Little big shot photography

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  • The Marina
  • Nikon D750 with 24mm lens
  • 129 seconds at f/11, ISO 50
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.6 ND Hard Grad
  • LEE Polariser

This was one of the first images to catch my eye, a great example of a Big Stopper image, its simplicity and the way the light catches the metal railings really sets this image off well. Without the light catching those railings this image would not be as powerful. I love the fact it draws you into the picture, pulls you into that warm light, helped by the splash of red in the middle of the picture. The Polariser and Big Stopper are working well together here.

The slight distraction for me is the brightness of the light in the middle on the horizon, I’d like the viewer to enjoy the main part of the image and not be distracted by the bright light above the horizon. Although Jay has used a hard ND Grad to try and control this, maybe a few less seconds of exposure was all that was needed. I would also take a little bit off the sky to bring the viewers attention back down towards the railings, all very minor adjustments of a fantastic image.

  • Fanad Lighthouse in Donegal, Ireland
  • Nikon D750 with Tamron 15-30 2.8 Di VC USD lens at 15mm
  • 182 seconds at f/11, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad

I have a deep fascination of lighthouse structures, how varied and isolated they often are. What I enjoy here is the moment of light which has been captured across the landscape, the rocks and the lighthouse itself. This light is enhanced by the use of the Big Stopper, freezing the water around the rock ledges creating that moment of calm, and allowing the clouds to soften draws your focus to where the light is, it has also enhanced the detail in the rocks.

Declan has used a Soft ND Grad to hold back the brighter element of the sky and possibly lengthen the time of the exposure. If I was looking to improve upon this, I’d be considering removing some of the sky especially as it is blank with little cloud movement and I would have angled for just a touch more foreground to make use of that lovely line of rocks in the bottom of the frame. A lovely image.

  • Wailuku River, Big Island, Hawaii, USA
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Canon EF 16-35mm 2.8L III USM lens at 26mm
  • 10 seconds at f/10, ISO 400
  • Big Stopper

This image really caught my eye, it felt like I was stood exactly where Mason was when he took the picture. Using only a Big Stopper to freeze the waterfall it created that effect which freezes motion but to the mind creates an illusion of water movement, this is the fun we have whilst using a Big Stopper is it not? To transform an image from ordinary to interesting?

Would I do anything different? Not a lot. The light pulls you into the waterfall and it’s here that you notice the finer detail, the greens on the rocks and the leaves. In the bottom right of the picture there is another small waterfall, the question is do you enhance it more and lift up the shadow area, or darken it to prevent it from causing a distraction to the main event in the middle? For myself, I’d lift the bottom right and selectively lift the vegetation hanging down in the top left but not to brighten up the background. I’d be tempted to try with a Polariser rather than a Stopper in an area as dark as this to keep the detail. An intriguing image none the less which pulls you in for more each time you look at it.

  • Everything merges in the fog
  • Canon 5DSR with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens at 78mm
  • 25 seconds at f/7.1, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper

For those that know me, waves and patterns I love, this image really captured my thoughts, not only for its uniqueness to waves with blues and silver tones but also to the sheer intensity of the fog even with a Big Stopper on. Keeping something real in the picture allows the viewer to lock onto and imagine being there, the lights from the house are just visible through the fog and this is a really lovely capture.

What could be changed? Again, not a lot. The placement of the trees and house in the image pulls the viewer in. Has Giancarlo intended for this image to be darker to reflect that it was taken in lower light levels, I think yes. I would however like to see it a little bit brighter, to lift up the shadows and the blacks in the bottom left area around the house and trees so the lighting that has been captured stands out, maybe just allowing the exposure with the Big Stopper to run for another 10 - 20 seconds would have been enough lift which is all this image needs.

  • Blue Hour
  • Nikon D850 with 70-200 f/4 lens at 85mm
  • 131 seconds at f/13, ISO 100
  • Little Stopper
  • LEE 0.9 ND Soft Grad

What an amazing blue hour image, this image has a real mix of tones from the pink sky to the green light and lichens. A great scene which is perfect for the Little Stopper and Soft ND Grad that Kurt has used. You can see the tide was high around those interesting concrete shapes and the smooth water really exaggerates the edges of the rocks.

Would I change anything? I’d personally like to see this image with movement of water flowing over the rocks in the foreground and this could have been done with the use of a 2 or 3 stop ND and graduated filter to control the sky and capture some motion, I bet this location would be wonderful with stormy seas! Great control of lights around the front of the lighthouse it really makes you want to walk up to it and look inside. Just be careful to not over lighten patches on the rock areas as it draws your eye to the bottom right of the picture instead of the overall picture which is a stunning capture.

  • That Wanaka Tree and his Birds
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens at 70mm
  • 179 seconds at f/11, ISO 50
  • Little Stopper

This image is all about colour. The opposing colours yellow and blue immediately draw our attention. I like the placement of the tree on the left, where the ridge with pine trees on the right creates balance in the image. The use of a Little Stopper resulted in an exposure time of 3 minutes, leaving some structure in the water. A longer exposure time would have flattened the water surface entirely, making it rather dead.

The image could have been further improved by using a Soft or Medium ND Grad over the sky. The very bright sky pulls the eye away from the scene itself, and out of the image.

  • Scarista curves
  • Nikon D800 with 16-35mm f/4 lens at 16mm
  • 15 seconds at f/11, ISO 100
  • LEE 0.9 Standard ND
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad

What a shot! Simplicity is key, and it definitely proves less is more. The composition is very elegant, with all the elements very well placed. The black line in the sand draws you into the scene, to the sea and the mountain in the distance. The small triangle of sand on the left side adds a nice touch to the image.

I do like the dramatic sky, with lots of movement in it. With an exposure time of “only” 15 seconds the clouds are still visible. Both the ND and the ND Grad were very well used! Processing is excellent, with a nice balance between soft, light and dark tones. The dark mountain in the background is crucial: without it the tones would be rather flat.

A processing suggestion: a very subtle burning in of the lower part creates an entrance into the image, drawing you even more into the scene.

  • Encinitas, California
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF 24-70 mm f/2.8 II USM lens at 27 mm
  • 51 seconds at f/10, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper

This is a rather daring composition, with lots of empty space, and it shows that a beautiful photo does not have to be about something beautiful in itself. It is the skill of the photographer that can create beauty out of something quite ordinary.

The blue of the tower and the yellow of the beach are nice contrasting colours. Adding more of the beach in the composition would not have made the image stronger. It is the large amount of sky that creates a specific mood and atmosphere, giving the viewer plenty of room for his own thoughts and feelings.

An overcast sky is ideal for an image like this: soft light and enough clouds for a visible structure. Without the horizontal line half way the composition of the image would be less interesting. With long exposure photography it is important to pay close attention to the direction of the movement of the clouds.

  • Sunset light on the Marmolada.
    The Dolomites.
  • Canon EOS 6D with Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L USM lens at 70mm
  • 30 seconds at f/7.1, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad

A gorgeous mountain range with gorgeous light! The Dolomites are amongst the finest mountain ranges of Europe, and very photogenic. The sheer cliffs and reddish rock walls just demand to be photographed. The challenge is to limit yourself, and the photographer succeeded in this very well here! The dramatic light accentuates the colour of the Dolomite rock.

The 16:9 panorama aspect ratio helps to bring down the composition to the essentials: cliffs and light. I do like the cliff on the right, it gives depth to the picture. Alas the patch of snow on the right bottom side is distracting, but this can easily be fixed with a little burning in Lightroom/Photoshop.

  • San Francisco, California
  • Sony A7 III with Sony 24-70mm f2.8 GM lens
  • 124 seconds at f/9, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • Little Stopper

A very minimalistic image of San Francisco, where you can barely see the two towers of the Golden Gate Bridge above the sea of clouds. Black and white supports the graphic nature of the picture. A true fine art photo that would do very nicely as a large print!

In a graphic image the “styling” and design is very important: where to place the elements in the composition. There is room for improvement here in my opinion. On the right there is emptiness, while on the left side the bridge is rather tightly cropped. With the composition as it is now a 5:4 or 4:3 aspect ratio, with cropping of the right side, would make it stronger.

The clouds are blown out, especially around the bridge. Possibly this can be fixed in post processing, but it would have been better to use a (extra) Hard ND Grad upside down.

  • Mount Tamalpais State Park, CA
  • Nikon D850 with Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VR lens at 105mm
  • 30 seconds at f/11, ISO 64
  • Little Stopper
  • LEE Reverse 0.9 ND

A truly wonderful and breathtakingly beautiful image displaying mastery of every stage of the photographic process including judicious use of the wonderful Reverse ND Grad. This image is all about colour: three texturally distinct bands stretch the visible spectrum of colours in a perfect juxtaposition. Red, orange and yellow set the sky ablaze, then green is separated down to occupy the lower third; and finally the rolling blue and indigo pastel cloud inversion harmonises with the foreground greens and provides a complementary juxtaposition to the inferno above. David has processed his image masterfully, unafraid to show off these colours as nature’s canvas intended.

If I had to provide critique, it would be that the triangle of distant background trees on the lower right of the image and the rocks in the middle of the lower edge are distracting. For me, cropping out the right hand 25% and the lower 10% would simplify the image further, and make it perfect.

  • Curves. Llandudno.
  • Nikon D7100 with Nikon 10-24mm lens at 17mm
  • 45 seconds at f/13, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.6 ND Medium Grad

When we start creating black and white photographs, there is a gradual realisation that although seemingly so simple, it is enchantingly complex. A compelling image shot in colour, may not work at all in monochrome and vice versa. In order to create great black and white images, a different way of seeing is required; we need to look at the world with tone-tuned ‘black and white eyes’. This additional element in the process of visualisation can be incredibly demanding.

Neil is a master black and white photographer. I love this image for its simplicity, it’s gracefulness and it’s crafted perfection. The simplicity comes from the use of monochrome and the perfect blend of controlled textural content versus negative space. Its enchanting grace comes from the visual flow created by the curve of the paving and the understated resonance between the pool and the insinuated curve in the sky created by the contrasting light and dark elements of the cloudscape. Perfect.

  • Sunset Storm
  • Canon EOS 6D Mark II with Canon EF 24-70 mm f/4 L IS USM lens at 24 mm
  • 103 seconds at f/5, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.9 ND Soft Grad

Incredibly, Chase is a high-school senior from California: his young years clearly belie his gifted vision. Here’s an image celebrating a rare twilight treat, this is what happens when the low lying sun up-lights a mackerel sky and Chase captured this beautiful colour palette in Malibu. Chase has captured and processed all one hundred and three seconds of this beautiful moment perfectly. The Big Stopper has stretched time by the perfect amount to blur the water and the cloudscape in a scene which probably hasn’t changed much for millions of years.

If I have one criticism, it’s that I don’t like 3:2 ratio images in portrait aspect ratio, if we were to crop the image to 4:5, it would lose too much detail from the sand and the upper clouds, but a 3:4 crop would be a compromise which looks more harmonious to my eyes.

  • Rattray Head
  • Sony A7R III with Canon 24-105 F4L lens at 35mm
  • 1 second at f/14, ISO 50
  • LEE 0.6 ND Hard Grad

Brian’s image resonates with me at a guttural level, he’s translated the essence of how it feels to be standing there at the coast with an approaching storm perfectly. I love the way he’s emphasised the texture in the brooding cloudscape, helped by the judicious placement of the 2-stop ND Grad while on location and masterful processing in post-production. The colours are cooked to perfection and seasoned with just the right amount of saturation to delight the most critical palate. Colour is probably the single most important thing to get right in colour photography and Brian’s colour grading is fabulous.

