September 7, 2019 — Lake Tahoe. f/16, 4 seconds, ISO 64. Pan to the left.
This is the longest uninterrupted series I’ve done so far on this blog. Your comments have been interesting, informative, and gratifying. A number of people have asked in comments, email, and in person, to see a “before” image.
I don’t usually like to discuss technique because I think it’s potentially limiting: I don’t want it to come off as “do it this way.” So if this interests you, please look at it as “Here’s how I happened to go about it this time. If you try something like this, your process and mileage may vary.” The key thing is, all of this is experimental and if/when I come back to these images for another try, I’ll almost certainly do something different.
Here’s what came out of the camera: 14-bit NEF (Nikon RAW) file. What you see is what I got:
First step was to straighten the horizon — because what good is a horizon shot with an off-kilter horizon?* I also used a healing tool to remove sensor spots because — shame on me — I didn’t clean my sensor before going out to shoot. By the way, all of these steps were done in DxO PhotoLab, up till the very last step which was done in Photoshop. DxO PhotoLab is similar in function to LightRoom. I’ve been using it for years; I’m familiar with it and I like it.
I noticed some interesting texture on the horizon, so I tried bringing it out by increasing Microcontrast. (Microcontrast is similar in function to Clarity in LightRoom and Adobe Camera Raw.) It brought out the texture just fine. It also shouted out some already visible artifacts of boats that were anchored in the water and I don’t want no stinkin’ boats in my image! You’ll see them as darker streaks if you look at the middle of the image, left of center:
At this point I realized that this would be a good companion piece — at least in concept — to the image in my last post,** and that bringing the Microcontrast down would soften the overall image and blur the boats out.
Still in keeping with the last post’s image, I brought the exposure up 1.3 stops to make it delicately high-key. At the same time, I reduced both vibrancy and saturation by 20% each to be left with just a hint of color. I also applied very subtle graduated filters to the top and bottom and slightly reduced the exposure of each to better frame the horizon itself. As a last step I over-sharpened the overall image (unsharp mask) to emphasize the light streak and to recover just a little bit of texture for interest:
Finally I exported the image from DxO as a 16-bit tiff and brought it into Photoshop to give it a 16×9 crop, reduce the image size for the blog, and output it as 8-bit sRGB jpg. And Bob’s your uncle:
(Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.3; Final editing in Adobe Photoshop.)
For more abstracts, go to www.amagaphoto.com.
* In many of these images, the horizon is ambiguous. What exactly is the horizon? In this case I used the light streak as a guide.
** They were exposed only a minute apart.