Skip to main content

"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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

"Bridge"

Lots of interesting lines and angles in this 70-year-old wooden truss bridge spanning the Little Bouctouche River in New Brunswick. An extremely wide-angle lens (12mm) allowed me to stand on the bridge and still fit much of the structure within the frame.

But a wide-angle lens creates significant perspective distortions. Notice the odd angles of the upper cross-beams in the "before" image. I could have avoided this by standing right in the middle of the bridge and pointing the camera straight down the center, but I thought that would have made for a boring composition.


I twisted the image until the cross-beams appeared horizontal. This made it necessary to crop the image - so you see that the "after" image is much tighter to the bridge structure than the "before". The tighter crop makes the curve of the arches more dominant and leads the eye nicely into the frame.

The original image was underexposed and looked "flat". I made brightness and contras…

"Blue House"

The French-Canadian village of Grand-√Čtang on the west coast of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia has a few brightly colored cedar-shingle houses that I have always found very striking. This one, with its electric blue walls and neat white trim, is a beautiful example.


My challenge was to make the house stand out from its surroundings. I wanted to eliminate distracting visual elements. I blurred the surrounding field and hills while leaving the house sharp. I cloned out the barn behind the house to the left, the two utility poles immediately next to it, and the chairs at the extreme right. But I kept the little storage hut because I liked the juxtaposition of the larger blue house against the smaller drab structure. 

I cropped the image a little to make the house more dominant. But I didn't crop too much because I wanted to maintain the feeling I had of the house in its landscape. 

I made some lighting and contrast adjustments in order to, among other things, make the shadows on the ho…

"Red Dress"

Sometimes you have to be lucky.

There I am, in the trendy Hawthorne District of Portland, Oregon. Across the street is a stylish young couple waiting for the light to change. The hem of the woman's brilliant red dress is wafted up by a momentary breeze. The red of the dress just happens to be complemented by the red hand of the traffic light, and the red marquee of the 90-year-old Bagdad Theater, a Portland landmark. What are the odds?
First, I strengthen the position of the dress as the visual center of the image. That's easy: I crop. I want the red of the Bagdad marquee to frame the image at the top, and the yellow center line of the road to frame it at the bottom. I also want to leave enough in the frame to give you a sense of the street. And I don't want to lose too much of the lettering on the marquee. To get it right I change the aspect ratio to 4:3 from the original 3:2.


Now I want the couple to stand out even more. I darken and blur the part of the image immediately b…