Creative Photography in Switzerland with Dave Williams

Photos and text by Dave Williams

I’m Dave Williams, a travel photographer from the UK, and a man with an awkward love for Platypod. I’ve told stories about Platypod many times, and today I have another such story about how versatile this little plate is and how it can be used so effectively for creative photography. I recently took a trip to Switzerland in search of the mountain of all mountains, the Matterhorn (perhaps familiar from the Toblerone logo). I wanted to shoot it in a way nobody else has, which is the challenge I always take in my photography in order to stand out amongst the crowd. I did something with my Platypod Max to take this image up a notch, and I want to tell you how you can do the same thing.

Here’s the image in question:


The thing that makes this image special is that it simply is a composite of two photographs, one shot at golden hour and the other at blue hour. The key to the whole process is having a platform from which to shoot that doesn’t move, and the reason will become clear when I walk you through the process.

So, the top of the image is the golden hour shot, and the bottom of the image is the blue hour shot. The element that makes this image stand out is that we’re combining the beautiful golden hour sky with the nicely lit blue hour town, which is not something we’d generally see because by the time the lights come on and start to glow the sun tends to be long gone, with a plain sky remaining. This image brings the best of both situations into a hybrid with a simple composite.

In order to achieve this image, which can be done with any pair of images containing the sky and a lit, perhaps urban area, such as a cityscape or a shot like mine, we need to find our composition and then keep it. This means, in real terms, finding a position for our camera from which we will cause no movement whatsoever when taking our shots so that we can align them in post for our composite. I used my Platypod Max to hold my camera steady on top of a wide fence post, just like this:


To get my golden hour shot I used a 10-stop ND filter and shot with my Tamron 24-70mm at 46mm with ISO 64 and f/16.  The exposure time was 189 seconds. With this shot in the bag it then falls down to a bit of waiting around, leaving the camera in position and not moving it at all, which can be tricky when it comes to removing the ND filter, but it can be done carefully. When the sun has gone and the lights have come on, perhaps 45 minutes or so later, it comes time to shoot the second shot. I ended up taking more shots than necessary, of course, so I could choose the two I would end up putting together, and for the blue hour shot it ended up being one at f/9 with a 20 second exposure time. The other settings, 46mm and ISO 64, remained consistent.

Here are the two shots side by side:


Merging them is simply a case of opening up the images as separate layers in Adobe Photoshop and applying a Gradient of Foreground To Transparent on a Layer Mask applied to the top Layer. In other cases it may be better to use a different technique, but in this case a simple gradient worked just fine. Most importantly, the images lined up perfectly, thanks to the sturdy foundation the camera was on – the Platypod Max. And, for the record, if you ever get to visit Zermatt, Switzerland, do it!