About me, Interviews

Interview with Ole Henrik Skjelstad

I’ve known Ole Henrik a few years now, he needs no introduction to anyone in the Landscape Photography world. If you haven’t seen his work, seriously …do look him up. One of my biggest landscape photography inspirations and a genuine human being.

“Jenny’s story is a compelling read about dedication, hardships and overcoming obstacles. She is a true artist whose images stand out as unique, creative and evocative”.

Have a wee read & please let me know.

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Tell us a little about yourself.

Born and raised in the north of England, moved to the Scottish Highlands in my mid 30s with husband and two dogs following our dream to escape the rat race. We live on a farm within a private highland estate in the far north –  I really have never lived anywhere so beautiful in all my life. Always been a bit of a dolly daydreamer. My senior school was set in a rural location with views down a pretty valley and my step father once told a teacher that I’d never get any work done for staring out of the classroom window in my own little world. He was not wrong! I’m a very competitive person but only with myself, I am my own biggest critic, never happy with my images.

 What made you start out with landscape photography?

I’ve always had a passion for the great outdoors and travel, and most of our holidays and free time were either spent long distance backpacking, hiking, climbing or skiing. Unfortunately I was diagnosed with a rare bone disease aged 35 which put an end to our adventures and I spiralled into a dark place. A few years later I found solace taking photos whilst walking my dogs in the beautiful countryside where I was lucky enough to be living, using a basic point/ shoot camera. I finally took the plunge and purchased my first Canon DSLR in October 2015.

What do you want to communicate through your photos?

I try to communicate depth by means of interesting foreground, textures, light, different focal lengths and focus. Emotion is never far from my mind when processing, which I hope is something I manage to convey in my photographs. Oftentimes, I will use more warmer palettes to portray happiness whereas more moody cool tones can show the opposite. I never set out with a plan, I kind of go with the flow wherever my mood takes me. I truly find great pleasure inviting the viewer into the scene and the world through my eyes.

What has photography done for you?

It’s helped me with mental negative demons, and in a way it’s given me back the old part of my life in the great outdoors without debilitating hip pain. Whether I’m on location or post processing, it will take me to another world. I’m not sure if others will relate to this but it’s like I’m able to escape the chaos of life and zone out in my own little world. Not to mention the genuine friendships I’ve made through photography, the generosity I’ve encountered continually astounds me.

How would you describe your work, and how has it evolved since you started out?

As much as I’m known for a lot of post processing, I do feel over the years I’ve learnt to tone it down a wee bit. In the early days I thought saturation and heavy vignettes were the best thing ever, whereas these days I try to be more selective and use it to lead the eye into key areas. Studying light has been a game changer for me, knowing where your light source is and where the light / shadows will fall is a must. I’ve learnt a lot just by spending time in nature – you soon learn what colours work best … you can’t beat nature’s own colour wheel. Also I give myself more time these day on composition, searching for patterns and leading lines, whereas I never use to give it much thought.

I suppose most of us have periods when we seem to lose the fun of photography. Have you developed any strategies to keep the fire burning?

Absolutely! There are most definitely times when this happens, I need time away mostly from my computer and usually spend extra time on family road trips. Especially to the west coast of Scotland – famous for rain but once it stops and the sun comes out there is such amazing light playing on the land that it’s hard not to feel exhilarated and then I can’t get the camera out fast enough! It’s like an itch that needs scratching and I’m back before I know it. I’m very fortunate to have such a supportive husband, he understands when these times happen but will never let me give up when I’m throwing a tantrum (usually in post processing) – he’s always there championing me on which really does help re-igniting the flame.

Have you ever been severely criticized for your work? And in that case how did you handle it?

Oh yes ….!  It sure happens, especially in my early days and I didn’t handle it well emotionally and took it to heart. The purists often criticise my creative licence but I am not here to appease them, my art is selfishly for myself. I’ve learnt over the years to take it with a pinch of salt and move on as photography is subjective and you’ll never satisfy everyone – the world would be a boring place if we all liked the same thing. These days if I see a negative comment on social media I literally ignore it. Gone are the days where I try to reason with them and at the end of the day they are quite entitled to their opinion. After saying that categorically I can say that I’ve never criticise anyone else’s work, even if someone directly asks me for constructive criticism I still struggle, it’s not in my nature. My gran always taught me if you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all. 

