Photo De-construction: Sunrise over Luddenden

This post is a run-down on a shot I took this morning – a sunrise over the valley outside my house, across the village of Luddenden.  Click the image to see it large in Flickr’s Lightbox.

Sunrise over Luddenden


It’s been very clear at the end of this week and a couple of times I saw sunset shots taken while I was stuck in work, so on Saturday afternoon I head out on a walk to find somewhere to get a shot from.  I wander along to Booth, before coming back and walking up a bridle way on a steep hill to get to higher ground.  The Photobuddy app on my iPhone says sunset is 16:14 – but while it accounts for location, I don’t think it accounts for terrain.  Being surrounded by hills means the sun goes and hides a bit earlier than the app says.

So, around 4pm the sun is close to disappearing behind a hill – I run up a road in hopes of getting to higher ground before it disappears, but the sun iss receding at about the same rate as I’m climbing the hill.

I get a few shots and when I get home create an HDR (High Dynamic Range), below (click for large Lightbox view on Flickr), but it isn’t really what I’m looking for because the sun is gone already – and I can’t get a natural-looking sky.  The sunset picture isn’t far off what it looked like, but it still suffers from the unnatural look HDR often deliverers (typically when over-done).

Yorkshire Dusk near Midgley

So with sunset gone, and now well into dusk, I head back down the hill – nearly toppling over a few times as I go.

Bed at midnight and alarm set for 6.45am – I figure I’ll return to the same location (by car) and catch sunrise.  Nature conspires against me though, and there are clouds at sunrise, which only start to clear once I get home.  Thankfully my house is lower and behind a hill – so it has its own sunrise later than when the sun first appears to everybody else!

Taking The Shot

I shoot a few shots of the sun coming over the hill with my telephoto lens.  I’m happy with them, but I look at the overall scenery – which the telephoto wasn’t giving me – and decide  to put my wide-angle lens on to try another HDR shot.

The clouds are interesting, so I compose the shot to include a good chunk of sky.  The fence is unavoidable from my balcony, but I move the tripod to set up some diagonal lines which I found pleasing – not least because they contrast with the more ‘natural’ shapes of the hills and fields.  Moving the tripod means I get a Z-shape across, with the points on the left and right more-or-less in line with one another.

I set my camera to get something which is slightly under-exposed for the ground and over-exposed for the sky and set up bracketing for shots at -+2 stops exposure – delivering three exposures to use for the HDR process.

Set exposure

Longest exposure

Shortest exposure

I use Photomatix to perform the HDR process – setting it to ‘Natural’ and adjusting gamma to decrease brightness.  I then sharpen with Lightroom to get the final image.

I’m really happy with the result – and am considering getting it printed out fairy large for the wall.  The only thing I want to try though is walking down to the fence and shooting it from there – perhaps to get more of the village in, and also to eliminate the fence itself.  If there’s similar weather in the near future I’ll give that a go.

Just after these shots a dense fog rolled in – and the sun wasn’t visible at all.  There was no chance of getting a sunset this evening – so I’m really happy I got something in the morning!

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