PHOTOGRAPHY ONLINE - Silhouettes - Mountain landscapes - Wild camping.
Coming up on this episode of Photography Online - we camp out under the stars as we go in search of mountain majesty - we shoot into the light with silhouettes - and we bring you some exciting news for fans of the show. Welcome to part two of our March episode of Photography Online which is sponsored by Surfshark VPN. If you don't already know VPNs allow you to connect to the internet via an encrypted tunnel, maintaining your online privacy and protecting any sensitive data. Harry will be around to tell us more about that soon but let's get the show off and running. When Photography Online expert Marcus McAdam recently took on a very specific project, I asked him to document the adventure so that we could all tag along. With sub-zero temperatures and a snowstorm to contend with, the lure of the ultimate photo was enough to keep him going through the longest of winter nights...
I am on my way to take a photo which I've been waiting to take for about six months now and this is the first opportunity I've had to do it when the weather conditions have been right but it's about a three hour walk to get there. In fact if I say it's a six hour round trip that makes it sound further huh? So it's a six hour round trip and it's one o'clock in the afternoon. Sun sets at four. You can do the math on that one. So I need to get a shift on. However
I'm not going there for sunset, I actually want to be there for sunrise so I have tent and sleeping bag and everything, so I need to get there while it's still light enough to set up camp and also because I've never been to this location before, it'd be nice to have a little scout around just so that I'm not running around without a plan tomorrow morning when the lights good, if the light's good, which I really hope it is otherwise that's six hours wasted. But anyway, while I carry on gonna get my head down and power on. I'll let you admire the scenery. So let me tell you what I'm doing here. Back in our September show last year we featured a view of Loch Coruisk at number 4 of our Top 10 Views on Skye series. Out of all the locations we featured
in this countdown the view of Loch Coruisk is so remote that we didn't have enough photos of it to complete the show. As my colleagues Harry and Nick had done all the filming for the feature, I thought it was only fair if I made the effort to go back and get the shots we still needed. On my way back I saw a particular view of Sgurr nan Gillean a well-known peak which stands at the end of the UK's most demanding mountain ridge. I'm used to seeing it from many other angles but the profile offered from this particular rarely seen angle led me to believe there may be something worth exploring. You see, when we think about the most iconic looking mountains of the world, the list is dominated by names such as Mont Fitzroy in Argentina ,the Matterhorn in Switzerland, Ama Dablam in Nepal or Tre Cime di Lavared in Italy.
UK mountains don't get a look in. But I wanted to change that and the potential I saw from this particular angle of Sgurr nan Gillean got me thinking. Was it possible to take a photo of a UK mountain which could stand with pride on the same stage as the iconic peaks of the world? So I have a plan and I'm just going to one location, just taking one shot. I've only got the equipment I need because obviously I want to pack as lightly as possible, and if you're lucky, and you can thank me for this later, i might even do a What's in my Bag.
I know, I know but honestly, no really it's no trouble. I will do that later. So for those of you who are familiar with the area you might recognise that mountain there which is called Marsco and I'm just coming up alongside that now. It's always a bit of an illusion when you start walking towards it because it looks like you'll be there in 20 minutes and then an hour later it's still not there, but the good news is I can see my destination. The bad news is that it looks really far away but I'm sure we'll get there in two hours.
Because I'm going at quite a pace with a heavy backpack on etc, even though it's, I don't know what the temperature is but it's clearly below freezing, I'm working up quite a healthy sweat, so I'm looking forward to my hot shower and bath. Oh no, that's not going to happen, is it? Oh well, so I'm just pulling up alongside the mountain in question. That's the one that I need to photograph but not from this angle, so I guess we're about halfway there now in terms of distance, but I need to be up there looking across the valley onto there for when the sun first hits it in the morning, and see if we can try and do the UK mountains some justice and see if they can compete with the major peaks of the world because I reckon this can. If you wanted to find a more remote location on the Isle of Skye, as far from any road or sign of civilisation as possible, you would do well to find a better candidate than the place I needed to be. Of course such epic views are rarely accessible from the roadside but I guess that adds to the appeal of this particular view. The fact that very few or possibly no one has ever got this shot before.
