The Making of "Fall"

How the winning photo of the "Fall Colors" contest was made

By sergysergy in Photo Contests on Dec 27, 2020

"Fall" by sergysergy

Wow, what a nice Christmas present! I had never made it to the final before so I really appreciate the nominations and the votes.

This picture was taken in 2018 during a trip to Babcock State Park in WV (US). I had read that foliage was beautiful in October and, although we could spend a couple of days in the area, it was hard to tell whether it was going to be too early (green leaves) or too late (no leaves).

I assumed the park was going to get packed so I left the hotel early in the morning. I was lucky since the combination of colors was beautiful: greens, yellows, oranges and some reds. Weather turned out to be great as well since it wasn’t too sunny and light was even.

First I took some pictures by the little waterfalls with a wide angle lens (Sigma 10-20mm F3.5) but then I realized that going to the other side of the river would give me a much better perspective. I tried a few spots, lenses, compositions and shutter speeds (click any image to enlarge and browse).

Picture taken with the wide angle lens

Picture taken with a 35mm lens and longer exposure

The particular shot below which I submitted for the contest was taken in manual mode at 60mm 1/10s F14 with my Pentax K-3 and the DA* 60-250mm F4 on a tripod. Like the original unprocessed image, most of the pictures from that day are on the dark side but I didn’t want to blow out the highlights (e.g. in the water or sky if applicable). Also I didn’t mind since underexposed RAW files from the K-3 are easy to process.

Unprocessed image

I am not a big fan of heavy post-processing but I felt getting rid of the car to the left was a must in order to preserve the composition and the bucolic vibe. I used the spot removal tool a few times (type heal, size 15, feather 11, opacity 100). I guess I could have used the cloning tool but trees and leaves are forgiving for the most part and it looked good to me.

Spot removal to get rid of the car

The rest of the post-processing wasn’t too aggressive. I wanted colors to pop but I also wanted to avoid an overcooked image, especially regarding the saturation. I raised the following values: exposure (+1.00), shadows (+89), clarity (+6), dehaze (+9), saturation (+7); and I lowered the following values: highlights (-36), blacks (-3). I also added some sharpening (+40 - mainly because I noticed that the pictures that I upload to the forums tend to be softer) and some luminance (+20). For the final touches I used the adjustment brush (temperature +20, tint -30, exposure +1.10, shadows +70) on some of the trees, the mill, the waterfalls and a couple of rocks. While all these values may sound very precise I feel if I changed some of them the final product would still look nice.

Thank you again for choosing my picture and for letting me share my experience. I hope 2021 brings happiness to all PF members!

-sergy (sergysergy)

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