It’s very hard to improve on this image, I wonder if it might benefit from a marginal reduction in saturation of the sand (bottom-left) and very subtle darkening of the right side, lateral to the lighthouse: but these are processing nuances that are very subjective. A wonderful image.

  • Beauty In Winter (Niagara Falls, Ontario)
  • Nikon D800 with Nikon AF-S16-35mm lens at 19mm
  • 54 seconds at f/8, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.9 ND Soft Grad

Jose’s image is a blatant photographic celebration of an iconic location juxtaposed with a blazing crepuscular colour palette. This is an image that instantly grabs your attention, but also becomes increasingly engaging the longer you look at it. It has both ‘wow-factor’ and ‘staying-power’ and that is a rare combination. The composition is a powerful heady mix of teal and orange, and the exposure facilitated by the Big Stopper is the optimum length to dynamise both the water and the cloudscape to the perfect degree.

My personal preference for iconic images like this, is to process them to perfection. I would clone out the distracting tower to the upper right and clone out the building in the snow at the right edge. I would also tighten the frame by cropping off some of the left and lower edges, to focus our attention more on the main subject.

  • Seastack near Fauskasandur, Iceland
  • Canon 5D Mark II with Canon L 24-105mm lens at 80mm
  • 30 seconds at f/16, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad

Iceland has become incredibly popular over the last few years and taking original images is now very difficult indeed. The photographer here, however, has achieved just that. Beautiful light and subtle processing has enabled this to stand out from the crowd. The more you look at the image the more detail you can see, including the faint wisp of mist on the hillside.

My only ‘issue’ is the small patch of snow at the top of the mountain which grabs my eye away from the stack. Depending upon how you feel about cloning, consider removing this as I think you will find it markedly improves the photograph. To start with, place your finger over it and you will see what I mean. Always keep in mind that our eye moves to the lightest part of the scene.

  • Bealach na Bà, Scotland
  • Olympus OM-D 1 Mark II with Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 lens at 12mm (24mm FF)
  • 50 seconds at f/5, ISO 200
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE Polariser

A very dramatic image that has bags of atmosphere. Patterns created by the water, brooding sky and a solitary tree make this a very powerful photograph.

Upon looking through the image data I noticed an aperture of f/5 was used at ISO 200. I wonder if using ISO 100 at f/10 would have been preferable as not only would you have achieved greater depth of field, but through using a lower ISO the image would exhibit even greater rendition. If you were concerned about the length of the shutter speed, I have found when photographing fast flowing streams and rivers there is barely any noticeable difference beyond 5 seconds, so this would not have been an issue.

I also feel that the photograph would benefit from a severe crop taking out, completely, the left-hand cascades, part of the bush and lower rocks, thereby eliminating large areas which are not contributing to the composition. Most importantly, I can see what the photographer was aiming for but as is so often the case, tweaks are all that is required for improvement.

  • Hedvi Beach, Maharashtra, India
  • Fujifilm XT 10 with Fujinon XF 10-24mm lens
  • 10 seconds at f/9, ISO 200
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.9 ND Soft Grad

This photograph illustrates the kind of conditions us landscape photographers yearn for. And, when they occur, all we can hope is that we are in the right place when it happens. Rahul has achieved this! I very much like the strong foreground and use of the ND filter to create softness in the water which helps accentuate the texture in the rocks.

In order to create a more balanced composition I feel it would benefit from a slight crop on the right side and top of the image. The whole photograph looks a little over-processed, especially the sky, and so it’s worth holding back a little in order to produce a more realistic representation of the scene. Subtlety, in my opinion, is very much the key when it comes to the digital–darkroom stage. Less contrast would have revealed more detail, and if you find you have used the incorrect strength of ND Grad then you can reduce its effect (or strengthen), easily, in image editing software.

  • Rocker Pier, Sunderland
  • Nikon DF with 24-70mm lens
  • 324 seconds at f/16, ISO 64
  • Super Stopper

If ever there was an example of when and how to use a Super Stopper, this is it! The subject lends itself, perfectly, to this kind of imagery where simplicity is key. The curve of the pier concluding with the lighthouse make for a very effective and strong composition. If an ND hadn’t been used I fear the texture in the water would have conflicted with the lines and details of the structures. As it is the water has been reduced to ‘silky-smooth’ and the clouds, although blurred, still exhibit enough texture to provide interest.

The processing has been very well executed. Often the tendency, by some, when producing a monochrome image is to make it very contrasty whereas this, you might say, is rather understated. And that’s what I like about it. There is sufficient contrast without going over the top and the darkening of the sky forces the viewer’s eye down to the pier. A beautiful image, Azzam.

  • Cocklawburn Beach
  • Canon 5D Mark II with Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens at 17mm
  • 20 seconds at f/13, ISO 100
  • Little Stopper
  • LEE Reverse 0.6 ND

For some time the use of ND filters has been very much in vogue with, occasionally, very little forethought as to the how it will affect the mood of the resulting image. The Big Stopper invariably seems to be the first port of call while, of course, there are several others we can reach for. Colin has used my personal favourite (the Little Stopper) which has produced just the right amount of movement in the clouds and although the water is smooth it has still retained definition. The foreground is strong with the rocks leading to the sun.

There are a just a couple of adjustments I would make. First, I would crop a little off the top (to just above the clouds) and off the right to reduce the amount of dark rocks in the frame and finally, running a grad filter, diagonally, across the right side of the image and increasing exposure a touch would give the photograph overall tonal balance.

  • Dunstanburgh Castle
  • Canon 5D Mark II with Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens
  • 20 seconds at f/14, ISO 100
  • Little Stopper
  • LEE 0.6 ND Hard Grad

This is a location I know very well from running workshops in Northumberland, and it’s one of my favourite with these fabulous large pebbles in the foreground. Having made a few attempts at this type of image at sunrise myself, I know how difficult it is to achieve – not only because the rocks are super slippery but also to capture the water in the right place at the right time! Colin has done well with his timing as wet pebbles are key here and I love the light on them and the overall contrast of the warm and blue tones throughout the image.

There is a delicate balance when using Big and Little Stoppers between creating movement and losing all sense of texture in the water and it’s also very much a personal view. In this case, whilst I generally prefer to see more movement rather than ‘mist’ around rocks, I do like the fact the viewer can see through the water to the pebbles beneath. All in all a lovely image, well composed and very well executed.

  • Hands Of Science
  • Canon 80D with Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens at 19mm
  • 10 seconds at f/13, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper

This is a simple yet highly effective image that caught my eye. I am not a fan of extreme movement in clouds, but I think Craig has got this just right with his 10 second exposure. Had the clouds been more defined they might have proved to be a distraction.

With a strong subject and composition, this image works very well in black and white as does the central placement of the hands and overall composition. A simple yet effective and thought-provoking image. Well done for seeing the potential in this Craig, as I suspect myself and no doubt many others, would simply have passed this by.

  • Canon 77D with Canon 1EF-S 18-55mm lens at 18mm
  • 10 minutes at f/8, ISO 200
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE Polariserli>

Another simple yet highly effective image which is excellently composed and clearly well thought out. Although I feel that this could also work well in monochrome, the combination of warm and cool tones is lovely and gives a softer feel, especially with consideration to the hardness of the urban structure.

The use of the Big Stopper has really helped to bring out the reflection of the posts, which would otherwise be lost, and in this context, I feel the exposure time is just about perfect. An image to be proud of Chris.

  • Patagonia
  • Canon 1DX Mark II with Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens at 24mm
  • 6 seconds at f/11, ISO 100
  • LEE 0.6 ND Medium Grad
  • LEE 0.9 ND Standard

Wow – look at those mountains! The fantastic foreground interest along with that wonderful red glow on the side of the mountain really make this image for me. The use of the ND Graduated Filter has helped to control the exposure on the sky and darken it down just enough to help contain the eye within the main body of the photograph.

There are a couple of distractions which I feel weaken the image; firstly the inclusion of part of a branch on the right, which I suspect couldn’t be avoided due to its proximity to the main branch. Although I tend to avoid too much cloning in favour of getting it right in camera, in this case I’d look to clone this out. Secondly there is a very bright patch of water on the right hand side to which draws the eye – perhaps the use of a soft ND Grad at an angle might have helped to reduce this. In addition, it looks as if Chris was shooting downwards and I do wonder if a lower viewpoint might have worked better? The horizon also is not completely straight, although with lakes this is deceiving. Suffice to say this image has made me want to visit Patagonia!

  • Adraga Beach / Three Brothers
  • Nikon D800E with Nikkor 16-35 f/4 lens at 16mm
  • 1/3 second at f/16, ISO 100
  • LEE 0.9 ND Soft Grad

This image has, not only great subject matter, but a wonderful sky which has been successfully enhanced by the use of the 0.9ND Grad to reveal the wonderful texture of the clouds. The result is a dramatic, moody feel with fabulous light on the water and foreground boulder. I also particularly like the movement in the water around the boulder although I wonder if a little could be cropped off the bottom of the photograph, without destroying too much of that lovely wave movement.

The rock on the right hand side at the edge of the frame I find distracting, so I would have looked to avoid this if possible when composing the image. That may not have been possible but it would be relatively simple to clone this out.

  • Canon EOS 1200D with Canon EF-S 18-55mm lens at 18mm
  • 180 seconds at f/11, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.6 ND Hard Grad

I had a few long exposure shots to choose from this month, some better than others and whilst some can be very cliché, others, despite maybe also being a little cliché, just work! So, Jeremy's offering here caught my eye, but there's good reason too. Yes, there's lovely colour. Yes, there's movement. But both these compliment the other subjects in the frame. He hasn't chosen to use the long exposure technique just simply because nothing else would work and that's key. The lines and movement in the sky add drama, add impact and yet also draw the eye to the main subjects. Those wonderful rocks echo these motion-led lines in their static form. They all lead to a single main subject in the background, the mountain.

The image could do with a slight crop, just to remove some of the peripheral vision, as well as emptiness off to the right. All the movement is coming in from a bottom left direction, so Jeremy needs to emphasise that with the framing. You may be bored of these type of images, you may see this as too obvious, but if you hadn't seen hundreds of bad examples, then I'm sure you would agree that this is how it should be done.

  • Millenium Bridge
  • Canon 5D Mark III with Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L lens at 40mm
  • 231 seconds at f/8, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • Little Stopper

Well, here's an example that illustrates that not all long exposure shots HAVE to be taken at the coast with the sea as the main subject! A combination of Big and Little Stopper filters has given 15 stops ND effect, giving the River Thames a surreal softness. The diagonal of the Millennium Bridge could have been enhanced by a slight crop to the left hand side of the frame and the image looks like it is a black and white conversion, but with some colour pop on certain areas. Not required in my eyes.

This view has been done a million times before, but a simple long exposure gives St Paul's more focus, more impact. The Thames is usually grey, choppy and uninteresting. However, in this result, it has mood, it has tone and along with the sky, it allows this view to become even more iconic for its simplicity.

  • Death Valley, CA
  • Canon 5D Mark IV with Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS at 24mm
  • 6 minutes at f/10, ISO 100
  • LEE 0.9 ND Soft Grad
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad

Whilst there are many images and views that benefit from a long exposure to add blur and movement to a scene, this isn't one of them! What this image does have however, is great foreground and lots of it. This is emphasised by the high position of the horizon. Perfect. What Brent has done here however, is try to enhance the landscape of Death Valley by blurring the clouds in the sky. So, instead of complimenting the landscape below, it's now competing with it.

I feel Brent should have used those 6 minutes to enjoy the landscape, watch the sun set and then take the picture. There's too much contrast here and a little flare (no doubt caused by the two grads). You've got a great eye for a composition Brent, but you perhaps need to have more patience too.

