Tag Archives: cairngorms national park

CoGC GU2: Scottish Wildlife — Shoot 9 Outcome

_20A8486As arranged I arrived early afternoon to the Osprey Centre in Boat of Garten. Similar to the dolphin’s you don’t know what to expect and what you will capture, however I was lucky enough that when I arrived the female Osprey was sitting guard in her nest as the male Osprey was off fetching food for the female. Photographing the Osprey was pretty challenging, they are a very protected species by the RSPB which I can understand and therefore limited access from the viewpoint of their nest. The Osprey nest is a good distance from the centre which I can respect and therefore I was limited to the shots I could capture of the Osprey. I also tried to avoid photographing where the camera points down at the nest to appear more natural.

As much as I would have preferred to have captured some stunning closeup shots of the Osprey in action, I did manage to capture the female taking off with her food as the male returned to the nest with the catch which was a special moment. From that the female was spotted off to the distance perched on a dead tree eating the fish, I did manage to
capture a few interesting images from that which could be classified with a camouflage technique. To capture the Osprey in action I used my Sigma 150-600mm Sport lens with my 5D Mark iii set to high speed drive mode and with a faster shutter speed I was required to use a higher ISO number to capture the correct exposure. I did use a narrower Red Squirrel Habitataperture for some images for extended depth of field so my settings varied.

I was severely limited to techniques I could use for photographing the Osprey and their nest and since I already had a silhouette shot of an Osprey nest from Loch Insh I decided to concentrate on a composite image which tells a story. There were telescopes put into position to help spot the Osprey and this helped for direction when looking for the female perched on the dead tree eating her catch. There were several other birds I managed to capture in the surrounding forest area just outside the Osprey centre at the car park and was delighted with some of the pictures I captured. I also managed to capture a landscape image of the forest that really caught my eye with the light breaking through the trees, using the extended depth of field with the narrow aperture, slower shutter speed I managed to capture a stunning landscape which has potential to be used for some of the wildlife I’ve already captured such as the red squirrels etc.

Here is a sample contact sheet of some of the best images from that shoot:ContactSheet-001

The first image was one of my favourites as I managed to capture the female just as she was taking off with the fish which you can see clutched in her claw and was pleased with the composition; the second and third images I used for different perspective both of which have the eyes searching for the female Osprey, the portrait shot I wanted to show more of the landscape leading to where the female Osprey was perched to make the viewer feel closer. For the fourth and fifth picture I was delighted to capture two of the smaller birds on the trees and the lighting captured my eye; the final image showing the landscape shot I captured through a forest with the light breaking through, one of my favourite landscape shots.

Here is a sample contact sheet of some of the bad images:ContactSheet-002

The first image shows the ledge from shooting through the window, the weight of the Sigma 150-600mm lens can sometimes be troublesome holding for a lengthy period of time handheld; the second image I captured the female Osprey flying back to the nest, however it was out of focus and I felt in the third image there was too much over exposure on the leaves from the sun and not as favourable on the angle.

For post processing of my favourite shot I reduced the highlights and shadows, increased clarity and slightly reduced saturation to enhance the atmosphere of the forest, then increased sharpness of the overall image using Camera Raw.

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Using the brush tool I began creating a scattered spotted brush by increasing the scattering and spacing.

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Using the spotted scattered brush tool created, I painted over the image with smaller and larger brush sizes to desired effect with a light coloured brush matching the lightest areas of the photograph. Secondly using Filter > Blur > Radial Blur with zoom setting I created the blur effect with the new layer and finally I reduced the opacity of the rays of light to desired effect for the final image.

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CoGC GU2: Scottish Wildlife — Shoot 7 Outcome

004As planned after doing the reindeer shoot I arrived at the Loch Insh boathouse for the wildlife guided boat tour around Loch Insh. From the research I had done about the boat tour I had imagined that there would have been more to it, however it was slightly disappointing. It did mention about the possibility of spotting Osprey on Loch Insh and from the shoot I managed to get one several pictures of the Osprey nest which I was fairly pleased with. A lot of the birds that were mentioned on the guided tour around the Loch were said to be on the surrounding areas. The boat itself was further out from land and therefore even with using the 150-600mm Sigma Sport lens there wasn’t enough zoom to capture much and for me it wasn’t good enough to place towards anything I would wish.