Have you any hobbies besides photography?

Not sure if it’s a hobby but it sure takes up time! This past year I’ve thoroughly enjoyed spending time with seven horses on our farm whom I’ve become very attached to and seem to connect with on an emotional level, it’s really quite bizarre in a heartwarming and calming way. Also I enjoy reading and watching far too many films.

In which direction do you believe landscape photography is heading? 

In all honesty reflecting on the past 20 years in the mountains of Scotland I’ve witnessed huge environmental damages. I feel social media is like a virus to landscape photography. So many people travel the globe to iconic places just to post on social media to gain more likes and/or followers, it’s really very sad what’s happening to these beauty spots. Don’t get me wrong-  I accept wholeheartedly that anyone has the right to go where they wish, we’re all guilty of that up to a point. For me travel is about adventure and fun, not letting Google direct you to a location you’ve seen on Instagram. For example 20-30 years ago the famous Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye only had a few daily hill walkers, there wasn’t even a car park, not many people knew about it, people would simply park on the roadside and for the odd few cars doing this it really didn’t matter. Unlike the past 10 years where it’s snowballed to craziness on a whole new level with endless streams of tour buses all year round. It really hurts me seeing the erosion caused not only to the roads but footpaths too and literally scarring the vistas. I don’t know if people are plain selfish or just don’t realise this damage is permanent! Even if everyone stopped going from today it would take many hundreds of years to return to its former glory. I honestly don’t know where it’ll all end.

What is the most amazing place you have visited? Is it possible for you to articulate why it made such a huge impression on you?

In 1994 my husband and I rented our house out to fund a road trip for a year travelling fourteen countries in Europe and Scandinavia. There was one very special country we never wanted to leave which was Norway, it left a huge impression especially the enormity of the turquoise waterfalls and Troll Wall, such a beautiful country in so many ways. We were able to take our watches off and mostly didn’t know if it was day or night as it was summer time and never went totally dark. 

What inspires you?

It’s got to be the moody Scottish weather. Some say it’s not great due to all the rain but for me there’s nothing better than after heavy rain fall when the sun pops out often revealing great light rays. Also foggy mornings make my heart swell when the mist slowly lifts from a river or loch, it really does make for interesting photography.

You have been severely ill. How has that affected you as a person and your photography?

March 2018 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, and my world came crashing down. Photography definitely inspired me to overcome my fears for the biggest fight of my life. My consultant told me I’d be out of action for a year with surgery and treatments. Luckily a few weeks after diagnosis a fine art gallery south of Glasgow approached me to display some of my work. This gave me mental balance, something positive to focus on and true hope. It took a few weeks after surgery to get back to doing some post processing, and I was only able to use one hand. Sadly I wasn’t able to hold my camera, let alone use it as I was so weak and sore. Cancer might have put my life on hold but there was no way it was controlling my love of photography. Within this time I wrote a full post processing tutorial of one of my images from start to finish for a photography magazine and also had a selection of my work published in a hardback coffee table style book.

 Photography helped to shut out the reality of the outside world, and took me to another world full of magic, with a sense of calmness and happiness. It gave me the confidence to hold my head up high, I was alive! No matter what I had to face my escape was always my art, I buried my head in my own little world where anything was possible. Eventually I got through surgery, 5 months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and albeit a little battered and bruised, I survived! It’s the old cliche that you often hear after a life-changing diagnosis –  “the world looks different now”. It’s so true. Before my diagnosis I would shy away from certain opportunities but now I want to grab life and live it to the fullest. I received many messages of support from fellow photographers who told me their stories of how cancer had touched their families. Photography has been my saviour and still continues to help rebuild “me”.

Do you have a piece of advice for young aspiring landscape photographers?

Be true to yourself, do what makes you happy and don’t worry what others may think. Don’t follow the crowds or chase the followers – it will become stressful and dull your creativity. Take inspiration from others but don’t copy. Try to find your own unique style which in return will give you more abundance. Never compare yourself to others, it’s a slippery slope of despair. Social media can of course be inspirational but at the same time can leave you with a feeling of lacklustre and loneliness and can quickly lead to unhelpful comparisons. If this happens take some time away even if just a couple of hours and do something completely different – for it can suck the life from your creative flow. And finally, practice, practice and more practice, it’s the only way. Oh… and don’t be too hard on yourself –  it’s about having fun!


