Here is the relatively unprocessed raw shot that I ended up selecting as the “keeper” from the shoot. It’s the thumbnail that is highlighted on the previous screen capture.
Okay, not a bad start, but I had deliberately framed the shot a little loose to give myself flexibility for in post-processing. I had a little too much “dead space” at the bottom and top of the image and I don’t like the pieces of grass at the bottom center of the frame, so I started off by cropping a little.
I then adjusted the basic exposure sliders to get a good tonal range in the image and bring out a little more detail in the trees. At that point, the image looked like this:
Not radically different, but better, and I was happier with the framing. My Lightroom editing settings were deliberately on the conservative side so that I would have more flexibility in further post-processing. I next brought the image out of Lightroom and into Photoshop, where I used one of my favorite plug-ins, Google/Nik’s Color Efex 4.0. I applied several of its filters on the image, including the Detail Extractor (great for bring out additional detail in the darker part of the image where the trees are), Tonal Contrast (gives the image a little more “pop” in the water and reflections, as well as the rocks) and Polarization (which is a rough equivalent of what a real polarizer might have done, reducing the reflection in the water slightly and bring out a little more blue in the sky). Here’s what it looked like after those tweaks to the image:
Okay, that’s a bit better! Color Efex 4.0 definitely helped, and I’m happier with the results. I saved the image in Photoshop, which returned it back to Lightroom. I had used the feature that exports the image out of Lightroom and into Photoshop as a Smart Object. This means that not only can I change the settings in Color Efex at a later date; I can also change the underlying raw conversion parameters as well. Very handy!
What would I do next time?
It’s always good to think through what you might do next time. If I were to return (which I will), I’d probably try some shooting locations toward the left. There were some nice alternative spots there on the other side of a small creek. It also had good foreground elements, including a chain of small rocks. I might also try some shots slightly closer to the log in the foreground, getting even closer than the few feet I was at in this shot. Going too much lower wouldn’t work, since the reflection of the mountains would get caught up in the logs and be distracting. I’m sure the next time will be even better!
After wrapping up the shoot in this area and being grateful the sun came out briefly, Eric and I headed back down the trail. We stopped at Nymph Lake and liked the soft, diffused light that was illuminating the shoreline.
I took a few shots with the 80-400mm set to just over 200mm and at an aperture of f/11. Shutter speeds were in the realm of 1/8 to 1/15 of a second with the ISO still set to 64. My tripod remained important, giving me the ability to use the settings I wanted rather than ones I was forced into.
I used a polarizing filter on these shots as well to fine tune the amount of reflection there was on the water, as well as to bring out details in the foliage. Finally, I locked up the mirror to reduce any vibrations that might be more apparent at a longer focal length. That is often more important than you would think.
The new electronic shutter option of the D810 is great for further reducing vibration and increasing sharpness, so that was also enabled. It probably wasn’t absolutely necessary, but why not?
Back to Estes Park!
At this point, Eric and I headed back into Estes Park for a well-deserved breakfast, and more importantly, plenty of coffee. We were pleased with our shots that morning and relished yet another experience out in the wild with views that most people never see. It’s good to be a landscape photographer!
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