_20A8280The wildlife boat tour was booked for 4pm and lasted for 1 hour. The area the boat stopped for the Osprey nest was perfect enough to capture several images, although I never spotted the Osprey themselves I felt this was ideal for capturing something environmental slightly different from the normal landscape shot that captures their habitat. The tree itself was dark due to coming from behind which influenced me to capture a silhouette technique as this was something I never had. I took several shots of the tree and nest both landscape and portrait for variation of choice. The hopes were to capture any birds flying past using a pan technique but found it was difficult as the shoot was indoors on the boat shooting through smaller win
IMG_0256dows.

The wildlife tour by boat on Loch Insh cost £7 per adult which I feel for what it was worth, capturing that one image stood out and feel it’s good enough to include for my final 20 images. I did use a faster shutter speed of 1/800 of a second for capturing the exposure darker to help create silhouette, a wide aperture of f/6.3 and ISO setting of 100. There wasn’t too much information about the tour on the flyer in the boathouse from where I originally found out about the boat tour or on the website, but was worth checking out. I suppose it is just your luck whether you find the Osprey or not. There was also a nature walk, however uncertain with how long it is I decided to avoid much of it, for the woodland landscape it wasn’t my favoured choice as I wanted to capture something to relate to the red squirrel habitat. It did mention however that there were red squirrels but I wanted something more eye catching that would help stand out.

Although limited here areis a sample contact sheet of my best images from that shoot:

ContactSheet-001

The first image is a picture I captured of a closeup of the Osprey nest, with the overcast sky I decided to enhance the image to enhance for silhouette; in the second image it was another favoured shot I captured of the Osprey nest only with portrait; another shot I captured of a bird flying past the boat, wasn’t the best of images but limited with this shoot, not something I would favour for final 20 and the final image I captured on part of the nature walk for habitat landscape with as I captured the sun glaring off the water and much of the land where the birds nest.

Here is a sample contact sheet of the bad images and some mistakes made from the shoot:ContactSheet-002

The first image image the birds dipping into the water water not only very quick but too distant and therefore turned out to be a poor image; in the second image the first picture I captured was over exposed and didn’t help shooting through a window at an angle; another attempt you can see the underexposure and the lack of contrast again due to shooting through a window on the boat and the final image attempting the pan shot technique with birds flying past on land, the birds were completely blurred out, plus they were too distant.

The first step to enhancing my favourite image I began by lowering the shadows and greatly increasing highlights to enhance for silhouette and reduced the temperature to add a slight blue tinge to give it more atmosphere; secondly I increased the sharpness of the image using Camera Raw.

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Using the Image > Adjustments > Curves I began by moving the white slider at the bottom in a little to where the detail ends and added a slight S curve to add more punch to the lightest and darkest areas.

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The final slight adjustment I made to the photograph was further enhancing the sharpness by using the Unsharp Mask tool under the Filter > Sharpen menu.

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CoGC GU2: Scottish Wildlife — Shoot 6 Outcome

As I had visiteDCIM103GOPROG0123909.JPGd the Cairngorm reindeer centre in the past I knew from previous research what to expect. I was well prepared with my waterproof trousers and hiking boots to go up into the hills where the reindeer can be found, as it is the only free ranging reindeer in Scotland they did mention to us that there is no guarantee of seeing them. I travelled by car and arrived just in time for the final tour to view the free ranging reindeer. I was informed previously that the reindeer at this time of the year are shedding their winter coats and this was mentioned on the tour. After paying the admission fee at the reindeer centre it was a drive along to a car parking area where they meet as a group to hike across the hills to the reindeer. The walk was fairly straight forward leading down one hill across a bridge and up another and we were informed about their behaviour for safety precautions.DCIM104GOPROG0134194.JPG

As there was a large enough group of people for viewing the reindeer I tried to capture a mixture of images between the reindeer by themselves as well as with the peo
ple. The weather was very overcast for most of the time spent with the reindeer and it wasn’t particularly easy to capture reindeer with scenic shots, this due to the location photographing the reindeer uphill so tried to capture the reindeer along the hill. You could see for the most part that their antlers were in the early stages of developing. I was pleased to capture one or two images that I was pleased with, but again very limited in technique. I did try a variety between wide angle and closeup shots for a little variety which gives me options if I want to include in my final 20. The large area the reindeer were kept in was fenced off and so I tried shooting in the opposite direction.

