The Making of "Recent Paint an Autumn Day"

The winning image in our "Moonscape" photo contest

By Konstanta in Photo Contests on Apr 14, 2015

"Recent Paint an Autumn Day"

Hello friends!
I am a beginner in photography (my first ever DSLR, a Pentax K-5II bought in August 2013) so when sending in a picture for the contest I did not expect to even get into the TOP-15, and even less so – to become the winner. I am very grateful to everyone who voted for the contestants' work and especially grateful to those who in the first and in the second rounds nominated my picture! Without you, I would not have won!

Now on to how did this picture ...
I don't own a car, so when I really want to leave the city in search of subjects for shooting, I turn to my friend. His (and my) name is Igor. He has a car, loves fishing, does not like to sit at home, and if not busy at work – goes with me out in the nature.

The picture was taken on Ocrober 26, 2014. The weather that day was good. The day was clear and sunny, so hoping for a beautiful sunset we left early to find suitable landscapes. Not far from the city we managed to find a large meadow with small lakes and rare trees growing. While Igor was fishing, I explored the lake and its environs in search of interesting angles. When it was the "magic hour", I made a few good pictures (including the one I submitted for the competition "The best photo 2014", but it did not get into the TOP-15).

It was getting dark very quickly became frosty. The sun had almost completely disappeared over the horizon, and it seemed that the most beautiful colors and shades in the sky had faded. We decided to complete the photo shoot, eat dinner and go home. I packed camera, lenses and tripod in the bags, sat down and started dinner.

I was standing with my back to the point of sunset under almost black sky. When I suddenly turned around, I was confronted by a magnificent view: a thin crescent moon ascended above the trees and almost the entire range of shades of blue from purple near the horizon to blue in the sky! This was a nice farewell gift from the sun to me at the end of the day!

Abandoning everything, I began frantically unpack my equipment:

  • Pentax K-5II
  • smc Pentax DA 18–55 mm F/3.5–5.6 AL WR
  • HD Pentax DA 55–300 mm F/4–5.8 ED WR
  • Tripod Slik Pro 500DX Leg + head Slik SBH-200 DQ.

I was lucky! I managed to make TWO frames. First – an overall image using the Pentax 18–55 mm lens, focal length 35 mm, in order to capture not only the sky and the trees, but also their reflection on the water surface of the lake. The picture was not bad, but the moon was so small that it is absolutely lost against the background of the tree crowns.

I quickly (as quicly as possible in the dark and in the cold) changed lens to the HD Pentax 55–300 mm. I included in the frame just a single tree and the crescent moon above it, and also a small piece of the lake shore. The camera settings were:

  • focal length: 135 mm
  • aperture: F11
  • shutter soeed: 4 seconds
  • ISO: 80
  • white balance: "Auto"
  • metering: multi-segment
  • exposure compensation: "-1EV" (seems in the hurry I forgot reset this setting to "zero")
  • RAW

The shutter was released with the remote control with "mirror up" shooting.

The unprocessed image looked like this:

For post-processing of photos I use a laptop with Lightroom 5. After editing, converting and saving the image on the HDD in JPEG I did not retain any data on which corrections I made (I haven't learnt the benefits of library catalogs and Lightroom). So, unfortunately, I can not accurately recreate the whole process of post-processing. However, remember that I did not have to mess around with the original image much.

First of all, I increased exposure a little and raised the shade as much as possible to show the details on the ground. As I mentioned, at the time of shooting this frame the sun had long since gone plunging all that was below the horizon into almost complete darkness.

After a slight correction of the brightness I moved to the tab "Color": I wanted more accurate and brighter recreation of the rich and sophisticated palette of color transitions and gradations that so impressed me the night while shooting. (Now, looking at the picture, think I got a little carried away with the intensity of the purple color near the horizon. Maybe, I was still impressed!).

After working with the colors, I used two linear gradients. First a small gradient lowered from the upper edge of the picture to darken the blue sky and increase its contrast. This increased emphasis on the crescent moon. I raised the second gradient from the bottom edge of the image so as to give warm, slightly golden tones to the grass. (At the time of shooting the grass was covered with a light frost, and the tone did not match the overall color palette of the image).

The completion of the processing was standard: a small addition of clarity, sharpness and saturation.

Once again I want to thank all the participants of the forum for their wonderful pictures and active voting, as well as the site administrators for their sincere desire to make life better, more interesting, and more informative through the medium of photography!

I wish you all good luck and that you'll take lots of beautiful pictures!

- Igor

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