Steve Gosling’s 3 P’s of landscape photography

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Frozen_Final_Image_1280x1280

This loch sits on the edge of Rannoch Moor – a vast expanse of open land that I frequently cross on my way to Glencoe and beyond to the Scottish highlands and islands.

Adds to the challenge

This area on the west of Scotland has become one of my favourite parts of the UK for landscape photography. It’s a rugged, wild landscape that I find very inspiring. It can also be an incredibly frustrating place to work – the weather is very changeable (as mentioned in a previous post, they say in Scotland that if you don’t like the prevailing weather then just wait twenty minutes as it will inevitably change).

But that adds to the challenge and makes it all the more rewarding when everything comes together in a successful photograph.

The three P’s of landscape photography

When I am running photographic workshops or giving talks I often refer to the three P’s of landscape photography:

 

  • Planning – to work out the right time of day and year to be at a specific location (with reference to sun/moon position, the presence or absence of foliage on the trees, tide times etc) as well as keeping an eye on weather forecasts to increase the chance of getting a successful photograph;
  • Patience – as all landscape photographers know, rarely are we able to just turn up at a location, get out the camera and take a wonderful image. The old adage, ‘if you’ve seen it, you’ve missed it’ normally applies. My usual approach is to set up the camera, fine- tune the composition and then wait for the light, weather conditions, cloud formations and so on to come together in a way that supports what I want to say about the location (based most importantly on what I feel about the location, not just what I see). This requires a lot of patience – I frequently spend hours standing around waiting for all the elements to coincide to give me what I’m after. And of course success is far from guaranteed – going home empty handed is not uncommon.
  • Persistence – which brings me to the final ‘P’. Revisiting locations is part of the job – sometimes I’ll keep returning to a location over a period of years before I get a photograph that I’m completely happy with.

 

And that is certainly true of Loch na h’Achlaise. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been to this spot and up until my last trip (when this image was taken) I’ve previously taken only one photograph that got close to reflecting the nature and the spirit of the place.

“Then I had my shot”

On this visit the loch was frozen, the distant mountains were covered in snow and an interesting cloud filled sky sat above them. I set up and waited. Luckily as the day was drawing to a close (and as I was beginning to fear that this would be another wasted visit) the sun broke through the cloud and gently illuminated the mountaintops. I had my shot.

 

The RAW file below showed that I had managed to record all the required detail in shadows & highlights and also revealed the potential for a successful colour image as well but that’s for the future. My first interest was to get a Black & White print.

RAW file 0567

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog I like to get a good quality colour file as a starting point for the conversion process to monochrome.

I began by cropping the image to remove the edges of the frame and concentrate attention on the distant mountains.

I then used the exposure tools (in this case Levels and the Contrast slider) to brighten the image, particularly in the highlights, again to draw attention to the light on the mountains.

I also increased clarity and structure to enhance the detail in the foreground stones (these can be seen in the screen grab below and the result is in ‘the Final Colour Image’ also below)

Screen-Grab-Basic-Adjustments-Hi-Res

Final Colour Image 0567

The next step was the conversion to B&W. For this image I again used one of the presets available as a download for Capture One Pro 7 from Capture One Complete.

Screen-Grab-B&W-Conversion-Hi-Res

In this case I used ‘B&W Style 7′ - although I’ll usually look at the effects of using the other styles and presets, this remains one of my favourites. As is my way I use these as a starting point and then I fine-tune the result to suit my own vision and adapt them for each individual image.

I then added a vignette to darken the corners and adjusted the exposure curve to alter the contrast and lift the midtones.

Screen-Grab-Vignette-and-Curves-Adjustment-Hi-Res

The penultimate step was to darken the sky through the use of a gradient local adjustment layer,

Screen-Grab-Sky-Adjustment-Layer-Hi-Res

before cloning out dust marks, sharpening and then exporting for printing.