DCIM106GOPROG0156055.JPGPhotographing the reindeer was not so much a problem, some were very tame and others distant, we were warned however not to touch their antlers as that can be seen as a challenge to them. For me the experience was worth it, especially learning more about the reindeer as the information you learn of the animals I feel is every bit as important as the photography, this helps you better understand their nature which I feel can help take better pictures. The preferred backdrop I _20A8256would have liked to have captured with the reindeer was facing downhill which proved problematic as photographing the reindeer shooting downhill I feel wouldn’t have looked right. From my experience when shooting level it gives more of a natural feel and that’s what I aimed for.

Overall I was limited with shots I could say I would place up with my best which was a little disappointing, it wasn’t an easy location to shoot in, however I was delighted with a landscape shot I managed to capture for their natural habitat when walking back down from the hills to the river crossing, it was the perfect moment as the sun had just broke through from the clouds behind me which lit the landscape in front of me whilst capturing the dramatic dark skies in front of me, it turned out one of my best photographs which is something I can take from the day to use towards my final 20 images. My hopes for capturing shots using a pan technique I left for the second shoot which was a wildlife boat tour of Loch Insh later that same day.

Here are is a sample contact sheet of the best images I captured:ContactSheet-001I was pleased to capture the first image with a glare of light breaking through onto the reindeer and captured the closeup of the reindeer eating; the second image i favoured of the two reindeer with the landscape behind them; the third image was one of the fewer shots I captured of them grouped without the visitors in the shot with some of the landscape to the backdrop; I liked the 4th image again for the landscape with the reindeer grouped closer and the one standing closest which I liked for portraiture and the reindeer closeup eating with the backdrop; the final image was arguably my favourite shot, although landscape it is fitting for the habitat of much of the wildlife including the reindeer. The sunlight lighting the foreground set off with the dramatic dark skies to the backdrop.

Here is a sample contact sheet of images I did not prefer and mistakes:ContactSheet-002You can see from the first shot someone was standing in the shot and was very difficult to move as I was surrounded by other reindeer and people; second image was the mistake of over exposure which I had to correct for both my cameras; although I liked the stance of the reindeer, I also included this image to show shooting up hill as less desirable, although I liked the landscape; The fourth image shows the difficulty and limitations of capturing the reindeer with people walking around them; in the fifth image with the reindeer facing uphill it wasn’t a favoured shot especially for composition and finally the underexposure of the landscape river, again having to correct the exposure using my wide angle lens.

The post processing work I did for my favourite image from the shoot I began by reducing the highlights slightly using Camera Raw with the slight increase in the shadows to bring back detail from being over and under exposed in certain areas. I also increased the clarity slightly to enhance contrast and finally I increased the sharpness.

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Once opened in Photoshop I duplicated the original background layer then used the burn tool to paint over the entire image with 2% strength set to medium tones and finally using the dodge tool set to highlight tones set to 1% painting over to enhance highlights.

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The final image I wanted remain as natural as possible and therefore didn’t require much editing.

CoGC GU2: Scottish Wildlife — Shoot 5 Outcome

G0082141.JPGThe Highland Wildlife Park shoot was something rather quite unexpected, perhaps slightly disappointing, although can understand due to the nature of the animals and
safety of those they take on photographic tours, however for what it was worth I wouldn’t quite value the photographic day tour at £150. As the website described they would get you closer to the animals, however didn’t state how. The biggest disappointment was knowing that the tour guide for the tour was not a photographer therefore had no experience with photography which I found odd, he was a nice enough guy but again if you compare that to the day tour I did with Neil McIntyre there is quite the difference:

  1. IMG_1121.JPGNeil himself has more than 30 years of experience shooting wildlife and was able to pass on his knowledge and experience which I learned from. When doing a photographic day tour of the Highland Wildlife Park with someone who has know knowledge in photography there’s nothing to take from that.
  2. Being out in the wildlife it is more of an experience such as where to stand and how you approach. The Highland Wildlife Park we were given access to certain areas the general public wouldn’t have however still shooting through wired fencing. We were photographing the animals during their feeding time, that was a benefit but I wouldn’t value the tour at that price.

