Evolution of an image

Whenever I've been asked, 'How did you take that photo?', the questioner is invariably seeking information on shutter speed, f-stop and the specific gear I used. Yet, if I'm honest, most of the relevant answers I can give actually involve issues of planning, preparation and most importantly, being clear about what I'm trying to achieve. In this article I'm going to share with you the process of creating a specific landscape image while on a recent shooting assignment.

Glencar Lough, Ireland
Canon EOS 1Ds MKIIIEF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM (@ 35mm)
ISO 100, 2.5 sec. @f/22, 0.9 ND grad, polarizer

Some years ago while working on my second book I spent a memorable morning at the shores of Glencar Lough at the borders of County Sligo and County Leitrim in the North West of Ireland.

I had scouted the site a few months before, when the landscape was wrapped in the dull green colours of late summer. Now it was autumn and the forecast had promised settled and calm weather for a few days. So I got up at 4 a.m. and drove the three hours to Glencar. On arrival I was greeted by the precise conditions I had envisioned. The green hues had been replaced by warm brown and yellow tones, the sun rose in exactly the place and at the time I had hoped, the air was still and the sky was just beautiful.

I got exactly the image I had in mind (shown above) and it became one of my most successful photographs. Over time, however, something kept bothering me about it. I was unhappy that the upper part of the tree is lost in the background and overall wished for a greater sense of depth.

A second chance

Earlier this year an assignment brought me back to Glencar; a perfect opportunity to tackle the tree and lake idea again. The time around my goal was an image with a more pronounced feeling of depth. To accomplish  this I knew I would need a bit more foreground and some leading lines.

For the foreground I was hoping to find some flag iris, a beautiful yellow flower that grows in groups in damp habitats like lakeshores. My leading line would be the shoreline if I could find a suitable spot. And of course I also needed to find another tree.

Day 1: First attempt

Arriving at Glencar, I began - as always - with a location walk. Starting right where the original image had been shot I made my way along the shoreline.  Glencar is a glacial valley with towering hills on two sides, among them the famous King’s Mountain and Ben Bulben. The valley opens to the West and faces the Atlantic Ocean.

After wandering the shore for the better part of an hour I came across a promising spot that had everything I needed; a tree, flag iris and a bending shoreline. Unfortunately, at this time of season the flag iris was not yet in bloom.

Day 1: First attempt
Canon EOS 5D MKIII, TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II
ISO 100, f22 (merged from 3 exposures +/- 1 stop EV)

I set up for a first test shot facing south like I did with the original image. The bending shoreline added some sense of depth but overall the composition wasn’t very satisfactory (see above). With the flag iris in bloom and some dramatic evening light perhaps it could just work… but only just. I would have to keep looking.

Day 1: Second attempt

I put away the camera and started walking around the tree, exploring it from every side and the obvious became clear very quickly.

The solution was to place the tree’s crown exactly in the opening of the valley. Because the valley opens up to the West this would be most effective as a sunrise shot. In my mind’s eye I envisioned the rising sun casting its warm light on the mountains while the lakeshore and the tree remained in shadow. The flag iris field would provide some necessary foreground interest.

The technical challenges of making my vision a reality revolved around positioning the camera and balancing the scene contrast. There would only be one spot where the tree would fit exactly in the gap between the mountains and I would have to figure out the rest of the composition from this spot.

Since the tree would protrude into the sky I wanted to avoid using an ND graduated filter because it would turn half of the tree into a silhouette.  Instead I decided to  bracket exposures which I could later merge into a composite image. The 24mm focal length was perfect here. A wider lens would have been taken interest away from the tree and a longer lens would not have captured the sense of space in the valley.

Even though I had planned to return for a sunrise shoot, I proceeded to make some test exposures so I could anticipate any problems that may arise. By this point it was evening and I was shooting under rather dull and cloudy skies so I wasn’t expecting to make any usable images.

Day 1: Second attempt
Canon EOS 5D MKIII, TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II
ISO 400, f22 (merged from 3 exposures +/- 3 stops EV)

The backlit clouds, however, turned out to be visually interesting (see above). With the contrast range far exceeding that of my camera I set about determining exposure and bracketing values. I set an initial exposure that allowed for some highlight clipping in the brightest parts of the sky and through quick tests set exposure bracketing at +/- 3 stops. I kept shooting for about 30 minutes before packing it in, with a plan to return the next morning for the sunrise shoot.

Day 2

The next morning looked promising when I arrived on location at 5:30 a.m. Because I had worked the location the previous evening I knew exactly where to set up and what settings to use on the camera. Unfortunately, the rising sun was accompanied by low clouds and mist. I waited for almost 2 hours, but the light I was hoping for never appeared. The result is a cold and dull scene (below).

Day 2: Early morning
Canon EOS 5D MKIII, TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II
ISO 400, f22 (merged from 3 exposures +/- 3 stops EV)

Day 3

Perseverance is one of any photographer's most important tools. And so, 5:30 a.m. the following morning found me all set up and ready to press the shutter button. A good deal of clouds were in the sky so my expectations were rather low. By 6 a.m., however, the cloud cover had started to break and some shafts of light appeared on the hills. And just 20 minutes after that, conditions had transformed into a beautiful spring morning. Soft light was caressing the mountains, broken clouds dotted the sky and the lake was almost perfectly mirror-like. Planning and patience had paid off with an image largely as I had envisioned (below).