 

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© Jenny Cameron 2019.

 

 

On Location

The Buccal

Buachaille
Glencoe

“The Buccal” …also known as Buachaille Etive Mor. It’s been my playground the past thirty odd years, I know these mountains very well having climbed, back-packed & skied. There will always be something very special deep in my heart that draws me back. For those who have never visited Glencoe/ Rannoch Moor area, let me tell you it’s one of those places your forever looking over your shoulder, not because it’s unsafe but your constantly thinking someone is behind you. Kinda spooky which is of no surprise when you think of the Glencoe massacre 1692 when Clan MacDonald were slaughtered in their sleep!

Glen Etive portrait style waterfall re edit

Reviews

Haida Red Diamond Medium 0.9

The Red Diamond filter I am testing is a medium 0.9 equaling 3 Stops. Rectangle in shape and sized 100mm x 150mm, providing more flexibility to move the filter up or down within the holder for ultimate control, homogeneous graduated blending from light to dark and endless creative possibilities. I really enjoyed using this filter in combination with the M10 filter holder. It’s fun the way you can rotate the holder if you want to darken the sky on one side or turn it upside down if you’re looking over bright highlighted water.

take wording for blog post & pic

I predict this latest series from Haida becoming “The big daddy” of them all for landscape photographers the world over. Haida named this new series “Red Diamond” as they’re amongst the strongest diamonds in the world, therefore being the strongest of all Haida filters.

What makes this series stand out from its predecessor and other brand filters are listed as follows:

  • Shock resistant, low risk to any accidental damage.
  • Scratch resistant, the perfect partner in demanding weather.
  • Zero colour cast.
  • Waterproof, oil and fingerprint proof Nanopro coated surface.
  • Improved optical glass.
  • R5 rounded corners – makes it easier to slide in and out of the filter holder, no sharp corners.
  • K9 optical glass.
  • True colour.
  • Ultra-thin nano multi coating.
  • Easy to clean.
  • Double the strength of other glass filters whilst at the same time retaining ultimate sharpness.
  • Still retaining 2 mm in thickness making it compatible with the Haida 100-Pro filter holder and other brands the same size.
  • The Red Diamond series is double the strength of a normal glass filter. You may have seen online the Haida Red Diamond drop test video? Where it’s thrown onto a concrete floor and no sign of damage to the filter. If you are accident prone this would be the perfect filter series for you.

Images below showing straight-out-of-camera (Canon 5d mark iv and Canon 16-35mm USM L Lens) @16mm -With-without-Red Diamond medium 0.9 (3 stops). No post processing on either, other than lens correction in Lightroom.

With-Red-Diamond-Medium-Filter-base-edit

Finally post processed in Adobe Creative Cloud

strath jpeg
Location = A private Highland Estate
Tutorials, Uncategorized

From Start to Finish

Here is the Raw file we will be working with. Taken with a Canon 5d Mark iv, Canon 16-35mm USM Lens @34mm, ISO 100, F11, 131 seconds. With a Haida ND 3.6 (12 stop) Filter. On the beautiful banks of Loch Assynt, Sutherland, Scotland.

©Jenny Cameron 2017

 To begin with we are going to make sure we’ve removed any unwanted objects. With this particular image I decided to remove the reeds in the foreground as I felt they looked messy and uninteresting. I will leave the small foreground rock as an anchor point to draw the eye into the scene. We are going to do this with the help of Content Aware technology in Photoshop.

1: Start by duplicating your background layer by holding Ctrl+J, or CMD+J on a Mac.

2: With Layer 1 selected ( highlighted in white) > Go to your Tools panel > Select the  Lasso Tool and roughly draw round any unwanted objects (as seen in the image below).

3: Go to Edit > Fill. This will provide you with a pop up box. At the top of the box you’ll find a drop down menu > select Content – Aware. Check the Color Adaptation checkbox, sometimes this can give a smoother color transition. Copy my settings from the image below.

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4: Just like magic! Photoshop did a great job in removing the reeds, see the results below. You now need to deactivate your selection by holding Ctrl+D, or CMD+D on a Mac. Flatten your image by going to Layer> Flatten Layer, which will collapse your Layer stack into one. You can do this sequence several times to improve results if needed.

