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"Alaska Highway"

A lot of interesting things are happening in this photograph shot on the Alaska Highway on a spring day near Haines Junction, Yukon. The jagged, snow-covered mountains with diagonal shadows created by late-afternoon sun; the dramatic curve of the highway swooping into and out of the frame; the cloudy sky; the finger of bare, rust-colored trees and brush jutting into the photo from the lower left.

The trick was to maximize the potential in each of these separate elements, and then pull them together into a coherent, believable photograph.

The first thing that struck me was the strong bluish cast in the BEFORE image. I did a color balance correction to warm up the palette. But I still wasn't satisfied so I used a hue/saturation adjustment layer in photoshop to de-intensify the yellow and red tones. My goal was to strike a good balance between warmth and whiteness in the snow and clouds.

Those were global adjustments. But I also had to work separately on the three distinct "zones" of the image: i) sky; ii) mountains; and iii) foreground. The mountains are obviously the star of the show here, with the sky and foreground as supporting cast. I treated the three zones accordingly.

I softened the sky with fine-contrast adjustments.

I intensified detail and contrast in the mountains with fine-contrast and tone-curve adjustments.

I blurred the foreground. I also used a tone-curve adjustment to brighten the finger of trees and brush left to create the illusion (believable, I hope) that they were catching the last rays of late afternoon sun.

I deliberately left the forest at the base of the mountain dark and undefined to create a boundary between the bright areas above and below the forest.

I cropped the image to eliminate uninteresting space at the top, bottom and sides.


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