Travel Photography: Mountains and Snow Landscapes
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Travel Photography: Mountains and Snow Landscapes

with Ben Long

Video: Editing the contrast and color for a snowy lakeside shot

Earlier we took a look at how to edit snow, and by that, I mean I don't think I care.

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Watch the Online Video Course Travel Photography: Mountains and Snow Landscapes
2h 27m Intermediate May 09, 2014

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Snow-covered landscapes introduce a variety of photographic opportunities and challenges. A blanket of brilliant white can do beautiful things with light, but it also complicates exposure. Crystal-blue winter skies are dramatic, but shooting in the cold can be cumbersome and hard on your gear.

In this course, photographer, author, and educator Ben Long takes a trip to Lake Tahoe to explore winter shooting at various times of the day. He also shows techniques for post-processing winter scenes to make them look their best.

Ben Long

Editing the contrast and color for a snowy lakeside shot

Earlier we took a look at how to edit snow, and by that, I mean how to adjust snow totally so that you can get more detail out of it. You saw me, in Lightroom, use the whites and highlights slider to really expand that upper quarter-tone range. Of the histogram to pull all of the detail that I could out of those bright highlights. Snow is a drag to work with if there are dark things in your scene also because you end up inherently in this really high dynamic range situation that can make editing a little tricky. It's great though, because that means you get an image with lots of contrast.

Unless you're in a blizzard, where there's not a lot of contrast, like we were the other day. But take a look at this. I got this scene with, with all this snow mixed among all these dark rocks. I have already done a lot of work on this image in Light Room. I've adjusted my tones and so on and so forth. I moved it on in here to Photo Shop because I wanted to do some selected editing. And I just don't like the brush tool in light room. I think it's the adjustment brush. I think it's too hard to use. I really like what I can do here with the adjustment layers in layer mask. Let me show you what I've done in ProShop so far. I've added a levels adjustment layer with a mask to brighten this rock.

So watch what happens when I turn that adjustment layer on. Think the rock just pops a little more. It's an important composition element. It's sitting there at the third spot. It's also a splash of color, in an otherwise empty scene. I'm not sure that I've got the proportions quite right yet. The rock is a little bit too far in the upper corner. I might need to crop this some more. I don't know, I like the way that the rocks, I like the perspective in the image. So I don't know, I'm going to leave it for now. Then I added a Hue Saturation layer to saturate the oranges a little bit more, just to make the rock pop a little bit more.

But I'm not sure that I've got the context that I need in this texture. I think I want it more. High key and I think I want to see more contrast between the snow and the rocks. So I'm going to add another levels Adjustment layer. And here you can see my histogram. So normally to add contrast I would drag the black slider and the white slider in and that would make the image more punchy. Watch what happens when I do that. I pull that here. I pull this here. And, here's before. Here's after.

Sure enough. I've got a lot more contrast when I turn that on. But, I've blown out the snow. Look where my white point it. I've put all of this stuff over here to white. Let's take a look at the histogram palette so we can see. An actual output Histogram. And you can see here, got a big spike over here on the right. So, that's no good. So, I'm going to put these back where they were. I can brighten this image using levels in two ways. I can drag the white point to the left, to.

Remap more and more of these bright tones to pure white. I don't want to do that though, because I've already got pure white in my image. Maybe I could go a tiny little bit. Which would serve to make some of the specular highlights a little bit bigger. And on snow that might not be a problem. But I don't want to go too far because I'm going to lose some of the fine contour on the edges of the image. And even if I never print this big, it's going to look, the snow's going to look flat. And the image is going to look too contrasty. So, my only other option is to move my midpoint, move my gamma point. If I move it towards the blacks, then I am expanding the light tones in the image.

So the image is getting brighter, but it's getting more washed out because I'm lowering the number of dark tones. So to compensate for that I have to move my black point slider in. Now, I'm doing the exact opposite of what I was doing before I'm crushing the black. I'm eliminating a lot of shadow detailing where you're going to see tha, is down in here. So I'm going to put this back to normal. Watch this area in here as I move this to the right and you'll see detail vanishing there. I don't think I care. I think in this case it's okay to lose that shadow detail.

It just looks like a dark shadow. And I've said this a lot about when we're exposing in camera. We protect the highlights because a blown-out highlight is a distraction. A crunched shadow isn't always, it just looks like a dark shadow. So in this case this is how I'm going to brighten the image. Not by moving the white point but by making a gamma adjustment and then a corresponding black point adjustment. This is an edit I'm finding myself doing a lot on a lot of these images where I've got snow mixed with something else. In some cases I've even got it where I've got.

A predominantly snow scene, but something black in the image like a tree, where I need to do something to brighten up the image overall, but I can't push my light point because I'll blow out the storm. So as you're working with your wintry snowy images, this is something you need to remember. That you don't just brighten an image in levels by using the white point, you can also do it with a mid point adjustment, and a corresponding black point. If you're working with curves. You're doing the same thing. Remember a curve is just a level's adjustment. It's just you're seeing a different interface to it. So you would move you'd put a point in the middle and drag it up, and then move your black point over from the lower end of the curve.

So I think this is looking pretty good. I'm going to hit the rest of my images and then show you what I got from this day of shooting.

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