I managed to get some great pictures which I was pleased with such as the wolves eating etc, however a lot of the time we were left photographing either up or down at the animals which I felt wasn’t favourable. If I were to compare how many good images I captured through Neil’s photographic day tour to that of the Highland Wildlife Park there’s a telling G0031027.JPGdifference, then again it was to be expected as it’s a task in itself photographing through fencing and in restricted areas, especially the task avoiding capturing the wired fencing.

When photographing the animals, as expected I was pretty much limited regarding the techniques I could use and wide angle wasn’t ideal, especially when shooting through fencing and surrounding fencing to the back of the wildlife. I managed to capture the odd stunning shot however that made it appear as if I was level with the wildlife, an example being the Musk Ox which I may consider towards my final 20 images. It was difficult photographing much of the other animals due to the angles, but was pleased with shots I captured of the wolves as it appeared as if they’re in their natural habitat in the woodlands. I was disappointed with several images however such as capturing the wildlife with fencing or being slightly off focus such as the tiger and any closeups I did capture I wouldn’t quite place it as my one of my favourites.

For much of what I had captured I could have captured myself going around the park like a normal visitor. Some of the time I had to use a higher ISO for my 1_20A771050-600mm Sigma Sport lens as zoomed into 600mm the widest aperture is f/6.3 and using the faster shutter speed. I am pleased I captured a variety of shots of the different animals to give me options but will limit that as I want my final 20 to show a variety of different techniques and will only include if I feel it stands out.

The photographic day tour started at 8:30am in the morning and lasted throughout the day until 3:30pm in the afternoon. Within that time we were given a certain allocated amount of time photographing the wildlife whilst they were being fed. Thankfully I did take the Sigma Sport lens with me as I was unsure how close I would get to the animals and what I was to expect on the day.

Here is a contact sheet of some of my best shots I captured on the day:ContactSheet-001The first image of the alpha male wolf staring directly at the camera was one of my favoured portrait shots I managed to capture with the hint of the trees surrounding him, this certainly helped make the picture stand out; another shot I was fortunate to capture was one of the wolves eating a carcass showing it’s teeth, not only does it show the character of the wolf but was also pleased with the framing of the shot with the trees to make it appear as if in it’s natural habitat; the third picture was one of my best as I was lucky to capture the wolf eating with the expression on its face looking at the camera. I also captured it framed with the wood across the bottom and the tree, again appearing natural; The fourth image of the Musk Ox looking to play with another was another one of my favoured shots not just for the moment but also managed to capture them framed with raised bit of land to make it appear level with them which appears more natural; for the tiger, although a slight disappointment with it slightly off focus on the eyes but love the composition and finally one my favourite closeup portraits of a monkey with the sharp detail on its face and eyes as it calls out as it knows it’s about to be fed.

Here is a sample contact sheet of images I was disappointed with:ContactSheet-002The first image of the wolf was a disappointment due to capturing the back cross hatched wired fencing, I did try to take out in post processing but the higher ISO grain noise makes that extremely difficult. This would have been one of my best images had the wolf been closer to blur the background out more; the second image was one of my absolute favourites for the way the wolf was walking towards, again it shows the character of the wolf and loved the framing of the shot, however it was a big disappointment with the eyes completely out of focus; for the third image of the Scottish wildcat it chose to eat at the back of the enclosure with the wired fencing and shooting through the fencing was problematic especially shooting down at the Scottish wildcat; another disappointment and example shooting upward was the snow leopard on top of the rocks as you can barely make out the creature; the second shot of the snow leopard eating, again it was one of my favoured shots but disappointment due to the wired fencing you can see slightly blurred across the face of the snow leopard which ruins the overall image and finally although I loved the shot of the tiger walking towards and looking at the lens, the eyes were slightly off focus due to the woods and fencing.

A sample of post process work I did for one of my best images I began by making slight adjustments in Camera Raw, first by reducing shadows to enhance contrast in the shadows and then by increasing sharpness. I also added a slight increase to the clarity:

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Using the Smart Sharpen tool from the filter menu I reduced the grain noise in the image as well as enhanced the sharpness by 10 to retain sharp detail on the wolf.

