The Making of "Serenity"

The winning image in our "Serenity" photo contest

By tessfully in Photo Contests on Jul 13, 2015
Serenity - Sunset on Pinetree Lake, Algonquin Park Ontario

Thank you to all who voted on my image. I am very honoured to have won as every photo in the final 15 displayed beautiful work and could easily have taken the prize.

My photo was taken on our last canoe trip of 2014. We headed into Pinetree Lake in Algonquin Park, set up camp and spent 4 serenly gorgeous fall days photographing the height of autumn colours.

As I didn't have a graduated neutral density filter with me I took several shots of this scene using various exposure settings, hoping that in post processing I could reveal what my eyes could see; the sky, landscape and reflective calm waters under a sunset glow. The rocks and two red leaves on bottom right helped to anchor and balance the distance landscape.

Equipment and settings:

  • Camera: Pentax K-5
  • Lens: Tamron AF 17- 50 F2.8
  • Focal length: 42mm
  • Aperture: F/8
  • Shutter Speed: 1/5
  • Manual Exposure: -2 ev

Shot in RAW and post processed using Apple's Aperture.

The two leaves were already in the scene (not placed)!

Postprocessing Steps:

This is how the original RAW image looked like:

My first step was to adjust the basics:

  • Straightened the horizon
  • Small crop of left margin
  • Turned down the exposure to bring in the sky
  • Boosted the shadows to reveal the landscape
  • Adjusted highlights & recovery to bring detail into the sky
  • Slightly increased the overall saturation and vibrancy

Then followed the detailed adjustments:

  • Cloned out small tree branch in top right margin
  • Dodged the trees, tree reflections and rocks - smoothed and blended the dodging outline - used the slider bar after dodging till I had balanced the exposure between sky and land (an outcome for which a graduated neutral density filter might have been useful)
  • Bumped the saturation of reds only
  • Applied the Definition brush to the trees, reflections and rocks
  • Applied the Sharpening brush to the rocks and leaves

Finally: Adjusted the mid-tones

Thanks again to all who voted on my image!

- Tess

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