In this article I'll take you to the Snæfellsnes peninsula in western Iceland, to talk about an image I'm very happy about. It wasn't easy getting the shot to look as it does now, but I think the outcome justifies all the hard work, and I hope you'll agree.
|'Lost in Space', Grundarfjörður, February 2013.|
This picture was taken on my second visit to Kirkjufell ('Church Mountain' in Icelandic, also called 'Pyramid Mountain' for obvious reasons. The mountain is conveniently situated right outside the town of Grundarfjörður, in the north central part of Snæfellsnes). I was there back in December 2011 when I experienced some harsh weather, so I came back with a vengeance to get some better shots and to scout additional locations for my 'Winter Paradise' photo workshop next January.
This visit was by far more fruitful. We had several consecutive cloudless nights, and two Aurora shows in just four days! On one of the beautiful clear nights I went to shoot the mountain reflecting in the lake beside it. It was a moonless night, and the all-but-nonexistent light pollution made it possible to see an uncountable number of stars, and of course, the milky way, which was beautifully positioned right above the mountain. To add to this, the mountain was lit to exactly the right amount by the faint road lights, and a hint of Aurora was also visible. Talk about a perfect starting point!
It doesn't look like it, but this image is a vertical panorama composed of four separate exposures taken in landscape format. I used my Canon EOS 5D mark III and a Samyang 24mm f/1.4 - a lens that I really like for night photography, as it's sharp even when wide open and lets in an incredible amount of light while still being wide enough for classical landscape photography. The finished panorama turned out to be over 40 megapixels, which is great for large-scale printing.
All four shots were 15 second exposures, at f/1.4, ISO 3200. This long exposure, high ISO setting is what does the magic when it comes to night photography, as can be seen by the amazing number of stars visible in the image.
The composition is quite straightforward here. The mountain and reflection are on the bottom third of the image, and the Milky way seems to pop out of the top of the mountain, intersected by the streak of Auroral light.
What I do want to mention is the special feel brought about thanks to the fact that there is no 'real' foreground, only a faint one made of star-reflections in the lake. I love shooting this way (I call this 'unforeground'), since it really emphasizes the spacey, floating properties of the different elements in the shot. It truly seems like the mountain is lost in space!
I opened the RAW files in Adobe Camera Raw, and performed some tweaks to the color temperature, contrast and clarity. I also tried to compensate for the heavy vignetting caused by the ultra-wide aperture setting.
Next I saved the files as TIFFs, and went on to continue post-processing in Photoshop. First, I used PTLens, a nice Photoshop add-on, to correct the lens distortion in order to make the stitching easier. PTLens does not yet support the Samyang 24/1.4 lens, so I tried a few options until using the correction for the Samyang 35/1.4 - close enough, but additional correction will be performed and explained below. I applied the same correction for all four images.
Next, I went on to stitch the panorama. This proved much more difficult than I imagined. In the image below you can see what I got when trying Photoshop's automerge option with the shots. Oy vey!
Photoshop couldn't even align the four shots together, not to mention the terrible distortion it produced. I therefore had to revert to manual stitching. I won't tire you with all the details of the stitching, as it was pretty hard and complex to achieve a natural-looking blend between all the shots. The easiest part to blend was the two lowermost shots.
I layered the two images, turned down the opacity on the upper layer and moved it until it overlapped the bottom layer perfectly. I then deleted the part containing the mountain's reflection, and flattened the result. To continue the process, I added and gently blended the other two shots, until what I had looked like this:
Ok, now I had the complete panorama. But the lens' distortion caused a slightly unrealistic look of the mountain. It looks a little 'flat' compared to reality, so I needed to correct that. I used Photoshop's free transform (Edit->Free Transform) option, and 'squished' the image a tiny bit until the mountain looked more like it actually does.
