Thoughts on my Hobart Snowscape Picture
This week Hobart experience snowfall down to sea level for the first time in a decade or more. We were given advance warning of this by the weather bureau, and so I and many other photographers in Hobart were well prepared to get out and take some shots.
I might do another post about how I approached the day, and lessons I learned from it, but for now I'd just like to talk about some of the responses I've had to my photo.
A few people have made comments about the way I chose to edit the shot, and the use of HDR.
For a long time I shied away from using HDR photography, due to the tendency for people to overuse it to a ridiculous level. After starting to immerse myself in landscape photography, I've since learned that there's more to using HDR techniques than these absurdly sharp and glowy images. Taking multiple exposures of varying brightness levels, exposing for the foreground and background, and then blending two or more images together are entirely valid and often necessary techniques to achieving great landscapes with DSLRs that have limited dynamic range.
When editing my photos, I'm always thinking "ok now dial it back a bit, dial it back a bit" in an attempt to stop myself from overdoing the HDR effect. However I also really enjoy bright, vibrant colours in my photography. It's a delicate balance, and one I don't expect to master overnight. I only picked up a camera two years ago, and just started learning to do landscapes two weeks ago. There's an incredible amount to learn, and I fully expect to look back on this image in a month or a year and cringe as some of the choices I made while editing it.
Which brings me to what I did to the image. Just quickly, I'll list the specs of my gear.
I was using a Canon 6D with a Canon 17-40mm f4.0L lens. I was shooting at f11 and ISO100. I was also using my Lee Filters kit and I believe I had two Hard ND Grad filters set up - a 3 stop filter over the sky, and a 1 stop filter to assist with blending the sky into the mountain, as I don't have any Soft filters at present. These filters greatly assisted with exposing the shots correctly.
The image itself is comprised of three images, exposed for .4, .6 and 1 second. I did a pure HDR merge on these images, which gave me a 'super RAW' file which contains all the information from the three exposures. This method of HDR merging does not give any of the intense sharp, oversaturated, 'glowy' effects that are common to HDR processing. It simply mimics the dynamic range capabilities of more expensive, larger format cameras.
From here, I did a number of things in Lightroom and Photoshop to achieve the effect I wanted. Obviously I increased saturation on the sky, however the colours present were genuinely present in the sunrise. A photographer I've been listening to a lot lately, Elia Locardi, has this theory that a memory of an experience like a sunrise is actually comprised of many different images, and he tries to recreate these memories in one image in his photography. The sunrise I witnessed was one of the most vibrant and beautiful sunrises I've ever seen, and I tried to convey that in the way I edited the sky. I also increased sharpness on the mountain manually and selectively, and removed much of the blue hue that was present on the face of the mountain, in an effort to increase the contrasting colours of the sky and the river. Naturally other sliders were tweaked including Lightroom's new 'dehaze' function. That's really about it.
If this had been any other landscape, I would probably have edited it over many days, trying various techniques to achieve different end results. I'd have given myself time for my eyes to adjust to the edits, and make changes if I felt I'd gone too far.
However with this image, I was faced with a choice between getting it out quickly while the snowbart fever was still strong, or taking my time to edit it, and potentially miss out on the extra publicity. I chose the former, and after the response I've gotten, I don't regret it. I've already sold a few prints, and am in negotiations to sell several more. If all goes well, I'll be able to use the money to travel around Tasmania, Australia and New Zealand, and vastly increase my landscape experience and portfolio.
Of course it hurts when people comment on the photo saying it's overprocessed or "needs more HDR", but at the end of the day it's a photo I'm rather proud of despite its flaws. If it sells well, the positive effects on my career, my experience and my mental state will be immeasurable.