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Anatomy of a Landscape Photograph

Anatomy of a Landscape Photograph

 

 

On Monday, December 15th a group of IPPA (Irish Professional Photographers Association) met at Glendalough in County Wicklow at the very early hour of 08:00. Early for me anyway,  it required a 06:00 alarm call, not my normal wake up time. But I made it on time and I met up with Peter Gordon, one of my IPPA colleagues who has won numerous awards for his landscape photography  and who very kindly offered some great advice and tips on creating wonderful landscape images.

We mounted our cameras on our tripods – essential for those pin sharp images – connected the shutter releases and we set about shooting the upper lake in the early light of the day.

I decided to write this article to show how the final image was created and what went into the creation of a landscape, the anatomy of a landscape photograph, if you like. The basic technical details were that all photographs were shot on a Nikon D800 Camera with 16-35mm Nikon lens. ISO set at 320 for this sequence, although normally ISO of 100 should be used for better clarity. The camera was mounted on a tripod, connected to a shutter release and the camera set to “mirror up”  which is done on the Nikon D800 by revolving the dial on the left of the view piece to the setting “Mup” – that’s the same dial used to set to Single, Continuous and Self Timer. All images below are jpegs , the first three are converted from Nikon RAW without any modifications.

Some of the guys and girls were using neutral density graduated filters to compensate for the differences in Exposure Values between the sky and the mountains, I didn’t have any, so I bracketed the exposures instead.

The final image

Anatomy of a Landscape Photograph

The Final Image – Sunrise at the Upper Lake, Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland. Picture: Brendan Lyon/ImageBureau

In the Beginning……

 

Anatomy of a Landscape Photograph

Sunrise at the Upper Lake, Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland. Picture: Brendan Lyon/ImageBureau

First exposure f11 at 1/5 second, 16mm

 

 

Anatomy of a Landscape Photograph

Sunrise at the Upper Lake, Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland. Picture: Brendan Lyon/ImageBureau

Second exposure f11 at 1/10 second, 16mm

 

 

Anatomy of a Landscape Photograph

Sunrise at the Upper Lake, Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland. Picture: Brendan Lyon/ImageBureau

Third exposure f11 at 1/20 second, 16mm

Looking at the exposures above, it could be that another, longer exposure might have been beneficial for the trees on the left mountain, however, there was enough detail and light in the exposure to allow me to get what I wanted. It should be said that it is better practice to take the additional exposure and throw it away of you don’t need it, think of it as insurance.

I used software called Enfuse – see http://www.photographers-toolbox.com/products/lrenfuse.php  a Lightroom (v5)  plug-in to blend the three images together. I don’t like the HDR method available in Photoshop (v6), so this was the first time I tried Enfuse and I was very impressed with the results.

Basically, I installed the Enfuse Plug-in and then selected the three RAW files in Lightroom 5, and clicked on File/Plug-in Extras/Blend Exposures using LR-Enfuse. I have mine set up to create a TIF file in a specific folder which is automatically imported to my LR5 catalogue. The returned file is this one immediately below:

Anatomy of a Landscape Photograph

Sunrise at the Upper Lake, Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland. Picture: Brendan Lyon/ImageBureau

The first thing I did was to make some adjustments in Lightroom – exposure +0.24; reduce highlights -12, lighten shadows +55, darken blacks -31, increase clarity +31, increase vibrance +31 and increase saturation +10 and adjusted the white balance -5 on temperature to get a bit more blue in the sky. I then used the adjustment brush in Lightroom to brighten the sides of the mountains by another +0.30 in exposure and upped the clarity by +50 and the contrast by +33 with a brush flow of 90%,

Anatomy of a Landscape Photograph

Sunrise at the Upper Lake, Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland. Picture: Brendan Lyon/ImageBureau

The obvious problem with the returned image is that the ducks have moved between exposures and need to be removed. I used Photoshop to remove them. I generally only use Photoshop to manipulate pixels, everything else is done in Lightroom.  I then decided that image was still too dark and that there was a slight magenta bias in the tone, so I brightened by another +.25 in exposure and shadows, tweaked the vibrance up a bit and reduced the tint by -7. Finally, as the image was created with a 16mm lens, I needed to correct perspective a little, as I though the trees on the right were leaning too much inwards the lake, so in LR5, I used the manual Lens Correction to adjust the vertical axis by -26,  leaving me with an image I was happy with.

 

Anatomy of a Landscape Photograph

Sunrise at the Upper Lake, Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland. Picture: Brendan Lyon/ImageBureau

 

 With Post Production, the objective is not to damage the pixels, that is, keep to non destructive adjustments where possible. Ideally, I would do all my adjustments in LR5 and leave any destructive Photoshop pixel manipulation until last, knowing that if I make a mess of the pixel changes, and don’t realise until later that I have made a mistake, it means that I don’t have to do redo a lot of work. I broke my own rule above by doing pixel manipulation in the middle of LR work, it’s not something I would ordinarily do, however, it is possible to copy lightroom adjustments by either creating a pre-set based on the changes you’ve made, or to create a virtual copy of the image and copy the settings, thereby not having to redo a lot of the work. So there is always plan B!

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