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Photographer's Note

I took this shot during my ascent on Mount Indefatigable,in Kananaskis Country.
As I was getting closer to the top the views of the two lakes were not so nice because the weather and the light were getting worse.
At this point they were still OK,and I was able to take this shot,which I think it is not that bad.
Working on it in Photoshop was a little adventure,due to the high contrast I had to fight with.
When I took the photo I used two filters on my camera (3 stops together)and they were still not enough.
.....................................................
I think I owe you some answers:)
First, I need you to know that I only shoot in raw mode, never jpeg.
Secondly, whenever I have this situation (huge contrast between the sky and the lower part of the photo) I expose for the sky, meaning that the photograph in underexposed a bit. The raw files are much more flexible to recover the highlights and the shadows.
Even so,with all the filters and the precautions I took, the raw file looked pretty bad compared to the final result,but I liked the composition and the sharpness.
So what were the problems?
1. There was an unbalance between the sky (too light, yet) and the foreground (too dark).
2. The clouds were waaaay to light, BUT NOT BLOWN OUT, which is very important.
Just using the Camera Raw I would have been able to recover the highlights and the shadows and have a nice histogram, but people like nice pictures, not histograms, right? If I did it this way, it would have looked kind of washed-out.
I decided to do something else.
In Camera Raw I set everything right for the foreground, not caring at all about the sky and then I opened up the file in Photoshop as a "Smart Object".
I duplicated the background layer via-copy and the new layer was again, a smart object, which can be opened up in Camera Raw and edited separately by the background layer, so basically, you can have one dark layer (good for the sky) on top of a lighter layer (good for the foreground).
OK, very good Nelu, but now everything is dark, because I can only see the dark layer, which is on top, at 100% opacity!:)
To limit its effect mainly to the sky areas I need a mask and no, I will never start to paint one when I already have one available: the blue channel is very light for the blue and the white areas-the sky-and dark for the rest: exactly what I need.
I made a copy of it, I applied the levels command to it to make dark areas darker and the light areas lighter and I applied (this is a general procedure for masks) a Gaussian blur, around 20 pixels for this resolution.
I Ctrl-clicked the mask and applied it to the dark layer on the top. Done!
Now I got the nice sky and the good foreground, too.
Sometimes, when I`m not happy with the sky (the blue is still to light) I use one more little “trick”: duplicate the background layer, set the duplicated layer to “Luminosity” blending mode, then “Apply Image”, choose the Red channel as the source, on “Darken” mode.
This way, only the blue parts of the photos will get darker and nothing else will change.
I have to say that telling you all this stuff takes much longer than actually doing it because I recorded a couple of actions in Photoshop, I only click on the “Play” button and in a few seconds everything is done.
Let`s go on with the story:)
So, now I have the proper exposure for the whole photo and...it still looks a bit flat. Using curves I greatly boosted up the contrast but now the clouds were gone, completely blown out.
No problem; I went: “Select-Color range” and I selected the very white areas of the photo, applied the dear Gaussian blur to the mask and this way I limited the effect of the contrast boosting adjustment layer to everything but the clouds. Now it`s more like it.
Go to “Lab color mode”, apply a set of curves to improve the saturation (nothing has been done in this regard so far) and this color mode is the best place to do it.
Staying in Lab, I applied the Unsharp Mask filter for the Lightness channel only, on a separate layer.
That`s about it...I think:)

PaulVDV, bakes888, robertosalguero, AttilaLToth has marked this note useful

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