Another corrective step I did was to widen the reflections of the stars a bit, since they too got unrealistically 'squished'. I did that with the content-aware scale option (Edit->Content-Aware Scale), since it allowed me to stretch the star-reflection area without stretching the mountain's reflection, which would look unrealistic.
|To apply content-aware scaling, first build a mask of the area you wish to scale.||Then, stretch it until satisfactory. Note how the star-relection area widened, but the mountain's reflection remained almost the same!|
Ok, now the different elements in the image look exactly how they need to look. Next came some local adjustments. I wanted to work on the sky area - so I selected it using the quick selection tool, and then used the refine edge (Select->Refine Edge) tool to make sure the selection was accurate.
I started by applying some level adjustment on the selected sky area. As always, I used an adjustment layer.
Next I needed to improve the contrast in the sky. The sensor has its limits and the sky I saw was much more defined than this! The contrast boost was achieved by using a curve adjustment limited to the mid-section of the histogram. I.e., I lightened the lights and darkened the darks, but only in pixels lying in the mid-range in terms of brightness. This way I could boost the contrast significantly without losing detail in the brighter or darker parts of the image.
I've already explained some of the restrictive selection methods I use in my article 'Behind the Shot: Nautilus'. Please refer to it for an introduction. What's different here is that I chose the mid-range by saving a selection of the bright pixels as a channel, saving another selection of the dark pixels (achieved by performing the same procedure on the inverted image) as a channel, and finally subtracting (ctrl-alt-click on the channel mask) both selections from the full selection (what you get with 'select all' or ctrl-A), to obtain a selection restricted to the mid-range. I then applied quite a strong curves adjustment to boost the contrast in the sky area. After this adjustment, I further boosted the contrast in the sky by using a levels adjustment layer, and 'painting' it in. I'll show the process in the images below.
The next thing needing treatment is the mountain. It has quite a few problems, namely the terrible yellow color cast caused by the street lights in the adjacent road, and a lack of contrast. Let's see what I did here.
This was a tough image to create and process, but after all the hard work I think it looks good. To get it ready for Internet use, I converted the color profile to sRGB, reduced the size and performed some sharpening, and I was done!
Erez Marom is a professional nature photographer and photography guide based in Israel. Every January, Erez guides his Iceland winter photography workshops: 'Land of Ice' in the south and 'Winter Paradise' in the north and west. If you'd like to experience and shoot some of the most fascinating landscapes on earth with Erez as your photography guide, you're welcome to see the workshop webpages for details and participation, and view Erez' Iceland gallery. You can watch a teaser video here.
More articles by Erez Marom:
|Perfection in Repetition by Nilesh Trivedi|
from Your City -Repetition
|a century before powerpointP1540926 by nt35|
from Books - Macro only
|Red splash by millan|
|1958 Edsel-8060 by vbuhay|
from E is for...
According to a Reuters report, US Congress is urging US companies to sever ties with Chinese manufacturers of communication equipment.
A firm launch date is still forthcoming, but in the meantime a sample reel from Kodak's new Super 8 camera has been released.
HTC's newest handset, the HTC U11 Eyes, improves on the standard U11 by slapping a dual camera on the front for 'portrait mode' selfies with real-time bokeh simulation.
Missile scare notwithstanding, we spent a lovely few days in Hawaii shooting with Sony's newest APS-C E-mount lens. See how it measures up capturing the spectacular scenery that the Aloha State is known for.
Now that we've completed our review of Panasonic's Lumix DC-G9, we've updated its entry in our Best Cameras Under $2000 and Best Cameras for Sports & Action buying guides.
Hasselblad has introduced its next-generation multi-shot camera body, built to shoot 400-megapixel photos by using sensor-shift technology to combine up to six exposures into a single monster image measuring 23200 x 17400 pixels.
CVS is banning digitally altered beauty imagery on its store-brand beauty products, and plans to mark other brands' images as "Digitally Altered" if they're not up to snuff by the end of 2020.