©Jenny Cameron 2017
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5: The image is looking too blue for my taste.  I’m going to lower the blues in Adobe Camera Raw ( ACR).

6: Open up ACR > You do this by going to > Filter > Camera Raw Filter > which brings up a new screen. >Go to the eighth tab along in the Basic Panel (right hand side) named Camera Calibration > Go to the bottom set of sliders named Blue Primary. Set the Hue slider to minus 14 or thereabouts, and the Saturation slider to minus 100. See my settings in the image below.

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7: Flatten your Layer stack by going to Layer> Flatten Layer, which will collapse your Layer stack into one.

8: Again, duplicate your background layer by holding Ctrl+J, or CMD+J on a Mac.

9: Go back into ACR, this is where we are going to control the light. The light is coming from the left side of the image. Start by grabbing your Gradient filter which is the second tool from the right on the top left row. I use a bright Pink colour ( see my image below) as my Mask colour seen in the lower half of the screen, as its a colour not commonly used in nature, making it stand out to enable me to see where the actual Gradient will be rather than the Overlay option checkbox which gives you a lined area. Simply drag down the Gradient Filter with your mouse to where you think is best and click OK, which takes you back into Photoshop. Flatten your Layer stack by going to Layer> Flatten Layer, which will collapse your Layer stack into one.

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10: You can see in the image below the effect its given from the settings I used.

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11: Duplicate your background layer by holding Ctrl+J, or CMD+J on a Mac

12: Back into ACR, using the Gradient filter again I lowered the exposure of the water. All the time my aim is to draw the eye to the trees.The lighting is now looking more directional. See my image below of the work so far. Click OK & back into Photoshop. Flatten your Layer stack by going to Layer> Flatten Layer, which will collapse your Layer stack into one.

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13: Duplicate your background layer by holding Ctrl+J, or CMD+J on a Mac.

14: Back into ACR > Take the fifth tool from the top left set of Tools named Target Adjustment Tool ( I call it the Tat Tool ). It will provide you with a movable cross shape icon > zip across to the Basic Panel (right hand side) to the fourth icon named HSL/ Grayscale. You’ll see three  titles named Hue, Saturation & Luminance.> Click on Luminance, place your cursor over the area you want to work on. In my case I’m starting on the trees. > Now drag your cursor/mouse upwards, this will lift the Luminance values. You can see how my settings in the image below has lifted the shadows on the trees and made them stand out more. Also have a play around with the Saturation & Hue sliders with the same technique. Be careful as it’s a very powerful tool and has a tendency to show weird colour transitions if pushed too far.  Once you’ve finished click OK. This will take you back into Photoshop and you’ll need to flatten your Layer stack.

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15:Duplicate your background layer by holding Ctrl+J, or CMD+J on a Mac.

16: We need to take this a further step as the trees aren’t popping off the screen as much as I’d hoped. So…head back to ACR and follow my settings similar to the image below. Again, once you’ve finished in ACR click OK which will take you back to Photoshop. Do not flatten your Layer stack this time.

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17: The image is still looking flat and boring with no depth. So lets mask off the brighter areas which are not needed. You can also see in the histogram that some highlights are blown out which isn’t great. We need to control this, hopefully once masked off it should bring them back. If you have never used masks please don’t worry, we will work through it together in baby steps. Once you get the hang of them it will open up a whole new world for you.

18: With Layer 1 selected, go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide all. This provides you with a black mask hiding your top layer (layer 1).  Make sure your foreground and background colours are set to the default of white and black. You can do this by pressing “D” on your keyboard. Set your Brush Opacity to around 20- 30 %, its best to build up slowly to give a more natural feathered effect. Now take a large soft brush (1100px approx)  using your white foreground colour (this will reveal your hidden layer) and carefully paint in the light you want to show. You can alter the size of your brush by using your bracket keys. Adjust your Opacity in the Layers panel if needed. Flatten your image by going to Layer> Flatten Layer, which will collapse your Layer stack into one.

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19:  Duplicate your background layer by holding Ctrl+J, or CMD+J on a Mac.

20: Go back into ACR and grab your TAT tool (Target Adjustment Tool). Im now aiming for the brighter areas of the sky around the trees. With your Cursor drag down the highlights in the area, this will help the trees stand out and blend better.