  • Achnahaird, Coigach Scotland
  • Canon 80D with Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 ART lens at 23mm
  • 1/40 second at f/11, ISO 100
  • LEE Polariser

The most effective landscape images consist of shape, form and light. Capture this with just the right filter to enhance or balance what you have and you have a winning result.

Iain has used just a Polariser here to enhance his scene and it's the shape within the frame that has caught his eye. The warm light on the dunes is wonderful, but the little S-shape being created is even better. The water gently snakes its way up the frame, leading the eye to the mountains beyond. A side step to the right, would have cropped out some of the main dune top right, where the composition does feel a bit 'loose' and this would have also probably allowed the main mountain range a bit more 'breathing space' to its left.

I love Iain's vision here however. He's using the landscape to his benefit. He's spotted a feature that was naturally there, that many others may well have missed and captured a view with lovely light and wonderful textures.

  • Stow Maries
  • Fujifilm X-T2 with Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 R LM OIS lens at 18mm
  • 1/5000 second at f/3.2, ISO 400
  • LEE Combination 81B with 0.6 ND

What intrigued me about this shot by Andy, was not only the impressive subject, but also the filter choice for the image. For this picture he used a warm up filter as well as an ND filter (grad I'm presuming). In the digital age, the warm up filter has almost become obsolete by the White Balance control, allowing us to warm up (or cool down) our images to our hearts content, either in-camera or during post. That's not to say you can't still use the 81 series filters over the lens and whilst Andy's may just happen to be an all-in-one warm-up/grad filter, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that it was a calculated choice to warm this scene up.

The best silhouettes are the simplest ones. Strong shapes, bold subjects and minimal distractions. You couldn't ask for more here and the outline of the subjects provides all the narration necessary. As the grad filter hasn't allowed enough light to capture the flowers or streaks of light and shade on them either, I think a lower horizon would have been better, placing the plane and four figures at the bottom of the frame instead. I do love the low angle however.

  • Island in the Mist
  • Canon 5D Mark II with Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 II USM lens
  • 1/100 second at f/10, ISO 250
  • LEE 0.6 ND Medium Grad

An objective for any landscape photographer should be the evocation of mood. This picture achieves that through a combination of good timing, and a super wide angle lens that adds greatly to the feeling of space. The symmetrical composition creates a feeling of stillness, and the proportions of the composition allow the fog to breathe, avoiding anything physically recognisable in the foreground.

Since there is so little to look at in the composition it is tempting to label this image as “minimal”, which might be true, but it’s probably more useful to ask why such an image is evocative. The viewer brings their own interpretation; mine includes the thought there is something slightly unsettling about this picture in spite of the apparently settled weather. There is a mystery in the limited visibility; what might be concealed just beyond the island? Is there land? A far lake shore? Is it a flooded landscape? We can’t know. It may be the ambiguities and unanswered questions that make a photograph worthy of prolonged study.

  • Last light over the Mawddach Estuary
  • Nikon D800 with 70-200 f/2.8 lens at 116mm
  • 1/15 second at f/11, ISO 100
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad

Depth is such a fundamental consideration in landscape image making, and good composition and viewpoint make a huge difference to the evocation of depth. One might think that with all the raw materials - stormy and dramatic lighting, the sinuous receding lines of a braided river bed, and an outstanding viewpoint - that a good photograph would be guaranteed. But to bear witness to a moment like this requires effort and endeavour; it rarely happens by accident. And there are still judgments to be made in composition, exposure and post-production rendering.

The golden sunlight beams in this composition are critical, enhancing the aerial perspective of the hills and providing an uplifting mood counterpoint to the darkness of the sky. A minor irritant is the rather abrupt starting point of the river in the foreground; this could be mitigated by darkening the highlights of the river slightly where it meets the bottom edge of the frame. Overall though, the quality of light and shade looks really natural and is very well-judged.

  • St. Mark’s Lighthouse, Crawfordville, FL USA
  • Fuji XT-2 with Fuji 10-24mm f/4 lens at 10mm
  • 1/6 second at f/16, ISO 100
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad

The rendering of this image has a lovely softness to it that ushers the viewer forward into the picture space. The colours seem slightly desaturated; hard to know if that is ‘how it was’, or the photographer’s personal vision, but it certainly enhances the tones and mood of this coastal landscape. It is wise to make creative decisions that reflect the qualities inherent in the weather of the moment, to go with the flow, and not only to follow one’s own personal agenda (important though that is).

It might seem obvious to say that the sky matters in landscape photography, but clearly this is one image where it matters more than most. Emanating from the centrally placed lighthouse, the textures of the clouds give the picture movement and energy. However, this is one detail where I would also suggest to Karin there could be some extra work to do. While the filter has done a good job of balancing the sky to the foreground, the upper reaches of the sky have become somewhat muddy. A little subtle lightening and contrast enhancement in this area would probably help.

  • Vareid, Norway
  • Canon 5D Mark IV with Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8 lens at 16mm
  • 8 seconds at f/22, ISO 50
  • LEE 0.9 ND Soft Grad
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad

I’ll admit to having mixed feelings about including this image in the selection as it is such an awe-inspiring location… and such spectacular locations are often inclined to produce disappointing results. Still, it would be uncharitable to deny that this is a wonderful moment, and the lighting in particular really does justice to the landscape. The picture has a softness to it slightly at odds with the raw and rugged physicality of the shore. Was this was caused by a lens slightly affected by sea spray, or a post-production decision? Who knows… Roberto presumably! What is certain is that the lighting balance, managed in camera by two filters, is extremely fine.

Regarding composition I do have some mixed feelings as the open sea on the right fails to balance the interesting rocks with the flowing water patterns on the left. It also seems that the opportunity to create an even more positive connection and perhaps convergence between the rocks and the mountains has been missed. However, not being present at the time and so not knowing just how risky/dangerous/impossible the context was means that this might be an irrelevant point. Just as it is the image still offers so much to enjoy and admire.

  • Thursday Common, Surrey
  • Canon 6D Mark II with Canon EF17-40mm f/4 USM lens at 19mm
  • 1/20 second at f/18, ISO 100
  • LEE 0.6 ND Hard Grad

It is particularly difficult to make some sense of English heathland, a habitat which is usually lacking in significant features and focal points. Yet if this is where you live and enjoy being outdoors close to home it will mean a lot to you, and so finding ways of interpreting its charm and beauty is a worthwhile challenge.

What intrigues and mystifies me about this image is, it seems to be a frosty winter morning, yet the ling heather in the foreground appears to be in flower, a state normally associated with August! Whatever the event, the delicacy of colour from the light is wonderfully evocative and works perfectly for the heathery landscape. The sunrise illuminating the mist gives a contrasting colour note and depth to the landscape.

A debatable element is the old tree recumbent on the right. Pointing towards the pine, the movement it gives is consistent with the way the space works, but it does feel a little cut off by the edge of the frame. On balance I think it is acceptable as in no sense does it dominate the picture.

  • Glen Coe
  • Nikon D750 with lens at 38mm
  • 1/40 second at f/11, ISO 100
  • LEE 0.6 ND Medium Grad

This is the kind of picture that makes me want to put my boots on and hike over the hills and far away. It also makes we want to load up and head north for Scotland. And surely that says it all; pictures that evoke those kind of reactions have surely succeeded, haven’t they?

I love the depth to this picture, and the balance between the foreground interest of wonderfully textured rocks and the distant sweeping landscape. I also like the muted, subtle colours and the bright, high key feel; I see far too many dark moody landscapes which look fine on a glowing monitor in a dark room but just dingy and sombre as prints on the wall.

I think the distant detail is a little too washed though, as is the detail in the clouds top left. Claudio has chosen the right ND Grad filter to use; all the detail is there, I just feel a few highlights could be pulled back with a few subtle adjustments in post-production. But that shouldn’t cloud the fact this is an accomplished image, and full marks Claudio for hiking up there to capture it.

  • Shipwreck in Teelin Bay, Carrick, County Donegal, Ireland
  • Canon EOS 1DX Mark II with Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8L II USM lens at 26mm
  • 1/4 second at f/11, ISO 100
  • LEE 0.9 ND Hard Grad
  • LEE Polariser
  • LEE Mist Grad

I love minimal colour images like this. Sweep your eye from corner to corner; the only colour present is the blue of the boat contrasting with the yellowy/brown of its rotting timbers. The subtle use of colour is one of the hardest things to learn in photography I believe, maybe its intuitive, but Jean-Yves has managed it with this powerfully observed image. The best images are always the simplest, a point this picture illustrates well; there’s nothing in the frame that doesn’t deserve to be there.

The use of a Polariser has given a pleasing gradation to the surface of the water and saturated the few colours present, but I would observe the use of a 0.9 ND grad filter is a touch heavy-handed; when the sky looks darker than its reflection alarm bells ring. I would accept that all rules are made to be broken though, and it’s a subjective call, but I think a 0.6 ND grad would have been the way to go. But what a perceptive image Jean-Yves; well done!

  • Allston Footbridge, Boston, MA
  • Canon 80D with Canon 18-135 lens at 19mm
  • 30 seconds at f/5.6, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper

I know from long experience of judging pictures and competitions that the eye quickly becomes weary of formulaic photography, so when something different crops up it immediately attracts attention. This picture jumped out at me. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want it on my wall; I’m not sure I like it at all, but it certainly says something about the bleak environments that we’ve created for ourselves on the fringes of city centres.

The use of the Big Stopper ND has blurred the traffic trails nicely, they’re compositionally key to the image after all. The motion blur in the clouds is not too much; any longer and they’d become a mess. With texture in a sky like that why loose it with too long an exposure?

But technically this image has a glaring weakness; there’s insufficient depth of field to render the parapet and chain-link fence sharp. So who says they have to be sharp? Not me; but if they’re not going to be sharp they need to be really soft, not somewhere inbetween. I’ll forgive Tiernan for that though because this picture is different, and it works. I can think of other places I’d rather be hanging around as dusk falls though!

  • Winter Storm, Yosemite Falls
  • Canon EOS 6D with Canon EF70-200mm lens at 70mm
  • 5 seconds at f/9, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad

Dappled light on the landscape is so much more dramatic then blanket illumination, isn’t it? This is a wonderfully atmospheric picture. OK, Yosemite is epic, we all know that, but the most dramatic landscapes are often the hardest to shoot. To capture something special in such well known and overly photographed locations we really have to dig deep.

Derick has captured an image full of dark mood here. Too dark? Those shadows on the left are awfully dense, but then again there’s beauty in a rich black. I may have teased out a bit more detail there, but I applaud Derick’s courage in embracing the darkness.

He’s used his filters subtly too, with no obvious grad line darkening down the top of the mountain and good detail in the heavy threatening sky. I’m not quite sure what the use of a Big Stopper achieved though; an exposure just a few seconds long would blur the water fall nicely. But who am I to question? It’s worked, and by the way; it’s another minimal colour image! Don’t you just love them?

  • Denmark, Western Australia
  • Canon 5D Mark II with Canon 24-105mm f/4L lens at 32mm
  • 23.75 minutes at f/8, ISO 100
  • Little Stopper
  • Big Stopper

Time to confess; I am tired of long exposure pictures of breaking waves. Maybe that’s heresy to admit here, but I think they’ve become a boring cliché. That’s hypocrisy on my part of course, because I have been making such pictures for decades. No longer though; I now like to capture the texture and energy of the waves, not seas of milk.

What then of William’s long exposure study? Producing such images is fun, and I have to admit this is a fine example of the genre. It’s also yet another brilliant illustration of the power of minimal colour; just look at the refined use of muted blues and greys. Compositionally it’s a clean, graphic, elegant and well observed image. I love the triangular section of beach in the foreground.

