A fairly short walk experimenting with my 70-300 mm lens within a forest, which can be difficult with so much getting in the way. In the first image I had a clear view of maybe 100 meters and used it to create this image. It was made stacking three individual pictures to make it sharp front to back. I had to hurry as it was pretty windy and the sunlight between the trees kept coming and going.
The second image is just an example of the nice bokeh effect that I can achieve with the 70-300 mm. Nothing spectacular. And last, a fence that I have shot many times before, but never quite as succesfully. For some reason, fence images often turn out better when you use a long zoom.
Friday offered a welcome change from my several recent trips into the forest. My workplace had decided to spend an afternoon touring the local Fredensborg Castle and its surrounding garden. For security reasons we were not allowed to photograph inside the castle, because the Queen actually uses it during much of the year. Same goes for the part of the garden that we visited, but here there was no photo ban. So that actually was a great opportunity for some pretty unique images.
Unfortunately, I had not brought my own camera, but it didn't matter too much. Instead I used my workplace's camera, a Lumix G80 that is more than adequate. The only problem was that I don't know it as well as my own camera, so I shot on auto mode for most of the time. Still, the result was very pleasing. The two first images are from the private garden, which is open to the public only in July, and the last one is from the royal orangery.... a beautiful and unique building in itself.
The other night I got on my bike and rode deep into the forest to do some shooting at an enclosure named Ulvedalen. Ulvedalen translates to Wolf Valley, which sounds dramatic, but there really are no wolves. I don't know if there ever were. In return, there are foxes... or rather, their gloves. Foxgloves. The most magical clearings full of purple and white foxgloves. This was absolutely delightful for a photographer. I unfolded my tripod and got to work, thinking these images would be stellar.
They were not.
This is what one of the better images looked like straight out of the camera:
Now, there's nothing unusual about a RAW image looking less than amazing without at least a few enhancements, but this? What a horrendous mess! Looks like someone sprayed youghurt on the camera lens.
I was not pleased and almost marked it "Rejected". This was nothing like I remembered the scene. Where was the magic that I had felt when I was standing there? The whole scene had been so spellbinding that even the risk of having to ride my bike home through a pitch dark, unknown forest hadn't been enough for me to quit shooting. And now it looked like it had all been for nothing. Not even my usual arsenal of post-processing tricks did anything to improve things. I needed to completely rethink my editing in order to save this disaster.
Well, the first thing the image needed was a good cropping. The center of the image actually hid a pretty good composition, with the curved leading line of foxgloves disappearing into the background. In return, all the dead branches that, on the scene, I'd thought constituted a wonderful foreground had to go. Not so with the tree stub on the right and the thick branches coming out of the ground like some creepy forest monster. Those work really well as a contrast to the pretty flowers.
Thinking back on the scene, I remembered it as being much darker and with the foxgloves drawing all the attention like little, colorful lanterns. That's what I needed to recreate. The background behind the trees, in particular, needed to be all but eliminated with some serious darkening. In fact, everything in between the foxgloves needed to be darker and much more contrasty to the bright foxgloves. Plenty of Orton effect in Luminar and darkening brushes in Lightroom were among the tools I used to ensure that. The foxgloves themselves, which I remembered as being very purple and beautiful, and not the rather pale shade of the RAW image, also needed lots of work. I not only saturated them, but also brightened them - to make them seem almost glowing - with a tool I hadn't used much before: Color Efex Pro, which is part of the old Nik tools collection.
Finally, in order to make the image less messy, I had to remove several stray foxgloves here and there. Same thing with a few branches that were working against the general front-to-back direction of the image. This is the final result:
Phew... it's been a long time since I worked this hard on one image, but I really wanted a reminder of that beautiful evening. And I think I managed that quite well. It's quickly becoming one of my favorite shots of the month of June. For me it's a great example of the difference between what the camera sees and records and what your brain remembers.
The above image may not be how it actually looked and what was captured by the camera lens, but, by God, it is much closer to what I felt while standing there. And to me, that counts above everything else. So let this also be an illustration of 1) how I do not have any ethics when it comes to how much you are "allowed" to change an image in order to make it look the way you want it to - none.- and 2) apparently I do not have the photographic skills to make an image look right coming out of the camera. I rely a lot on my post-processing skills.
Do I have a problem with that? No. Does that make me less of an artist? Some would say yes. I choose to say no. (Not that I necessarily am one to begin with, but that's another discussion.)
A return to the location of my ill-fated trip in May. This place had so much potential that I had to see it in better light, so I straddled my bicycle after dinner and rode deep into the forest on this beautiful summer evening. Not only was the dull light replaced with beautiful golden hour sunshine, the free-roaming cows I had met last time had been replaced with free-roaming horses. Another highlight was the blooming foxgloves growing between the pine trees. But they were difficult to capture. The image included at the bottom didn't come easy.
I haven't been doing a lot of serious picture taking so far this summer. It's been a combination of bad weather and good weather. Good weather meaning clear blue sky, which equals uninteresting backgrounds in general and sunsets in particular.
But last Sunday evening the perfect conditions were suddenly present. Lots of clouds, but also lots of sun in between the clouds, promising a beautiful sunset. Additionally, there was absolutely no wind. This is important when shooting in low-light conditions when you need exposures of maybe up to 1/2 second and you don't want wavy grass or moving leaves turning into blurry spots.
So off I went, over to a location I've gone to many times before: the Strødam area. Despite its beautiful lake and green surroundings, it's not the easiest place to shoot. Most of it is fenced off. You have to stick to a path, and in most places, dense vegetation prevents you from accessing the lake shore. So most of my pictures in the past were kind of blah.
But on this evening I was determined to crack the nut called Strødam and get some quality sunset shots. I quickly realized, however, that that wasn't going to happen sticking to the official path. So I did what all serious photographers have to do once in a while: I trespassed. I jumped the fence, determined to chase the sunset, which I could tell would be on the other side of a ridge in the middle of the fenced area.
So into the fenced area I went. No one came out of the woods to yell at me, and I was not attacked by angry wildlife. Still, I felt brave as a Navy Seal.
Fortunately, my bravery was rewarded. Reaching the top of the ridge, a dream scenery manifested itself below me: a herd of cows peacefully grazing on a meadow, a calm lake, and all of it shrouded in a purple and orange sunset with the sun having almost disappeared behind a tree line.
Over the next 30 minutes I took dozens of pictures of varying exposures, ISO and f-values. I moved closer a few times to make sure I didn't miss anything. I was certain this scenery was a slam-dunk and that I was shooting the pictures of my life!
And, well, it's not that I'm unhappy with the result, but I'm just not completely happy either. A better foreground would have been nice for starters, but the main problem is that it's just not as sharp as I would have liked it to be. I don't know if it's my camera, my lens, or my skills that leave something to be desired, but those cows should have had a lot more details.
One of the best pictures was taken as I was leaving the area. A few cows had moved over to where I had been moments before, so I stopped and got a few shots off before I retreated, afraid the cows might start chasing me (so much for being a Navy Seal). Again, it should have been sharper, but the motif is kind of pretty.
In the end, my own favorite shots of the night were not of cows or lakes. I really like this one of the purple flowers under a purple sky. Sure, the purple has been enhanced, but it really was an absolutely gorgeous scene.
Finally, just before I left the area, it was time for a self-congratulating selfie. It might have been better without the chubby fellow awkwardly embodying the rule of thirds, but there he is.