Nov 302008

When I posted “771 – And Winter Came” a week ago, I was met with mild mockery. I admit, there was not much snow to be seen 🙂

These two images are from Saturday, the first one from the morning. It had snowed from Friday afternoon all through the night, and when I went fetching breakfast in the morning, I made this shot, using the Nikon 70-300 VR at 300mm.

The image out of the camera had almost no contrast and definition at all. It was shot at ISO 200, the Nikon D300’s normal ISO, and it was exposed more or less “to the right”, thus I saw no reason to favor the precision of DxO Optics Pro over the convenience of Adobe Camera RAW, especially as I wanted to take the image to Photoshop anyway, but this turned out to be an error.

Mind you, this is a color image, but of course there was no color at all. Trying to push local and global contrast, I quickly found out that Adobe Camera RAW had introduced all sorts of tiny color artifacts, and pushing contrast greatly amplified them. Of course simply working with layers in “Luminance” mode would have hidden that, but wanting to fix it at the root, I re-developed the image in DxO Optics Pro, and, boy, did that make a difference. This is one of those areas where DxO shines: precision. There was a lot of fuzziness, that is to be expected when one looks through 500 meters of dense snowfall with an effective focal length of 450mm, but there were no color artifacts at all. Impressive. Read more about DxO in my ongoing series of posts that document my experiences with it.

The second image, the Image of the Day, was shot in the afternoon when something almost like the sun began to shine through the clouds.

This image is a rule-breaker. One of the things that Craig Tanner constantly preaches, is that in photography, two is an odd number, and that so often when one has the choice to use one, two or three of a kind of subjects, either one or three are preferable to two. The reason is, that two subjects of the same kind tend to look boring and symmetric, redundant in a way.

Well, here it works. We have two trees, symmetrically arranged, but everything else is asymmetric on multiple layers.

The other thing normally not to do is to have a fence or something like that in the foreground, running across the frame. It makes the image inaccessible, keeps the viewer out. Here we have something similar, in fact the edge of a pond, and although it works like a wall in front of us, the two trees provide a mighty and powerful door frame, leading the eye through and into the winter wonderland behind.

I took this image to DxO as well, trying different presets until I found one that would work as a good start. Then, in Photoshop, I copied the layer, applied Photolift (more about this useful plugin here) for a strong push in local contrast and put the result in “Multiply” mode with reduced opacity, added some curves layers with masks for local contrast adjustments, and strongly pushed saturation. A levels adjustment, a curves layer for global contrast, some vignetting, some sharpening, and that’s it. With the exception of saturation adjustments, this was a similar procedure to the one used on the snowfall image, only more subtle in the contrasts.

Update – Monday: I don’t do this normally, but last night I have processed another image of this series. I would have normally displayed it together with today’s post, but it really belongs here, to the other images of one marvelous winter day in Carinthia. Here it is.

The Song of the Day, “My! My! Time Flies!“, is another one from Enya’s new winter album “And Winter Came”. See a video on metacafe.

  9 Responses to “778 – My! My! Time Flies!”

  1. Quite a lot of work done to the images – and impressive results!

    Thanks for explaining about the technique, that kind of thing is probably something that I need to do to images when we again have snow in Finland. The first 30 cm of snow melted away in a week… I hope you have better luck.

  2. Breaking the rules sometimes is the way for new perception, as in this case. The stage like effect of snowy grassland and trees is great, and the diagonal offers a strong bond to the middleground.
    Re. “developing” such exposed-to-the-right raws, I have made good experiences with lightzone, and if it was not such a slow tool, it would be my gold standard converter (of course, under linux, choices are not that numerous).

  3. Juha, no way. We had rain all day. At the moment I sit on the train to Vienna, and I guess the snow will be gone before I return on Friday.

    Markus, it’s interesting, as a programmer I prefer Linux greatly, but for imaging I simply can’t do without Photoshop, and that means Windows for me. My reference RAW converter at the moment is DxO, and this was again reinforced by those very two images. It’s extremes like this, images that require strong manipulations with steep curves, where the quality of a RAW converter shines.

  4. The funny hing is: before I used DxO, I had no idea how bad Adobe Camera RAW really is. Not regarding features, no, the features and the user interface are top notch, but the quality of the output is mediocre.

  5. Beauty, plain and simple. I’ve really been enjoying your landscapes lately, Andreas, great variety. Shows depth…

  6. so pretty and yes the time does fly…you were one of the first people I met on this site and here we are over a year later….. and fast moving into the next year. I always enjoy seeing your work from a very creative eye.

  7. Thanks. Much against the nature of blogs, I have taken the liberty to add another image to this series. If you enjoyed the original image, you may like the update as well. I certainly do 🙂

  8. I’ve re-visited this image several times, and realized I never left a comment!

    It has to be one of the most beautiful images of winter I’ve ever seen. To come back and find another in the series is an unexpected treat.

  9. Wow! April, you make me blush! Thanks so much.

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