The use of both Big and Little Stoppers together allowed a glacially long 24 minute exposure; did you go off for a cold one whilst the shutter was open William? In a nutshell this is a finely crafted picture with impact that as a print on a wall could look wonderful, but still; for me the novelty has long worn off.

  • Long Look at the London Eye
  • Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujifilm XF 18-55mm lens at 53mm
  • 100 seconds at f/16, ISO 200
  • Little Stopper
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad
  • LEE Polariser

What an usual and abstract vision of one of London’s most recognisable attractions. It is always heart-warming to see something done differently, and that is certainly the case here. This is not a perfect photograph. The sky is a little heavy and perhaps detracts from the strong arc of the Eye; the centre of the wheel is a little out of balance. But forgetting the detail and concentrating on ‘the big picture’ and we see that this is actually a wonderful photograph.

I love the geometric quality of the curve of the wheel meeting the diagonal sky. I love the sense of motion generated by the use of a 6-stop Little Stopper to slow down the shutter speed, I love the use of black and white that simplifies the composition and draws attention to the lines and curves, and most of all I love the creativity and artist’s eye of the photographer that put it all together.

  • Ria de Aveiro, sunrise - Portugal
  • Canon EOS 6D with Canon EF 17-40 f/4L USM lens at 25mm
  • 4 seconds at f/11, ISO 400
  • LEE Polariser
  • LEE 0.9 ND Soft Grad
  • LEE 0.6 ND Hard Grad
  • LEE Mist Grad, inverted on foreground

I have to admit to not normally being a fan of the oranges and pinks of sunrise and sunset, but I find the serenity and grace of this lovely photograph extraordinary.

The composition is strong, the post processing discreet and the mood magical. Some might remark on the fact that the boat is pointing out of the frame, but in this case that doesn’t bother me at all. I love the space and tranquility of this very lovely scene.

My only criticism is the slight lack of balance of the vignette in the right hand top and bottom corners which are considerably darker than those on the left. That sort of thing does make a difference in a photograph as minimalist as this one, but certainly doesn’t detract from its beauty.

  • Mam Tor, Peak District National Park, UK.
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon 100-400 lens at 130mm
  • 1/15 second at f/16, ISO 50
  • LEE 0.3 ND Soft Grad

This photograph immediately stood out to me for its strong composition and dreamlike quality. I love the fact that at first glance it seems almost abstract, and it is only when one has been studying it for a few seconds that one realises that the trees are trees and the mist is mist.

Technically this is also a very competent image; the tones are very well controlled, and the detail is perfectly held in the shadows and highlights. My only criticism, and it is a small one, is that the patch of mist towards very the top of the photograph is a little bright and perhaps leads the eye too quickly towards the top edge. But that aside, a very fine piece of work which I can imagine looks wonderful as a print.

  • Peverill Point, Swanage, Dorset
  • Canon 6D with Canon EF24-70mm f/4L lens at 50mm
  • 120 seconds at f/11, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE Mist Stripe

Every minimalist photographer loves a bit of sea mist and the photographer behind this well-executed capture makes very good use of it here.

I very much like the thought behind the diagonal composition of the rocks, creating a well-balanced, geometrically strong image. The colours and tones are also beautifully handled; enough blue in the sea yet enough red in the rocks – actually not an easy thing to get right.

One might argue that perhaps the photographer could have been a little braver with the negative space, shooting wider and creating more of a feeling of isolation and emotion, but of course that may not have been possible here. All in all, a very lovely seascape.

  • Marooned in a Mill Pond
  • Nikon D750 with Tamron 24-70mm
  • 135 seconds at f/11, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper

This photograph has a strong minimalist feel, and the photographer has shown great control of the black and white tones. The choice to go low key proved to be a fantastic one, as it adds to the drama and atmosphere; any other approach may have seemed a little bland, but this treatment lifts the mood considerably.

The inclusion of the twigs in the bottom left hand corner add just a touch of reality and tension in the otherwise flawless glass like water created by the use of a Big Stopper. In an ideal world I would have like to have seen a little more space around the structure, particularly to its left and right, to let the eye roam more freely around the image, but this may well not have been possible. All in all, a lovely photograph.

  • Niagara Falls, Canadian side sunrise
  • Nikon D750 with Tamron 15-30mm lens at 20mm
  • 2 seconds at f/13, ISO 100
  • Little Stopper
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad

This is an example of one of those images we see and think, ‘wow, I wish I had been there’. Beautifully captured by James, it exudes power and scale in a photograph that simply begs you to look at it.

The lead in line of the falls takes you to the sun as it peers through the spray and cloud. Although there is a soft and blurry feel to large parts of the photograph, it remains powerful. The Little Stopper coupled with a 0.6ND Soft Grad are just enough to create the effect, and you are in no doubt as to the majesty of Niagara Falls.

Could I suggest an improvement? Maybe just a bit more sky, but honestly I would be extremely proud of that shot as it is.

  • Pavement Life
  • Canon 5D Mark III with Canon 16-35 f/4L lens at 16mm
  • 1/50 second at f/16, ISO 100
  • LEE 0.9 ND Soft Grad

Nature at its finest and well captured by Steve. The natural lead in lines to the tree have been carefully selected to create the ‘V’ that takes you there. Once you have been pulled into it, the level of detail has your eye scanning the frame. You want to see more and are not disappointed with what you see. Monochrome is a good choice and the way I would present this photograph. The portrait format works very well too.

Of course, we all view scenes that we come across differently and whilst I really like this photograph, I would have considered getting down just a bit lower so that the tree trunk broke through above the horizon of pavement, thus standing out more against the sky. That way, it may have been possible to utilise a 0.6ND Grad just as effectively as the stark branches would still stand out. Minor points for a cracking shot.

  • Port Nanven
  • Nikon D850 with Nikon 16-35 lens at 18mm
  • 3 seconds at f/13, ISO 64
  • ProGlass IRND 1.8
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad

I was immediately pulled into the photograph by the imposing granite rock in the foreground and the strong lead in line of the channel. Rob has reinforced the power in the image by ensuring that the imposing shapes and detail in the rocks are not lost and the way the gash in the boulder follows through onto the right hand channel is excellent. The use of the 1.8 ProGlass IRND filter has rendered it true to its natural colour. I like its overall mood and purpose.

Could it be improved? The islands in the distance do conflict with the slanting boulder that cuts across them and I would have considered either coming back slightly so that the boulder ‘kissed’ the islands on the horizon or slightly elevated my tripod to ensure it didn’t ‘jar’ by leaving a gap between them. Great image though.

  • Peak District
  • Canon 5DS R with Canon 70-200 f/4L lens at 140mm
  • 1 second at f/16, ISO 100
  • LEE Polariser

David has created an image where there is just enough here to grab your attention and I say that in an appreciative way. Minimal but with enough detail to ‘hook’ you in.

The mist diffuses the stronger element in the foreground then invites you to peer deeper within where the network of trees becomes obvious. Nothing is sharp here and you would expect that on such a day. It does not detract from the atmosphere. An almost monochromatic look is lifted by the barest of colour on the tree bark adding to the cold stark feel. A polariser was used to minimise sun glare on the day.

Would I ‘do it’ differently? Always easy after the event and not being in the actual location never helps but I would have taken the extending tree branch that forks up to the top right-hand corner of the frame rather than below it. A minor tweak to an atmospheric image.

  • Lone Tree
  • Nikon D810 with Tokina 11-16 f2.8 AT-X PRO DX lens at 15mm
  • 30 seconds at f/13, ISO 64
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE Polariser

Jaromir has produced a golden hour photograph of ‘that tree’ by Lake Padarn at Llanberis, North Wales. I like the way its branches mimic the mountain's natural line on the left-hand side of the frame. Uncluttered and with everything pulling you towards the head of the pass way in the distance.

The polariser has enhanced the reflections and the addition of the Big Stopper has ‘dragged’ the clouds into frame adding more interest. It is a lovely image but maybe a slightly longer exposure would have created more of the sky feature by slowing the trail of the clouds down further thus allowing them to point more emphatically towards the top right-hand corner of the image. I would also have liked to have changed the crop and seen the tree reflection in full. I know the location, so am aware that this can be done. A couple of minor tweaks to a cracking shot.

  • Speke's Mill Mouth, Hartland, North Devon
  • Canon 5DS with Canon EF 24-70mm F2.8L II at 53mm
  • 5 seconds at f/16, ISO 100
  • Little Stopper
  • LEE 0.6 ND Hard Grad

I had to pick this shot. First and foremost, it is a lovely image, but secondly it is a location I know and recognise, being just a short drive from where I live. As you may already know, I love simplicity – clean, uncomplicated compositions. Therefore, it is unsurprising that this photograph appeals to me.

The use of a Little Stopper to prolong exposure to 5-seconds works perfectly in this instance, proving just long enough to creatively soften the water in order to highlight the shape and edges of the jagged rocks. However, importantly, Andrew has retained interesting detail within the water and waves – something he risked losing had he opted for a stronger ND. I like the water’s coolness, combined with the gorgeous warm tones in the sky. I also love the subtle implication of motion within the distant waves. Overall, a lovely capture.

  • The Passage
  • Canon 5D Mark II with Canon 16-35 f/4L IS USM lens at 21mm
  • 30 seconds at f/11, ISO 100
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad
  • LEE Mist Stripe
  • LEE Polariser

I’ve long evangelised about the importance and effect of using filters, but confine myself to a Polariser, ND Grads and Stoppers. I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but I’ve always considered other filter types unessential, or even gimmicky. However, Frederico’s image is a good example of how a Mist Stripe can enhance certain scenes.

You might disagree, but I don’t think it is immediately obvious that the filter was used in this instance. Frederico has used it appropriately and the filter has added atmosphere to the image. Although I would consider applying some negative clarity (in Lightroom) to the foreground to help blend in the filter’s effect. The composition is simple, but compelling. The track drags the viewer’s eye into the image, implying depth and vanishing into that lovely negative space.

  • Thousands of Years
  • Canon EOS 6D with Canon 16-35mm f/4 EF L lens at 21mm
  • 4 seconds at f/13, ISO 640
  • Little Stopper

Jökulsarlon in Iceland must now be one of the most photographed places in the World – and it is not hard to understand why. Chunks of sculptured ice lie on black, volcanic sand – for landscape photographers, it is like being a kid in a sweet shop. Just because it is a well-photographed location, doesn’t mean it is an easy place to take good shots. In fact, as a photographer, you have to work even harder to capture a standout image. I think Reinhard has done just that, though.

The length of exposure – generated by the use of a Little Stopper – has created lovely motion. Timing was key in this instance – Reinhard triggered the shutter at just the right moment, as the backwash rushed around the cool blue ice.

I do find the ice in the bottom right corner slightly distracting, but I doubt there was any way to exclude it without compromising the shot’s overall balance. However, I think I would tighten up the composition slightly in order to exclude the piece of ice jutting into the left side of the image (half way up) and also the two fragments of ice on the upper right hand side of the frame. Doing so would strengthen the overall composition I feel. Do you agree?

  • West Australia passenger train heading East at speed
  • Leica SL with Leica SL 50mm f1.4 lens
  • 5 seconds at f/11, ISO 50
  • Big Stopper

Just like Adam (Burton) last month, I’m not known for being a black and white fan – I much prefer colour. I rarely convert my own images, but it is a powerful, timeless medium and this shot really caught my eye while judging.