Day 3: Early morning
Canon EOS 5D MKIII, TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II
ISO 400, f22 (merged from 3 exposures +/- 3 stops EV) 

Of course, this doesn't mean that there's no room for improvement. The image shown above is rather cool, because of the dominance of blue and green tones. And the foreground still lacks a dynamic feature.

Back home on the computer, I also created a monochrome version of this shot (using Nik Silver Efex Pro2) that represents yet another direction in which this image could evolve.

I'm determined to return next year when the flag iris is in bloom. A sea of yellow flowers will make a huge difference. Some more direct light on the hills or a red dawn glow in the sky would add warmth. And maybe I'll be lucky enough to get some fog lingering on the lake. The possibilities never end.


Carsten Krieger is a professional landscape and wildlife photographer based in the West of Ireland and author of several books on the Irish landscape and nature. To find out more about his work please visit his website: www.carstenkrieger.com.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

Comments

Total comments: 123
12
Vulcanrider
By Vulcanrider (7 months ago)

Thank you for posting your thoughts, ideas and work flow. Look forward to the next installment!
Alan

0 upvotes
FranKois
By FranKois (Mar 11, 2013)

Very interesting article.

0 upvotes
guy_called_mark
By guy_called_mark (Sep 5, 2012)

Thanks for the article. I would like to read more like these, and hope next year you have (even) more success and post an update!

Cheers!

1 upvote
MaartenSFS
By MaartenSFS (Sep 2, 2012)

I really enjoyed that article. Many thanks!

I was finally able to return to a location where I took a great, but imperfect shot in 2008 this year and it really paid off.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Bassun
By Bassun (Aug 15, 2012)

Wow, I generally lurk; but have been compelled to impart my thoughts on this article and many of the comments made. First, I think many missed the intent of the article and focused on the specifics of the photo. A la - too flat, OMG HDR?!, etc. my impression is this was not an article about processing an image, rather about setting up for one.

I think for the casual shooter, if you take out the extended timeline of multiple trips to far off lands, the lesson is well worth it. I think we can all agree planning the shot, using the minds eye, etc. is all far more important than getting the ISO, or F stop "perfect", or using $5,000 worth of equipment. “You don't take a photograph, you make it.”, “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” , "The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it." all Ansel Adams quotes and all, in my humble opinion dead on.

I think we should take the article for what it is, not turn it into something else.

1 upvote
Bassun
By Bassun (Aug 15, 2012)

Oh, I will say that I chuckled at CK's comment about planning the angles of the tree with the mountains. ? Really? I can see planning the tree in the valley then lining things up, but to plan the angles sounded a bit... bazaar. Maybe more interesting is what you would have done to the mountains to make them line up with the tree if they hadn't already done so! :D

0 upvotes
bittybong
By bittybong (Aug 14, 2012)

Of course good photos can just happen, on a good day and sometimes a bad day. But when they dont, why not make the efforts as the author has to hone our skills so that those spontaneous great shots may happen more often. Excellent article and thank you for sharing your personal proffessional experience.

0 upvotes
moss1310
By moss1310 (Aug 13, 2012)

Although I have an opinion on which photo is best, it seems irrelevent. What I appreciate about Carsten's article is his sharing of the process that he went through to get the shots. I am not a professional, and I don't have the time, or knowlege (yet) to go put into getting a shot like this. So, I enjoy hearing how people who do make a living at this do it. There must be an infinite number of ways that photographers work through this process. I hope that DPreview continues to provide more insight into this. Thanks Carsten!

4 upvotes
cfh25
By cfh25 (Aug 12, 2012)

Can the author define "merged" - were you using HDR processes, or masking and blending selected areas of the three exposures?

1 upvote
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Aug 13, 2012)

HDR from 3 exposures: -3 / 0 / +3 using Photomatix. Looking back however using more exposures (-3/-1.5/0/+1.5/+3) or narrowing the range (-2/0/+2) might have brought a better, more natural, outcome.

Carsten

3 upvotes
TLD
By TLD (Aug 12, 2012)

Charley Waite talks about the importance of the completeness of objects in a scene. In the above pictures that would be relevant to the first example where the top of the tree is last against the similar tones of the hill in the background. The later examples placed most of the tree against lighter background tones, which worked much better. All in all, I thought the images are mostly improved as the process developed, and found it a highly worthwhile article that I have shared with my camera club members.

0 upvotes
Humito
By Humito (Aug 11, 2012)

Completely agree with you and thanks for 'plain speaking'. Personally I found the 'Cold' image the most dynamic and it could've been warmed a tad in ACR (or Color efex or ..... whatever). The subtleties of Irish and British lanscapes are rich and immense. Often it's like trying to shoot a complex tweed. Those that succeed for me either blow me away with drama (high contrast moors with storms) or mesmerise me with light (the tweed effect of biological richness). This guy doesn't manange either for me.

