Do You Really Want Clouds?

June 22, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Do You Really Want Clouds?

Boab Tree, Wireless Station ruins, near Wyndham, Kimberley.
Phase One A-Series IQ3 100MP, Rodenstock Alpa HR Alpagon f5.6 23mm, 46 seconds @ f8, ISO 50

Light is everything. I wandered past this boab (from the other side) a couple of times earlier in the afternoon, noticing the unusual twin-trunk structure. It was a tree with potential, but at that stage of the day, the sun was still high in the sky and the location appeared incredibly busy. There was too much going on. 

I was on a PODAS - a Phase One Digital Artist Series workshop - with Christian Fletcher, Tony Hewitt, Bruce Pottinger and Drew Altdoerffer (from Phase One), and 16 keen photographers who were kitted out with the latest Phase One medium format equipment for the week.

After sunset as I walked back along the track to the cars, I noticed Bruce Pottinger set up near this tree. And it was positively glowing! The challenge was to isolate it sufficiently within what was still a complex and busy landscape. One way is to stand back and use a telephoto lens, which probably would have been the polite thing to do given Bruce was shooting. Another option is to use a wide-angle lens and get in very close to your subject. I applied the latter logic on this occasion. Sorry, Bruce!

The evening was absolutely perfect with a feathering of clouds to break up a large blue sky. In May, 'they' say you are almost guaranteed blue skies every day, but this year the weather was a little mixed up, not just in Kununurra, but around the world it seems. However, photographers usually shy away from clear blue skies because they lack interest, but did I really want clouds in this photograph?

Processed raw file before adjustments. 

Looking at the file out of Capture One raw processing software, I was struggling to maintain separation between the clouds and the boab branches (as you can see above). Too much of a good thing was not a good thing. Clouds are great, but broken cloud as a backdrop for a finely branched tree does not make a perfect backdrop.

As remarkable as Capture One is, it doesn't allow channel masks, although it will create masks based on colour selections, and so it was into Photoshop for a final tweaking. As you can see in the opening image, I have lightened up the main branches so they stand out from the sky. I have also removed the magenta colour from the clouds so they don't compete with the warm colours on the boab.

And if you're interested in a photography workshop in the next 12 months, I have trips going to Bhutan, USA, Georgia/Armenia, Iran, Greenland/Iceland and Mexico. Full details on the Better Photography website!


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