Some photographs are nothing more than being in the right place at the right time. Cases like that, turning up sometimes seems like it’s all that you need to do. Other photographs require a lot of planning and preparation with a fair amount of patience thrown in for good measure. Then there are others that you see in your mind and know it’s possible to create even though the conditions you’re faced with aren’t optimal. Such was the situation I found myself in last Sunday. My wife’s company organizes a monthly event for staff and clients and this time they decided on a day trip to the tourist village of Jiufen on the north coast of Taiwan about an hour out of Taipei. It’s a popular place for Taiwan photographers but this wasn’t meant to be a photography trip but it is a picturesque place and most, if not all, people were carrying cameras of various kinds. As we wandered through the lanes and alleyways of Jiufen, the group split up and headed off in directions with plans to meet back at a certain spot at a certain time. We found ourselves in a tea house that had an excellent view of the East China Sea to the north and the foothills stretching away westward towards the city of Keelung. As I looked out over the hills, I could “see” an image in my mind that I thought would look great. That’s what you see at the top of the page which I call Dawn In The Evening. Why? Well, my mental image before I picked up the camera was the same type of view but as a first light kind of photo not an evening photo. Now when your view is west, you’re obviously not going to get the same effect in the early hours of the day but with a bit of work in the digital darkroom, it’s possible to create something similar. Take a look after the jump at the original unedited RAW image as it came into Lightroom.
As you can see in the histogram above, the photograph is about one and a half stops underexposed. If I had have been there specifically for photography, I would have spent a bit more time with it at the time of shooting to ensure a more accurate exposure. When I shot this I was in the middle of a conversation and pretty much just picked up my camera and shot from my seat in the teahouse. My idea for the shot had it being a lot cooler, so the first thing I did upon import into Lightroom was change the white balance. I selected tungsten from the white balance menu and that looked like a pretty good starting point to me.
As you can see, the simple act of changing the white balance has pushed the exposure to the right while giving it the blue tone that brought things closer to my original intention for the image. There’s still more to be done though, starting with a crop. You can’t really see it in the above images but when viewed at 1:1 in Lightroom there were also three bright spots in the lower right that came from what I think were motorcycle headlights or LED street lights. As well as cropping (keyboard shortcut – R) to remove some sky, I used the spot removal tool (keyboard shortcut – Q) to remove the distractign bright spots.
Things are looking better but my original idea had a darker foreground with the image lightening as you move through it to a pink / purplish sky. A couple of graduated filters got me started on that. Immediately below is a graduated filter for the sky that adds some tone and under that one for the foreground that darkens it. The second one served to brighten the sky though which weakened the effect of the first graduated filter but still left a bit of tone. Between the two is a screenshot of the filter placement for the first graduated filter.
By this point I’m almost done. In fact, the photograph is looking pretty good now and I was almost tempted to leave it as that. But in the quest for just a little extra, I took the image out of Lightroom and into Nik Color Efex 3.0. Below is a screenshot from the software. I elected to use the skylight filter with a strength of 40. As you can see, it added that tone to the sky that I had visualized.
I could probably have either skipped the Lightroom graduated filters and done it all in Nik Color Efex Pro or spent some time with the adjustment brushes in Lightroom to achieve the same effect but this is the way it went this time. By this point I’m done and the result is the photograph you see at the top of the page. You can mouseover the photo below to see a before / after version of it.