I doubt many photographers – myself included – would have seen the picture potential of this particular scene. Credit to Roger for having the ability to pre-visualise this graphic and striking result. His imaginative use of a Big Stopper has enabled him to blur the train’s motion and convey interest, motion and energy. This image owes is success to strong lines, shapes and flow. It is simple, yet effective. The timing is excellent, as is the post-production. Admittedly, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I do think Roger has produced a very classy shot here.

  • River Brathay, Lake District
  • Canon 5DS R with Canon 70-200mm lens at 118mm
  • 1/4 second at f/16, ISO 100
  • LEE Polariser

This is a lovely seasonal image. The warm autumnal colours, mirror-like reflections, and wisps of mist collaborate to produce the type of conditions that make landscape photographers go weak at the knees. The tight composition is effective and I like the way David has framed the main, central trees with the river bank either side. The use of a polarising filter has really brought those seasonal colours alive, while enhancing the reflections.

It is a shame that the reflection of the central trees is clipped – I would prefer to see the entire reflection. Processing – very much like composition – is a highly subjective and personal thing and there is no right or wrong. If this were my shot, I’d reduce the level of contrast slightly to produce a softer, lower contrast result. As it is, I find the mist just a little too bright.

  • Brighton West Pier
  • Canon EOS6D with Canon EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 25mm
  • 241 seconds at f/16, ISO 100
  • Super Stopper

Anyone that knows me, knows that black and white isn’t my thing. However, when I see a good black and white photograph I can appreciate it, and this is certainly one of those images. The old pier boasts some strong, simple shapes, which are well suited to a B&W conversion, so I think Les has definitely made the right choice here. This simplicity is emphasized really well by a long exposure, so it was a great decision to fit the Super Stopper to give such a long shutter speed.

There is only one suggestion that I could offer to improve this composition, and it’s only a tiny thing. This kind of picture is all about symmetry, and time taken composing a completely symmetrical image pays dividends. I’m slightly bothered by the spacing between the two posts on the left of the picture, and the gap just beyond them, when compared to the posts and gap on the opposite side. A small step to the left would hopefully have corrected this, and provided the finishing touch to a beautiful image.

  • Misty Morning
  • Nikon D7100 with Sigma 10-20 3.5 EX DC HSM lens
  • 1/60 second at f/8, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad

Tomasz has captured a fine photograph of a very beautiful building here. The warmth of the tangerine sunrise is incredibly appealing as is the softness thanks to the misty conditions. The soft ND Grad has done a fine job in subtly retaining those warm colours in the sky, leaving the viewer to admire the picture without noticing any filtration, just as it should be.

The composition is simple, yet effective. The smallest hint of a footpath leads the eye towards the church, and attention is naturally drawn up to the windows in the tower, where that irresistible glow completes the picture.

I don’t mind the central placement of the church; yet with the bush on the right hand side I feel a more balanced composition could be achieved by offsetting the building with a slight crop off the left and top of the picture.

  • Masua, Sardinia, Italy
  • Nikon D3 with Nikkor 24-70mm lens at 24mm
  • 300 seconds at f/8, ISO 100
  • Little Stopper
  • LEE Polariser
  • LEE 0.3 ND Soft Grad

Another black and white makes my shortlist! And this is another example of an image working really well without colour. I absolutely adore the wet mosaic tiles in the foreground; their shapes are incredibly appealing in B&W. In fact there is strong interest throughout the whole picture, yet the composition remains very balanced and uncluttered. You can tell Gianluca has considered this composition very carefully, it simply works.

This is another example of how a long exposure can be very effective in a coastal photograph, however; personally I think a 5 minute exposure was maybe a bit longer than was necessary to achieve this effect. I’m surprised to see a Little Stopper was used to achieve this shutter speed. Even with a polarizer, I wouldn’t have thought such a long exposure could be achieved at this time, so perhaps Gianluca used a Big Stopper instead?

With such strong interest in the bottom half of the picture, I suggest a crop to a 16 x 9 aspect ratio, losing half the sky to strengthen the composition and focus more attention on the key elements of the image.

  • Felixstowe
  • Canon EOS 7D with Tokina AT-X 116 AF PRO DX-II 11-16mm f/2.8 lens at 12mm
  • 15 seconds at f/11, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.9 ND Hard Grad

I’m often telling people that colourful sunrises and sunsets aren’t the be all and end all to landscape photography, especially at the coast, and this image shows that really well. I’m sure Emanuel would have happily accepted a colourful sunset sky, but the muted colours he has captured on this cloudy day work excellently.

The sea defences make wonderful subject matter for a seascape, and especially a long exposure, which Emanuel has achieved with a Big Stopper. I’m not sure I would have used such a strong graduated filter here; the 0.9 hard edge has made the sky very dark, which is appealing but possibly unnatural. I think a 0.6 hard edge grad would have done the job perfectly well here.

Composition wise, there is strong interest throughout the centre of the image, but I find the sand and rocks to the right distract from the overall appeal. I think a square crop would give the picture more balance and appeal.

  • Isle of Rum, Inner Hebrides, Scotland
  • Nikon D810 with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens
  • 20 seconds at f/8, ISO 64
  • Big Stopper

As soon as I first saw this photograph it grabbed my attention. It’s such a simple composition, which also breaks some compositional rules, and yet it works magnificently. You could argue that the mountains are placed centrally in the frame and there isn’t any obvious foreground interest, but rules were made to be broken.

I simply love the black brooding mountains, broken up by the shards of light piercing the dark slopes. That green water captivates me, the colour is incredibly appealing, and despite using a Big Stopper to achieve a 20 second exposure the water remains nicely textured.

Well done to Nils for spotting, and capturing such a special moment. With such a simple composition, I do find the rocks creeping in on the right a distraction. You could easily clone those out, although personally I would feel uncomfortable about this so would crop the image right and left to remove the rocks and retain a balanced composition.

  • Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe.
  • Nikon D750 with Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens at 24mm
  • 1/4 seconds at f/18, ISO 100
  • LEE 0.6 ND Medium Grad

This one was first on my list, there’s just so much to enjoy in this calm image. From the contrasting textures in the rocks and grasses in the foreground to the softly lit, mist shrouded castle reflected in the water, all against the backdrop of those hills.

The 0.6ND Medium Grad is one of my favourite filters and it has been used to great effect here to balance the sky and foreground without unduly darkening the mountains, keeping everything looking natural.

The composition works well but I think it would benefit from a tighter crop. Keeping the ratio the same I’d try cropping down from the top right to just above the mountains on the left to focus the attention on the castle more while also moving it off centre.

  • Autumn in bog
  • Canon 5D Mark II with Canon 17-40mm f/4 lens at 17mm
  • 1/20 second at f/16, ISO 50
  • LEE 0.9 ND Hard Grad
  • LEE Polariser

This is a fascinating image with so much more going for it than the unusual conditions. The composition is excellent with the grass providing foreground interest while the patterns made by the water lead you gently into the frame towards the trees and of course the fogbow.

The combination of a Hard ND graduated filter and a Circular Polariser have worked well, the grad retaining contrast in the sky while the polariser has emphasized the effect of the fogbow as well as boosting saturation throughout.

The soft lighting and the contrast between the warm light on the grasses and cool blues of the sky is very appealing, in fact here’s really not much I’d change here but (and I know I’m repeating myself) I think it would benefit from a slight crop from the right hand side to centre the fogbow in the frame.

  • Dynjandi waterfall, Iceland
  • Canon 6D with 24-105mm lens at 24mm
  • 1 second at f/8, ISO 100
  • Little Stopper

I love the power in this shot, you can almost feel the spray and hear the roar from the Dynjandi waterfall cascading down the rockface. The inclusion of a lone figure on the rocks gives us a sense of scale and they’ve been positioned perfectly to stand out against the background of the white water in the bottom right third of the picture.

A Little Stopper has been used to slow the shutter speed, giving the water a soft silky appearance which contrasts nicely with the hard jagged rocks and the high contrast between those dark rocks and bright water has been handled well, with no blown highlights in the white water, but I’d like to see a bit more detail in the foreground rock.

I also find the bright area of sky in the top left corner distracting and I’d be inclined to crop that out leaving just the waterfall and the figure, which I think would add further impact.

  • Big Island Hawaii
  • Canon 5D Mark IV with Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8 L MKII USM lens at 16mm
  • 4 seconds at f/20, ISO 50
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.9 ND Medium Grad

I love dramatic seascapes and this one is superb. It has been well composed using the streams of water coming in from the bottom corners to lead the eye into the image and the wide angle lens puts the emphasis right where it needs to be, on the swirling water in the foreground. It’s the choice of shutter speed that makes the image for me though, with just the right amount of blur to capture the motion of the water without losing too much detail.

The moody sky nicely compliments the drama going on below, but while the 0.9ND Medium Grad has kept most of the detail in the sky I can’t help thinking that with a nice clear horizon like that, perhaps a Hard or Very Hard Grad might have retained a little more detail in the brighter areas.

  • Hartland Quay
  • Canon 5D Mark II with Canon EF17-40mm f/4L USM lens at 26mm
  • 6 seconds at f/10, ISO 100
  • LEE Little Stopper
  • LEE 0.6 ND Hard Grad

Another fantastic seascape. I love the quality of light and the contrasts between the soft textures of the sea and sky against the harshness of the rocks, the subdued cool tones against the watery warm light.

The slow shutter speed, courtesy of a Little Stopper is just right, softening the water but crucially leaving some texture to hint at the power in the waves while a 0.6ND Hard Grad similarly, balances the exposure without going too far.

The composition has been well thought out, those foreground rocks full of detail and texture, pull you into the image towards the jagged rocks beyond, which look (to me anyway) like a sleeping dragon. My only pause is that I feel it ends a bit abruptly on the right, I realise it might not have been possible but I’d like to have seen a little more of the foreground rocks and sea on that side.

  • Øresund Bridge
  • Nikon D800 with Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens at 62mm
  • 362 seconds at f/13, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.9 ND Standard
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad

I love the simplicity and minimalism of this image – it’s a great example of the reductionist approach to composition that I advocate i.e. taking out everything that doesn’t contribute to the core message of the photograph.

A Big Stopper combined with a 3 Stop ND filter have been used to good effect. The long exposure has emphasised the graphic composition and the movement & texture in the clouds gives a feeling of energy and dynamism. There’s also a lovely range of tones (important in a B&W image like this).

The only change I’d make would be to crop out the industrial structures on the right side of the horizon line – they detract from the otherwise clean lines of the image. Overall, it's lovely and a photograph I would have been pleased to have taken myself.

  • Scarborough, South Bay
  • Sony A7R II with Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 lens
  • 243 seconds at f/20, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.6 ND Hard Grad

Again, this striking photograph demonstrates less is more – it’s the simplicity that gives this image its strength. The light quality, tones and colours are superb – I particularly like the cool and warm colour contrasts – and the textures on the sand give a real strength to the foreground.

One question I have is over the choice of a Big Stopper to extend the exposure to 243 seconds. This has given a sense of energy to the sky that I find at odds with the calm & peaceful feel of the rest of the image. In situations like this it's important to experiment if time allows – so as well as the Big Stopper try a shot without any ND, use a Little Stopper (which would have given a 15 second exposure here and may have been the choice I would have made).

  • Into The Sea
  • Canon EOS 7D with Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 lens at 17mm
  • 480 seconds at f/11, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.9 ND Hard Grad
  • LEE Real Blue 2 Hard Grad

The use of a 17mm focal length has emphasised the foreground and shooting at f/11 has given great optical quality making the most of the textures on the structure. The use of a Big Stopper to extend the exposure has smoothed the water ensuring that it doesn’t distract from those textures. Importantly the 480 second exposure has also allowed the hint of the rails under the surface to appear.

