weather last night and it didn’t look like there would be much in the way of high cloud to get an epic sunrise so I wasn’t planning on going out.  However, I woke up at 4.45am, so I thought I might pop out to see what I could get locally.

I took a walk to a field just a few minutes walk away.  Although it’s close, I’ve not been in there for about 6 months, so I took a wander around to try to find a nice composition.  It’s very flat (which is pretty much the case for a 50 mile radius), but there are a few trees dotted around.  I found one which was “resting”.  I tried a few angles; it was very close to another tree, which didn’t help as it was difficult to get a balanced composition without the branches getting into the shot.  This is the first shot that I got; I like the colours in this one, but not too happy with the composition.

I moved around to the right and got this one which I’m happier with:

Once the colours started to leave the sky, I took a walk to a nearby stream.  Luckily, there was a swan posing for me.

I think I may have a little sleep now!