Whose idea was this? It's been snowing for the last 45 minutes pretty heavily which I suppose is a good thing for the photos, but you can see from behind, that's where the weather's coming from. It's about to clear which is fortunate for me because having never been to this exact location before, if I couldn't see the thing that I was hoping to photograph in the morning it would make it very tricky to get into the right location. So you can just about see over the back there - I don't know if you can but I can - the mountains are just starting to reappear and it's the kind of profile that I've been looking for. So almost at the top now and then once we get to the top here I'm gonna walk away back towards the mountains there, to hopefully get a clear view across the valley. But as I say, I've never been there before so I've no idea what we're gonna find there. But all I know is that from here the potential looks fantastic. Stick around to see how Marcus gets on later in the show and find out not only if he gets the shot but less importantly if he made it through the night camped out in all that snow. Rather him
than me. Now as i mentioned at the start of the show this episode is sponsored by Surfshark VPN, so here to quickly tell us how that can benefit you, is Harry. With international travel about to open up, you like me are probably itching to get away with your camera, maybe even overseas. While this offers great new photo opportunities it can throw up some internet browsing and security problems as many online sites and services are geographically limited. With Surfshark VPN this is no longer a problem as you can simply change your virtual location with ease giving you unlimited access to any regional services on the internet. On top of this,
Surfshark encrypts all the data you send and receive from any device so it keeps you safe when using public Wi-Fi connections. Its clean web feature also protects you from malware and any scams which might catch you off guard when abroad. Surfshark lets you connect an unlimited number of devices with just a single membership meaning you can keep your phone, tablet and computer all protected at once. Surfshark VPN is dead simple to set up and has to be the best value service out there. If you want to give it a go you can use the code "photography" to get a massive 83% off plus three extra months for free. There's a 30 day money back guarantee so you really have nothing to lose. Get yourself protected online now using the links in the description below. Thanks
Harry and don't go anywhere as you're needed for the next feature as well. Now last time I promised some exciting news for fans of the show after a lot of effort we now have the first supplies of the official Photography Online merchandise, or merch if you want to sound cool. The range will be expanded in the future but for now we have these t-shirts in all the popular sizes and just in time for summer, these beanies. Well it can still be cold if you're out at sunrise. To order simply follow the relevant link below. Now on the subject of links, we do get a lot of people asking us where to find them. It can be a bit confusing as it appears differently depending on what device you're watching us on. If you're on a computer then you simply press the Show More tab at the
end of the short description below the video. If you're watching on a phone or a tablet then you need to press this Down arrow which is located on the right hand side below the video window, then scroll down to see all the links. If you're watching on a smart TV, as i know many of you do, then I'm afraid the links aren't accessible so you'll need to log on to another device to get the information. However you'll need to use another device anyway to follow the links so it's not really too much extra hassle. Hopefully you can all now find everything and know where to
look for any of the links that we mention. Now at the beginning of the year we launched the Subject Project where we show you how to tackle a specific subject and then invite you to give it a go and send us your results. Last time we featured Lone Trees and judging by the sheer amount of images that you sent us, this was indeed a popular subject. We've been racking our brains here
at photography online to come up with another popular subject and we think we may find one... Silhouettes can be scary things, scary things... They smack of mystery, drama and can create great suspense and tension. But when it comes to photography they're really nothing to be scared of.