The blue cast (common with the Big Stopper) has not been corrected and I think that adds a great mood to the image as well as giving a colour contrast to the warm light in the distance and the green in the foreground. My only concern with this photo is that the sky looks like it’s been over filtered – a 3 stop ND Grad with a Real Blue 2 Hard Grad may just have been too much.

  • Lonely Tree
  • Sony A7R II with Sony Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA lens
  • 1/20 second at f/8, ISO 200
  • LEE Polariser
  • LEE 0.9 ND Soft Grad

A beautiful photograph that is well composed with the tree placed close to the centre of the image towards the top of the frame and the lines in the field leading up to it. The warm colours of the crop (a vital factor in the success of this photograph) have been enhanced by the use of a Polarising filter and an ND Grad has held detail in the sky.

I like the colour ‘stripes’ in the image – the warm foreground topped by the grey sky, itself topped by a layer of warm clouds. I would crop out the top band in the sky – its lightness is drawing my eye out of the frame. The foreground also looks a little soft (for me this needs to be razor sharp) and I wonder if an aperture of f/11 or f/16 would have been better than f8 to give more depth of field.

  • Three Cliffs Bay
  • Canon 6D with Canon 17-40mm L f/4 lens
  • 50 seconds at f/11, ISO 100
  • Little Stopper
  • LEE 0.9 ND Medium Grad

I love the flowing, curving lines in this composition that sweep the viewer through the image. The attention to compositional detail has been good e.g. the separation of the top of the foreground on the right from the line of the river beyond is important.

The exposure has been well handled to prevent the distant headland from recording as a featureless silhouette, helped by a 3 stop ND graduated filter to darken the sky and bring down the contrast range. This was also aided by the timing – taking the photograph just as the sun starts to sink into the cloud below has reduced its intensity. A Little Stopper has given a 50 second exposure, just enough to record some cloud movement and provide some interest in the sky.

Unfortunately, the close foreground is not razor sharp – more precise attention should have been given to securing adequate depth of field.

  • St. Mary's Sunset
  • Canon 6D with Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS USM at 35mm
  • 0.4 seconds at f/11, ISO 100
  • LEE Polariser
  • LEE 0.9 ND Soft Grad
  • Little Stopper

This is a lovely image in the traditional landscape format. The composition is well balanced, and the eye is led from the leading rocks, with that lovely soft light, through to the dramatic clouds in the distance. The use of the more forgiving 0.9 ND Soft Grad has really balanced the exposure whilst not affecting the tower of the lighthouse.

One aspect I particularly like is the area of flowing water in the foreground. The use of the LEE Polariser has cut through the UV light, allowing the foamy areas to stand out. The Little Stopper has worked well here also, leaving just enough detail in the rushing waters to add impact.

If I was to change anything, I might be tempted to crop a little from the sky, moving the horizon closer to a third, and perhaps a little from the right side, shifting the lighthouse slightly away from centre.

  • Watkins Glen, NY
  • Nikon D7200 with Sigma 17-50 f2.8 lens at 17mm
  • 2 seconds at f/8, ISO 100
  • Little Stopper

I was drawn to the subtlety of the light in this rather mystical image. The Little Stopper has worked a treat here, creating enough of a sensation of movement without losing areas of detail in the water, detail which may have been lost with a longer exposure. Cropping out the sky has eliminated the need for filters in that area.

There is a nice flow to this composition with the viewer being led through the image, past the cascading waterfalls to the bridge and beyond. The light on the bridge is what gives a little magic to this image, though I think those greens may need to be 'cooled down' just a little. Also, a slight crop from the left side would lose a little of that distracting rock wall, and make for a more powerful composition.

  • Neist Point, Isle of Skye
  • Canon 6D with Tokina 16-28mm f2.8 lens
  • Various shutter speeds at f/8, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper

This image really caught my eye. The composition is stunning. There is a natural flow to everything, starting with the curved rocks at bottom of the image. From here the eye follows the curvature of the cliff edge to the lighthouse itself. Deciding to frame the image at the bottom with the rocks themselves is very effective and provides a clean starting point for the viewer.

This is a composite of 4 shots, the sky shot separately from the land. The land and sea were shot over a couple of frames and the Big Stopper has done its job well here, calming the water underneath the lighthouse, and helping the foreground to stand out with no distracting waves to draw our attention from the lovely colour and texture of those incredible rocks. The image has a wonderful warmth throughout and is one of my favourites this month.

  • Lofoten, Norway
  • Nikon D800 with Nikkor 16-35mm F4 lens at 16mm
  • 60 seconds at f/16, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad
  • LEE 0.6 ND Standard

A striking image of Lofoten in Norway. The letterbox composition works well here, with the image seemingly divided into a lighter and a darker half. A 0.6 ND Soft Grad has helped balance the exposure, though there are a couple of overexposed areas on the mountains. Maybe a 0.9 ND Medium Grad might have been better in this case.

A Big Stopper and a 0.6 ND Standard filter give around 12 stops of filtration and this has resulted in a beautiful sky and calm waters that allow the mountains to 'jump out' at the viewer, their sharpness contrasted starkly against the calmer waters. I like the inclusion of the rocks bottom left as they help to 'ground' the area around the old huts, which are positioned diagonally opposite the large mountain, giving balance to the image. I also like the slight blueish cast to this, presumably coming from the Stopper and the long exposure.

  • Nikon D610 with Nikkor 16-35mm f/4.0 lens at 16mm
  • 117 seconds at f/13, ISO 80
  • Big Stopper

This is an extremely vibrant image with lush colours throughout. The inclusion of the foreground rocks give the perfect opportunity to use the Big Stopper, as well as adding interest and balance in the lower left corner. The calm waters allow the rocks and the grasses on the right to achieve prominence within the foreground, whilst the 117 second exposure has captured some lovely movement in those clouds.

I like the flow in this image. The eye is led from the rocks, through the grassy mound and the heart of the woodland, and then back along the lines of the clouds to finish off. Vibrant images like this can sometimes polarise opinion but it certainly works for me. Beautifully balanced, it is hard to find fault.

  • Rossbeigh Beach, Glenbeigh, Co Kerry
  • Canon 6D with Canon EF17-40mm f/4L USM at 17mm
  • 171 seconds at f/11, ISO 320
  • Big Stopper

I love the diagonals in Mathew’s composition, which lead the eye into the far distance where the sun is setting. The Big Stopper has helped to simplify the photograph by calming the texture of the water. The warm colour tones in the photograph are also very special.

My feeling is that the photograph is printed too dark. The light on the foreground boulders is wonderful and to reveal more of this would be hugely beneficial. Also a slightly paler sky would reveal more of the beautiful cloud structures, again leading the eye into the distance.

  • Lofoten
  • Nikon D610 with Zeiss Milvus 21mm f2.8 ZF.2 lens at 21mm
  • 326 seconds at f/8, ISO 100
  • Super Stopper
  • LEE 0.9 ND Soft Grad/li>

Having been to this location many times I can see that Feliksas has made a wonderful photograph of the place and captured its grandeur and drama perfectly. The use of the Super Stopper and 0.9ND Soft Grad are perfect, the foreground rocks are superbly contrasted with the body of silky water and the grad has achieved lovely transitions of tones in the sky.

Using the Super Stopper can make an image that is slightly blue and I would recommend warming the image up a little to bring out the foreground rock colours.

  • Akçakoça,Turkey
  • Nikon D750 with Nikkor 17-55mm lens at 38 mm
  • 339 seconds at f/13, ISO 100
  • LEE Polariser
  • Big Stopper

The moment I saw the low contrast and soft tones in this image I was drawn in and fascinated. The portrait format in Tevfik’s photograph is very important and works perfectly with the subject matter as the eye is guided along the rocky shoreline to the distant headland beyond.

The use of the Polariser and Big Stopper together were essential to the photograph, the Polariser enhancing the colours and the Big Stopper creating the white waterline against the foreshore. The one thing I would alter is the strong greens, I feel they need warming a little as they look too vibrant and unnatural.

  • Seabrook, TX
  • Hasselblad 501C with 80mm lens
  • 240 seconds at f/11, ISO 50
  • Big Stopper

Having worked most of my professional career in black and white I was drawn to Brian’s beautifully simple coastal scene. I think the wooden posts are positioned superbly in the square frame and I love the subtle suggestion of something beneath the foreground water surface which can be seen which has been made possible by the use of the Big Stopper cutting out water textures.

My recommendation would be to burn the sky evenly as opposed to a vignette effect that has been used. I feel an even sky would lead the eye into infinity beyond the posts.

  • Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland
  • Canon EOS 1D X Mark II with Canon EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM lens at 24mm
  • 25 seconds at f/11, ISO 100
  • LEE Polariser/li>
  • Big Stopper/li>
  • LEE 0.6 ND Hard Grad/li>

I think Iain’s photograph of Bamburgh Castle is staggering in every way! The combination of the Big Stopper to capture the subtle cloud reflections with the Polariser saturating the colours and allowing the viewer to see beneath the water surface is perfect. This photograph has everything from subtle calming colours to staggering detail throughout. The plateau of rock gently lit by the evening sun serves perfectly to guide the eye to the castle.

The one thing I think would strengthen this composition even more, is to crop a little of the left edge of the image to lose the protruding rock and dark shadow that seem to be vying for attention.

  • Sakrisøy, Lofoten, Norway
  • Canon 5D Mark II with Canon 17-40mm F/4 L USM
  • 60 seconds at f/11, ISO 100
  • LEE Polariser
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad

A beautifully crafted image – the composition is balanced, the edges are very well placed and it has a wonderfully inviting, warm glow about it – it really makes you want to be there.

Use of a Big Stopper and polarising filter has allowed a long exposure of 60 seconds. Not so long as to lose all texture in the water, but enough to smooth out both sea and sky, so emphasising the gritty textures of the mountainous backdrop. The time of day is also well chosen, with warm light on both the wooden cabins and the ridges beyond, drawing you into the scene.

The only thing I might try would be to lighten very slightly the top section of sky – it feels just a little too dark to me. This can sometimes happen with the softer ND grad filters, given the strongest filtration is at the top of the frame.

  • Dovercourt, England
  • Pentax 645D with Pentax FA645 45-85mm F4.5 lens at 85mm
  • 244 seconds at f/13, ISO 100
  • Super Stopper

A delightful and graphic image, minimalist in many respects but with a little twist. These are the kind of scenes for which the Super Stopper is made but the success of the end result depends upon a really good composition. This feels just right to me – the relative heights of horizon and top of the lighthouse sit very comfortably and the very long exposure of 244 seconds has produced the silky smooth tones that work so well here. I also feel a square crop was an excellent choice.

The twist? The fact that the reflection of the lighthouse is slightly off centre just lends a little bit of tension to the image – one that adds to my enjoyment of it.

  • Sunrise at Hole in the Wall, South Africa
  • Canon 5D Mark III with Canon 16-35MkII f2.8 lens at 16mm
  • 13 seconds at f/11, ISO 100
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad
  • LEE ProGlass 0.6 ND Standard

Another well-framed image – the elements are well balanced and, overall, there’s a good flow to the composition. The light reflecting off the boulders is wonderful. The 13 second exposure, courtesy of a 2 stop ND filter, has retained the lovely texture in the sea, though possibly a few seconds less might have been even better.

I’d have liked to see a bit more detail in the shadows of the distant cliffs and, likewise, I find the very dark boulder in the centre foreground a little dominant.

The sweep of the shoreline takes you out to sea and that warm horizon, although the hole in the cliff does also fight for your attention. Again, I think this could be addressed with a bit more detail in the surrounding cliffs, so giving less emphasis to the hole.