21: Whilst in ACR go to the Basic Panel> Selecting the seventh icon along named Effects> Select the Dehaze Slider and increase by around 17. This gives more definition and contrast. Press OK which takes you back to Photoshop. Flatten your image by going to Layer> Flatten Layer, which will collapse your Layer stack into one.

22: Duplicate your Background layer by holding Ctrl+J, or CMD+J on a Mac.

23: Still working on giving extra light to the trees. Select Layer one > Blend mode Linear Dodge ( Add) > Set your Opacity to around 75% and Fill to 25%. This really gives great highlights. Again you’ll need to mask off certain areas that aren’t required, (same as in step 18 above to reveal some eye popping light effects). See the results in the image below.

©Jenny Cameron 2017
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24:  Back into ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) to the White Balance tool. This can help with not only colours but also Luminosity too. Top left you’ll see an eye dropper Tool, third icon from the left. Place your cursor over it and drag to a neutral part in your image and click. Try different areas for different effects. Click OK which takes you back to Photoshop.  See the results in the image below. Not a massive difference but each little step really does help.> Flatten your Layer stack.

©Jenny Cameron 2017
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25: Duplicate your Background layer by holding Ctrl+J, or CMD+J on a Mac.

26: Back into ACR > Go to the Basic panel> Seventh icon named Effects> Post crop Vignetting> Add some Dehaze.  Click OK and back into Photoshop. Adjust your opacity slider to what you think looks best in the Layers panel. Flatten your image. Follow my settings from the image below.

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27: Back again to ACR > HSL panel> Saturation section> Take your TAT tool and drag down those brashy blues to help the trees stand out better. Click OK which takes you back to Photoshop and flatten your Layers in the Layer stack.

28: Duplicate your Background layer by holding Ctrl+J, or CMD+J on a Mac.

29: To me the Vignette is looking a wee bit too heavy, so go back into ACR and the HSL Panel. > Luminance section and lift those dark shadows. For me it actually lifted more around the trees which was great as it gave more contrast. Click OK and back to Photoshop. Flatten your layers.

30: Duplicate your Background layer by holding Ctrl+J, or CMD+J on a Mac.

 

31: Go to  > Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask>. Copy my settings from the image below. Click OK.

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32: Go to >Edit > Fade unsharp mask> this brings up a pop up box > Click OK >. In your Layers panel go to > Blend Mode Luminosity. That’s your sharpening all done but do we really want sharp clouds? I think not, so…..lets mask off the parts we don’t want sharp.

33: With Layer 1 selected, go to > Layer > Layer Mask > Hide all. This provides you with a black mask hiding your top layer.  Make sure your foreground and background colours are set to the default of white and black. You can do this by pressing “D” on your keyboard. Set your Brush Opacity to around 30- 40 %, its best to build up slowly. Now take a large soft brush using your white foreground colour to paint in the sharp areas you want to show. You can alter the size of your brush by using your bracket keys. Adjust your Opacity in the Layers panel if needed. Flatten your image.

34: To save for the web, go to > Image> Image size>. Follow my settings below and click OK..

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35: Go to > File > Save as >. This will bring up your personal PC Library >. Now save and name to whatever folder you wish. Remember to select in the drop down menu that you want it saved as a Jpeg.

Final image below.

©Jenny Cameron 2017
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Tips: You can also save as you go along which is something I’ve learned the hard way with my crazy connections here in the wilds of Scotland. My internet can oftentimes drop or slow down, and for some reason it closes Photoshop losing all my work. So if you save as you go it saves any heartache that may happen. Some people like to work in large Layer stacks which is fine, we’re all different and have different circumstances.

I do all my sharpening at the end of the process as Contrast, Clarity and Dehaze to name a few can add to the effect, so if you do it at the end you know the correct amount to add. It also depends on where the image will be shown, in this case it will be posted on social media platforms.

 Try not to focus on the sliders. Place your cursor on the control and move it without looking at it. Look only at your image and how the slider is affecting it. This way it’s easier to see when something will look right.

I truly hope you enjoyed this tutorial & found it easy to understand. If you have any questions you may like to ask please feel free to give me a shout on Facebook Messenger and I’ll be happy to help. Most of all have fun and enjoy your Photography, it’s all about you, not what others may think.

Jenny~