July 3, 2021 ·

Ed Gordon
The before and after image screenshot that is shown here was taken in 2019 in Montenegro on an Explorelight workshop https://www.explorelightphotographyworkshops.com/

The before and after image screenshot that is shown here was taken in 2019 in Montenegro on an Explorelight workshop https://www.explorelightphotographyworkshops.com/
 

 
It is a glacial lake and is known as The Black Lake located on Mount Durmitor, at an elevation of 1,416 m and is 3 km from the town of Žabljak.

My son Peter and I first explored this location back in 2005 or 2006 and we have had workshops there every year since that first exploration of this amazing and so far little-known photography destination. 
Before setting out in 2006 we identified a place to stay near Žabljak. On Expedia, it looked great but when we arrived that first evening we were horrified. It was just awful and the idea of bringing 10 photographers to this hovel was nightmarish, to say the least. We had flown from Dublin to Dubrovnik and then drove for the first time through endless checkpoints as we weaved our way through Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia, and finally Montenegro. Despite being tired there was no way we were staying even one night in this awful hotel. We jumped in the car and amazingly within about an hour we had found a newly built and amazing hotel that had yet to be listed on Expedia. The rooms were great, the hotel was new, the food was great and we had found our new Montenegro home. 
 
As a sidebar, I left my signature cowboy hat in the hotel that year, and when we returned the following year with 8 eager photographers they had it at reception waiting for me. Amazing people.
 
 
 
So, this is our first time in Montenegro. It is the scouting trip that we ALWAYS do for every location we offer as workshops and tours. Peter is just amazing at planning locations and researching the optimal locations for us to shoot but nothing can replace local knowledge especially in such a new location that few have been to.
Effective Planning for Photographers
 
 
On our first morning, we went to the Black and Lake and began our first shoot that almost ended in disaster. We had been shooting for a while and marvelling at the amazing location only 5 minutes from our super-duper 4 star hotel. 
Suddenly a gust of wind just catapulted our cameras and tripods into what we thought might be oblivion. The wind just came out of nowhere. After the initial shock, we examined the damage, and thankfully it was all fixable. Lots of sand and muck on cameras and lenses but thankfully filters and lens hoods had taken the brunt of the impact. Phew……. 
 

Black Lake, Image Copyright Peter Gordon www.explorelight.com

 

 
 
After breakfast, we immediately went to the tourist center to pick up brochures and ordnance maps of the area. We had only been there 5 minutes when we noticed this 6ft 5” bald guy built like the terminator observing us and listening intently to the questions we asked of the poor tourist rep that had no idea of how to really help us.
This voice boomed and that was the first time I heard Dane speak.
 
Dane, ex-soldier, and Dormitor National Park guide introduced himself and after some discussion, we agreed on a rate for him to show us all the great places he knew in Dormitor National Park. 
Dane is a force of nature and since that day he is the first person we see every time we visit Montenegro. As I age and my bones become more brittle his bear hugs have now become terrifying. He and all of his crew are a joy to be with. 
 
Fast forward to 2019 and the image depicted here. To me, this image embodies the entire history of our journeys to Montenegro. I have chosen to show this particular image as it is the most recent shot I have of the Black Lake and also it is my favorite. 
 

The image was shot on Nikon D850 and Nikon 70-200 f2.8 lens at f11 and ½ second. 
Another great joy to this image is that the lens used was not mine. I had purloined this wonderful lens from the camera bag of an unsuspecting son. It gave me great joy that I was about 500 meters away when he went looking for it. I’m really an awful father ~ (::)…… It was also a nice change as for the past 15 years so much of my camera equipment just vanished into thin air after any visit of my son to my home. 

I rarely edit images after the immediacy of the experience in the field. I wait until the image speaks to me. It can often be months and sometimes years later that I enter the process of creating the final image. At some point I found myself in the trap of social media, being anxious to post as soon as possible. I had to ask myself is it the process and the experience that nourishes and motivates me or is it all about the “likes”. I wonder has social media made external validation more important than the experience? Popularity is a fickle master. 

When I did finally get to edit this image I received an email from Andy, one of the participants of the workshop, saying “Wow, I was there and I never saw what you saw”

Pretty much, everyone, had the same shot in the can so to speak. The alchemy began when I viewed the image as black and white and regarded the tiny little hut along with the mist caressing the treetops as being vital to my final development of the image. Have a good look at how the transitions of light lead you to the insignificant yet very important little hut. The image was processed using Joel Tjintjelaar’s ArtisanProX. 