For what it's worth I prefer the tonal balance achieved by the ND Grad in the first shot but have to agree about the tension in the shape of the tree being lost in the background. Maybe this means that getting nearly 100% in camera rather that relying on PP is the way to go with Landscape?

2 upvotes
qwertyasdf
By qwertyasdf (Aug 11, 2012)

Great article. I always wanted to take the same scene multiple times, but not in interval of days, but in years. Would be interesting to see the progression in skills and also the scene.

0 upvotes
carlislenow
By carlislenow (Aug 11, 2012)

The photos in this article are nice, but not convincing as examples of the virtues of "planning" in landscape photography.

In addition to the fact that none of the images is that incredible, the first "unplanned" image seems to be at least as good, if not better then, the last one. If you are going to show a three-day process with lots of "planning", shouldn't the final painstakingly planned image be amazingly better than the first, unplanned, image?

You thought Day 2 was too "cold".
Couldn't you have altered the color balance of the Day 2 image in PS and saved a day. That wouldn't be as radical as the HDR blending you actually did for the Day 3 image. If blending images is in-bounds, why not just skip the planning and walk around taking snapshots of different skies, trees, with no planning, and blend them all together in Photoshop?

There are certainly cases where planning and preparation pay off, but these images don't seem to be all that good as examples of it.

Comment edited 14 minutes after posting
5 upvotes
Neeyon
By Neeyon (Aug 14, 2012)

Fair point, however I think that the article is more focused on describing the process used, rather than giving an example of an optimum end result. By the author's own admission he is not satisfied with his final image and so intends to return again in the future, thereby continuing the process he has described.

3 upvotes
Mostly Lurking
By Mostly Lurking (Aug 11, 2012)

Sometimes great photos DO just happen.

2 upvotes
bajanshutterbug
By bajanshutterbug (Aug 11, 2012)

Shades of Ansel Adams! An even more interesting read of his herculean efforts, lugging massive gear all around the Rockies etc, and waiting days for the precise magical moment. to press that button…er cable. BTW, I was thrilled to see many of the Maestro's cameras and gear , on display at that super Banff Springs Hotel, 20 years or so ago. Unbelievable testament to our hobby..or chronic addiction, whichever you choose! You are walking in a giant's footsteps, Mr. Krieger- well done!

0 upvotes
fmian
By fmian (Aug 11, 2012)

Most here, and myself included seem to prefer the color tone and overall look of the first image at the top, which is from a single frame using ND and pol filter.
So I must ask, if you can get it just about right in camera, with the use of filters, what is the point of taking multiple exposures and running it through complex HDR software, if the end result just isn't as pretty?
I keep thinking people are using digital manipulation for the wrong reasons, or perhaps just for the hell of it.
Please don't take it in offense or anything though Carsten, I like your work, but perhaps you should learn to trust your instinct rather than have to fiddle with things in post so much.
Then again, I haven't had photographic books published of my work, so what do I know?

3 upvotes
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Aug 11, 2012)

The main reason I went for HDR was the fact that the tree is penetrating into the sky, a ND grad would have darkened the top half of the tree and the hills on both sides.
Having said that I actually agree with most criticism regarding the HDR outcome, compared to the original shot the final image looks rather lifeless. But that is exactly what this article is about - evolution (and evolution usually needs a few attempts to get it right) - and I am not finished with this location. Evolution is ongoing.

Carsten

4 upvotes
fmian
By fmian (Aug 11, 2012)

I see, thanks for the reply. And yes, you wrote that in the article, I obviously missed it.
Is it possible to see one of the original shots?
How does it look when the shadows/highlights have been adjusted.
Just curious.
Or perhaps you could try layering 2 different exposures, then masking the foreground.

1 upvote
Db26
By Db26 (Aug 10, 2012)

Very good article about "creating a landscape image". More important than discussing the merits of the final image, IMO, the opportunity generated for such a broad debate about planning, composition, perspective, HDR, techniques, etc... Thanks Carsten.

1 upvote
WmCRoberts
By WmCRoberts (Aug 10, 2012)

It doesn't matter whether I "like" the final output of any of your attempts. To me, the creative process is always more important than the outcome. For me, the creative photographic process comes from the shoot itself and then from the imaging processing later. I can lose myself in either part of the process, and that is what is pretty wonderful to me.

Whether I like this work or not, whether I agree with this look or that, whether I even agree or not or would mimic his process, I really really appreciate that he shared his process. Thank you so much. It gives me a lot of food for thought about my own process. Thanks

6 upvotes
youheardright
By youheardright (Aug 10, 2012)

lately I am studying tilt shift techniques , any special reason a tilt shift lens was used in the photo?

0 upvotes
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Aug 10, 2012)

No special reason, 24mm was the lens of choice and my 24mm happens to be the TS-E.
I used some lens shift and although this wouldn't have been really necessary it gives a slightly more natural perspective to the image.

Carsten

0 upvotes
EmmanuelStarchild
By EmmanuelStarchild (Aug 10, 2012)

@Carsten: Do you think I could get the same results with a Canon 15-85 lens on a crop sensor?

