It had been a long journey to Somaemuldo, so I was relieved that it was a short trek around the island to this cliff side vantage point. Accessing the overlook required a bushwhacking but having checked out a few other spots below and above this one to set up my tripod, it was well worth it.
The weather report was calling for rain but as is often the case here in Korea, this wasn’t to be. I watched the dark storm clouds to drift harmlessly by and hoped that the setting sun would light up in brilliant colours the few soft clouds floating by above the lighthouse. Much like the weather report the sunset came and went with only the slightest trace of colour illuminating the colours.
As the sky darkened towards the end of the blue hour the lights of the passing boats lit the horizon and bounced off the low clouds. It wasn’t the epic sunset I had envisioned but it did add some colour to sky.
For the next hour and a half I sat listening to the sounds of the ocean, singularly enjoying the view, as I waited for the tide to come in and hide the land bridge that connects the main island of Somaemuldo with the outcropping adorned by the lighthouse. Just as the spring chill seemed to have finally worked its way through the last layer of clothing the waves lapped over the land bridge and was able to capture a few shots that framed the island surrounded by water and of the light beams from the lighthouse.
The Somaemuldo lighthouse was a location I discovered online and have been wanting to shoot for some time now. Adding to my excitement about a year ago a friend of mine, Jason Teale, traveled there with another photographer Jimmy McIntyre, whose work I’ve followed closely for a while now. Both of them wrote articles about their journey and it was Jimmy’s article and workflow that inspired my image.
Knowing that I was going to need to blend a number of different images to create the image I wanted, when shooting this I first made sure my tripod was locked and weighted down. My hope was to capture images of the sunset (my base exposure), a long exposure shot to create silky smooth water and a number of shots to capture the beams of light. While I prefer to get the shot as close to my vision as possible in camera, this wasn’t possible for the lighthouse as the beams don’t become visible until dark. You can see a before and after version of the image below.
After getting all the images in to Lightroom, I first selected the images I was going to use to make my blend. I applied the lens profile corrections and removed chromatic aberrations. I also pulled up the shadows and the exposure just a touch.
Since the image I liked for my base exposure was shot at 2000 ISO I knew I was going to have some issues dealing with noise. I choose another image from a little earlier shot at ISO 100. My thinking was to use this image to reduce the noise and maintain the details of the island and use noise reduction software for the sky and water (where a loss in detail would only help smooth out the water and would have little impact on the already streaky clouds).
After exporting all the images into Photoshop I started by colour correcting the base image and the one i would use for the island by finding the white, and black point in a curves adjustment layer (how to use a curves adjustment to colour correct an image). I then used a luminosity mask to help mask in the island.
Having ceated a base image I then cleaned up a few dust spots and removed a few rocks that crept into the bottom of the frame. To increase the contrast and saturation i used my the Pro Contrast and Tonal Contrast Filters in Nik Color Efex, which is now available free. Finally to add a bit of color to the sky I used one of my favorite techniques I picked up from another Jimmy McIntyre tutorial.
With the image coming together i then imported the light beam images and set the light beam layers to overlay. To increase the intensity of the beams I created a curves layer and brought up the highlights and reduced the shadows. As this effected other areas of the image I created a black layer mask and painted just the beams back in.
To finish the image I sharpened all the details on the island using a high pass sharpening filter technique and layer mask to ensure I didn’t sharpen the water or sky. Next I used Topaz DeNoise to clean up the sky and water. Again I used a layer mask to ensure I wasn’t losing details in the island. Finally, to draw attention to the center of frame I added a custom vignette.