Frozen Final Image 0567Image Title: ‘Frozen’

 

Location:     Loch na h’Achlaise, Rannoch Moor, Scotland

Equipment:  Alpa TC Camera, Schneider 36mm lens, Phase One P45+ digital back, Gitzo tripod with Manfrotto 410 geared head, Lee 0.6 stop ND graduated and 6 stop ND filters

Exposure details:   f22, 1mins 29secs, ISO 50

 

All the best,

Steve Gosling

 

 

Steve Gosling

Steve Gosling

Steve Gosling is an award winning photographer based in the UK, who is also running workshops in the UK and overseas. See more of his images and read about his workshops at www.stevegoslingphotography.co.uk or by emailing him at steve@stevegoslingphotography.co.uk

28 thoughts on “Steve Gosling’s 3 P’s of landscape photography

  1. David

    Hi Steve,
    A well put together piece. i particularly like the PPP.. The reverse being true in terms of Performance..

    I’ve long been a fan of Capture One but have found the ingestion of my image library tone far too tedious and have stuck with Sessions. [I have digitised much of my transparency archive – 70k plus images makes heavy going for C1 V7.x, while V6.x ran like a train.

    One thing I really do love is ‘Levels’ in C1. Simply amazing..

    I will study your piece in more detail. Thank you for sharing it!

    Regards

    Dave

    Reply
  2. Juerg

    why did you shoot this image with a 6 stop ND filter and using a long exposure of 90 sec? Couldn’t be the same achieved by no filter and about 1 sec exposure (using same aperture f22) but with better IQ (since a filter does not improve IQ but the contrary…)?
    It seems to me that there is virtually no movement from the water or anything else which would require such long exposures..
    But I like the image, no doubt…
    regards,
    Juerg

    Reply
      1. Steve Gosling

        Roberto – exactly right; I wanted to get that movement in the sky.

        Juerg – You’re right; there was certainly no movement in the water as it was frozen solid. If it hadn’t been then I would have hesitated to use the long exposure and would have had to consider the advantages of a long exposure (movement in the sky) against the disadvantages (a loss of the reflection in the loch). Sometimes landscape photography is about the acceptance of the least damaging compromise but in this case I was able to get both aspects (sky and water) just as I wanted them.

        Thanks to the two of you for taking the time to comments and for your positive feedback about my photograph.

        Reply
  3. Ian Scovell

    The last P should have been for PARKING. This scene lies opposite a laybay at the side of the road & remains along with Buchaille Etive Mor one of the most photographed images in Scotland. Even the tourist coaches stop here so everyone can take a photo.

    This Phase One system needs to be tested on a mountain top in Winter. Phase ONE – give me a call & I’ll show you what I mean !

    Reply
  4. Rob

    Hi Steve,
    A great inspirational image, I live in Snowdonia and will using your methods and workflow for my next image making session. Just acquired the Lee Big Stopper after months of waiting and can`t wait to use it on the stunning Snowdonia scenery.
    Many thanks,
    Rob.

    Reply
  5. David

    A great shot, Steve, and the detailed explanation was enlightening – as was your response to Juerg and Roberto.
    I’m wondering about something else. Do you do your own printing?
    I shot a coastal landscape with a similar rocky beach a couple of years ago, and have had it printed on canvasses of different sizes four times so far, for family. But I don’t do my own printing and each print came out in different color tones, only half of them to my satisfaction. Printing in black and white can reduce that problem, but not eliminate it.

    Reply
  6. Ian

    Fabulous Loch Photograph, my favorite Loch is Loch Leven. You mentioned in the Phase One article about the lighting of the subject. My favorite website that is magic when planning a shoot is

    http://www.photoephemeris.com

    Just punch in the address or whatever, a simple name, like “Bodiam Castle” will produce all the info a photographer could ever wish for.

    Great work.

    Ian

    Reply
  7. Steve Gosling

    Thanks Rob

    Glad that you like the photograph.

    You live in a fantastic part of the world and somewhere you can certainly make the most of that Big Stopper!

    All the best

    Steve

    Reply
  8. Steve Gosling

    Hi David

    Thank you for your kind comment about my photograph.

    I do most of my own printing and then for larger prints I use a professional printer who takes great care to ensure that the finished product meets my requirements. To help this process I make sure that my screen is calibrated (so what I see is what the pro printer sees on his calibrated screen) and I also give him an A4 test print as back up so he knows what I expect the final print to look like. It also helps that he’s located less than a mile from me so I can be on hand if there are any specific problems.

