How it was taken - Seamill Hydro

Occasionally, I get emails from photographers asking how I took a particular shot and I always try to provide as much information as I can to help. However, one shot in particular, has caused more than it's fair share of questions - not to mention a lot of replies telling me that they don't believe my explanation as the shot '...must have been Photoshopped!' So, I figure I'll put this one to bed with this blog post. I'll be the first to admit that I very rarely use Photoshop, preferring Lightroom for 99.99% of my editing. As I began my journey in photography way back in the days of film - and the exposure-critical nature of slide film - I try to get my shots are good as I can in-camera. Most of my post-processing is limited to tweaking the contrast and maybe the odd wonky horizon (I always carry a tripod - I just don't always use the bloody thing!) Obviously, there are some instances where a shot will require a wee bit more than this, and my black & white process is a different subject, but,for the most part, I try to minimise the amount of digital work I have to do. As you will also see with one of my diagrams - I take photographs because I'm worse than useless at drawing! Right, let's get going - here's the shot.

On September 22nd 2013, I had the privilege of photographing the wedding of a lovely couple, called Laura and Alex at the beautiful Seamill Hydro hotel on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland. When we carried out our pre-wedding shoot at the hotel, a few weeks before the ceremony, I used my Sundial app (I promise you - it'll be the best £1.49 you'll spend) to see where the sun would be throughout the course of the day. This let us plan where and when we were taking shots on the day. It showed that the sun would set towards the Northern end of the Isle of Arran at 7.19pm and, after checking the tide times, I noted that this would coincide with a low tide and that could mean I'd get the chance to take a shot I've been planning for months!

The venue, with the Sundial app clearly showing where the sun was coming from for the formal shots in the afternoon.

Zooming the screen out a bit shows the sun will set where the island meets the water.

Unfortunately, this would also be half-way through the wedding breakfast! Thankfully, Laura and Alex were both happy for me to steal them away if I thought we might get a nice shot, so I ate my meal in the main restaurant as it faced the sea and let me monitor the changing conditions. When it became clear that we were in for some nice colour I went for a quick walk on the beach to find my spot - knowing that I would only be able to take them away from their guests for a very short time.
As I quickly led my bride & groom across the beach, an ambient light reading was taken with my Sekonic L358 meter and it gave 1/160th at f4.5 and ISO400. I set my ISO to 200 to underexpose the scene by a stop and really bring out the colours. We reached the spot where I wanted them to stand and I then set a Youngnuo 560 II speedlite just outside the frame to camera right. Using my Phottix Strato II triggers, I decided not to use any modifiers on the light and zoomed the head to 85mm to prevent any light spilling onto the beach. I then raced round to the other side of the puddle (yes, that's a puddle in the foreground, roughly 12 feet in diameter) got on my knees and placed one hand on the edge of the puddle. When I rested the lens hood of my 17-40 on the half-submerged hand it gave just enough elevation to stop the lens getting wet and gave this beautiful reflection. I said, earlier, that I'd been planning this shot for months and, as my two daughters (and three dogs) will confirm, I must have spent over 20 hours laying in puddles in my garden taking shots of them with different set ups. My neighbours may have made some funny comments from time to time, but all that practise is worth it when you get 'That' shot you have in your minds eye.

Shot as a RAW file, it was imported into Lightroom, where the contrast was tweaked a bit using an s-curve and that was it. The extremely low viewpoint turns a shallow puddle into a great big mirror and creates something a bit different from the norm.
*UPDATE - June 21st 2014*
The Guild of Professional Photographers has awarded this shot a Silver Bar in their Image Of the Month competition! What can I say about that, except wow! Thank you to the Guild and the panel of judges.
Making a fraction of a second... last a lifetime


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