IMAGES 2 & 3 ~ A COVID STORY 

March 2020 seems an eternity ago. That’s when this image was taken on my way back from Twentynine Palms, Joshua Tree National Park, making a beeline for Vegas to catch a flight to New York and then home to Dublin before everything closes down and I’m left stranded in the USA for possibly months. 

To me, the image speaks to a dying world killed by progress and the interstate highway. Not quite the Wild West but it felt like it to me. Stories and memories, the essence of our photography. 

Before and after processing screenshot of Roys Hotel, CA. Nikon D850 converted to Infra Red 720nm.

I had planned to spend 24 days in the USA but unfortunately, I had to miss the days I planned to spend in Death Valley, Mono Lake, Bishop, Bodie, and across Tioga pass into Yosemite if the road was open. 

It was really disappointing as I had spent almost a year planning this trip. Some months before leaving for the USA I had invested in a second Nikon D850 that I sent to Kolari Vision to have converted to Infra Red 720nm. My previous IR camera, Nikon D810 was 850nm and I just felt that the highlights got blown out too easily with the 850nm and the blacks got blocked up.

All in all 720nm offered a better all-around post-processing option.

I’m a bit of a perfectionist and a mark I discovered on the sensor really annoyed me. 
I had tried to clean it and even Bob Conn of Conns Cameras, Dublin couldn’t remove it. I decided to ship the camera back to Kolari in the USA. 
This is about 8 days before I leave Ireland and I need to figure out a way to make sure that I have my camera for all of my trip. Enter my good friend Penelope Taylor. Penelope had introduced me to Ilija Melentijevic the owner of Kolari Vision and between the two of them, they made sure that my camera was ready. I had suggested that it be shipped to my hotel in Twentynine Palms, CA, but they wouldn’t hear of it. 
Penelope drove 4 hours to meet me in New Jersey and deposited my 100% clean and functioning D850 into my hand in a hotel just off the turnpike. Wow~ what great people.

ROY’S MOTEL, CA. Nikon D850 Infra-Red 850nm, Nikon 16-35, f4.

The processing of Roys’s Motel image was really easy. It needed a square crop and some light transitions and voila it’s done. Giving it enough curb to lead into the tire tracks and then the vintage car is mostly accomplished by a very dark right bottom corner. 

Happy with my stop at Roy’s I set off again for Las Vegas. I just love the barren nature of this landscape. I was seeing images everywhere.
I just kept stopping and each time I stopped I set up my tripod and began framing my memories.
The screenshot below shows the in-camera raw file capture along with 2 edits. Many of my friends and clients that attend www.explorelightworkshops.com have given me feedback saying that they find it really useful to see where an image begins with me and where it ends. Too much YouTube instruction is about how to do things and not enough dialogue about what to do. Both are needed. So, I hope you have found these before and after screenshots helpful. 

Before and after processing of road shot.Nikon D850 Infrared 850nm with Nikon 16-35, F4 at F8.

The road image was taken on the same journey back to Las Vegas. All in all a most productive few hours.

I felt that this simple image once developed in post-processing could illuminate my journey but also retain some mystery and opportunity in a Covid free future. 

Beauty and joy can be found everywhere if you look and pre-visualize. Traditional photography that relies on in-camera capture and post-processes the transitions and intensities of light and tone is truly, for me, the most rewarding photography. I will never become a PhoTimagist. The meaning of the image is in its story of creation and that starts in my heart, my mind, and in the field. 

That’s it for now. Next month I will follow on where I left off last month. 

Your comments and feedback are most welcome.

Ed Gordon

July 2021

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Ed Gordon

It’s been more than 20 years now since I founded www.explorelight.com and gave up my day job to immerse myself fully in my photography. My work has been published in various magazines including Photo Art International and Outdoor Photographer. I have also featured in numerous radio and TV celebrations of the work created by myself and my son Peter, European Professional Photographer of the Year 2013. As I reflect on almost a lifetime of making images and teaching others to find their voice in photography I realize that unique self-expression and authenticity are the ultimate goals in this great medium. The changes that have taken place in these past 10 years motivate me to share my journey and in so doing provide insights so that others can learn to find their voice in photography.

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