Silhouette of an Ash Tree

August 26, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Earlier this year, during spring, I had ventured up above Twisleton Scar, out side of Ingleton to capture some photographs as the sunset over towards Morecambe Bay. It is a well known spot for photographers with lots of gnarly old hawthorn trees, a few ash trees, lots of limestone and great views over Ingleborough, the Bowland Fells all the way around to Morecambe Bay. The sky had a scattering of high cirrus clouds and I hoped that they might catch a bit of colour as the sun dipped below the horizon.

Ash Cloud (pre edit)Ash Cloud (pre edit) As usual, I was having a general wander around, looking for compositions of trees, limestone and sunlight. My general thoughts at the time were to shoot back into the light, "contra Jour", as it is known in photographic terms. The clear air made the sun dazzlingly bright in the late afternoon, so I was looking at using the trees to block the direct sunlight from hitting the lens. By exposing for the bright areas the trees, with wind sculpted branches still mostly bare of leaves, would make good subjects to silhouette.

By chance I arrived at an ash tree just as a patch of high cirrus arrived on the wind to complete the composition. The swirls of cloud appearing to spiral out from the very branches of the tree itself.

It reminded me of a Catherine Wheel, one of those fireworks you nail to the fence which, when alight, radiates a spiral of sparks as it spins furiously. However there was something a little unsettling about the composition. There was only a short period of time before the cloud shapes changed as they continued drifting, so there was no time to try to reposition. Even if I were to do so, the alignment would be ruined. I grabbed a couple of quick photos before the scene disappeared on the breath of the wind.

 Behind the ash tree to the left were two small stunted bushes. It was not until the images were loaded onto the computer I really realised just how much these two intruders spoilt the overall effect. The ash tree needed to be alone, not being 'photo bombed' by a couple of scruffy urchins lurking in the background. No amount of cropping or post processing seemed to fix the problem, so the image has sat on my computer until today.

Recently I invested in a Wacom graphics tablet. Ash CloudAsh CloudA silhouette of an Ash tree, looking almost like a catherine wheel firework, with a spiral of cirrus clouds emanating behind near sunset, Twisleton Scar, near Ingleton, Yorkshire Dales, England

I have had limited experience of using one of these in the past but have never owned one until now. I wanted it to help during the post processing of images as it gives you, the operator and artist, much greater control over the position of the cursor and the effect of the tools, as compared with using the mouse alone.

It takes a little getting used to, you need to coordinate your hand movement to coincide with the cursor position on the screen which takes some practice,  it is also very sensitive to touch and pressure. 

To practice, I decided to have a go at removing the two bushes that so spoilt the composition of my ash tree. It took a while cloning out intertwining branches but the graphics tablet made it far easier. Close precise control, like using a sharp pencil. Being able to control the size and opacity of the brush in photoshop not only made removing the branches and twigs straight forward, but also made blending the background sky much easier making it look much more natural than I had been able to achieve in the past. 

Is the final result perfect? Far from it, I have much to learn about how to get the best out of photoshop. But the end result is more of how I imagined the shot when I took it.

The other question is "Should we alter the content of the picture at all"? "Is it still a photograph with the bushes removed, or has it become a piece of artist inspired digital art"?

That is a debate for some other day, and one that will rage on as long as there are people out there taking and manipulating photographs.

What ever the answer may be I prefer the edited outcome. 

However there is one other potential alternative; A chainsaw…………Hmmmmmm, somehow I think not.

You can follow me on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, & Tumblr at : @tcrosslandphoto

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