How I shot it – Pentlands Sunset

This is my first post in a new Blog series I’m starting looking at how I shot some of my more popular images – looking at techniques used, equipment used and my through process behind the shots. First up is one of my favourite shots that I’ve taken, an autumnal sunset over the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh. You will probably recognise the shot as the background image for my website, I’m also delighted to say that it was recently shortlisted in the Outdoor Photographer of the Year competition – an achievement I’m proud of even if it goes no further in the competition!

Pentlands Sunset

Where I live has stunning views of the Pentlands, over Capelaw Hill specifically. Throughout the afternoon, I had watched a series of passing showers hitting the Pentlands and knew the forecast was for them to continue through sunset. Using the Photographers Ephermis App, I knew where the light would be coming from for sunset and so headed into the Pentlands to Capelaw, to a spot on the hillside I’d visited many, many times before. I was hoping that I would be fortunate enough to capture the golden light of the sunset lighting up one of the showers over the hills. As I walked up towards Capelaw Hill, I was getting soaked (and feeling very thankful for the dry bags my camera gear was protected by!). As soon as I reached the summit of Capelaw though, I realised that the showers were starting to shift to the West – away from me and into the setting sun. I could see that there was another shower starting to pass over the Firth of Forth and knew that this would be the shower that would be lit up by the sun just before it set, if only I could get set up in time! I moved as quickly as I could to get to my viewpoint, thankfully only a few hundred metres away, and got my camera and tripod set up. I had to work quickly to make sure I didn’t miss the light. Using live view to compose and focus, I fitted my filter holder and selected a LEE 0.9 Hard Grad – it sat perfectly over the top of the hills in the image without causing any unwanted dark areas on the hills. The light lasted for about 10 minutes until the shower passed away to the South. As I made my way home, I knew that I had managed to capture something special and feeling very happy that it turned out the way I had visualised on my way there.
Equipment used:
Canon EOS 5D MkII with 24-70mm lens at 24mm, ISO 100, 0.6 Seconds at f/11, LEE 0.9 ND Hard
Grad, Tripod, Wireless Release.

The most important part of setting up for this image was the placement for the Graduated Filter (for those who aren’t sure, a graduated filter is a piece of glass/ resin that you can fit on to the front of your camera that has one half darker than the other to allow the photographer to balance the difference in light between the land and the sky). I chose a 0.9 Grad because the sky was very bright compared to the dark, shadowy ground. I placed it so the transition sat just at the top of the hills – a Hard Grad has a very defined transition from dark to light and this would show up on the hill with poor placement of the filter. Below is a screenshot illustrating where it was placed across the image:

Hard Grad Placement

The quality of the light I had to work with for this image was beautiful, its not often you get to be out shooting when the light comes across so well! I’m really keen on the play between shadow and light in the image – the lit up hillside in the foreground leading to the shadowy Glen with the same being played out between the sky on the RHS of the image and the LHS of the image.

Thanks for reading, I hope to see you back here soon for my next “How I shot it” post.

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One Comment

  1. Fiona Marie Macdonald November 16, 2016 at 9:56 pm #

    Fantastic start to your first blog look forward to next one well done Chris

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