The Story Behind – Solitary Mount
Blue Mountains Photography – read all about it! So this is an occasional series where give a full account of a particular image… in this case it’s all about a multi-step approach to Photoshop. When you aren’t really sure what the final product might look like. But you do know how you felt at the time.
My original photo story went something like …
On a recent weekend in the Blue Mountains, I had taken advantage of some down time in the afternoon when I had some time to myself. Australian landscape photography here I come! I had wandered down to the Pool of Siloam, by very much the back entrance, and had wandered back up after a most pleasant hour in the greenery. As I wandered back up the path, the terrain became more exposed, and the mists beneath me started to take over the experience.
I ended up at a tiny lookout, to see, well, really not very much. But was I did see was immense. Mount Solitary was almost engulfed in clouds. And they were moving fairly quickly. I was able to take half a dozen frames, hampered by the wind and the need to stay 1.5 metres away from the sole other person at the lookout. Eventually the clouds ascended (yes, that is the correct word, they came up from the valley) and that was that.
But what a winner – clouds in front and below, and also behind and above!
Lots of processing in this (single) shot, as you would imagine. Base + Nik Pro-Contrast + Nik HDR then lots of selective colours to keep it white, and contrasts to keep it all nice and high key
A few more details:-
What you don’t see.
There was a LOT of weather going on. Very blustery, a lot of motion below, very damp. And with COVID and a small viewing platform, nowhere to move. It was sheer below as well, so no options to move. I used my 70-200, most unusually for me, to concentrate on shape and texture. Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone.
So, of course, out came the sturdy tripod – it was a real no-brainer on why here.
What I saw Afterwards
[Please note – I have used two slightly different files here to illustrate just how convoluted this edit became]
Ah, just a single RAW file. BUT – I had never seen an image of the escarpment which had the mist/fog in front (not so rare) but also layered behind as well. I knew I could make the image work, but would what I ended up with remind me of the situation I was in? With landscape photography and nature photography it’s all about the feeling and the emotion. Get people to relate to it – so that they buy landscape photography online as people do these days because they ‘click’.
It needed work. I tried contrast boosts, and the colour of the escarpment face shifted way too purple. And the clouds then became ominous – not what I wanted. I also recalled how ‘soft’ the view was when I was there, which I hadn’t captured in the single frame. I then tried an HDR filter and WHAMMO – loads of texture appeared, but then too much contrast.
Eventually, I realised I needed to apply some Gaussian Blur over the HDR layer to give the sense of the softness, fluffiness, and movement that I saw. I wound back the opacity on the HDR layer to make it more real. I also vignetted the blur to allow the viewers eye to focus on the Mount Solitary escarpment. Many, many, small adjustments.
Then I rested the image for a couple of days. More on that here. After I returned to the image I started again.
I then re-applied blur, vignettes, HDR, contrast. And selective colour this time to fix the nasty colour shifts. And I lost Mount Solitary in the process(!)
Then I rested the image for a couple of days. More on that here. (did you go the first time? 🙂 ) After I returned to the image I started again. Yes, you read that correctly.
So this is about version 4 or 5 – I did get quicker in the end because I knew what Photoshop ‘building blocks’ of layers worked, and also the negative effects that some gave.
Am I Happy?
Yes and no. The overall ‘feel’ of Mount Solitary and the the place was soft and fluffy. The overall ‘look’ of the place was anything but soft and fluffy, rather windy and with greyer clouds than maybe I would dream I saw?
Canon EOS5D Mk III ~ Canon 70-200 F4 @ 200mm (yes, I use a telephoto sometimes) ~ 1/125s ~ F8 ~ ISO 100
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The Berowra Photographer. Well, the Blue Mountains Photographer this time.