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Fiddler's Ferry Power Station

Posted by
Ian Bramham (Manchester, United Kingdom) on 4 August 2008 in Business & Industry and Portfolio.

This is one that I took in the winter just after I got this D40 camera. It shows the cooling towers of Fiddler's Ferry, a coal fired power station on the banks of the River Mersey not far from Liverpool.

My B&W processing skills have come on a lot since I first tried processing this one and I wanted to have another try to see if I could get any more out of it. Here's the original photo that I posted on 23rd December 2007 for anyone who is interested:

NIKON D40 1/250 second F/11.0 ISO 200 30 mm (35mm equiv.)

Like what you see here and are interested in photographic composition?.....the blog section of my website now has a complete set of 5 articles covering my personal approach to the subject: Ian Bramham Photography - Blog

For purchasing high quality archival prints of any of these photos you can send me an email by clicking here or by going to my website Ian Bramham - Fine Art Photography where prices are listed in the gallery sections under each individual photo.

Bob! from Ayrshire, United Kingdom

The original is a nice shot, but this one has more feeling to it. Great processing of a beautiful view :)

4 Aug 2008 6:44am

@Bob!: Thanks Bob....John Leech showed me that this kind of thing was possible with B&W processing back when I got this camera but it's only recently that I've started to figure out basic things like layers, curves, dodging & burning etc which are essential to getting the most out of conversions from colour.

Mirko Herzner from Mühlheim am Main, Germany

To be honest Ian: I like both very much. Todays addition has some more special features and the sky is much more worth exploring. With the first shot in december my eyes are much stronger on the plant itself as it is so dark in comparison to the sky and lake. So: Both have something I really like!

4 Aug 2008 6:55am

@Mirko Herzner: Thanks Mirko.....sometimes I find it really interesting to go back and take a look at some of my older photos and try and reprocess them. It can be revealing about the direction I'm heading in and the experience I've gained.

MadScientist from Düsseldorf, Germany

Both shots are great, but emphasizing the sky adds a little twist to the overall impression and makes the plant less important. I like this very much.

4 Aug 2008 7:42am

@MadScientist: Thanks mb! deserved a better sky didn't it. The key to improving the sky here was in saturating the colours before converting to B&W and only then applying contrast to bring out the different tones in what had previuosly been a rather flat expanse of cloud.

Sharon from Brooklyn, United States

For heaven's sake, Ian. You and your dramatic skies! :) Beautiful stuff.

4 Aug 2008 7:49am

@Sharon: Hi Sharon....I hope you never get fed up with the skies in my photos (glad you liked it!)

yz from Hungary

Smoke turns to clouds. Poetic. I think it is one of your best work.

4 Aug 2008 7:53am

@yz: Thanks yz...I appreciate it!

Anthony from Bielefeld, Germany

Good work,I have to say the second version is more dramatic !!

4 Aug 2008 8:13am

@Anthony: Thanks processing skills are slowly but steadily improving.

Ian from Adelaide, Australia

This is awesome!
Such a perfect composition.. Love the smoke in this.. and the sky looks unreal!

4 Aug 2008 10:17am

@Ian: Thanks Ian.....I haven't added or taken anything away in this version compared to the original. The 'improvement' has all come from using CS3 rather than Elements and better skills on my part in using contrast tools.

Lorraine from Gatineau, Canada

Hell i thought the first version was stunning, you've become even better..congratulatons, you should be proud :)

4 Aug 2008 10:19am

@Lorraine: Thanks Lorraine....photoshop has been a real struggle for me but now at least I can manage some of the basics.

ordinaryimages from Kentucky Bluegrass, United States

prefer the 07, clarity over processing. best...jf

4 Aug 2008 11:56am

@ordinaryimages: Ah well...can't win them all :-)

IanSmith from London, United Kingdom

Nice!... A great shot turns into a work of art. I know which one I'd prefer to frame.

4 Aug 2008 12:49pm

@IanSmith: Thanks Ian....just in the past month or so I finally feel like I've started to get somewhere with Photoshop. I know it's just a first step on a long road but at least I'm not struggling anymore with basic stuff like layers. Thanks again for setting me on the road with processing with all that help you gave at DPR Fujiforum.

m a r t a from Spain

Very dramatic. I prefer this version, I think the darkness adds to it. The sky looks amazing.

4 Aug 2008 2:03pm

@m a r t a: Thanks Marta!

Daryl from Amagasaki, Japan

Beautifully done...

4 Aug 2008 2:18pm

@Daryl: Thanks Daryl!

Lorena from Fort Myers, United States

Great shot to begin with, but i can see the improvement. I am always surprise how much we grow when we look back to the things we have done.

4 Aug 2008 4:55pm

@Lorena: Thanks Lorena....with my photography I tend to progress in a stop/start kind of way whereby I can suddenly feel like I've made real progress then things will stay at that level for quite a while before (hopefully) I make another bit of progress. It can be a very frustrating process.

Nataly from Santa Monica, United States

As usual beautifully composed, Ian. And indeed N.England has remarkable skies! So dramatic. What a tease...

