Take 2: Photosyn… this… is…

So here’s a fun before and after journey.

I took this shot while I was enjoying a very usual evening stroll and the most glorious sunset began to unfold. I only had the very wide 15mm lens with me. I spent a long time trying to catch a similar shot to this with various different foreground objects but this was the most successful by far. It’s a rather sweet shot as it is straight from camera, but it didn’t quite capture the drama of the colourful light as I had experienced it. I sort of thought I’d play with it and then keep it more or less as is, but once I started playing with it, it pretty much edited itself.

It became clear quite quickly that it had a very painting-like quality so I focussed on trying to give the tones and colours a kind of “fairy tale” look. It’s a bit bolder than my usual style and I gave it an overly pink tint to really enhance the dreamy nature of the image.

I feel it actually represents a truer version of the experience of what was the beginning of a very vibrant sunset. Not long after this, the sky went a really deep pinky red. One of the frustrating things about photographing sunsets is that they can’t capture the really magical aspect of a sunset itself – it’s mostly about the process and experience of constantly changing colours over time, the movement of the light as the sun sets. A still image can’t capture that experience, so I tried to merge aspects of my experience together into the image using colours to best describe the sunset as a whole as it felt to me at the time.

Dealing with the colours was actually quite easy with this image, as the sky pretty much has a separate range of colours to the foreground.

These are the main edits I made using Lightroom:

  • I lowered the contrast a lot and actually also slightly lowered the exposure
  • In the top panel of sliders, I slightly lowered the highlights, brought the shadows and blacks up
  • I applied a small amount of clarity
  • In the tone curve I made a gentle but top heavy S shape, with the darks and lights both brought up fairly high, and the shadows and highlights brought down just a touch to balance it out

These are the adjustments I made to the colours:

  • I adjusted the white balance to the cloudy setting and then adjusted the tint a little further over into pink
  • I raised the red saturation and lowered the luminance a small amount to deepen the red in the clouds
  • I did the same with the orange channel although I gave this one moderately more saturation
  • With the yellow channel, I gave it a fair amount of luminance and upped the saturation to counter this
  • In the green channel I raised the luminance as high as it would go to really elevate the foreground, and I lowered the saturation quite a bit to counteract some of the green glow this cast on the image
  • In the aqua and blue colour channels I raised the saturation and lowered the luminance a touch to deepen the sky slightly

Take 2: Willesborough Windmill

I knew I had a nice shot with this one and actually it is pretty much perfect as it is straight from the camera. The sky is so moody and there’s a lot of detail captured in the shadows. I really didn’t *need* to do anything to it. But of course I did.

I really wanted this photo to have a more intense impact. To me it was too depressing in tone. RAW files often look very flat and cold and dull. I wanted to lift the image whilst still retaining that quality of melancholy. I didn’t want it to look sad. I wanted it to look devastating.

Here are the main adjustments I made using Lightroom:

  • I raised the exposure slightly and slightly lowered the contrast.
  • In the tone curve, I upped the lights and highlights a lot to really get a good, bright contrast in the sky and slightly lowered the darks and shadows to a gentler curve, so I didn’t quite lose all of the detail in the silhouetted part of the building walls.
  •  I gave it some very, very gentle split toning. Slightly warm highlights and slightly blue shadows. This gave the sky a luminous quality. I enhanced that by lowering the luminance values in the blue colour channel.
  • I raised the luminance in the green colour channel to brighten the grass in the foreground and really bring out that eerie sunny, but not sunny, stormy quality.

I made a few more detailed tweaks here and there but those were the major changes I made. I’m pretty pleased with my choices in-camera for this picture that make the image so versatile when it comes to editing. I could have edited this shot in many different ways. Perhaps I shall yet…

The Garden of England

Last week I took a week off work to stay with my mother who lives near Ashford in Kent. A friend recently allowed me to borrow some lenses of his to play with so I brought three of them with me – a 15mm f4, a 31mm f1.8, and a 100mm macro f2.8 – and have had a lot of fun trying them out.

I usually shoot with my favourite lenses which are 35mm, 55mm and 77mm so it was an interesting little exercise in seeing things from a slightly different perspective. I preferred the 31mm overall but firstly, it’s an incredibly good quality lens with beautiful bokeh and secondly, it’s not far away from the range of lengths I normally use…

…so I really came away from it thinking as I always have; it’s not about the equipment you have, but understanding how it works and behaves to get the most out of it. I found the 15mm lens the most challenging and fun because I have rarely used wide lenses at all and it is so very wide! I think it has the potential to create some really inventive images.

I also had no idea there were so many windmills in the near vicinity. Beautiful things.