A Race Around East Sussex
Ditchling Beacon, East Sussex. 06:54am. 31 August 2018 How an unlikely morning in East Sussex turned into a beautiful layered dawn
One of the ways I produce different formats of imagery is not only by using the fabulous Canon crop modes, but by shooting panoramas. I carve up the results in the office with a nice cup of tea later that day. I have been doing this for quite a few years now as it saves me a lot of time when the conditions are changing quickly, or I really can’t work out the strongest part of the image.
It is the summer of 2018, and I head off to the South East to do some video presentation work for Canon. Alongside this I managed to attempt some photos of my own with a few targets in mind – Ditchling Beacon, a quick spin out to Bodiam Castle and then back to Worthing Pier. After a noisy night and a disastrous start, I nearly get locked into the pub accommodation whilst attempting to leave for a dawn shoot! I tried everything I could to work out how to unlock the front door, and in the end I climbed out of the commercial kitchen window.
It's a still morning on the top of Ditchling Beacon. I arrive to find just another single car and the view is simply sublime. It is around half an hour before dawn and the view seems almost infinite to the east. Although these panoramic viewpoints are marked on maps, I truly believe that most daytime visitors will never see this spectacle. The camera of choice is a review model, the Canon EOS 6D Mk II, which I have paired with my faithful Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6l IS II USM and EF 1.4x III convertor, for the ultimate misty morning weapon.
Now it is important to remember when shooting scenes like this, that if the camera is set to Av Mode, it will attempt to push all that glorious mist to a mid tone. This is a negative effect of the camera’s reflected lightmeter, which creates an under exposure. Those whites need to be at least +1 on the exposure scale or the image seems subdued. I set the tripod mounted camera to Manual mode, f/8, 1/400 sec, ISO100, with a two-second timer to get my hands off the body to avoid camera shake.
So what is all this ‘Expose To The Right’ approach that you keep hearing about? Could that apply in this situation? The principle of ‘ETTR’ began to gain
traction in the early days of digital cameras, when the dynamic range and high ISO capabilities were technically limited. Lifting an underexposed image or increasing the contrast in Raw could reveal a marked increase in noise. This is due to the fact that the camera records more data in the upper part of the histogram (highlights) than the lower (shadows). By exposing to the right, as long as the highlights are not clipped, the camera will record the maximum amount of data in that upper region.
So when processing this image in Raw, simply drop the overexposed image down and reposition. If you now add contrast and stretch the data, the result will contain a lot less noise.
The day ends at Worthing Pier before heading home. I am here on the beach with a wide prime lens angled downward towards the breaking waves – this time using my Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5l II wide-angle tilt-shift lens. The two-second timer comes in handy again, as I time receding waves into the soft blue grey skies. An f/11, one-second exposure paints interesting leading lines. It’s the first time I have done this in many years and it feels strangely familiar.
“It is around half an hour before dawn and the view seems almost infinite to the east”