Helmsley Castle

Helmsley CastleHelmsley Castle
CameraSony DSC-F828
Exposure Modeauto bracket (±1 EV)
Focal Length11.7mm
Exposure1/400 sec.
ISO Speed64
A few weeks ago we had a day out to Helmsley in North Yorkshire. I've been through the village a couple of times in the car but have never stopped before. It's a really pleasant village and for it's size there is an awful lot to see and do. The intention was to wonder around the village and to spend time in the walled garden rather than a visit to the castle. I couldn't resist taking photos of the castle though especially as the weather was so changeable that every time I looked at it the light was quite different. I took quite a few shots from the same point as this weeks photo; some on auto, some on shutter priority mode and a few bracketed shots. The hope was that at least one of the photos would capture the interesting light. In the end I didn't get a single photo I was happy with but I did get a bracketed set which showed some promise.

Helmsley Castle

In this set I had quite a lot of interesting clouds and yet I'd also managed to retain a reasonable amount of detail of the ruined keep.

Helmsley CastleMy original intention was to use PaintShop Pro's HDR function to combine the bracketed shots and then to do a few minor tweaks to the brightness and saturation, in the same way I have with a number of other photos in the past. Usually I can get a feel for a photo when I just play around with the brightness and clarify sliders in the HDR dialog, but I couldn't find any settings that I was really happy with. In the end I settled on using a brightness of 10 and clarify of 90 to give the image on the left. There is plenty of detail in this image but I just don't think it's that impressive, and it certainly didn't really represent what I'd seen with my own eyes.

Helmsley CastleTo try and rescue something from the photos I turned to the Smart Photo Fix dialog. As you probably know from previous posts this allows my to adjust the overall brightness, the highlights, shadows, saturation and sharpness. Usually a few minor tweaks to the shadows and a small increase in the saturation brings an image to life. Unfortunately I couldn't seem to improve the image that much. I darkened the shadows, which helped pick out the brickwork, and increased the saturation to breath a little life into the grass (for the curious I used values of 10, -80, 10, 20 and 0), but a decent usable image escaped me.

I intended to file the image away and forget about it, until I saw Synflame's recent posting showing the inside of the Palace of the Grand Masters in Rhodes. Rather than showing colour photos he'd converted them to black and white and they were stunning (I'd be interested to see the originals for a comparison). So I decided to see if converting to black and white would improve my rather dull image of Helmsley Castle. I experimented with converting some of the original photos as well as the HDR attempt, but the best results came from using the HDR image. I could have just reduced the image to grayscale but I found that using PaintShop Pro's Black and White Film process produced a slightly better image (even though I didn't apply a colour filter). The final step in the processing was to apply the one step noise removal filter to soften the image slightly; I nearly always do this and I don't know if it is a problem with the camera, the processing or just personal preference -- I'd be interested to know what other people think.

So having thought I'd lost out on a good photo of Helmsley Castle I'm actually really happy with the final image.


Synflame said...

Hi Mark, great shot and I'm really glad you found a little inspiration from my own conversions. I've found that buildings and in particular stonework really work well in b&w.
I'm quite surprised you have to filter for noise when shooting at such a low ISO. Unless you're the one looking closely at zoomed in images it's hard to make a judgement. I actually quite like a bit of noise in black and white. One of the shots of the palace was at ISO640 and the other 200 but the Canon does handle higher ISO very well. I'm going to post the originals up so you can have a look at the difference.
Really like the blog by the way, you've got some great stuff here. Look forward to seeing more.

Mark said...

I'm guessing that the noise is actually coming from the processing in PaintShop Pro rather than the camera -- I suspect it's actually from recovering detail from darkened areas that is causing me the most problems. As you say at ISO64 there is almost no noise in the original photos.

Maybe I should think about investing in Photoshop, but when I can buy a licensed copy of PaintShop Pro through the uni for £2 it's hard to justify spending hundreds on Photoshop!

Lucy Corrander said...

Thank you for the mouse note on Adrian's blog. The oak is light coloured so I was not surprised when Adrian said it is new-ish. However . . . isn't it interesting that this tradition persists?


Mark said...

Lucy, yes I agree it is a lovely tradition. I'd agree with you and guess that the furniture Adrian photographed is relatively new given it's colour -- I know that the older furniture I've seen is a much darker colour.

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