Behind the Photo with Alan Peploe

By Leonardo Urena on April 6th, 2015

Behind the Photo allows New York Institute of Photography students to answer a few questions about their photograph featured on our Student Photo Gallery.

Behind the Photo with Alan Peploe

Where was the photo taken?

Brighton Pier, Brighton Beach, England

What inspired you to take it?

I really wanted to get out of London and spend some time with my camera and my own thoughts. I drove down to Brighton one Sunday in time for sunrise, without any clue what I'd want to photograph. It was freezing cold and a gale was blowing off the sea, and I felt miserable - the place was desolate that early, just the odd stray partygoer or two from the night before making their ways home!!!

I wandered on the beach and saw these rusted iron 'legs' of the old pier. (The pier was closed in 1975, and subsequently burned down in a fire and left to be consumed by the sea since). I immediately wanted to capture the ghostly atmosphere that I felt in Brighton that cold morning; a seaside town whose glory days of the 19th century are long over, but whose legacy remains in these traces of the past. I also love the beauty and symmetry of the rusted ruin, and the contrast of the stubborn man-made vertical pillars against the natural horizontal elements.

What camera settings did you use?

Nikon D300
Nikon 18mm-200mm f3,5-5.6 kit lens
24mm focal length (36mm Equivalent)
f11
20 seconds
ISO200
Lee Big Stopper ND3.0
ND0.9 Grad
Manfrotto tripod and ballhead

Tell us a bit about the technique you used.

To get the ghostly feel, I knew I needed a long exposure. The sun had been up for about 30mins, so I used a ND3.0 (Lee Big Stopper) to slow everything down. I also used a ND0.9 Grad to darken the sky a little more. Luckily the sea was pretty rough - so there was lots of white foam to make the foreground eerie.

I chose f11 to give me a good DoF but I didn't want to take too high, to avoid aberrations at smaller apertures. With just the ND Grad in place and in aperture priority I got an exposure time of around 1/60th I think. In liveview I made sure I got the focus and detail on two foreground posts sharp, then switched everything to manual. I put the Big Stopper on and calculated a revised exposure of c16secs (10 stops diff). The first shot seemed a little dark (maybe my math failed me) so (manually) bracketed two more at 18 and 20 secs.

This was about the third/fourth angle I tried. I really just wanted the ruins in the picture - with no distractions. The angle also leads from the ruins nicely toward the remains of the pier though which I couldn't quite exclude and ultimately didn't want to crop out.

I processed in Lightroom 5. There is no cropping, and the only processing is a white balance adjustment to remove some of the blue cast from the filter. I sharpened and increased the clarity to highlight the rust detail, plus lens correction to make sure my verticals were as good as possible.

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