0 upvotes
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Aug 11, 2012)

Probably not 100% the same (because of the perspective control I applied) but you will get a very similar view with a 15-85mm assuming it's a 1.6 crop sensor.

Carsten

2 upvotes
LoganVii
By LoganVii (Aug 10, 2012)

Like the article, but prefer the second attempt on the first dat.

1 upvote
justyntime
By justyntime (Aug 10, 2012)

Much ado about nothing. HDR way overdone. People nowadays seem to forget what the canvas of photography is: it´s light! But there is no light left in this scene - as there is no shadow. In "Day 2" there is something like atmosphere retained, whereas in "Day 3" it´s successfully extinguished by PP.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
ClickJohnClick
By ClickJohnClick (Aug 13, 2012)

Looking forward to reading your article ;-)

0 upvotes
RMillward
By RMillward (Aug 10, 2012)

Thanks for this, Mr. Krieger. I appreciate the insights into a pro's thought processes.

0 upvotes
citizenlouie
By citizenlouie (Aug 10, 2012)

Oh, to those of you who think you need better time management. You can do the "Day 1" scout work while you're waiting for the right time for your reshoot work. If you don't have time this year, do it in another year. Things like Yosemite's firefall only happens when the condition is right at the end of February, so lots of photographers gathered at the foot of the fall could be in for a major disappoint if nothing happens that year. A pro doesn't nag and get defeated. Just come back another year, what's the big deal? If you can't deal with disappointment and has no patience, it's hard to be a landscape photographer for long (and that's only the beginning. Nobody always applaud at your years of effort at the end also, so yeah, learn to deal with it).

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
ptl-2010
By ptl-2010 (Aug 10, 2012)

I like day 2 the best, the color and tone looks more natural. If the framing was moved up a bit (just above the bald spot in the grass) I think it would be an almost perfect shot.

0 upvotes
EmmanuelStarchild
By EmmanuelStarchild (Aug 10, 2012)

Great pics. I like the first one. It looks the most realistic. The others look kinda surreal(HDR?).

0 upvotes
GMart
By GMart (Aug 10, 2012)

Most of the world famous photos are not planned however. For example: http://www.worldsfamousphotos.com/

0 upvotes
AndyHWC
By AndyHWC (Aug 10, 2012)

I like the composition of the original and day 2. Day 3 looks good if you crop out the bottom to a 16:9 form factor. Thanks for sharing.

Edited: Hope you don't mind... here is what I mean:
https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resid=423188644507C1BC!825&authkey=!AGB4x0Qb8uQVpiE

Comment edited 7 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
mario7
By mario7 (Aug 10, 2012)

Very good article. Makes me want to try harder.

2 upvotes
Roman Korcek
By Roman Korcek (Aug 10, 2012)

Funny, I like the Day 2 "cold and dull" image the most. Feels like a fresh early spring morning, chilly but full of promise for the day ahead.

1 upvote
jorg14
By jorg14 (Aug 10, 2012)

I also like some of your other shots better. On the first one the branches muddy in with the background landscape and I find that distracting. The other shots clearly bring out the lonely tree.

1 upvote
Roman Korcek
By Roman Korcek (Aug 10, 2012)

jorg14: Not really my shots. :-)

0 upvotes
Roman Korcek
By Roman Korcek (Aug 11, 2012)

Actually, now that I see it on a calibrated monitor it looks dull. Needs a bit more saturation to get the feeling I got when I saw the image on a wide-gamut uncalibrated display.

0 upvotes
aardvark7
By aardvark7 (Aug 10, 2012)

With regard to aesthetic merits, each to his own and one can't argue.
As to success, that goes hand in hand with individual taste too.

However, the essence of this article seems to have been missed by all but one who commented.

The author talks of perserverance and illustrates that by mentioning the number of visits to a site. To me, this is not perserverance, but rather making use of the opportunity.

99.9% of all photographers will not have the luxury to make such trips, even if they had the desire. It may be too expensive or they have other calls on their time. It is simply not an option and the only way they get 'the shot' is by lucky chance of being there at the appropriate time in the first place.

Any time the subject comes up as to the most important thing in photography, I always say 'Opportunity' and this article demonstrates exactly that.

Give most the opportunity and even a basic camera and there would be bucketloads of quality shots. Most simply don't get the chance.

4 upvotes
eyefuse
By eyefuse (Aug 10, 2012)

You have a good point. But there are also different types of landscape photography. A good photographer can always seize the opportunity and utilize the situation as good as possible - especially a photojournalist or travel photographer. But there's also those who really want to paint that perfect image - who take their time - and who visit places again and again to look for that mental image they have envisioned and want to capture.

Comment edited 6 minutes after posting
1 upvote
aardvark7
By aardvark7 (Aug 10, 2012)

I'm not sure why it is such a hard point to get across, so I'll try again:

I 'AM' one of those who want to take their time, paint the perfect picture, visit a place as often as necessary...but I can't!!!!

I don't have the money or the free time (by some huge degree in both regards!!).