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After reducing the grain noise and retaining sharpness in the detail, I used the burn tool at 2% to paint over the midtones and the dodge tool at 1% set to highlights to enhance the overall image.

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The final touch I made to the photograph was by adding slight colour desaturation. I began by duplicating the second background layer, then choosing Image > Adjustments > Desaturate from the Image menu. From the layers palette with the 3rd background layer selected I reduced the opacity of the layer from 100% to 20% for a more realistic look.

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CoGC GU2: Scottish Wildlife — Shoot 3 Outcome

Cairngorms National Park Wildlife With Neil McIntyre

IMG_1101Due to the time of year I fully expected the overcast weather, the third shoot was booked in advance for Wednesday, 5th of April. I researched the weather in advance with some weather forecasts showing cloudy and others showing sun with clouds. Fortunately the weather was in my favour. The arrangement was to meet Neil McIntyre at the Cairngorms hotel at 9 O’ Clock in the morning. Neil is a professional award winning wildlife and landscape photographer, so I was looking forward to the shoot as I knew it was the perfect opportunity not only to capture great images but for the learning experience as wildlife and landscape photography is something I would love to do. Neil proved to be a brilliant instructor throughout the day who clearly has vast knowledge and experience of the wildlife around him. This gives a better understanding that photographing wildlife is not as straightforward as taking out a camera, getting out into the wild and hoping for the best, he understands their habitat and nature.

Neil drove myself to each location and the first location was to capture the Red Squirrels. Using just my 5D Mark iii with the Sigma 150-600mm Sport lens we walked down a path through the woodland area and caught eye of a Red Squirrel darting up one of the tall pine trees. As the Red Squirrel darted up the tree Neil cracked open nuts and placed them down in certain parts of the one location of the forest anIMG_1108d then instructed me to perch down next to a tree further back. Once the camera was set up I waited in position for about half an hour to three quarters of an hour, unfortunately the Squirrel was refusing to come down.

Neil decided to resort to a second tactic having instructed me to wait in position and he would walk away and come back in 20 minutes so the Red Squirrel would get the idea that he was gone. As he told me to listen carefully for a scattering scraping noise which will indicate where they are. Thankfully after 10 to 15 minutes one of the Red Squirrels scattered down one of the trees however it was very uncertain and began making its way back up the tree whilst making an alert sound. I quickly zoomed in to capture a shot using the faster shutter speed, wide aperture and higher ISO to capture the squirrel whilst it was perched on a branch. This was one of the few shots I captured from that area.

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The second location spot he drove myself towards more open on a small hill with trees off the country road, the Red Squirrels were a lot more tame as it was a location Neil spends considerable time at feeding them. Neil placed the nuts in several spots and the Red Squirrels came running across for them which gave me the perfect opportunity to capture some fantastic shots. Neil also gave his advice on the shutter speed with the higher ISO, as well as continuous drive shooting to capture various shots as the Squirrels came running in. I did also attempt the pan technique using slow shutter speed of 1/125 for a while however proved very IMG_1111difficult as even Neil himself explained wildlife like Squirrels are a lot more difficult to track because of how sporadic their movement is, they’re hard to predict. He was also very helpful in giving advice where to stand as he advised to stand slightly down from the peak of the hill so that I would be eye level shooting the Red Squirrels.

Capturing the Red Squirrels whilst they were running was quite difficult given how quick they move and often sporadic, not being able to predict their movement I managed to capture some of my best shots when the Squirrels stopped to pick up and eat the nuts. Neil was also very helpful with some fantastic compositional advice, one of which I managed to capture a Squirrel on a tree stump with the grass below.

I’m delighted with many of the pictures I had captured although can’t help but imagine what it would have been like if shooting during summer period with foliage on the trees that would add vibrance to the backdrops. However when thinking about it what I captured gives a nice seasonal feel of the Red Squirrels during a period of early Spring. Because my Sigma 150-_20A5899600mm Sport lens has an f/5 – f/6.3 aperture I was forced to use a mid to higher ISO range to compensate for the faster shutter speed, thankfully with the Canon 5D Mark iii even at the higher ISO range the picture quality is still impressive.

