Walker Lambert's picture

Having Trouble Editing This One

I took a photo a while back of these two trees in a fog filled forest. I absolutely love the composition as I believe it draws the viewer in, An I love the look of the fog as well. However I am having trouble editing the photo. I can't quite get the right colors and I'm not sure if I should bring down the highlights more as I feel that they emphasize the foggy and dreaminess to the photo. Below is the original and edited, I added an Orton effect in photoshop. Would love some advice, Thanks!

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12 Comments

joseph cole's picture

you weren't far off in my eye i did this to it about 4 different style layers combined with a grad filter from top if you like it i will tell you haw in PM

That gradient makes the sky look quite unnatural and takes away from the detail in the trees.

joseph cole's picture

I agree the gradient may have been a bit much it was just a lot of light up top

Here's my take.

EDIT: Slightly sharpened version (#3)

A couple more words. You need to understand that simply warming an image up is not going to work in most cases, because only the sunlight itself is actually warm, so anything that is in the shade (= not directly hit by the sun) is lightened by reflected light, which is cooler. You don't have many areas in your image that actually are directly sunlit, so your edit breaks down.

On top of that, most sensors have an RGGB CFA (Color Filter Array) and are biased towards green. Hence, greens get out of control very quickly so you need to address that early on. Failing to do so and then warming the picture up is a recipe for an unnatural greenish look.

If you have bright highlights in your scene, don't try to darken those with a gradient, like Joseph did, you'll end up with greyish, ugly tones. Instead, accept that you have those highlights, but make sure not to exacerbate the issue by blowing out even more highlights. In moody shots like this one with mist in it, it's perfectly acceptable to have bright areas.

Walker Lambert's picture

Hi Thorsten, Sorry for the late response, been busy at school, Thanks so much for the advice. I totally agree with what you said about the bright areas in this photo, normally I try to stay away from such bright whites in the sky, however I think they add to this photo. Also thanks for creating an edit for me, it looks great (really emphasizes the mood). I will definitely take everything you said into consideration.

Chris Jablonski's picture

To my taste, both Joseph's and Thorsten's edits are good interpretations of the original. I can see the appeal, and your difficulties in completing the concept, Walker.

I think Joseph's darkening of the sky above compared with that in the "window" below stops a mild tendency for the eye to sort of disappear up a chimney in the middle, and adds to the sense that we're on a journey, even a pilgrimage.

Good capture, and good fodder for reflection. Which is much of photography's appeal for me.

Walker Lambert's picture

Thanks a lot Chris! (sorry for the late response)

David Russell's picture

Absolutely beautiful shot Walker, I can't fault the composition at all.

Any image with mist is a very delicate balance of light and needs a gentle touch.

Here's my edit, just based on what felt right. I brought the highlights down a bit further but not a lot. Then a few spot and grad filters to help tease out the right colours in the right places. How did I do?

Walker Lambert's picture

Thanks so much David! I really like the mood that you got in your edit, that was exactly what I imagined as I took the photo.

Ian Douglas's picture

Crop left hand side to start of path even perhaps a little into it. The benefit is to lose the bright patch near top. Dodge (lighten) the path to draw the viewer into the image. Nothing else to do other than apply a LUT of your choice to end up with an enigmatic image.

Walker Lambert's picture

Will do, I like the the idea of dodging the path to lead the viewer. Thanks Ian!

David Medeiros's picture

The problem with shots like these are, as dark and foggy as it may have seemed to you at the time, you are still shooting into a bright featureless sky behind a dark mid and foreground. If you want to keep the sky from looking blown out the other elements need to be underexposed (silhouettes). If you want detail in the shadows, you need to compose out the bright background, by shooting into deeper sections of the wood. Look at the depth and interest in the section of woods to the L of the two big trees. Notice how many more layers there are there.