Behind the Camera: ‘My Little Stone’ – Bardsey Island, Wales

I think that, finally, I’ve caught up with myself after taking a week off earlier this month to visit Bardsey Island. We’d planned on being there for a week, but thanks to the bad weather we got two extra days (cool for us, sucks for the people who’d planned to arrive, and sucks a bit for me in that it meant I didn’t get a weekend to sort my stuff out before the week began).

Bardsey is a great place for photography. There’s just so much cool stuff just waiting to be shot, from the birds to the lighthouse, from the coastline to the amazing buildings and structures. I’ve even managed to do some great night photography while I was there. Whenever I visit I make sure I have plenty of cards and batteries for my camera.

And this time was no different. Well, except for one thing. Because the lighthouse was in the middle of being converted from diesel to soar, the main light had been removed and replaced with an LED light that is so bright that it must upset the Martians. This searing light – which is there until October – combined with the cloud cover meant that I wouldn’t be getting much night work done.

But I didn’t let that stop me trying.

The photograph above – which I think is my favorite from the 4,500 that I took while on Bardsey – was taken one evening while sitting outside the house we rented for the week. Called “Carreg Bach” (Welsh for “Little Stone”) this was a delightfully rustic crog-loft cottage. Downstairs there was a living room and kitchen, while upstairs on what I can only describe as a small ledge, was the bedroom. It was small, but cozy, and the coziness factor only increased when the stove was lit or the gas fire was going!

I love this shot for several reasons:

  • Cottage, moon, and the Bardsey lighthouse in one shot!
  • I managed to time the shot so it didn’t get obliterated by the LED on top of the lighthouse
  • I love how the textures present in the wall, the cottage, and even the wood just pops out
  • It’s a reminder of the fun times we had sitting outside!

Technically, the shot was quite straightforward – F8.0@16mm, 1/20s, ISO 100 – with the hardest part being trying to get far back enough to get everything in the shot!

Cleaning my camera’s lenses and filters

Having been on Bardsey Island for over a week, and been witness to (and having photographed) a severe gale that hit the island, my camera’s lenses and filters were in dire need of a clean. Fortunately, given the right tools this is a quick and painless job.

Here what I used

Here’s my process for lenses:

  • Blow/brush off the worst of the dirt. You don’t want to be grinding sand particles into your glass if you can avoid it!
  • With that done, take a PEC*PAD and apply one or two drops of the Eclipse cleaning fluid and wipe the lens from the middle towards the outside. If the lens if dirty, use a second (or third) PEC*PAD. The trick is to do the wipe slow so the solution has time to lift the crud off the glass as you go, rather than smearing it onto the glass.
  • Allow the glass to dry (Eclipse will only take a few seconds) and inspect.
  • If clean, put the lens cap back on (after giving it a blow with the blower), or repeat the above steps if you still see dirt on the lens.

For filters it’s a similar process:

  • Blow off the worst of the dust.
  • Apply two drops of the Lee filter cleaning solution to the filter and clean it.
  • Repeat for the other side.
  • Inspect and put away if clean.

I use the Lee solution for filters for two reasons:

  • It doesn’t dry off as fast as Eclipse, so it’s better for big square filters which have a lot more surface area than a lens.
  • It has anti-static properties, so that works to prevent the filter being a dirt magnet (which resin filters can be at times).

With that done, I’m ready for more photography!

TKActions Panel V3

While I’ve got a whole bunch of filters and actions installed into Photoshop, the one I use the most has to be the TKActions Panel by Tony Kuyper. And a good thing just got even better.

What is the TKActions Panel?

The TKActions Panel is so vast that there’s no way I can tell you everything that it does in a short blog post, but in a nutshell, the TKActions Panel is the control panel for a whole bunch of actions primarily related to luminosity masking.

Don’t know what luminosity masks are? Well, you’re really missing out, because they allow you to take control over the tonality of an image in a way that leaves other techniques in the dust.

Find out more!

If you want to know more, I suggest you grab a coffee and take a look at Tony Kuyper’s tutorial … but I warn you, you’ll never look at image processing in the same way again!

The actions start at $10 (what else can you buy for $10 that will improve your photography? A lens cloth?) but I recommend grabbing at minimum the “Complete Catalog” that costs $30 (again, peanuts for a photography tool), and if you’re new to luminosity masking I think the “Complete Package” for $70 which includes awesome tutorial videos by Sean Bagshaw is worth the money.

I will warn you in advance that the subject of luminosity masking is a huge one, and I remember feeling daunted at the start, but very quickly I got comfortable with the basics, and once I started using it on my photos, I realized the power, and this drove me on to learn more about the subject.