    And trust me – B&W can be as difficult to print correctly as colour!

    Cheers

    Steve

    Reply
  9. Steve Gosling

    Hi Ian Scovell

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Unfortunately I can’t agree with the implications of your comment though. Firstly that only photographs that have involved physical effort have any value. As I frequently tell my workshop participants the viewer of the final photograph doesn’t care how much effort you had to put in to get to a location or how much physical hardship you’ve suffered to get the shot. All they care about is the photograph in front of them.

    Secondly the fact that a scene has been well photographed doesn’t undermine the value of any single photograph of it. Each photographer will bring their own skill & vision to apply (and we’re all unique in that respect) and the location is different every time (as I said in the post – I’ve been back to this location many times and I can’t repeat what I’ve done before let alone what any other photographer may have done there.

    And from personal experience I can vouch for Phase One gear and its ability to function in extreme conditions – it’ll take most mountain tops in winter in its stride I’m sure.

    All the best

    Steve

    Reply
  10. Gregory Hanlon

    I have been receiving the Phase One e-mails for some time now, I guess with a future interest in medium format systems. Steve your image grabbed my attention for it’s serenity, beauty and skilful capture, as well as for the location. I have not as yet ventured to the UK, but recently in deciding where to head on a photographic journey of discovery this September, I have of all places chosen Glencoe and Pitlochry, preceded by Betws Y Coed in Snowdonia. I am now more excited than ever to explore these beautiful places.

    Kind Regards,

    Greg Hanlon
    Australia

    Reply
      1. Gregory Hanlon

        Hi Rob,

        Most unexpected, thank you for sharing the link to your gorgeous cottage, but we have organised well in advance, staying at the “Garth” cottage, somewhat smaller and less well appointed, but I am sure it will serve us just fine as our base this time.

        Reply
        1. Rob

          Hi Gregory,
          Thanks for your reply and kind comments, Garth is just across the road from Bodlondeb and is lovely, you will enjoy your stay there. We are friendly with Helen the owner.
          We have hosted quite a few family re-unions with visiting ex-pats from Oz meeting up with old friends and family from around the UK.
          Cheers,
          Rob.

          Reply
  11. Chris Stenger

    Nice image taken at the right moment. To be honest, however, I like the colour version better. Me and my wife have been looking at both versions quite some time and we both came to the conclusion that the colour version with its soft desaturated colours has more impact. I realise this is personal taste, but still….

    Regards,
    Chris

    Reply
  12. Steve Gosling

    Hi Greg

    Many thanks for your very kind words about my photograph – much appreciated.

    I know Glencoe, Pitlochry and Snowdonia very well – I’m sure that you’ll love them (all very different but great locations for landscape photography, each with their own distinct challenges). Have fun!

    Best wishes

    Steve

    Reply
  13. Steve Gosling

    Hi Chris

    Thanks for commenting.

    I like the colour version as well and this may be one of those lucky occasions where I manage to get two (B&W and colour) for the price of one. It doesn’t happen often!

    As for B&W versus colour – as you say it’s down to personal preference (my mother once walked out of one of my exhibitions after only a few minutes cursory glance with the comment ‘They’re black and white and I don’t like black and white’!).

    Best wishes

    Steve

    Reply
  14. Roger Hayman

    Lovely shot, Steve.
    Did you use any tilt to get the foreground and background in focus?
    Roger

    Reply
    1. Steve Gosling

      Hi Roger

      Thanks for the positive comment – much appreciated. No – I’ve never used tilt/shift lenses so I guess you don’t miss what you’ve never had! Using my Schneider 36mm lens (25mm equivalent in 35mm film terms) and setting f22 the Depth of Field is sufficient to give me front to back sharpness.

      Cheers

      Steve

      Reply
  15. Brock Mackness

    Hi Steve, really all the photographs of this landscape is so nice. Although, visual of these photographs are Black & white. I really like all of these. Thanks for sharing your creation……….

    Reply

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