Yellow Creek


Yellow Creek

f/9, 1/200, ISO-800, 18mm

Brown brown brown! That’s about all you see this time of year (ok, so maybe my previous post disproves that statement, but still…) So here’s yet another in my mini-series about things I try to turn the monotonous into the vibrant. Previously I’ve converted to black and white, added grain, and in some case a sepia tone.

So my next objective was to see if I could force some actual color into a photo. With this shot I started by warming up the temp to bring out the yellows, and I added just a hint of a gradient filter to the sky. Not too much because I didn’t want the trees to darken to black, but I did want to bring out as much as I could the texture of the overcast sky. I darkened the blacks and midtones a bit to add some contrast and pushed up the brightness considerably to help bring out the grass. I further bumped up the clarity slider considerably (not something I normally do because I find that it brings out artifacts too often). I increased the vibrance by a third.

Whew! And I’m just getting started! I fiddled considerably with the tone curve (which I do pretty regularly), Highlights were increased by nearly 30, lights by 20, darks were taken down by 5 and shadows were lowered a whopping 64. All of this really helped to bring depth and texture to the picture.

I don’t know how other people approach adjusting the curves, but it took me a long time to work out a process that works well for me. I start by adjusting the highlights and then the shadows. Those two controls tend to give me the contrast I’m looking for (usually without touching the contrast slider itself) and then I fine tune with the lights and darks.

I played around a bit with the HSL sliders, and found that bumping up the orange on saturation and luminance gave me the results I liked best, bringing out the color. I also added around 55-60 to the highlights and shadows hues, with less than 10 saturation. This was all just experimentation, but I’ve found in general that if you want to add color to a photo without making it look like it was over-edited, adjust the hue on the highlights and shadows. A little goes a long way.

Finally, I sharpened more and masked less than I usually do to make the blades of grass stand out a little better (in the original all the grass just sort of looks like a single textured blob) and finally added my customary -10 vignette.

Ultimately there’s only so much you can do with a photo that is weak to begin with (well, only so much I can do!) but the result was something I’m at least not embarrassed to post.

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