Retouching Landscape Photography
I was asked how much I “tweaked” my images to get the intense colours which appear in some of my photographs. The answer is I don’t tweak much at all.
Here is a ‘before’ and ‘after’. So you can see for yourself.
This first image below is a Jpeg off the raw scan. It appears as it does on the original Velvia slide film. Below that is the retouched hero image from my web site. They are different but not as much as you might have thought.
All that has been done to the hero image is; a simple crop, a straightening of the horizon, clean off the dust, a slight 5% kick to overall brightness and about 5-10% overall saturation increase. That is it.
My preference is to try and capture what I call ‘light events’ in-camera.
First, you need to find coloured light. If it is a grey morning then you won’t get this colour effect. You need coloured light washing over and reflecting off your subject.
Next, a long exposure in very low light helps to soak up these soft colours to intensify them in camera.
Third, it helps to shoot contrasty Velvia film (as above). Fuji Velvia film loves colour… but you will get something similar to the above if you were shooting digital at this same time.
The secret is you need to look for soft but intense colours mixed into the early morning darkness. This won’t happen every day and it often only appears for a short period of time prior to sunrise. Start in the dark about an hour before sun-up and keep watching for the light to take on a soft magical quality. It looks like a shimmer of colour ‘dancing’ over everything in front of you. It is often very soft and difficult to see at first. Then the colour intensifies for a very short while, often for just a few minutes and then it starts too get washed away as the suns light below the horizon gets brighter. You need to train your eye to see this colour.
Coloured morning light is different at different times of the year and in different parts of the world. I’m in Sydney, Australia and I do believe that light here has a different tone and texture to what I have seen in Norway or Canada.
This photograph above was shot about 45min before sunrise. The pool foreground was being lit by an artificial light which was positioned behind me. Hence the green hue that you see in the wood and rails. This light was balanced nicely by the glowing red on the horizon and the suns light reflecting off the early blue cloudless sky. Remember the sun had not yet risen and it was still very dark to my eye. I used an neutral density half grad filter to balance the foreground and background exposure. I then made a long exposure of about 45 sec to 2 min. I don’t know exactly how long as I don’t keep records.
I work very hard to find interesting light in all my photographs. Sometimes it is coloured light which I look for, sometimes it is other types of light.
This intense colour is not to everyones liking. It is interesting to compare the Sydney Beaches early morning colour with my Norway or Sand Dunes colour photography. Different parts of the world and different times of the day produce a different look. All still shot on Velvia with the same level of ‘tweaking’.
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Here are some other posts I have written which may be of interest to you here:
- What makes a photograph great?: here
- Interview with photographer Huntington Witherill: Some very good insights on what it is to be a photographer: here
- The importance of light in photography: here
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