It is not about eye, intention, perserverence, equipment or luck. It is about the simple realities of life. For whatever reason, I am in the same position as 99.999999999% of the population of this world and do not have the opportunity to do as the author of the article. Pure and simple.

Certainly, if an opportunity presents itself I will try to make the most of it and it may well be that, even if I did, my shots would not be as acceptable, but that is completely beside the point.

In some respects, it is why I find such articles rather depressing, as they seem to imply that to get the shot you absolutely need to do what is not an option, thereby rendering the advice rather pointless.

2 upvotes
wetracy
By wetracy (Aug 10, 2012)

Art is not to be found by touring to Egypt, China, or Peru; if you cannot find it at your own door, you will never find it. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The point of this piece is not traveling to a lake in Ireland. The point is thoughtful planning and envisioning your image. The author's location may not be your location. The author's image may not be your image. We must find our images where we are, and often we must try, try again.

Comment edited 35 seconds after posting
5 upvotes
aardvark7
By aardvark7 (Aug 10, 2012)

I too think that the location is irrelevant. However, my point remains that such time and endeavour is a luxury very few can afford.

If it was my job to be a landscape photographer, as it is for the author, not hurricane or firestorm would keep me away. But it isn't, so I rarely have any opportunity, and that applies to almost all of us.

We simply don't have the wherewithal to plan such shots, nor to keep improving on them should they not be to our satisfaction, even if that is on our doorstep!

I do agree with the intent of the article, for the most part, but I feel it is a little naive (even patronising) to be preaching to those who instinctively realise it to be so, would love to be in that position, yet will never get the chance.

2 upvotes
citizenlouie
By citizenlouie (Aug 10, 2012)

Nobody forces you to be a pro landscape photographer. If you don't have time, then don't do it. Serious amateurs and pros will do this. You don't have time, then do a P&S landscape for fun instead. Are people going to laugh at you for doing that? But if you want to sell your art work, like all art form, you will spend years if not decades to first, learn your tools, then know your medium, and then shoots repeatedly, experiment and refine your skill until you're okay with the result. You may spend your lifetime perfecting your art. If you can't or don't have such dedication, don't be an artist. Nobody asks you to be one. Nobody can tell you what to prioritize.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
aardvark7
By aardvark7 (Aug 10, 2012)

Despite that I have never suggested anyone is forced to do anything (???) I would ask:

If you have spent years learning your trade, will this article help?

No

If you don't have the time, will this article help?

No.

And if you don't have the intelligence to appreciate what is necessary, will this article help?

No.

I say again, this article only reinforces my position that for much of good photography, opportunity is key (not planning or perserverence as you can do neither without the opportunity) and opportunity, in this particular case, is the realm only of the professional landscape photographer or the very wealthy.

0 upvotes
vin 13
By vin 13 (Aug 10, 2012)

The most important factor about photographing landscapes in the West of Ireland is luck with the weather. Assuming you know what you're doing of course.

I'm all for planning ahead, though I think this guy is thinking too much! From experience, I believe that you need to be prepared to get the shot at any time (at your chosen time of day), going back and getting ideal conditions is a luxury that usually can't be afforded.

0 upvotes
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Aug 10, 2012)

You have a point here. Although it might come across like it I don't have the luxury of waiting for the perfect conditions all the time, especially not when deadlines are looming. Most of the time I have to as you put it "get the shot at any time" no matter how the conditions are.
I think however that it's important to be able to do both - have a vision and wait for the circumstances to realize this vision but also be able to create something out of nothing.

Carsten

3 upvotes
vin 13
By vin 13 (Aug 10, 2012)

Carsten, that's more or less what I meant. I'm saying that the weather in the west of Ireland is a less predictable than somewhere like say southern Utah. I've made the 4 hour drive, and had nothing but driving rain, despite met eireann predicting otherwise and not just once! However it can unexpectedly clear up for a few minutes without warning, you just don't know what you're going to get.

0 upvotes
citizenlouie
By citizenlouie (Aug 10, 2012)

Everyone meets this kind of disappointment. That only makes the job more admirable, don't you think?

Yesterday I went to Point Reyes National Seashore with the intent to shoot just ONE scene (reshot something I had done a year or two ago). It's two-hour drive from where I live, so I had to do weather research before I waste money and contribute to global warming. Weather Channel said it's sunny, but it's not. Dense fog, no visibility whatsoever. And it's not 8 miles/hour wind, but more like hurricane like gutsy wind (I was about to be blown off air). Impossible shooting condition. I shot some random stuff so I wouldn't waste my trip for nothing before I left. After I drove off liker some miles away, sun came out. Did a U-turn and reshot the whole thing (several dozen bracket shots of different settings just to be safe). If nothing came out right, do it again. That's typical, and that's how you learn.... No pain, no gain.

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
eyefuse
By eyefuse (Aug 10, 2012)

Very good and interesting read. Especially the sense of time and effort comes across beautifully with the multiple shots with different lighting conditions. I posted the article to some beginning photographers, that I know love shooting landscapes, but who tend to grab shots here and there and then spend the time searching for that perfect look in PS instead.

