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Behind The Lens

This photo was taken at the Aksla Viewpoint in Alesund, Norway. It had been a dream of mine to visit since I first saw photos years ago. They always had a very mystical feeling for me, one that mirrored the gateway to the land of giants and trolls. When I was able to plan my trip to the west coast of Norway, I went out of my way to make sure that Alesund was included as a stop.
I had been waiting for years for my opportunity to photograph Alesund and had only one evening to accomplish what I had set out to do. By the time evening came, things weren't looking good. The clouds had moved in, casting a gray blanket across the sky and it started to rain. The rain didn't let up until just before midnight and I was concerned that I wouldn't have the clarity I needed for city and mountains to be in view. I decided to go check things out for myself, and ventured out to Aksla Viewpoint. As my luck would have it, the mist had cleared and I was left with what I had hoped for, the mystical Alesund.
My visit was in July which gave me the light I needed to take this shot so late in the evening. Being as far north as it was, blue hour in Alesund lasts a couple of hours which gave enough time to get some definition back in the clouds and allow the mist to clear. I had planned for a blue hour shot because I felt that it added to the feel I wanted to convey while also adding a sense of calm.
I used a Canon 70D with a Tamron 17-50 mm lens on a Manfrotto tripod with a shutter release.
I had always wanted to photograph Norway, and I had seen a number photographs from this spot in the past. Most of the photographs I had seen were either taken during the day or as the sunset. I really wanted to capture this view at blue hour as I thought it would add to the mystical feeling that the scene had for me. The mountainous islands in the background were something out J.R.R. Tolkien novel. The landscape had this sense of peace and calm and seemed to be the gateway between civilization and fantasy.
I edited two exposures of the photo in Lightroom 5 and combined them using Photoshop. I enhanced the contrast, clarity and reduced noise. I also made some localized adjustments to smooth out the water, remove spots, and added a high pass filter in Photoshop to further sharpen the details.
In my camera bag
Honestly, I probably carry too much. I've been trying to cut down on things, but I always seem to want things 'just in case'. Currently I have a pretty good compromise, and I carry my Canon 70D body, along with some Tamron lens: 17-50mm, 10-24mm and 70-300mm and circular polarizers for each lens. I also carry a shutter release, Cokin graduated Neutral Density filters (2 stop, 4 stop and a 6 stop), as well as a 9 stop Hoya variable ND filter (which I love!) And last but not least a Manfrotto 055 carbon fiber tripod which has saved me on more occasions than I can count, it's so stable!
I would say that even when things look grim, go scoop things out anyways. It seems that the best shots are the ones that you almost didn't go take because things didn't look right. Even if I'm sleep deprived I always go check out the spot that I've staked out no matter what things look like outside my window. There have been many times I wish I had stayed in bed, but there have been a handful where I have gotten much more than I bargained for and I wouldn't trade that for any amount of sleep. Also, if shooting in summer in the far north (or south), take naps in the middle of the day so that you are plenty rested at night. Sunset and blue hour in these regions give you lots time to take beautiful photos, you'll need your rest to take advantage of the gift.

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