These were the words that lingered in my mind as I was driving home from work one afternoon.
The weather had forecasted to be “mostly sunny” but I had my doubt if this would remain true at sunset.
After all, it’s the British weather we’re dealing here.
For those who are scratching their head at this point – British weather can change in a split second from sunny to rainy. it’s not unusual to have sunny, raining, hailing and even snowing, all within a few hours. There is literally nothing can surprise me anymore.
While I was contemplating the comfort of my sofa at home and the images I could potentially get If I do go shooting, I recalled an article I read a couple of days ago.
It’s about the 6 things you should never sacrifice no matter what you do for a living.
One of them was sanity.
Reading the article was like reading my life, it cannot be more true. “It’s your life outside of work that keeps you sane” – I remember this line crystal clear.
I’ve decided that I should go out that evening to keep myself sane.
For all the Harry Potter fans out there, this one is for you. It’s one of the filming locations for Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows.
I’ve visited Malham Cove a few times before and have always wanted to go again in the evening for sunset.
A curving amphitheatre shaped cliff formation of limestone, it’s situated in the south of the scenic Yorkshire Dales. You can check out the location on Google Map here.
If you like winding roads and country side, you’ll definitely enjoy the journey to this place. Imagine yourself driving a roaster with an open-top, the wind brushes off and cooling your skin while made balanced by the warmth of the evening sun.
The almost single track road leading to the village of Malham is almost shaded by trees. Driving through the road with the sun light trying to peek through the foliage made it looked like it’s shimmering.
Before I took off, I used The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) to check the direction of the sun light and where I should be to get the most out of my trip.
If you don’t know TPE already, it’s a fantastic free web tool that helps you plan your images. It gives you information on the time of sunrise/sunset, moonrise/moonset and the direction of the light, all coupled with satellite, topography or hybrid map.
Typically, you’ll have to park at the visitor’s car park in the village and walk 20 minutes to the foot of the cliff. You then need to walk up steep stairs for 10 minutes to reach the top of the cliff. But having done some research, I found this spot where you can park and walk 5-10 minutes on flat to Malham Cove.
Bracketing High Dynamic Range
The weather was relatively calm. The sun was bright in the sky with some very slow moving clouds across the sky.
I picked a spot, mounted my camera on the tripod and waited for the sun to set just at the hill. I also wanted to create some texture with the movement of the clouds in the sky by using the Lee Big Stopper. This is to draw the viewers attention towards the sunset.
I took a series of bracketed exposure because of the high dynamic range of the scene. Click here to learn how to use the histogram of your camera to guide you when bracketing exposure.
This is a comparison of the image after blending, but before and after further post-processing.
I routinely use Adobe Lightroom to organise all my images into folders so I can locate them easily in the future.
After selecting -1 and 0 exposure, I opened them in Adobe Photoshop for exposure blending and editing.
I blended the 2 exposure using luminosity masks. Whether you are new to exposure blending or just want a quick revision, here are some articles for you:
- The ultimate guide to digital exposure blending
- A simplified explanation of how luminosity masks work
- Exposure blending in landscape photography
Here is a list of what I did in further post-processing after blending the 2 exposure together:
- Frequency separation to remove the lens flare
- Applying a radial blur filter to the clouds to simulate long exposure
- Tonal adjustment layer with Levels via a midtones luminosity mask
- Dodge and burn the foreground to accentuate the shadows and the highlights
- Vibrance and Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to accentuate the colours in the highlights
- Added a tinge of magenta to the sky only
- Painted light bleed to accentuate the sunset
- Added magenta to the overall highlights via a Photo Filter adjustment layer
- A Hue/Saturation layer to reduce the luminosity of the blue sky
- Applied a Nik Color Efex filter for a soft vignette effect
- Overall Curves adjustment layer to give the shadows a greyish look
There were some image manipulation involved in the post-processing and I know this may not suit everyone.
As mentioned before, the weather was relatively calm. I used the Lee Big Stopper in hope to create a long exposure effect for the clouds but it didn’t turn out the way I wanted.
After 2 and even 3 minutes of exposure, the clouds didn’t seem to have moved significantly to achieve the effect. Rather than mourning about it and letting the sun set, I carried on and decide to accentuate the movement in post-processing.
The effect isn’t perfect or realistic enough but it did convey the sense of movement to draw the viewers to the centre of the image.
Some may argue that the colour saturation or vibrancy is a bit too strong. I think this is personal preference and I quite like how the image has turn out to be.
I hope you have enjoyed the run through of the workflow of this image. I also hope you have learned a few things to help you post-process your next image.
Until the next time, shooting sunrise at Malham Cove.