The Flow of Light
May 29, 2012 6 Comments
Although I am an advocate of the ‘get it right in camera’ school of photography, I strongly believe in the role that editing plays in our craft, just as the dark room did when printing from negatives in the past. The raw file is the negative, Capture One the darkroom. I continue to use graduated filters for balancing exposure in camera, but sometimes the light still needs a little help.
Before image editing, there is session editing. In this example I made five tripod-mounted exposures. In the original selection I chose CF008429, but a few months later on reflection I marginally prefer the way the rocks are slightly more concealed in CF008428, and that is the exposure I am processing here.
Very little of this image is truly sharp, it is really all about mood and the swirling motion of the water. But what should be sharp needs to be checked at 100%.
Having worked on the image I have saved a clone variant (F3), and then reset it using the reset adjustments button. Thus the ‘original’ is on the right, with the finished image on the left here. The unprocessed raw file looks OK, but I felt the magenta emphasis was too dominant so I have tweaked the white balance, reducing magenta considerably and yellow slightly.
A local adjustment is the digital equivalent of dark room dodge and burn, and I still feel these tools are the ones that best enable tonal balancing, a vital prerequisite of good printing. The first of my local adjustments (layer 1) selects the stones and some of the water, lightening and adding a little saturation. I have avoided the white water areas in the middle zone, which are already bright enough.
The light on the horizon is extremely strong, bright and somewhat ‘clipped’ so layer 2 calms this down. It is painted on using a soft edged brush, the adjustment parameter being Contrast -50. I applied these strokes quickly with an oversized brush to get a feel for the effect, and then I refined the selection back with the erase tool.
The brushes in Capture One are superbly configurable, and with zero hardness they give a wonderfully soft edge, allowing for extremely organic adjustments. I try to imagine I am painting with light.
Layer 3 simply increases the contrast in the sky, which is otherwise rather bland contrasting with the much busier coastal landscape. The contrast increase of 30 is balanced by a saturation reduction of the same value, as contrast would otherwise increase the saturation unnaturally.
The final layer lifts the stones and the ‘forewater’ by quite a bit, increasing contrast (and decreasing saturation accordingly) as well, to enhance their physical presence in the picture space.
In addition to the local adjustments, a small amount of vignetting has been applied on the background layer to ‘hold the corners’. The overall exposure has been reduced marginally (-0.2) and contrast and saturation have received small increases to give a more filmic rendering to the image. For sharpening I use the minimal ‘pre-sharpening 1’ in the sharpening presets. A few dustspots have been removed, and I have straightened the horizon with the straighten tool, resulting in some minor cropping. It’s hard to frame the camera completely perfectly when the light is changing this quickly!
The overall colour the IQ180 produces is usually very well balanced and while the white balance sometimes needs tweaking it is rarely necessary to do further changes to colour when seeking a natural result.
In the end all these changes are very personal, and in keeping with my current thinking, and desire to emphasise the physicality of nature, and ‘the flow of light’ in a print. I can imagine coming back to it in five years time and preferring the softer and more dreamy feel of the original raw file!
PS The “Dummy” title of the session indicates that I have not created a session for this shoot, but rather browsed from my computer hard drive to find the files. The Dummy is simply my default title of this type of session.
Joe Cornish is a professional landscape photographer, writer, printer and broadcaster based in North Yorkshire, England. Joe is a regular contributor to http://www.onlandscape.co.uk/, and his gallery website is http://www.joecornishgallery.co.uk/