You see, shooting into the light is something which unsettles many photographers. With super high contrast scenes, the risk of lens flare, not to mention what can be a metering and focusing nightmare, it's understandable why some shy away from pointing their lenses towards the light. But as you've just seen, silhouettes are nothing to be afraid of. They can provide powerful imagery
and give dramatic results. They can even make unattractive subjects more appealing as they hide a multitude of sins. I thought that was a little bit uncalled for! But before we can begin shooting with any confidence there are a couple of key things to understand about silhouette shots. The first is about direction of light. If the light source is directly behind the camera as it is now, by definition we can't have a silhouette. So positioning yourself is absolutely key. We need to have the light source directly behind your subject as we've done here in order to create a silhouette. As long as your background is significantly brighter than your subject then
you'll be able to render it as a silhouette or at least as a semi-silhouette. The greater the luminance difference between your subject and the background, the deeper the silhouette will be. On the subject of, well, subjects, a great silhouette needs a recognisable shape just like the statues behind me. If a viewer is left wondering what on earth they're looking at then the photo is going to fail. This shot of a camel by the Taj Mahal works well in silhouette as both subjects are recognisable just by their outline. Here are a few other examples of subjects which work well in silhouette.
Shooting silhouettes can throw a few technical hurdles your way which might trip you up if you're not aware. The first of these is with exposure as you'll be dealing with a high dynamic range. With areas of bright highlight and deep shadow it's easy for the camera to get confused. The camera's meter is always looking for a mid-tone but there might not be one, so my advice is to use manual shooting mode and totally bypass the camera's meter altogether. Use the histogram and expose for the highlights. This is very simple. Just place the graph as close to the right hand side but without touching the edge of the perimeter. It doesn't matter if the
left-hand side of your histogram is bunched up and touching the left-hand side as you won't need shadow detail in most silhouettes anyway. If there's not enough contrast between the subject and its background then you can increase the contrast at the post-processing stage to create a silhouette. Just remember that this can only be done if your background is significantly brighter than your subject. Not all silhouettes need to be featureless shadows. sometimes revealing a small amount of detail in your subject can work well and this is known as a semi-silhouette. Another potential technical problem you might encounter is with lens flare. This is more likely as you'll be shooting into the light. Some lenses suffer more from
lens flare than others and there are no easy fixes if your lens is prone to the problem. However if your light source is outside your frame then it should be possible to place a shadow over the front of the lens to eliminate any flare. But if your light source is within your photo then obviously this is not possible. In this situation, think about hiding the sun behind your subject, essentially using your subject to shade the lens.
Other tips for reducing flare are always to use a lens hood. Remove all filters and ensure the front element of your lens is clean. On the subject of filters, one which can stay in the bag is the polariser. It's not going to be any use at all shooting into the light and if we're slightly to the side it's just going to darken our sky. This is the opposite of what we want to achieve with silhouettes. We only want to be using filters if they're going to
be of direct benefit to the image. Focusing can also be a challenge when shooting silhouettes if you're not aware how autofocus actually works. If you try to focus on a featureless subject then it's likely the camera will hunt backwards and forwards without confirming focus.
However by focusing on the edge of your subject you're providing the camera with contrast - the only thing it needs to lock on quickly and accurately. Always focus on your subject and then control depth of field accordingly with your aperture setting. Many silhouettes tend to be two-dimensional so when composing your scene don't worry too much about depth as this will probably be irrelevant anyway. As a result most silhouettes tend to be shot on medium to long focal lengths but wide-angle lenses can work well if your subject is close to you. One of the most dramatic silhouettes in nature is a solar eclipse, where the moon is silhouetted by the sun. I can tell you now if you go out in the next couple of weeks expecting to shoot a total solar eclipse you might be a little disappointed but do get out with the camera and try and find other backlit subjects to silhouette. If you
struggle to find something suitable then there's one classic subject which never fails to work as a silhouette. Something we all have access to. People. You can even use yourself as i did here, but it's easier to use friends or in these cases, customers on some of our past workshops and trips. If you're going to use people it's important to get them positioned so you can see daylight between some of their limbs, otherwise they don't take on that recognisable human shape. So just remember, expose for the highlights and let the shadows look after themselves. It's not too difficult to do and can result in some really dramatic imagery. Get outside, give it a go and let us know how you get on. Send us your best silhouette shots so we can showcase them on a future episode.