That aside, I have to agree that the tonemapping is a bit rough to my liking. The images, especially the latter ones, are starting to look a bit like computer renderings - I guess it's the foreground that looks too flat. A little less tonemapping, or blending these with the original at 50% would look more natural to my eye.

I love the final composition though. Now you just need to wait for those flowers to bloom and some more dramatic lighting next year. :)

Comment edited 56 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Laurentiu Todie
By Laurentiu Todie (Aug 10, 2012)

At this level, the HDR look is something only a handful of photographers can eventually tell and be disgusted by.
They're not the commercially targeted audience IMHO.

Personally I'm more impressed by picture makers like Man Ray including whatever occasional artifacts, not takers like Ansel Adams and his credibility,
so I don't care.
Nitpicking aside, what counts in the end is if you like the picture or not.
I kindah do, but don't jump of joy.

(place your own sarcastic quotation marks where necessary : )

0 upvotes
Petrus Magnus
By Petrus Magnus (Aug 10, 2012)

Even before I read the text I could tell that the images were the result of HDR processing. Although they are by no means the worst examples of HDR I've seen--far from it!--they're still not good. They simply look wrong and artificial, as so many (most?) HDR images do, to different extents. Still, it should be possible to create a subtly handled HDR image without the telltale signs, but what's worrying is that the article author apparently is a "professional" and still didn't pull it off. Maybe you lose your bearings a little when tweaking your composite picture--I can understand that--and someone else should take a look at the result before publishing.

2 upvotes
noou
By noou (Aug 10, 2012)

I don't like them neither...
They look like nothing special, nor that professional to me. Also, that HDR-look...

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
gl2k
By gl2k (Aug 10, 2012)

Wrong. They are "produced" by a pro therefore they are great by definition. Everything a pro makes is great.

0 upvotes
OwenG
By OwenG (Aug 10, 2012)

DPreview - More articles like this please, great stuff, thank you.

2 upvotes
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (Aug 10, 2012)

The slow shutter speed used on the first image made the surface of the lake blurred as if it had bokeh. This made the branches stand out.

This rendered the feel of a 3D image with fantastic depth, even with infinity and foreground maintained in crisp detail.

A well done and composed brilliant landscape.

.

2 upvotes
DoctorJerry
By DoctorJerry (Aug 10, 2012)

I could not agree with you more, the 3D effect is fantastic. However, I do disagree with all the comments about coming back next year. Most of the people I know and come in contact with are lucky to get away each year, the thought of going back just to shoot one picture is not real for them.

I think that even the pros I know would not follow that thought. You shoot the bast picture you can while you're there and move on. You learn to walk an area to get a feel of it and find the spot to get what you want and start shooting. Coming back next year is just a bunch of bull as far as i am concerned. It sounds as if our photographer is just inflating his dedication in getting that shot, The final shot is great, but not worth two trips.

0 upvotes
citizenlouie
By citizenlouie (Aug 10, 2012)

I hear a lot people talking about which photo is better, but totally missed the purpose of this blog: landscape is not depend on luck, but careful composition and some perseverance to re-shoot until it's perfect. Many shots we see are not done in one day, but several days of work and sometimes several years of continuous reshoots until the final output is perfect.

I personally think the final result is better, because the background and foreground are not clustered. Each artist has the freedom to their own interpretation of the scene, but technique wise (the objective portion of the photography), what the author did was correct. Personally I would make the composition tighter (subjective part).

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
4 upvotes
gl2k
By gl2k (Aug 10, 2012)

According to the sharpness nerds @f22 diffraction totally kills a photo. Does this only happen on the holy D800 while it works flawless on Canon gear ?
*LOL* this forum makes my day.

0 upvotes
acidic
By acidic (Aug 10, 2012)

f/22 looks like crap on any 35mm sensor. It looks even crappier on an APS sensor. That doesn't mean I won't stop down that much when shooting; sometimes I need to drag the shutter and don't have an ND filter. But in general I'd prefer that parts of the image go soft due to shallower DOF than have the entire image go to much because of diffraction.

If one is going to go through the trouble of bracketing exposures and merging, then one might as well bracket focus planes.

Comment edited 27 seconds after posting
1 upvote
duartix
By duartix (Aug 10, 2012)

There is a reason why he used f/22. Looking at the ISO it could only mean DOF concerns.

0 upvotes
acidic
By acidic (Aug 10, 2012)

Softness due to lack of DOF is often more desirable than softness due to diffraction. At least with the former, the entire image doesn't go mushy.

Diffraction is really only an issue if trying to get the very best image quality for large prints and what not. But the same can be said about any softness, including lack of DOF.

One should do a test. Shoot scenes with near and far elements at various apertures. Often times, the one lacking in DOF is preferable to the one with heavy f/22 diffraction (depending on a number of factors, including focus distance and such).

2 upvotes
TheEye
By TheEye (Aug 10, 2012)

While the first shot has possibly some compositional issues, mostly the even splitting of three (four) planes, the shot is effective due to the windblown tree's dynamic and its roots clawing into the green "island of grass." It's a very picturesque image.

