Photography Travelogues by Peter Eastway – Karijini National Park 3/3
June 8, 2011 Leave a comment
Living Dangerously In The Pilbara
One wonders how it happens, or perhaps why it happens. As I walked over to the lookout above Circular Pool at Dales Gorge in Karijini, the first thing that struck me was the sheer red cliff face stretched across the horizon, backed by a rich green canopy of wet season foliage. The sun had set and there remained a hint of pink in the blue sky. Everything was bathed in a soft, delicate light. And then I noticed the equally delicate position of a large gum tree, hanging on precariously to the edge of the precipice. How long would it last on such a narrow perch?
Although situated in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia, the tree reminded me of another tree similarly perched on the edge of a ravine at Epupa Falls in Namibia. I’m not sure if the baobab is still there, or if the falls I visited 30 years ago have succumbed to a planned dam, but I remember spending hours in the darkroom refining the black and white print and using a brush with Farmers Reducer to bleach back the tree.
However, there’s no need to bleach back the white gums in the Pilbara. In fact, the trick when photographing them is to retain detail in the tree trunks so they don’t reproduce as ugly white blotches. To process this file in Capture One Pro 6, I began with a base exposure that retained full detail in the tree trunk.
One little trick I discovered by accident when processing my files, was to begin with one of Phase One’s ICC Profile presets under the Base Characteristics tool. Normally for landscape work, I’d use the Outdoor Daylight profile, but I found selecting the Portrait setting added in a lovely warmth. (Of course, the availability of this feature depends on the camera you’re using as not all models have a range of settings to choose from.)
To refine the image, I used the Exposure, High Dynamic Range, Clarity and Vignetting tools which I have collected together under my Quick tool tab.
The main issue with this photograph was the difference in exposure between the sky and the cliff. They required different exposures, but this is easily fixed using Capture One Pro 6’s new Local Adjustment tool. I chose to set the exposure for the cliff face correctly with my background layer, and then add in local adjustments to darken down the sky and increase the colour saturation of the green trees.
I also named the local adjustment layers, but I confess only because I was posting this blog, but it is a useful feature as instead of ‘Layer 1’, you can call it ‘Sky – First Pass’ etcetera.
Whether using layers in Capture One or Photoshop, I’ve found it is better to build up an image with two or three small adjustments, rather than one strong adjustment. I also prepare separate, slightly different masks for each local adjustment, the idea being I want my adjustments to be ‘invisible’ when finished.
To darken the sky, I used the Local Adjustment brush to paint in the sky. I find making a precise mask problematic, especially where the sky meets the earth, so instead I use a large brush with a soft edge (setting 0) which feathers the transition nicely. With the selection made, I then used the Exposure and Contrast sliders to darken the sky.
The next local adjustment selected both the sky and green foliage, again using a large brush with a soft edge. This time, I increased the contrast slightly, but I also used the Advanced Colour Editor to select the greens of the trees and increase their saturation.
After reviewing the file, I felt the sky was still a little light, so I repeated the process for the first local adjustment, but with a different mask and slightly different settings for Exposure and Contrast.
From here, the file is ready for processing for web, slide show or printer, straight out of Capture One Pro 6.
To see more of Peter Eastway’s photography techniques, including his Landscape Photography MasterClass, please visit http://www.betterphotography.com/.