The importance of not being complacent (and lessons learnt)

This photo  is one of my favorites to date and has even won Photo of the week on strong-island and the staff pick winter 2015 award on viewbug but the journey to the completed image was a frustratingly long one. 

The day before I took this photo I had been assisting  at a wedding and had set my camera up with that in mind - aperture priority mode with both white balance and ISO set to "Auto". 

The last setting is important because I've discovered that my canon 1200d's low light performance isn't that great. I'm not going to really knock the camera though, it was very reasonably priced and it's noise levels in the higher ISO range is only to be expected for a camera in it's price bracket. 

Fast forward to the next morning and I'm standing on the beach with my lens pointed at the glorious Clarendon pier in Southsea.  

I'd say 99% of my photography is landscape and seascapes so my camera is pretty much on a tripod for every shot and my ISO is set to 100. I don't know if I was just tired from the day before or simply not concentrating properly but I left my ISO on Auto. 

The idea was to take two different exposures - one for the sky, one for the sea and pier then blend them together in Photoshop using luminosity masks. It was all going well.  I got the images I needed (so I thought), had a chat with another photographer enjoying the beautiful conditions, had a nice breakfast in the café on the way home and was generally feeling pretty good about myself. 

The art of noise (reduction)

It was only when I opened up the RAW files in Lightroom when my heart fell. The photo's were at 800 ISO. The noise. The Horror. Ok, so that was a little melodramatic but I was disappointed and burdened with the knowledge that my simple luminosity blend edit - pretty much only half an hours job - had suddenly turned into a crash course in noise reduction and I realised that mine and my camera's idea of low light performance were two completely different things.

I don't know your workflow in this situation but I decided to de-noise each exposure before blending. It took ages to do, with work in both Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop but I finally got two clean-ish images to bend together. I then denoised the outputted image before exporting. 

Lessons learnt

I guess I learnt that if you're concerned about the details, be concerned about the details. In this case checking ALL of my relevant settings when setting up the shot would have saved me a lot of time. 

Still, I got a good photo that other people want to look at and at the end of the day, that's our job as photographers.