The second part of the day Neil had taken me out to a stunning location in the hills to capture the Highland Hare’s, it was an experience crawling slowly to get close to the wild Hare’s and managed to capture some fantastic images of the hares close up and also of the backdrop and surroundings. Again, Neil was able to direct me to parts where he knew where the wild Hares were located, one wild hare of which I was lucky to capture with the sun backlighting him which turned out fantastic. For each of my shots between the Red Squirrels and the Highland Hare’s my main focal point was focusing on their eyes to catch sharpness, although sometimes difficult varying on distance or the direction the Squirrels and Hare’s looked. Another thing I aimed for was to capture a wide variety of different shots andIMG_1121 compositions as well as switching focal length between 150 to 600 for variety.

Getting down low was essential for photographing the wild Hare and for most of the time was lying down whilst shooting which gave me support as the Sigma 150-600mm Sport lens is pretty heavy.

The final stage of the day Neil helped me in the same location with a better understanding of landscape photography as I was looking to capture some habitat shots to show in relation to the Highland Hare’s themselves. The biggest thing I learned from that was understanding more to do with the light in the foreground as well as adding interest to the foreground by finding a particular subject that adds to the photograph. As it was cloudy with the sun I had to wait at points for the sun to light the foreground to capture the ideal shot I wanted. Part of the technique I learned was holding the camera up and pointing down to capture the perspective with the main subject in the foreground closest. I also captured some landscapes with leading lines which Neil was kind enough to point out. The shots I captured of the landscapes I was pleased with however feel I could improve upon composition but learned a lot from the experience.

Here is an example contact sheet of some images that didn’t go to plan as I wanted:

ContactSheet-001

The first image was a first attempt at capturing a pan shot of one of the Red Squirrels as it was running to collect one of the nuts, I then corrected the exposure by lowering the ISO and as shown from the second image captured better exposure however again, capturing a Red Squirrel with the pan shot technique proved difficult given how quick they move. In the third image I was rushed to capture and didn’t have the time to switch from the slower to faster shutter speed which caused motion blur. In the fourth image the lens wasn’t quick enough focusing and unfortunately focused on the tree rather than the Squirrel, because it was fast moving it was difficult to capture. The fifth image was perhaps one of my favourite images or would have been, unfortunately the focus was off which was disappointing as I loved the low perspective and light breaking through in this image. The last image was an example shot I captured of the Highland Hare habitat, however as the clouds covered the sun the foreground was a bit dull.

The following images were difficult to pick from as there were so many great images I managed to capture. Here is a contact sheet of some of my best shots:

ContactSheet-002

I was delighted to have captured the expression as a wonderful portrait of one of the red Squirrels face on, this definitely stands out as one of my best shots for shallow depth of field technique. Although some of the other images you can see shallow depth of field I also captured a few other techniques, one of which is the fourth image showing the Highland Hare camouflaged in it’s surroundings with an extended depth of field to show its environment. The second and fifth images I managed to capture both the Red Squirrel and Highland Hare eating and was pleased with the composition. The lighting I was delighted about when shooting the Hare as I was fortunate to have the sun backlighting the subject. The third image of the Red Squirrel perched on a log I loved for portrait and composition. The final image for landscape, my favoured image of the Highland Hare habitat as the sun broke out from behind the clouds it lit the foreground beautifully and managed to capture the sky and cloud detail using the river as a leading line point of view.

Here is an example of post processing work I did for several of the images including one of the best I had chosen:

Using Camera Raw I made slight adjustments depending on the image by making a slight adjustment increase in warm temperature to add warmth to the image and adjusted shadows and highlights accordingly to enhance the image. Finally increasing sharpness.raw

Once adjustments were made in Camera Raw depending on the photograph I implemented a slight warming filter to give a warm glow to the final image.photoshopfilter

Any final touches I made in photoshop depending on the image, I implemented a slight touch of sharpening using the sharpen tool to the eyes.sharpening

Again, a big thanks to Neil McIntyre for his fantastic one to one day tour that enabled me to capture some fantastic images and gained valuable learning experience. His website can be found at: http://www.neilmcintyre.com/ where you can find some of his fantastic work and many of his own tours he has to offer.