Murky weather at the Isle of Skye
August 16, 2012 12 Comments
I love murky weather!
In many ways, it is so much more photographic than the beautiful blue sky with strong overhead sunshine. I much prefer the mood and atmosphere of low cloud or a storm, but a drab grey sky with light drizzle is certainly challenging.
This is exactly the weather I was presented with one morning on the Isle of Skye. Travelling with friend and photographer David Oliver, we had established our base at Saucy Mary’s Lodge which, despite its name, was very comfortable and the food simply excellent. In fact, the lodgings were so good we didn’t mind getting up late and returning early.
Not that we had much choice since it was mid-winter and the days were very short. We weren’t exactly sure where we wanted to go, but David had found this road on Google Maps and felt it showed promise, in spite of the weather.
When we passed these reeds and I asked David if we could stop to take a few frames, he was less than enthusiastic. I guess I can understand why because looking at the raw file, the image is very flat and quite colourless. However, a lack of colour isn’t necessarily a problem if you’re processing your files in Capture One.
In Capture One Pro, the Advanced Color Editor allows you to pick colours and adjust their hue, saturation and lightness. And combined with Local Adjustments, you have a lot of control over how your image looks. Let’s take a look at how Capture One transformed this scene and, before you write your objections about the strong colour, I agree this particular rendition is a little over cooked.
Using the Color Editor’s ‘Pick Basic Color Correction’ tool (you’ll find it in the Color Tool Tab, under Color Editor and its Advanced tab), I selected the pale yellow of the reeds. This selected a range of yellows. I used the Smoothness slider to widen the selection of colours, then tweaked the saturation to make the colour much stronger. I repeated this on another section of the reeds with a slightly different yellow hue, and increased this as well. Often I find you need to make two or more adjustments to get the effect you want. Notice also that by increasing the yellow in the reeds, the greens have also improved.
I then used the same Pick Basic Color Correction tool to select the blue of the water and ramped up the saturation again and suddenly my drab overcast day doesn’t look so drab anymore.
Note, these adjustments could be made without using Local Adjustments because it is a simple composition with discrete areas of colour. If there were some yellow rocks in the hills behind, they would also increase in colour saturation when I adjusted the reeds. This is because the Color Editor adjusts all the areas in an image containing the selected color, so if you only want to adjust a particular area, you may need to combine this tool with a Local Adjustment.
Local adjustments were then used to darken down the hills in the background. Using the Local Adjustments tool tab, I clicked on the ‘+’ icon to add an adjustment layer, then used the Draw Local Adjustment brush to select the hills. The image was then darkened using the Exposure slider.
I darkened the hills in two steps, allowing me to darken the higher hills a little more than the hillside lower down. Once again, several small steps work better than one single adjustment.
A third Local Adjustment was added and this time the trees were lightened and given a touch more contrast, brightening the middle of the composition and drawing the eye in. However, I noticed that the area of reeds just below the trees was a little light and lacking in colour.
A fourth and final Local Adjustment layer was added and I carefully used a small Draw Local Adjustment brush to select the reeds just below the trees. This area was then darkened and the contrast increased so it better matched the reeds in the foreground. The result is the opening photo at the beginning of this blog.
Peter Eastway is a professional photographer and photography magazine editor based in Sydney, Australia. To see more of his photography, visit www.petereastway.com. Peter also offers an online Landscape Photography MasterClass. It contains articles and videos, outlining his camera and post-production techniques. Details can be found at www.betterphotography.com.