  • Secrets Wild Orchid Resort – Montego Bay, Jamaica
  • Canon 5D Mark III with 50mm lens
  • 4 seconds at f/10, ISO 100
  • Little Stopper
  • LEE Mist Grad

The way in which we respond to a picture is a very personal thing but this immediately took me back to a visit to a shadow puppet play in Indonesia, many years ago. The hazy and pareidolic form of the clouds on the horizon is the key here – providing intrigue and a sense of mystery. They are perfectly positioned in relation to the rotunda on the pier and I also really like the use of negative space across the image.

A mist filter has been used to create the hazy effect but, without such careful positioning of all the different elements here, the end result would not have been so compelling. A 4 second exposure (courtesy of a Little Stopper) has rendered the water reasonably smooth but, crucially, has not allowed the clouds to lose their wonderful shape.

  • Pekel Gorge (Slovenia)
  • Nikon D5200 with Tokina AT-X 11-20mm lens at 11mm
  • 1/8 second at f/11, ISO 100
  • LEE Polariser/li>

This is a very bold and complex composition and I enjoy it for that very reason. By using an ultra wide-angle lens and getting so close, the photographer has given great emphasis to the foreground plant. A polarising filter can really help enhance the colour of wet leaves, although I’d be inclined to try reducing the saturation of the greens here to make the leaves a little less dominant. The mirroring of the fallen branch below and above the waterfall is a really nice touch.

I’d be tempted to crop the very top of the image, from just above the leaning tree, just to lose the brightest patch of white sky, which rather takes the eye out of the frame. I’d also have liked to see a little more detail in the brightest areas of the waterfall – although I can imagine this was not an easy scene in which to achieve an even exposure.

  • Baltic Seav - Poland, Gdynia
  • Nikon D810 with Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED at 19mm
  • 106 seconds at f/9, ISO 400
  • Big Stopper

The delicate tones in this image, along with a strong composition make it stand out. The fact that the ice covered wooden stumps lead the eye in to the old structure in the background, whilst retaining separation between the two elements is an excellent use of composition.

I’m in two minds whether I like the sand at the bottom right hand corner of not. Normally I would prefer the simplicity of the image without the sand, but in this case, I think it may even add to the image.

The only thing I would have done differently would be to take this as a portrait format shot, thereby giving me more sky and height to the image. So often photographers only think of the landscape format for landscape subjects, yet the portrait format, along with cropping of the image is part of the compositional decisions. John Miskelly

  • Iceland
  • Sony A7r II with FE 16-35 f4 ZA OSS at 16 mm
  • 241 seconds at f/10, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper

This image has a lovely quality of light, which gives a sense of atmosphere. The author has resisted the urge that many fall for, in that he hasn’t over processed the image. The use of the Big Stopper has given the sky a quality of tone and the radiating cloud effect balances the image nicely, particularly with the lighter part of the sky behind the mountain. The detail in the ice in the foreground contrasts with the majesty of the mountain in the background.

In terms of improving the image, I would have liked to see a stronger lead into the image in terms of foreground. Ideally, I would have found a stronger and more obvious curve or diagonal line in the ice that would have led my eye to the mountain in the background. Maybe moving to the left would have given this opportunity?

  • Giant's Causeway
  • Canon EOS 6D with lens at 17mm
  • 140 seconds at f/9, ISO 200
  • LEE 0.6 ND Hard Grad
  • Big Stopper

An image from my own part of the world, so I know it well! I love the tones and textures in the image. The fact that the image was taken with a foreboding sky means the tones are well matched between the sky and the dark rocks of the Giants Causeway.

The long exposure gives the breaking waves the white line that separates the rocks from the sea. The curve of the rocks is compositionally strong and the image is what I would call, well balanced.

In terms of improvements, I would just lift the shadows a little, particularly in the bottom left corner and also increase overall exposure by say, 0.25 stops. I would do this without losing the moodiness of the image.

  • Brienzersee at Gloaming (Switzerland)
  • Canon EOS-1D X with Canon EF 16-35 f/4L IS USM
  • 10 seconds at f/11, ISO 100
  • LEE Polariser
  • Little Stopper
  • LEE Chocolate 2 Hard Grad

This image just exudes mood and atmosphere. The author has used a polarizing filter, a Little Stopper and a Chocolate Hard Grad, a great example of how one can combine filters to create a super image. It’s the combination of light, composition and subject that come together to give any image ‘emotion’. In this case, the foreground stones at the edge of the lake give enough interest to draw the viewer’s eye into the reflections in the lake and then up to the mountains and the sky.

I can see where the author has worked on the image on the mountains on both the right and left hand sides in post production and has lightened parts of the mountains that look unnatural, which takes away from the image. Great care should be taken with any post production to ensure that the viewer can’t see the work that’s been done. Fix this problem and then it’ll be one to put up on the wall.

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM at 16mm
  • 156 seconds at f/8, ISO 50
  • LEE Polariser
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.9 ND Hard Grad

Another very strong composition and use of light. The wooden stumps starting from the bottom left hand side lead to the horizontal stumps further out from the shore. These stumps are well below the horizon, so don’t spoil the ‘balance’ of the image.

The use of a hard graduated filer was a perfect choice for this image along with the Big Stopper. The smoothing of the water and the sky means that there are no distractions and the stumps stand out much more than if the Stopper hadn’t been used.

One thing that would improve the image in my opinion is a square or tighter crop. The main focus of the image is the wooden stumps, so losing some of the unnecessary space would ‘focus’ the viewers eye into the main part of the image.

  • Moonlight Shadow - Crested Butte, Colorado
  • Nikon D810 with Nikon 14-24mm at 14mm
  • 25 seconds at f/4, ISO 800
  • LEE 0.75 ND Soft Grad

What an absolute ripper of a scene! This one really caught my eye for many reasons: beautifully balanced scene, perfect tones, crisp foreground and a little hint of milky way to top things off.

I do not have many things to suggest to improve such a powerful scene; the only thing I would adjust is removing the power poles from the background scene, and tidying up the minor imperfections in the foreground.

  • Lake Thun
  • Canon 70D with Tokina 11-20mm f2/2.8 at 11mm
  • 60 seconds at f/11, ISO 100
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad
  • Big Stopper

This is a super clean image, simple and well balanced with a beautiful symmetrical composition. It really conveys a sense of peace and calm to me though its simplicity and pastel tones.

Improvements to compliment such a scene would be ensuring the horizon is horizontal, it appears to be dipped a little on the left of frame. The highlights are also substantially clipped in the middle of the frame, using a 0.9 ND graduated filter would have helped to combat this small issue.

  • Sunset at Kelumbayan Lampung Indonesia
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF16-35/2.8 II
  • 0.4 seconds at f/11, ISO 100
  • LEE Polariser
  • LEE 0.6 ND Standard
  • LEE 1.2 ND Soft Grad

Love the rocks in this shot. Excellent scene with such movement and power conveyed from the breaking waves and rocks.

Suggestions for improvements: this is quite a busy scene, though powerful, it could use some simplifying… more direct foreground with the rocks in the water as secondary with some beautiful white-wash water movement tying the entire scene together.

  • Lofoten
  • Nikon 810 with Nikon 14-24mm
  • 30 seconds at f/11, ISO 200
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.9 ND Soft Grad

Absolutely love the dynamic foreground in this scene, the streaks in the sand create such drama. The mix of steely tones complimented by such interesting textures makes for a powerful image.

Suggestions for improvements would be attempting to focus more on the composition, I find myself second guessing what the subject is within the scene. Foreground textures, mountains or the leading line to the human element on the left of frame?

  • Iceland Skógafoss
  • Canon 5D Mark II with Canon EF17-40mm F4 L USM at 35mm
  • 20 seconds at f/10, ISO 50
  • LEE Polariser
  • LEE Little Stopper

Waterfalls don’t get much more impressive than Skogafoss. Grandness of scale and a well-balanced scene… and showcased in black and white to add to the overall hard-hitting impact of such a scene.

The only minimal suggestions for improvement to such a powerful image would be to take more time with the dodge and burning of the scene. On the direct left and right of the waterfall I notice some intense dodging, that doesn’t balance out. Coupled with the rather dark edges in the upper corners of the frame, it puts a little too much drama into an already punchy scene.

  • Krnica sunset (Triglav National Park)
  • Nikon D5200 with Tokina AT-X 11-20mm f/2.8 at 11mm
  • 132 seconds at f/8, ISO 100
  • LEE Polariser
  • Big Stopper

We see a great deal of long exposure photographs now and more often than not the photograph doesn't benefit from the use of dark ND filters. Here though, the dragging clouds enhance the depth and compliment the line of the meandering track through the foreground.

The balance of light and tones between the sky and the foreground is very believable and the colours created by the low sun angle have been captured beautifully.

The composition looks very good to me although I feel that a slight crop in from the side would make this composition stronger and focus more attention on the areas of interest within the frame.

  • Sakrisoya
  • Nikon D750 with Tamron 15-30 f2.8 lens at 24mm
  • 126 seconds at f/8, ISO 100
  • LEE Polariser

This a view I know very well and what an amazing one it is too! This is a very challenging image to pull off, the light has to be balanced perfectly with the lights from the village and this has achieved that.

The snow-covered mountains coupled with the cold tones of blue and white make the warm street lighting and the warm coloured houses feel very safe and inviting.

It is very easy to lose control of the highlights in an image like this but this has been executed perfectly.

  • Winter rain over Sligachan
  • Nikon D810 with Nikon 70-200mm F2.8 lens
  • 1/2 second at f/10, ISO 200
  • LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad
  • Little Stopper

The emotions captured in this photograph are stunning. The drama of the light and passing storm is very subtle and very believable. I really like the processing and how this photographer has pulled out the details of the storm clouds without going too far.

The choice of filters here was perfect, quite often in a situation like this the sky is rendered a great deal darker than the foreground, something that rarely happens in reality and is a major give away that too strong a graduated filter has been used. Here, the tones are perfectly balanced producing this beautiful image.

  • Frosty Higger Tor
  • Nikon D3s with Nikon 16-35 lens at 16mm
  • 1/30th second at f/11, ISO 200
  • LEE 0.6 ND Hard Grad

This is a lovely composition. The sense of depth created by the photographer here is perfect. I love how the composition makes my eye meander gently through the rocks, picking up the river or road in the distance and all the way through where I'm held in the sky with the gentle glow of the diffused sun.

The processing is very delicate and the gentle colours are really beautiful. My only very slight criticism is that the frosty/snowy foreground looks brighter than the sky and the source of light it is reflecting. This would suggest that the choice of graduated filter was perhaps one stop too strong. This is only a very slight niggle though and something that is easily remedied in post.

  • Lamesa, Texas
  • Canon 5D Mark III with Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens
  • 20 seconds at f/10, ISO 100
  • LEE 0.6 ND Hard Grad

Wow! What a sky! I really enjoy the depth created by the converging lines into a central point towards the horizon. Those lines really pull the viewer into the distance of the image and that incredible thunderstorm which is of course, the star of show.

The balance of light here is perfect, as is the mood, absolutely nothing to pick fault with here in any way at all.

  • Ria de Aveiro, Portugal
  • Canon EOS 6D with Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens at 17mm
  • 8 seconds at f/20, ISO 200
  • LEE Polariser
  • LEE 0.9 ND Grad
  • LEE 0.3 ND Very Hard Grad

This image caught my eye, because by coincidence, I lived in Aveiro (where it was shot) in the early 90s. It was here that I first became seriously interested in photography and used to shoot scenes like this.

To be honest, Paulo has done a much better job than I did back then. The composition is strong and the shot very striking, with the boat looking as if it’s being slowly reclaimed by nature - I love the reflections on the water inside the boat.

