Herritage Blues

‘Elgol’, Isle of Skye
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, Canon EF24-70mm f/2.8L II @ 24mm, 30 seconds @ f/9.0, ISO 100
LEE Big-Stopper and 2-stop Neutral Density Graduated filters.
Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 tripod, Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head.
Adobe Lightroom.

“Elgol feels like a profoundly spiritual place, evoking a primeval perception, a sense of ancient majesty.”

Herritage Blues

Elgol is an iconic destination for seascape photographers. The views to the north-west across the bay to the Black Cuillin mountains are perhaps the most photogenic, but it’s always worth considering alternative views, especially in such a well photographed location. I chose to point my camera south-west, framing this wonderful sprawling rock formation with Soay on the horizon to the right and the Isle of Rum fading into the distance on the left side. Elgol feels like a profoundly spiritual place, evoking a primeval perception, a sense of ancient majesty; I wanted to create an image that encapsulated such powerful feelings.

My task on location was to ensure that I captured a technically perfect Raw file that would allow some expressive opportunities in post-processing. For photographers following the fine-art ethic, it seems that the creative processing of a landscape photograph can sometimes contribute more to the final image than all the decisions made at the time of capture. However, I am reminded of the sage advice about mastering the use of filters: it should never be apparent in the final photograph that they have been used. Similarly, as we become more adventurous with creative processing, whenever realism is our intent, an excessive degree of manipulation should never be obvious to the viewer, if the image is not ‘believable’, it will be quickly dismissed. Indeed, the ultimate goal for any digital fine-art photographer is to master the art of image-processing to such a degree, that it becomes possible to create images that appear entirely realistic, regardless of the degree of dissimilarity to the original scene. Pushing the boundaries of realism can create a potent but subliminal sense of mystery, but for every image, there are limits.

The scene at Elgol was significantly more colourful in reality than in my photograph, it had a more uplifting ‘happier’ appearance, but a faithful depiction failed to convey the desired gravitas. I wanted to desaturate the image, to subdue colour contrasts between the various compositional elements. The final steely-blue palette was achieved by selective desaturation of just the blue primary (accessed in the ‘camera calibration’ panel of Adobe Lightroom). Selective desaturation of blue like this has a longstanding heritage; at a basic level, images become harmonised by the removal of excessive colour contrasts, but there is also a profound aesthetic benefit. Such meticulous attention to nuances of hue can completely transform the ‘feel’ of an image.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.