Sunset, Rhue by Arisaig

I wouldn’t be the only person to favour Scotland’s west coast – its beautiful landscape, impressive geology.

After a day exploring outside and around Mallaig, I stopped at Arisaig to catch the sunset and was not disappointed.

First, a couple of obvious scenes at the end of the road, the low warm light skimming lines of rock

I flew the drone a little way out over Loch nan Ceall for a more elevated perspective. The light was turning red, catching the rugged hills nearby

The view out west directly toward the setting sun was particularly impressive

The 360º panorama is one of my favourite art-forms: for best results, the optimum workflow is:

  • choose a location directly above some non-uniform structured area – not just directly above the sea but over a reef, so the panorama can stitch properly
  • think about the contrast-ratio from brightest to darkest areas of the scene; if the sun is visible, use a narrow aperture (f/10 or thereabouts) so the diffraction-spikes cling closer to the sun; choose an exposure such that the brightest part of the scene is just beginning to overexpose – typically you can recover 2/3EV highlights in post but the shadows get noisy fast and with a direct into-the-sun shot the shadow-side can easily require a 3EV shadow-lift
  • shoot RAW DNGs and ignore the JPEG
  • use RawTherapee to convert the JPEGs – apply lens distortion correction and a small amount of tonemapping, maybe even the dynamic-range-reduction module
  • use Hugin to stitch the panorama: optimize for position, barrel distortion and view but not translation; use equirectangular projection and auto-straighten; ensure the FoV is 360×180º (it may be out by 1, ie 179º); use blended+fused output for noise-reduction, unless it introduces stitching edge artifacts
  • finish, including toning and noise-reduction/sharpening, in darktable.

Finally, just as I started the return drive, the sky provided yet more drama to see me on my way:

A selection of the above photos are available on my gallery website as prints, cards, masks and other products: Arisaig on ShinyPhoto.

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