A long way back I wrote I would do something useful with some of the (tens/hundreds of) thousand images in my archives. Well, I’ve always wanted to pick up my images from an early trip to Canada back in 2011. I was just getting into wildlife photography, I had (just) one DSLR (Nikon D4) and I also took up some landscape photography. What better place in the world to practice your landscape photography than the Canadian Rockies! Every place there is like some artist’s painting, and provides the opportunity for you to capture it with your expensive little toy.
Actually, capturing these images is just part of the challenge. Landscape photography is very different from wildlife photography. Think slow versus fast, very early mornings, ‘golden hours’, sunrises and sunsets, filters, remote triggers, etc. And once you’ve managed to capture what you think isn’t too bad, your image will look quite different from what you’ve seen with your own eyes due to the fact that digital camera sensors do not come near the ‘dynamic range’ and quality of our own eyes. Therefore it’s not not a big surprise that much of the image post-processing tutorials you find on the Web practise with landscape images.
The first image is arguably the most classic one from Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada: Lake Louise.
The Nikon 16-35mm wide angle zoomlens gives you a pretty good range for your landscape requirements: it’s a little soft at either end but between around 18 and 30 mm it will produce excellent sharp images, and unlike the much pricier 12-24 mm f/2.8, it holds standard-sized filters, whereas in case of the the 12-24 mm you’ll be looking for very exotic (and pricy) filter alternatives. In the early days I was shooting with both a circular polariser together with Lee graduated neutral density filters. However I would now resort to simply stacking multiple shots with varying exposures and import into Photoshop CC for further processing.
Let’s try another Banff classic: the Valley of the Ten Peaks:
Image ‘post-processing’; i.e. processing after the shot is taken, is almost always a must. Modern sensors and supporting imaging software still lack the ability to transform shots taken into something that comes very close to our perceived reality of the world. Ironically, while the landscape shot does not look similar to how you see it, the amount of data stored in the digital RAW file does enable you to bring back the colours, highlights and shadows as you think they were at the time of shooting (or not, as some image editors do, but I’ll leave the photography ‘art vs reality’ discussion for now…).
In terms of software my preferred set is Photoshop CC and the Nik Collection add-in from Google: Dfine, Viveza, Color Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro. The Nik Control Points feature was and still is my main processing tool. And like so many other disappointed customers I too find it very strange that first Google buys this product and then decides to stop further development. Why spend money to kill something good that is used by so many people? Beyond my comprehension… I must be missing something.
Anyway, in terms of processing steps I usually start with (some) cropping (in CC) to ensure the composition ‘feels’ good, de-noise, selective highlight or shadow recovery (in Nik), selective contrast enhancement or reduction, selective sharpening, and if all that hasn’t worked out, I start all over again. Sometimes though, only a few minor tweaks are required.
Like in this image: beautiful Bow Lake (hand-held with VR on as I forgot to take my tripod out of my car and was too lazy to walk back…).
When I visited Maligne lake in Jasper National Park, one day very early in the morning, I recall that there were a couple of other photographers shooting the sunrise. Or rather, they were waiting for a sunrise that didn’t really happen: early morning darkness just changed into early morning light without any golden sunshine. So they left. Which was in itself enough reason for me to stay and see what would happen. The fact that I was there all by myself wasn’t too bad already, but I was actually quite pleased with how the morning light was developing. The lake was calm, the scenery was somewhat serene, and I found an interesting foreground of what was left of a tree trunk, just popping out of the cold lake water.
Mysterious Maligne Lake:
Landscape photography is quite a different ‘beast’ compared to wildlife photography but can be a lot of fun, if you have the patience to get where you want/need to go, and if you know a couple of tricks to let the images appear the way you (think you) have perceived them. And you don’t even need to have that perfect landscape camera (although it will certainly help!): as long as you keep your ISO down to 100 or even less, a high-quality sensor (like that on the D4/D4S) will help you to get those lights, darks, and colours back with the right imaging software tools.
Please note that these images are protected by copyright and are not allowed to be used in any commercial way. If you’re interested in personal use only (like using as personal desktop/tablet/mobile background) then that’s fine; however any other use is prohibited by law.
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