Innumerable number of photographs get clicked everyday by snap-shooters and photographers. A very very minuscule number of these photographs are worth taking a second look. What goes into making a photograph is a thought process and visualization of the final image. Here is a ‘behind the scene’ story of making a landscape photograph.
(Pasture in a forest. A very attractive location for photography)
Sometime back, I took a trip to a nearby forest area with a few friends of mine. The weather was nice and there was a nice breeze. After traveling for sometime, we took a short halt in the forest area, with a small open area in front. This was perfect for a road-side picnic. By the time, my friends got the stuff out of the boot, I wandered around with my camera. The location was very beautiful.
(Directly out of the camera from where I stood, the image is wrong in all ways. It does not convey what we felt and saw)
What was it that attracted me to the scene in front? Was it the drab look that the camera photographed? On analyzing the scene, I realized that the things that attracted me to it were – the vast stretch of green pasture in front, the row of trees on left and the right of the pasture, the fine breeze and weather, the deep greens of the leaves and the rows of wild flowers. The photographed scene lacked all of these. The bright sky was without character, the trees were dark and the scene lacked any kind of impact.
So, now I had to achieve all of the factors that had initially attracted me to the landscape, in my photograph.
Improving the composition
The photographed above lacked depth, so first step was to improve the composition in itself. There were lines of wild flowers on the left side of the open area. On moving close to those and using a wide angle lens, I was able to give some depth to the scene.
(By moving to the left of the open area, I included the row of white flowers. These tend to guide the eyes from one corner of the scene to the center of the photograph, while adding depth to the row of trees)
I would have loved to revisit the area later in the day when the sun was setting and the sky had a greater range of colors. That would have made the landscape very very beautiful though the main element would then have been the sunset and not the green pasture.
Correcting the errors and post-processing
The exposure though seemed dull on the preview screen, was correct. Histograms on the preview screen provide the correct information (Understanding Histograms). Based on the review of the histogram, I was satisfied that the sky was not over exposed and blown out.
In post-processing and editing, there were areas that needed spotting (cloning in today’s language), some dodging and burning, improving contrast and some changes to color balance and saturation. This is why I always recommend clicking raw and post-processing.
(The instructions in the film days were penned down on prints and handed over to the person retouching the photographs. Now a days, most photographers do it on their own using the present day darkrooms (the image editing programs on computers)
The darkroom work and the final image
The same scene after spotting out the bare patches of land and some weeds. The sky has been darkened which brings out character in the sky. The trees are now lighter in shade with some details in the leaves. A graduated mask has been applied in the foreground to darken the border.
This was how I had visualized the image initially. However it still lacks the punch and drama that I was looking for. Maybe a further change in composition was required.
(The original scene revisited – by dodging the foreground and burning the sky, the image has attained some of the depth that was visible in reality. Though the row of flowers added greater depth, the enlargement of this photograph appears better. A series of five photographs from this location was printed on canvas and presently adorn the wall of an author.)
Now, I am planning another trip to the same location but in the later part of the day. I want to capture some sunsets there. Anyone interested in joining me on a photo-walk there, in the coming week?