That was great advice from Harry there. So you now know what to do. Go out and point your lens towards the light and send us your results and we'll feature a gallery of our favourites on a future show. We'll also discuss a selection of them in more detail during one of our Mc2 LIVE shows which we do on the third Sunday of every month. There's a small charge for
this but it's interactive, it's live, and it's certainly fun, so if you fancy joining us I've put a registration link down below along with the email address to send in your silhouette photos. If you haven't seen part one of this month's show then you'll have missed tagging along on a fashion shoot with a Leica SL2 camera, we also gave you some tips on how to photograph small accessible birds, we gave some of your photos a good examination in the Photography Online surgery and we discovered a new location on the Isle of Man. That show plus all our others is available on our channel so check to make sure you haven't missed any. Now earlier on in the show we left Marcus trudging his way deep into the mountains in search of a majestic view worthy of a place on the world stage of dramatic peaks. Armed with,
well we don't actually know what he's armed with yet, but I think we're about to find out... So I'm confident I'm going to make it there in time before it gets dark so i'm just gonna have a little rest here. First one and you can see the mountains there behind me. That's where I'm heading, just up on the foreground ridge here somewhere. So I just thought i'd take this opportunity to show you around. So this mountain here is Blaven which featured at number four in
our Top 10 Views on Skye, and this one over here, actually just behind that one, is Sgurr na Stri, which is where, I think that was number two, that looks down on to Loch Coruisk. But it's that moment you've all been waiting for. The drum roll please... What's in my Bag? Okay, so here we go. Just doing this very quickly because I know it can be boring, but if we open this up, because there's a lot of thought gone into this. Look at that. So photographic equipment-wise we have a Canon 5d SR body, because the photo that I'm taking here I'm gonna want all the resolution i can get. I got a 35 millimeter f 1.4 lens for no reason other than that was the one I brought, because I just thought I might need it. Couple of packs
of tissues and a pair of gloves. A pillow, very important, a sleeping ground mat, very important especially when you're sleeping on snow. In here we have batteries, a torch and there we have a 200. That's the important one that's going to have the photo taken on it. Tent. Just a one man tent. Unless I get lucky I should be on my own. And then we've got dinner in the form of pork pie number one, pork pie number two, and if we go down here somewhere we might even find, yep there we go, pork pie number three. There's none of this boiling water and rehydrating food nonsense when I'm camping. A couple of chocolate bars and a couple of filters just in case I need those and,
well, it was four buttery granola flapjacks but it's now only one. And then of course, Mountain Equipment sleeping bag that's rated down to minus 18 I think, which is just as well, and then as you can see I've taken off half my clothes because I'm so hot. But that's all iced up and wet now so that's not really useful is it? But that's it that's everything we need so hopefully that'll be the only time i ever do a What's in my Bag. Right, rest's over, let's carry on. So just about on location, just looking for a campsite, not that that's going to be difficult there's loads of spaces around here but uh yeah, if you want to see dramatic mountains in the UK, this is where you come. It's pretty much every direction. But that's where we're going
over there. So you can't quite see it because it's still in the cloud but just on the right there is Pinnacle Ridge and it's three pinnacles sticking up and I want to get a little bit further that way, just so I get a bit more of a profile view of that. But it's not necessary that I do that tonight because I can always just walk up there in the morning and just pitch the tent here somewhere because at least it's nice and sheltered here. There's no wind, lots of flat ground, it's not too wet. A bit snowy but um
yeah, I think we'll put the tent down here because it is getting dark now. I'm gonna lose the light in a minute. And then I'll wander up there. I'll only take 10 minutes to wander up there in the morning and hopefully we'll get the shot. Right, tent time.
So here I am, all cozied up in the tent. Just gone 5 30 in the evening. It's pitch dark outside. Sunrise isn't until 8 30 tomorrow morning so that's 15 hours away. I've just discovered there's no phone signal here so i can't go online and entertain myself by, you know, reading emails or doing anything like that. The only thing I have to read is the ingredients of a pork pie which, to be honest, I've already read and it wasn't that great, but I might read it again anyway. But it's going to be a long night I think, because I have absolutely nothing to do for the next 15 hours apart from sleep and I'm not going to be able to sleep for that long.