4 Aug 2008 6:38pm

@Nataly: Thanks Nataly....we've been lucky for dramatic skies this summer (or maybe it's just that this is my first summer with this DSLR and I'm looking at them a lot more this year :-)

Ted from South Wales, United Kingdom

Old was good. New one has blown it away. When do you start our master class?

4 Aug 2008 7:03pm

@Ted: :-)...thanks Ted.....master class!'ve got a good sense of humour anyway!

dj.tigersprout from San Bruno, CA, United States

looks like i have missed a version of this..? no matter -- this is just stunning! i would love to see you at work -- your photos and style are just unbelievable expressive and powerful! bravo! do you teach classes? :) really?

4 Aug 2008 7:42pm

@dj.tigersprout: Thanks dj! don't need classes from anybody. Your photos are great without needing tips from me. I'm a raw beginner when it comes to photoshop and it's something that I find far harder than the photography although I enjoy experimenting with it. The key for me with B&W processing was getting CS3 which also happened to coincide with me finally starting to use layers....those two things made a big difference to the subtelty and range of tones I was able to bring to my B&W photos.

On a more serious note though, if you ever feel there's something specific that you think I can help with I'll do my best to try and explain what I've done to get a particular result....this image for example was trickier than most. Normally I can get the tones in my B&W skies by just using the CS3 dedicated converter and then applying contrast with the 'curves' tool with perhaps some dodging & burning. With this photo however, the clouds were really flat and the CS3 converter didn't do much for it. A trick that sometimes works for me proved to be the key on this one....what I did was to really saturate the colours and push the colour temperature on the original photo so that the sky turned into shades of dull yellow before trying the CS3 converter again followed by 'curves'. The converter then had much more to work on with there being a greater range of tones in the yellow than in the previously uniform white clouds.

Have you got CS3 by the way?....for those who haven't it has an excellent B&W converter that has sliders for each of the main colours such as yellow, red, green, cyan, blue etc. What this does is allow a great deal of subtelty in the way each of those colours changes to monotone. The most common example of it in use would be a typical blue summer sky with some white clouds....with CS3 you can choose the blue and cyan sliders and alter that blue sky so that it is converted to any shade of white through to black that you like.

Margie from Auckland, New Zealand

An absolutely stunning sky! Very nice shot, Ian. Bravo.

4 Aug 2008 8:05pm

@Margie: Thanks Margie!

Laurie from New Jersey, United States

Stunning sky, very dramatic. It must have been really cold. The steam is so vivid. Beautiful.

5 Aug 2008 3:20am

@Laurie: Thanks Laurie...yes I took this photo in the middle of winter!

amy from Nanaimo, BC, Canada

Incredible, Ian!! You've come a long way, baby. Your processing is incredible. This image has gone from pretty amazing to mind blowing fantastic.

5 Aug 2008 4:00am

@amy: Thanks Amy!....the post processing skills have been a lot harder to learn than the photography but at last I feel like I'm starting to get somewhere with it (at least it's not as deeply frustrating as it used to be:-)

ZmAjEvA from Belgrade, Serbia

Amazing sky and lighting! You are a master of photo-shop, and everything looks natural!

5 Aug 2008 11:58am

@ZmAjEvA: Thanks ZmAjEvA!.....honestly I'm a beginner at Photoshop but at least I'm using layers now which is a big help.

Lorraine from Canada

Also meant to ask you about Photoshop, I have CS2 would that provide me with the tools I need to accomplish the cs conversion?

5 Aug 2008 2:09pm

@Lorraine: Lorraine, CS2 will certainly allow you to convert shots from B&W to colour but I think the dedicated converter that I've been using for my recent work is new on my CS3 version. I didn't own a copy of CS2 so I can't advise on the best methods with that version of Photoshop.

My previous software was Photoshop Elements 5 so I can help with that B&W is extremely easy and produces instant results but isn't quite as subtle as CS3 as the contrast is added as part of the conversion process....with CS3 it's a 2 step procedure - B&W conversion first and then add your own contrast after to your own taste rather than have it dictated to you by the programme.

Marie from FRESNES, France

magnifique atmosphère, rehaussée par ce superbe post traitement.

6 Aug 2008 12:44pm

@Marie: Thanks Marie!

John Pendley from Cleveland, United States

Ian, I've spent parts of two days with your work, and I've been wondering how it can be digital and look so much like Ansel Adams' Zone System results. Several of your responses here give me a clue as to how you do it. It's great technique, which I couldn't approach, but the vision is even more impressive--the vision that produced the original image and the vision that uses post processing to produce something lie this. Wonderful! If I were thirty years younger, I'd start studying PS.

30 May 2018 8:58pm

@John Pendley: That's very kind of you John! I'm amazed that you managed to get this far back into my AM3 portfolio. I was very much a raw beginner back in 2007 when this particular photo was taken including this 2008 re-processed version. The main difference between 2007 and now in 2018 is that these days my digital post processing to b&w is very much governed by what I think will look good on a print. (PS I'm 58 next week and I too wish that I was 30 years younger!)

1/250 second
ISO 200
30 mm (35mm equiv.)