Quick! Grab the Camera…

Hello readers

Well yesterday evening was a turn up for the books I can tell you. There I was, just sat with my wife on the sofa, minding my own business, when the sky and clouds out the front window started to bubble up. The light started to change and I just sit there, my head on a stick, bobbing this way and that trying to scope out those skies.

The weather had been pretty pants all day, with fairly persistent rain, flat over-cast light and just, well, nothing conducive to good photography. So when all this blew away towards the evening I didn’t expect it to change too much. Eventually, I got more excited and stood up and looked out the window. I became even more excited as I looked to the left and could see what the clouds were doing and how the setting sun’s light was lighting them up with bright whites, pinks and steely greys; perfect. I love clouds me, as long as they’re not erm, low-stratus, blocking all views of anything even remotely mountainous. They can really make a picture. I ran up the stairs, grabbed the camera and tripod and (almost) sprinted up to the back field. I don’t sprint, so much as jog casually.

And as there was little wind, I figured I could get some HDR work done too. If it’s too windy, merging the same image multiple times can create a problem, as each exposure, the clouds will be in a different place to the previous exposure, so when they are merged together, this creates what is known as ‘ghosting’ (poor alignment). Photoshop can fix this fairly well, as can Photomatix Pro but it’s better if you can avoid it altogether.

So, my first image is a panorama from aforementioned back field (that is actually an old land fill, which is nice, but nobody has died yet from toxic poisoning). It has been stitched together in Photoshop from ten portrait exposures, saved as a TIFF file then edited in Lightroom; this is my current work flow.

From here we can see up into Cwm Llafar with the Carneddau mountains rear. Centre right is up towards the Nant Ffrancon valley and the Glyders. I added quite a bit of clarity to really punch out the clouds.
From here we can see up into Cwm Llafar with the Carneddau mountains rear. Centre right is up towards the Nant Ffrancon valley and the Glyders. I added quite a bit of clarity to really punch out the clouds. To the right is one of the largest and still functioning slate quarries in the world, Penrhyn. Also home to the new Zip World zip wire, that is 1km long.

For those of you that like doing crazy but exciting things and are not afraid of flying along up to 100mph and 500ft above a lake/void, you can visit Zip World on your next visit. Be sure to check out the videos. You might want to check it’s open first, as our weather here is notoriously bad/windy and the owner won’t allow people on it if they are flapping around like clothing on a washing line…

I was also amused by the following picture, as the cloud above the mountain of Yr Elen appears to be pouncing on it, as if to eat it. Hey, that’s how it looks to my eyes!

Mmm, nom-nom. Giant rocky, goodness.
Mmm, nom-nom. Giant rocky, goodness.

It’s a good idea when photographing in good light to turn around now and again, as otherwise you may miss something that you wished you’d caught (ah, but how do you know you’d have wished it, if you hadn’t seen it?…hehe 😀 )

Although the following picture isn’t spectacular by any stretch, I still liked the look of the clouds and the colours and how each ‘group’ appears to be going in opposite directions. This is an HDR image, merged together from five exposures, with automatic and manual ghosting correction applied. It was actually darker than this, which is one reason why shooting bracketed exposures (a number of shots of the same composure, taken at different apertures, or basically, how much light the camera lets in) is such a good idea, as you can pull up all the shadows; it gives you such a wide dynamic range (the difference between lights and darks) and as long as you edit the file in TIFF format, you have so much data to play with:

Looking south west towards the hillside viallge of Mynydd Llandegai and the hill Moel y Ci, on the right.
Looking south west towards the hillside village of Mynydd Llandegai and the hill Moel y Ci, on the right.

There was literally a few minutes now before the sun set, but I wanted wait until it was just starting to dip below the clouds, so I could get a shot with a beautiful, orange sky with the rays of the sun slanting down over the top of the cloud. I purposely decreased the exposure in the foreground to give more of a silhouette and to provide stark contrast between the colours. And yes, it really was this orange. Again, this is HDR:

Absolutely stunning.
Absolutely stunning.

As the sun sank below the clouds, any remaining light was being cast on a very large bank of cloud that was swooping from west to east over my head. It reminded me of the scene in Independence Day, where Jeff Goldblum witnesses the gigantic spaceship appearing from out of the cloud; one of my favourite movie moments and copied ever since (just like The Matrix…ahem). This is an HDR shot, so that I could get as much range out of the image as possible:

Love it.
Love it.

I took one final shot of this cloud bank, but zoomed in for a closer look:

I pumped up the clarity to improve the detail.
I pumped up the clarity to improve the detail, but didn’t want to over-do it.

I could have made all my HDR shots much more enhanced, but then they would not have looked as natural. However, I may have a play later and apply some tone-mapping, and upload for you so’s to demonstrate the difference.

EDIT: I completely forgot to add the final picture. This is a shot I randomly took after getting back in the house of our cat, ‘Catface’. It’s not her real name, but I took it from this, which I find extremely amusing, especially his voice:

Anyway, for those of a nervous disposition or a fear of evil denizens, look away now:

I kill you.
I kill you.


Thanks for looking today guys.



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