So I'm just gonna sit here with my thoughts and hope that there's light tomorrow morning which makes all of this worthwhile. But for now, good night. Well, good morning. That was a long night. I'm here now and there she is, the UK's most majestic mountain in all her winter finery. And you can see there's, I was just starting to get some colour in the sky over there so the sun's not far off, probably 20 minutes away, but I'm hoping that there's a line between where the sun comes up and the mountain there. It
probably doesn't look that impressive through here because you're looking very wide angle, but I'm just zoomed in. I'm at 150 mil on that peak right in the middle there, which is kind of just disappearing into the cloud which is a bit of a shame but hopefully that will change, and I've spent quite a lot of time walking around working out exactly the best place to be and I've decided that this is it here. But there are some other nice views and all is good. We're just starting to get the first bits of colour on the sky on the cloud behind it, and the peak now is perfectly clear so let's grab a shot here.
So I need three things to go inside here for this picture to work. Firstly I need the mountain to be looking at its best which, due to the snowfall, it is. Secondly I need to be in the right position to give me the right angle and the right profile on the mountain to make it look as majestic as it possibly can. And I believe I'm in the right location for that. And then thirdly and most importantly we need the light. Now it's too soon to tell whether that's going to happen or not but certainly the next 20 minutes will reveal the answer. I think it might be time for breakfast. I had to sleep with this pork pie to stop it freezing
so it's a little bit squashed as I turned over in the night. Ended up sitting on it for a little bit but beggars can't be choosers. Look at it over there, it's amazing. It's typical isn't it. It's always where you're not. The amount
of times I've been up there and looking down here and this has been all lit up in pink and I've had nothing. And now it's the opposite. So I hate to say it but I think I've been defeated. There's been light pretty much everywhere on all the peaks except for that one the one I wanted, of course. So there's another big snow shower coming in. Even if the light does hit that now, it's not what I wanted. I wanted it kind of glowing red at dawn, which isn't going to happen now. So this will remain a challenge for another day, I think. But I've learned some lessons and I'm also going to go and check out another location on the way back as well, so it wasn't a complete waste of time. And I've got some nice, kind of pre-dawn shots as well,
so I just see it as a learning experience with a couple of nice shots as a bonus and this will remain on my wish list for another day. But for now i think it's time for a hot bath. The warm dawn light I'd wanted may not have happened but I did manage to get some shots of Sgurr nan Gillean in later morning light which, although not what I had visualised, they still achieved the objective of putting this UK mountain on the same stage as the more iconic peaks on the planet. And I'm pretty sure that no one else will ever have taken this photo before. On the way back I was treated to a great view of the UK's most challenging summit to climb. The aptly named Inaccessible Pinnacle.
Then to cap it off, a beautiful rising moon over the mountain of Glamaig provided me with this beauty which is already being sold through my online gallery. It was a just reward for my endurance of the longest and coldest night in the history of camping. It is quite satisfying watching someone else endure the harsh winter elements while we still get to see the views. And not one to be easily defeated and true to his word Marcus did head back to the location a few days later, so I caught up with him to see if he was more successful second time round. Marcus, good to see you back in one piece. I made it, yeah. Now first things first,
and what everybody wants to know, what on earth did you find to do for 15 hours in a tent in the middle of the mountains? Well it was a long night, I can tell you that, but I literally had nothing. I mean the phone didn't work, I had nothing to read, so you just had to sit there and listen to the snow falling on the on the tent and looking at the, at the ceiling. That was it. I mean and I was in and out of sleep. You know when you go camping especially in that environment, you never sleep for very long. So you'd go, you'd fall asleep for a period of time and then wake up thinking, please let it be four o'clock in the morning and then you look at your watch and it's like 20 past ten ,yeah. And that just continued all through the night so it was a very long night
but I was happy to uh, to see the first kind of like glimpses of light. I bet you were. And you got some stunning images which you've shown us but obviously they're not what you went out after. Did you manage to go back and get what you wanted? Yep. So um, probably four or five days later the