Being picky, there are a couple of little niggles. First, I think the sky is slightly over-gradded - it is darker than the reflection - so I don’t think the 0.3ND Very Hard Grad was necessary.

Secondly, I find the swirling reeds/weed to the left of the boat slightly distracting. A faster shutter speed could have frozen the movement. Losing the Polariser would help - it’s not necessary if you don’t want to remove the reflections - as would opening the aperture a bit. With careful focusing, it would still be possible to get enough depth of field.

Finally, and this is easily addressed, I’d pull back on the saturation slightly.

But overall, a great image.

  • The Roaches Old Barn
  • Nikon D3s with Nikon 16-35 lens at 16mm
  • 1/20th second at f/9, ISO 200
  • LEE 0.9 ND Hard Grad

This is a very moody shot, which shows how important it is to shoot in light that suits your subject; imagine this same scene under a blue sky on a summer’s day.

Results can be dramatic, but it’s not easy shooting into the sun. Exposure and flare can be a problem, so Dave has done a good job of getting the former right and avoiding the latter. For the most part, there’s good detail throughout the tonal range from shadows to highlights - using a 0.9ND Hard Grad has helped here.

With the sun low on the horizon, a Hard Grad was probably the best option to control the bright tones there, but there is evidence of the filter’s transition line darkening the top of the barn. Some careful digital dodging might help.

This isn’t a criticism, but an alternative - a smaller aperture might have resulted in a ‘sunstar’, which could provide a very distinctive background focal point - maybe Dave shot an alternative version like this?

Finally, a word about composition. It looks simple, but all the elements are perfectly positioned in the frame, creating a strong line taking the eye through to the background and the setting sun.

  • Winter Dreams
  • Canon EOS 6D with Canon EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens at 20mm
  • 0.3 second at f/8, ISO 100
  • LEE 0.9 ND Soft Grad
  • LEE Polariser

This is a really interesting shot and the contrast of warm tones in the sky and cool tones in the foreground works really well. The textural contrast between the soft, smooth textures in the foreground and the rugged, jagged peaks of the mountains complement this. Florian has filtered the scene well - the 0.9ND Soft Grad blends in with the mountain range and is completely unobtrusive - as graduated filters should be if used correctly.

The image is nicely processed, too, with vibrant but believable colour.

Compositionally, I’m not so keen on the empty space in the bottom left corner - the eye tends to drift out of the frame there, so I’d tighten things up a little with a slight crop, so the hut on the far left is closer to the frame edge and the nearest hut a little closer to the bottom. In the ideal world, Florian would have been able to shoot this from a slightly higher viewpoint, too, which would open up the middle distance slightly - but I imagine this wasn’t possible.

  • Wind Power, Copenhagen
  • Nikon D800 with 70-200 lens at 86mm
  • 25 seconds at f/16, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.9 ND Hard Grad

This is a lovely Big Stopper image, with a bold, minimalist composition. I love the smooth texture in the water and sky and the splash of light on the end of the row of wind turbines. The image has the characteristic cool cast of the Big Stopper and I think this really adds to the atmosphere. Some people might feel that the sky is slightly over-gradded and that the use of the 3-stop grad was not necessary, but I like the stormy, moody effect it’s created.

I like the negative space in the composition, but I wonder about the crop; for me, a squarer aspect ratio - 4:3 or even 1:1 might suit the image better, as the main subject doesn’t stretch far enough across the frame to make the panoramic crop work. I’d also have placed the turbines lower in the frame; it’s hard to rationalise, but I feel the overall balance would be better. These cropping options are very likely possible from the original frame.

Finally, to be picky, the horizon isn’t quite level and there are a number of dust spots visible in the sky - both easily correctible issues.

  • House of the Four Winds
  • Nikon D610 with lens at 30mm
  • 0.3 second at f/9, ISO 100
  • Little Stopper

This is a nicely seen image and it caught my eye because it’s something I probably wouldn’t have spotted. With landscape, the usual approach is to try to show the whole vista, perhaps including the boat as foreground interest for the wider view. The tight crop might have been from necessity - perhaps the rest of the scene was cluttered or ugly - or it might have been simply that the photographer chose this crop for pictorial effect. Either way, it works really well.

The elements are arranged really well in the frame. The rock is perfectly placed and I love the strong diagonal of the oar coming into the frame from the right; this contrasts really well with the horizontal lines of the boat.

The Little Stopper has been put to excellent use here; with moving water, the temptation is often to blur it until completely smooth, but the shutter speed of 0.3 second, as a wave washes around the boat and the rock is perfect for keeping the texture in the moving water, which adds a lot more interest to the composition. Finally, the mono conversion has been very well executed.

  • 7 Seconds Away
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L USM II lens
  • 180 seconds at f/16, ISO 50
  • Big Stopper

Strong compositional lines here hold the eye firmly in the turbulent amphitheatre and the photographer has been careful to lead the eye through the image from the bottom right hand corner of the frame.

The Big Stopper has forced the long shutter speed turning the running water into a solid amorphous mass whilst in the sky, the opposite effect has been achieved with motion blur streaking the heavens. Also the cool pre-dawn colour temperature enhances the feeling of the freezing conditions and plays to the overall mood of the image. Not much here that I would have done differently.

  • Oahu, HI
  • Canon 1DX MarkII with Canon EF 16-35 f/4L IS USM at 18mm
  • 181 seconds at f/16, ISO 50
  • LEE 0.9 ND Hard Grad
  • Big Stopper

The strength of this image is in its simplicity and the fact that it juxtaposes the two colour opposites - magenta and green. Personally, I would have considered cropping this to 3:4 - I find the 2:3 format on the upright orientation too long and thin.

Whilst the colours are very appealing, we need to be judicial in the amount of saturation applied, either globally or in specific channels, to ensure that the scene we are experiencing remains believable. The use of the Big Stopper has helped create a dynamic between the glass-like nature of the sea and the motion blur in the clouds which are complimentary.

  • Hollow Rock Winter Sunrise
  • Canon 5D Mk3 with Rokinon 14mm f/2.8
  • 109 seconds at f/18, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper

This haunting image looks to have come straight from one of the fantasy landscapes in the Chronicles of Narnia. Again, we have two colour opposites at work here - blue and yellow which have fused together harmoniously creating a feeling of peace and tranquillity. The warm backlighting picks up the icicles beautifully below the island, helping to create the ephemeral quality of the image.

Had I been there I wouldn't have changed much - perhaps shot a little tighter to give more emphasis to the backlit icicles and probably let the sun drop below the island (which I'm sure you've done) - I feel that there's competition between the hotspots and as we know from experience - in photography, less is more. A lovely image.

  • Zumaia
  • Nikon D800 with 14mm lens
  • 1.6 seconds at f/8, ISO 1600
  • Big Stopper

Despite the Big Stopper being used in this image it has created a feeling of movement rather than tranquillity. When I look at this image I experience a feeling of perpetual motion. We are drawn into the composition with the two parallel water flows which exist in one plane and are juxtaposed by the sea meeting this convergence on another. Above in the sky and in yet another plane, the moving clouds also contribute to this sense of movement which I don't think would have been quite so pronounced had the filter not been used. The low camera angle helps to create a powerful dynamic. All good.

  • Rainy morning at Hintersee (Bavaria / Germany)
  • Nikon D810 with Nikkor 14-24/2.8 at 16 mm
  • 62 seconds at f/11, ISO 64
  • LEE 0.9 ND Soft Grad

A strong composition in this image with the mountain peaks being framed by the two islands. A lovely airy and high key picture with a feeling of a pristine environment.

One or two things I might have done differently here - I feel the saturation in the yellow/green channels has been increased beyond a point which looks (to me) natural and I would also have used the radial filter in Lightroom over the cloud on the mountain and in its reflection in the lake by removing some of the highlight values. This would have helped the viewer to navigate the image in the way intended and would help dissuade our eyes from moving instinctively to the centre of the image where the brightest portion of the image lies. Notwithstanding this, it's still a great image.

  • Chicago, IL. Before the Cubs won the World Series.
  • Nikon D750 with 24-120mm f/4 lens at 24mm
  • 5 minutes at f/22, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE Polariser

An image with strong visual impact and it’s really refreshing to see a Big Stopper image that is not waves around a rock on a beach. A little thought has gone into the use of the Big Stopper and how it will impact on the final image and although some postproduction work has gone on it leaves the image with a unique look and feel.

The composition is strong and I love the way the clouds take the eye toward the centre of the image. The use of the polariser although not immediately obvious will also have had a big impact on the look of the glass in the skyscrapers and water in the fountain. Perhaps not a ‘normal’ Big Stopper or cityscape shot but it certainly stands out as a dramatic image.

  • Cayeux-sur-mer, France
  • Canon EOS 6D with EF17-40mm f/4L USM lens at 20mm
  • 136 seconds at f/8, ISO 100
  • Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.6 ND Hard Grad

A great viewpoint, I love the low angle, quirky composition (the thin slither of ocean is just perfect) and the muted colour palette. Some thought has gone into the use of the Big Stopper, the direction of the clouds and length of exposure playing a strong roll in the impact of the image by echoing the wooden boards in the foreground.

The Neutral Density 0.6 Hard Grad although essential for balancing the exposure has been used very subtly and the white cloud moving just off centre of the image breaks the sky up just enough to give a little interest in an otherwise grey sky.

  • West Pier, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland
  • Canon EOS 6D with EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens at 80mm
  • 1/25 second at f/10, ISO 50
  • LEE Big Stopper
  • LEE 0.9 ND Soft Grad

A very simple, clean and tidy composition that shows how well the ‘Rule of Thirds’ can work (it’s a guideline, not a rule!) Not only is the composition strong but the black and white conversion and tonality of the image is excellent. An added bonus was the tide being out and so giving the pier the extra dark band at its base (or just good planning?)

The 0.9 Soft Grad has worked well where a Hard Grad will have been too strong. The Big Stopper effect is subtle although the people on the pier still appear sharp, possibly a double exposure? Personally I think the image would be stronger with no people in it.

  • Middle Earth
  • Nikon D7000 with Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX (AF 11-16mm f/2.8) lens at 11mm
  • 30 seconds at f/11, ISO 100
  • LEE Big Stopper

A very strong, dark, brooding and moody landscape, that has plenty of depth and detail to it. Rocks, water and Big Stoppers do seem to go hand in hand and here the Big Stopper has created a ghostly fog of the water without it going too misty and milky. Retaining some detail and texture in the sea has helped the mood of the image, too much blur and motion and the strength of the image would be compromised.

The composition is also strong with the black boulders emerging from the sea with plenty of detail in them. Because of the strength of the foreground the mountains in the distance have become just background interest but this gives the image depth, often lacking in many landscapes.

  • Ovar, Ria de Aveiro, Portugal
  • Canon EOS 6D with Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Lens at 30mm
  • 2 seconds at f/5.6, ISO 250
  • LEE Polariser
  • LEE 0.6 ND Medium Grad
  • LEE 0.6 ND Hard Grad
  • LEE Mist Grad

I would normally start to worry if someone was using four filters to achieve their results but I do like the mood and feel of this shot. Possibly the clouds are very slightly over graded for my taste with both a 0.6 Medium Grad and a 0.6 Hard Grad and I’m not too sure how much effect the Polariser is having on the scene. However, as an image all the ingredients are there and it does still work, there is plenty of mood and atmosphere and the image has impact, what more could you ask for?

Finishing the scene off well is the use of the LEE Mist Grad (I have and use both the Mist Grad and the Mist Stripe.) These Mist filters used in the right conditions and used subtly can help create a mood or atmosphere in an image where none previously existed and this shot shows how well they can work.


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