Canon has announced that it will introduce a series of printers that allow users to refill the ink tanks themselves—a surprising shift that could, in theory, save customers quite a bit of money.
Adventure and lifestyle photographer Lucy Martin put together a useful little video that goes over her 18 favorite Lightroom shortcuts—a great guide for beginners.
Following a series of allegations of sexual misconduct against Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, magazine publisher Conde Nast has severed ties with both of the famed fashion photographers, and released a code of conduct for future photo shoots.
Photographer Christopher Payne captures the 'colorful world of craft and complexity' you'll find in the General Pencil Company's factory in Jersey City... and almost nowhere else.
A new feature in the Google Arts & Culture app compares your facial features to its database of thousands of artworks, finding your fine art "doppelganger."
Recently, we spent a day in Los Angeles with photographer, cook and food blogger Kylie Mazon. Join us and see how Kylie approaches the challenge of shooting lifestyle and promotional images for a downtown hotel with the Canon EOS M6.
Leica has announced a pair of short telephoto lenses for its SL full-frame mirrorless camera. The APO-Summicron-SL 75mm and 90mm F2 ASPH lenses feature an apochromatic design to reduce chromatic aberration, one aspherical element and minimum focusing distances of around 0.5m.
The Panasonic G9 is the brand's top-tier stills camera. We've updated our already large sample gallery with even more photos to enjoy.
The latest product of Huawei's collaboration with Leica is a smartphone with a great all-around imaging feature set that left us very little to complain about.
In this quick video, award-winning travel photographer Bob Holmes shares nine of his most basic and straightforward tips for finding great images, even when you're in a rut.
Gudsen has launched a new gimbal that’s aimed at mirrorless photographers. With a payload of 3.9lbs/1.8kg, the new Moza AirCross can provide stabilization to a mirrorless body even fitted with a cinema lens and a new in-handle option can provide power to Sony and Panasonic cameras.
The Lensbaby 46mm Macro Kit comprises of three stackable filters with different magnification levels, which can be combined with several of the company's "bokeh effect" lenses.
Nikon Rumors is reporting that an upcoming full-frame mirrorless camera from Nikon will sport an all-new "Z-Mount" with an extremely short flange distance of just 16mm.
A lot of people still have positive associations with the Kodak brand and its iconic logos, but it’s worth clearing something up: not everything with the Kodak name on it has much connection to a bunch of clever people in Rochester, New York.
A leaked image of a Galaxy S9 retail box indicates the new model might come with a variable aperture lens and a super-slow-motion video mode.
The portable little scanner features a 3.5-inch color screen, an integrated SD card slot for saving your scans, adapter trays for different types of film, and an HDMI port for viewing your scans directly on an external display.
Yesterday, Canon Italy and Canon Spain accidentally shared a composite photo that contained stolen elements shot with a Fujifilm camera. Today, in a response on social media, the company somehow managed to make things worse.
We've got a pair of Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN lenses in the office: one for Micro Four Thirds and the other for Sony E-mount. In this article we have some impressions of the MFT version, as well as some other lenses in this class worth considering.
Most wedding photographers are probably open to a little bit of feedback from their clients, but one Hong Kong couple was reportedly so upset, they provided their photographer with a detailed 30-page report full of their grievances!
It appears Huwei's ties to the Chinese Government and a fear of espionage have played a role in AT&T's decision not to offer the Huawei Mate 10 Pro and it's Leica-branded dual camera to customers in the United States.
The Autel Robotics EVO looks like the first serious competitor for DJI's Mavic Pro Platinum. With a better remote, slightly better camera, and a slightly cheaper price tag, this drone could steal some serious Mavic market share.
Sony has released firmware version 2.00 for its flagship a9 mirrorless camera. The most notable improvements are to continuous AF, but overall stability has been addressed, as well.
Kodak just debuted a bitcoin mining machine for rent at CES, leaving photographers slack-jawed and confused, and cryptocurrency mining experts balking at what they claim is an outright scam.