forecast was looking good for a couple of days so I decided to go in again but this time I didn't want to film it, because I thought I've been there done that, so I just travelled in light, didn't camp and I just walked in overnight. Set off at two in the morning and i just... Set off at two in the morning? Yeah, just hiked in through. So it's about four hours to get there and I just wanted to arrive, you know with enough time to scope out a couple of other locations as well. So there was a two-day window where the weather was going to be suitable and I decided to choose the first day because if that hadn't materialised then I could have gone in again on the second day. I really didn't want to because that's a tough walk you know, to do it two days in a row. But
the problem is the conditions that were present, they only come around once a year and so you know if you don't make the most of the chances then you miss it. I mean now i was up there yesterday and the snow's all gone and it won't be back until next year and maybe it might not be there at all so you have to take the chances. But luckily I got the conditions I wanted. So the shot that I had in my mind was this kind of thing here. I mean that's just as the sun started hitting the top of the the mountain, but obviously the sun's coming up so that highlight is going to come down and down and down. But crucially I had some nice clouds in the sky so that's
that's my kind of favourite shot. That's what I kind of visualised with the sun. You know, sort of illuminating the mountain but with some nice kind of drop. You got kind of a similar shot first time around but obviously it's not quite... I just didn't get the light from that angle so
this is much better. So there's obviously a long list of shots remember when we did the Board of Ambition? This is one of the shots on that on the board, so it's just a case of moving on to the next shot now and trying to tick that off. And then while I was there I took the opportunity to get some black and white stuff as well. So i was shooting this with black and white in mind, just concentrating on the the contrast and the form and the texture. So i've got quite a nice
one there and there's a wider one there. I mean they're stunning in black and white I think. Yeah, I mean they look fantastic and because these were shot on the the 5D SR, the resolution is there. So how big will these blow-up? They'll go to a meter wide without any problem whatsoever. In fact if you zoom right in you can see hundreds of little mini avalanches on the lower slopes and your eyes can kind of just wander around the scene and get lost in all the detail. This to me is what landscape photography is all about. It's about having a visualisation in your mind and then setting out to achieve it, whatever that takes. And the more ambitious the idea and the more demanding it is, the greater the satisfaction is when you when you achieve it. If
this was easy to do then you could go out at any time and do it and it would be okay. Well, got that, and move on to the next. This is the shot you were looking for? This rivals, you reckon, the world's greatest peaks? Well I, okay so there might be another mountain in the UK which, from a particular angle, can also look very dramatic and it'd be interesting to see if, you know, people have got any suggestions as to what that might be. But from the mountains that I know of,
this was the one that instantly came to my mind and luckily it's only 20, 30 miles away from where I live so it's very easy for me to get there. But there may be, you know, another specific view of another mountain somewhere where, you know, when it's covered in snow and you're looking up, it could make it look like a 10 000 foot mountain rather than a 800 metre mountain. So it'd be interesting to hear if anyone else has got any any suggestions. Some of the photos that Marcus took on his two visits to that remote location are available to purchase as prints in various sizes and can be shipped anywhere in the world. I think it's always great to know the story behind an image that's hanging on your wall and this is a great example of that. There's a link in the usual place to see all the size and price options. Sadly though that
brings us to the end of our March episodes but you won't have to wait too long before part one of our April edition, which is very exciting as it's entirely dedicated to panoramic photography. We'll have all the usual features but in widescreen so it's going to be really, really interesting. Don't forget as well you can now become a Photography Online Supporter and help us make better content for you. Just click the join button or go to the relevant link below. Please also give us a thumbs up if you appreciate the work that we put into bringing you the show twice a month. It helps our content get promoted to a wider audience and we love to know that you enjoy watching. Don't forget as well our annual magazine is now available at just two pounds plus we have our Essential Camera Skills book which will help you take your photography to the next level. If you want to go on a mad shopping spree then we've also just added our new t-shirts and
hats as well. I'll be back soon but until then take good care but most of all take good photos.