Classic Jersey

The Amateur Photographer Masterclass with Tom Mackie

A beguiling mixture of British and Continental influences, Jersey is in a league of its own when it comes to landscapes. Tom shows five AP readers how to make the most of its classic landmarks. Gill Mullins reports.

SOME 100 miles south of the mainland lie the Channel Islands, with roots in both England and France but with a flavour all of their own. Jersey is the largest and most southerly, just 14 miles off the Normandy coast. Its 45 square miles pack in an extraordinary range of landscapes, from rugged coves to golden sands, green lanes to enticing footpaths, historic castles and towers to the Second World War fortifications built by the Germans — the Channel Islands being the only British territory to be occupied during the war Jersey’s happier claim to fame is that it is the sunniest place in the British Isles, and it certainly lives up to its reputation for our Masterclass, shooting classic Jersey landmarks. We meet the readers, all from Jersey Photographic Society, in the warmth of a bright evening for a briefing at the car park closest to our first quintessential Jersey shoot — sunset over Corbiere Lighthouse. While most people don’t venture much further to capture the lighthouse, our expert Tom suggests an alternative viewpoint from a rocky outcrop a few hundred yards south, by the famous MP2, or ‘Radio’, Tower. ‘It’s always a good idea to vary your viewpoint and be prepared to try something different if you want great results that stand out from the crowd,’ he explains

SHOOTING THE MOON

As luck would have it, a crescent moon is due to set over the lighthouse half an hour or so after the sun has gone down. Tom suggests that, from our viewpoint, looking out over the sea toward Corbiere, f/8 is probably the optimum aperture as there’s not much detail to capture in the watery foreground. Then, after the sun has set, it’s all about shutter speed Tom recommends no slower than 1/15sec, with an ISO of around 1250 to make this possible.

Another approach is to shoot the moon separately with a fairly fast exposure to avoid blur (it sinks surprisingly quickly), then use a longer exposure for the lighthouse to smooth out the water, and finally to blend the images on your computer (see Tom’s shot, page 23). This way you get the optimum exposure for both subjects, and you can position the moon exactly where you want it, too,’ says Tom.

FOCUS-STACKING

The second day’s itinerary is to shoot the classic scenes of Mont Orgueil Castle overlooking Gorey, and the Archirondel Tower in St Catherine’s Bay. However, with the morning sky’s solid-grey cloud threatening a dull backdrop for two views where the sky will play a big role, we call in first on one of Jersey’s most celebrated gardens at Samares Manor, as overcast conditions are perfect for floral shoots. Inevitably, as soon as we arrive the clouds disperse and the sun blazes down, but we still find a perfect spot in the Japanese Garden to try some focus-stacking. This technique combines different shots in post-production to create the effect of a really large depth of field, and it’s a classic for garden photography. We could use a small aperture such as f/22 to increase the depth of field, but this will introduce a lot of diffraction and result in an image that isn’t as sharp as it could be. Instead, it’s better to go for an optimal aperture of f/8 for crucial image sharpness and focus-stack instead. It’s actually quite straightforward says Tom. ‘Shoot several different frames with different focus distances, so that different areas of each shot are sharp, then use Photo merge in Photoshop to blend the sharp sections into one shot.’ Next, select all the layers using the Layers palette, and choose Edit>Auto Blend Layers>Stack Images. ‘This gives you a final picture with multiple sharp points of focus — more like how our eyes see a scene. A tilt-and-shift lens will help create the same result in-camera, but focus stacking is far cheaper’

After lunch by the spectacular herb garden complete with viewing platform for interesting architectural angles and a 12th-century thatched dovecote as background interest — we head east to tackle sweeping landscapes at Gorey and St Catherine’s Bay. With a blue sky all afternoon, this was a Masterclass where, for once, an umbrella would be required only for shade!

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