Compositionally, the day 2&3 images may be better, but the tree is much less effective compared to the one in the first image.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
David Kinston
By David Kinston (Aug 10, 2012)

I'm really conflicted here. To me the first attempt feels rawer, more real, more like nature as I know it. The final image is beautiful, like a van Gogh painting - I almost could expect Gandalf to appear ... a lot to note and to like eg the tree branches parallel the hills on both sides (was that planned?).

What is the intention of the photographer?

To depict reality, or create an atmosphere, or what exactly?

I'm interested in his response.

Comment edited 8 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
dafunk
By dafunk (Aug 10, 2012)

I think the intention is to depict reality at its most surreal. To capture the moment which everyone missed out, from a point of view which nobody noticed.
I think this is similar to when I read a beautiful passage from a book, or see a beautiful scenery, or watch my love smile at me in a way that makes me feel lucky. And in all these moments I realize that if everyone could feel even half of what i feel right then, how wonderfully happy they would be and how they would appreciate this moment.
As someone said in the movie "waking life"...."capturing the holy moment".

0 upvotes
CarstenKriegerPhotography
By CarstenKriegerPhotography (Aug 10, 2012)

Every photographer goes through stages. When I started out many years ago documenting the "truth" was my only goal. Over time however I realized that "truth" in photography is relative. Every action a photographer takes - from choice of lens, f-stop, exposure time, etc. - has an influence on how the reality in front of the camera is recorded.
So over time I came to the conclusion that all photography is an interpretation of reality and what counts in the end is the image. So my aim is to create good (beautiful, spellbinding, etc.) images... "create an atmosphere" sums it up pretty good too.
And the branches parallel to the hills, yes, that was intentional.

Carsten

2 upvotes
AmaturFotografer
By AmaturFotografer (Aug 10, 2012)

I like the first photo more.

1 upvote
BozillaNZ
By BozillaNZ (Aug 10, 2012)

Methinks the first one is the best attempt. It is also true in a lot of thing in life.

0 upvotes
Tape5
By Tape5 (Aug 10, 2012)

I think Carsten enjoys symmetry and I like it here because it is the mark of photographer against the landscape ( and Carsten deserves it with the hard work).

Landscape photographs are very fragile and don't survive excessive post processing. Their magic relies on accuracy.

They say in Ireland there are forty shades of green but I still don't find any of the foreground greens authentic.

Comment edited 41 seconds after posting
1 upvote
alfredo_tomato
By alfredo_tomato (Aug 10, 2012)

One can be nature's stenographer, or nature's interpreter.

0 upvotes
larrytusaz
By larrytusaz (Aug 9, 2012)

Great article. As that one person said, THIS is what I come here to read--not about how we're all such luddites for using a real camera & not a stinking IPHONE for taking photographs. I complained about such articles, so I have to give you credit & praise for when you do articles like this.

In fact, this guy makes me seem lame by comparison. I just got back from a vacation, which was all about me getting some good landscape shots. I was hard at it on this trip, but I hardly took it as seriously as this guy did. Heck, I had an Olympus E-PL1 and a Nikon D5100 at my disposal, & used the E-PL1 as much (or more) than the D5100 & often-times didn't even bother with RAW with the E-PL1 specifically because I like how Olympus processes its JPEGs & I tire of having to post-process every image.

I took a tripod, but hardly ever used it either. At least I did use hot-shoe bubble-levels & polarizing filters.

Compared to this guy, I seem embarrassingly lame. This guy gets my respect for sure.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
locke_fc
By locke_fc (Aug 9, 2012)

Very interesting and informative article, I enjoyed reading it

1 upvote
Clint Dunn
By Clint Dunn (Aug 9, 2012)

It's pretty easy for me to sit back and criticize Carsten since it's his work and not mine.....but I feel compelled to comment. The original image (pic 1) has beautiful tones and colours, with a rich feel to the photo. The final image has that trademark HDR 'look' that in my personal opinion is not aesthetically pleasing.

I haven't seen the original RAW file of course, but I can't help but wonder if the final result would not have been better foregoing the HDR and instead using a simple tool like Viveza to selectively adjust the image to darken the sky, lightly brighten the foreground etc. As it is now the image is too evenly exposed with a distinct lack of blacks that makes for an unnatural looking pic. Just my opinion.

5 upvotes
Chez Wimpy
By Chez Wimpy (Aug 10, 2012)

I'll go one more and say that the framing of the original is the obvious weakness (agreeing with the photographer, the tree "blends in" with the background, and at least at web-sizes, is rather distracting) while the color/contrast is just fine. The clean lines of the final image composition are much stronger than the original (I do wonder why f22 was selected with the TSE lens, f8 would have been sufficient with a tilt, and not sacrificed sharpness to diffraction) but that HDR look really turns me off. Taken to that extreme, B&W is more appealing.

4 upvotes
Juck
By Juck (Aug 10, 2012)

I'll go two further and suggest you both write articles for this site showcasing your obvious brilliance. Open your own <coff> 'talent' to criticism ,, constructive or otherwise. No? Thought so.

