Kath Salier was our 2015 Better Photography Photo of the Year winner and she is once again in the winner circle, this time with a highly creative image of an Icelandic lighthouse. The subject matter itself is popular and emotive, but it is the details and the treatment that take it out of the ordinary. It's not 'just a lighthouse'.
"The original image is of Reykjanes Lighthouse in Iceland. I was on a photography tour and this was one of our first stops. It was so windy here, it was hard to stay upright. In fact, I remember using one of the other photographers as a wind break! The sea was enormous and the ocean by the cliffs was just like a washing machine."
Kath used a Sony ILCE A7r with a Canon 70-300mm f4 lens (one of her favourites). "I had been shooting the waves using a fast shutter speed (1/1600 second @ f8.0), when I turned around and the lighthouse caught my eye. With the long lens. I was able to fill the frame."
After capture, Kath imports, catalogs and adds keywords in Lightroom, plus she makes some global adjustments to her selected raw files. Then it's into Photoshop.
"The first thing I do with any image is to give myself a fairly neutral canvas to work on. In other words, I try to control the shadows and highlights before I start any Photoshop work.
"Luckily with this image, the light at the time was soft and so the exposure was reasonably balanced. The original capture was in a portrait orientation, but I felt it really needed to be a square. This seemed to make the lighthouse more of a focal point, which was the main aim.
"Then I cleaned up the dust bunnies and looked at the edges of the frame and removed any untidy or distracting elements. The next step was to add a few textures to bring out the detail in the sky and the grass. Lastly, I worked on the colour and light direction to emphasise the crest of the hill and lighthouse itself.
"I was trying to create a moody atmospheric image that reflected how the scene felt on the day I took the photo, hoping that the colour, texture, light and subtle details made for an interesting and thought provoking picture."
Kath says she enters competitions mainly for the feed back. "I’m just coming up to the five year mark in photography and I still have a lot to learn, so what better way than having your images critiqued by experienced and well respected judges?"
Despite her success last year, Kath says she had no expectations of winning anything this year.
"It always surprises me what the judges like and why, but the images I like of my own are usually ones that I have some emotional attachment to."
Not every photograph Kath enters is a winner, but she is philosophical about this. "If you'd asked me four years ago, I would have felt discouraged and disappointed, but now I’m really grateful to know what works and what doesn’t. Entering competitions is an incredible learning tool, so I see it as a positive."