2 upvotes
wb2trf
By wb2trf (Aug 10, 2012)

I completely agree with Dunn. I hope that we get to a point that the only attractive HDR is invisible HDR because the visible stuff I have yet to see deployed in any aesthetically pleasing way.

I am completely uninterested in talking about perfecting the fidelity of landscape photography or any technical aspects. If a story began with "Although the artistic merit of landscape photography is almost entirely about the photographer's internalized message and about the composition that reflects that, we here on dpr are going to talk about the least relevant (but not irrelevant) part which are the technical qualities", then I could accept any technical discussion which follows. But in this case it seems as if this is supposed to be about how to approach doing things that are artistically important, but I don't see any evidence of this in the result.

0 upvotes
Chez Wimpy
By Chez Wimpy (Aug 10, 2012)

My "articles" have been created as posts - for years - via the dpreview forums. Plenty of example images to illustrate my points. Best part (as far as dpreview is concerned) they were done for free and generated click revenue. Nowadays, people who see my "obvious brilliance" in landscapes pay for it, via Rebun's onsen gallery, a 2012 series of Japanese postage stamps, and my island's museum... complimentary postcard free with admission fee.

2 upvotes
micahmedia
By micahmedia (Aug 10, 2012)

I'll defend the tree blending in with this point: it's a seamless bridge between the foreground and background and captures my eye. There's a lot interesting going on here. I dig it. Would I have tweaked it more? Yes. But it's a better foundation than the other shots.

0 upvotes
Clint Dunn
By Clint Dunn (Aug 27, 2012)

Juck I too believe people who criticise others work should put their own out for display...I don't respect the opinions of those whose work I cannot see.

With that said there are lots of examples of my work on this site (check my profile), or on the net....(Google my name). You on the other hand......not so much:)

1 upvote
Jaybird1x
By Jaybird1x (Aug 9, 2012)

This is a very good article explaining a process that seems natural for me now, but it took many years to appreciate. Of course this is more about making photographic art than it is about making pictures. The hardest part sometimes for me is to recognize the artistic potential that is literally at my feet.

An interesting thing happened to me a few years ago...I do my walk around with a point and shoot.....I was unable to get as good a shot with the fancy dslr on one occasion as with the walk-around shot!

Finally a truth in this article is that good pictures just don't happen they take many hours of planning and preparation. But then it feels so good to get lucky every now and then.

Good article DPReview, thanks.

0 upvotes
Chez Wimpy
By Chez Wimpy (Aug 10, 2012)

>I was unable to get as good a shot with the fancy dslr on one occasion as with the walk-around shot!

It is almost counter-counter-intuitive (if that makes sense) that image planning and the use of primes/DSLR actually rob you of successes just by the tediousness of the process. Many of us spend so much time (and money!) working up to the ultimate imaging platform, but at that point for many the free-wheeling small camera + flexible zoom range option comes into its own. You already learned to "see" with the deliberate approach, now you are free to shoot without slowing down, catching the great light from multiple angles and viewing points. My winter pictures taken in deep mountains on a time budget (got to get out before I freeze / gets dark) with a m43 camera + kit zoom are at least as good as my best DSLR tripod/timer planned shots. And with the compact I might get a couple dozen (completely different) keepers in an outing, compared to one or two with the DSLR.

1 upvote
BartyLobethal
By BartyLobethal (Aug 9, 2012)

The real value of this article is the insight into the planning and persistence required to get the images and the fact that the thinking and planning continues.

I went to a book launch by South Australian photographer Stavros Pippos years ago. He spoke about location scouting up to a year in advance of capturing his glorious large-format images, of consulting almanacs to establish the precise time of sunrise / sunset at the exact point on the horizon he wanted and the patience required to get certain images. One of the images was of a herd of sheep coming in to drink at a trough in the red last light of the day. He waited under a hide in the dry bed of a nearby creek for three or four evenings for the weather (and sheep) to behave as desired to get that image.

4 upvotes
Camediadude
By Camediadude (Aug 9, 2012)

Wow... I am trying to picture it in my mind. I admire such dedication to this craft.

2 upvotes
micahmedia
By micahmedia (Aug 9, 2012)

I prefer the very first image at the top of the page to all the other subsequent attempts.

The rest are much flatter. Too flat. Which is odd, because they're shot with a wider lens, and hence should compress the space less.

Also the first composition is the most dynamic. The others are far to centered and heavy in the middle, without much exciting going on in the middle.

2 upvotes
Clint Dunn
By Clint Dunn (Aug 9, 2012)

Agreed...the tones/colours and light in pic 1 are great. The composition might be marginally better in the final shot but the processing is actually quite poor IMO....has that obvious HDR look to it.

2 upvotes
Aleo Veuliah
By Aleo Veuliah (Aug 9, 2012)

Yes, first image is the best.

3 upvotes
Camediadude
By Camediadude (Aug 9, 2012)

Thank you ... THIS is the kind of article I come here to see! :) I have been yearning for more of this, and you delivered. No politics, no social media, just Photography. I love it.
It's exactly the sort of article which I like to share with fellow newbie aspiring photographers. Keep it up!

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
9 upvotes
Total comments: 123
12