The Making of "Fall"
How the winning photo of the "Fall Colors" contest was made
By sergysergy in Photo Contests on Dec 27, 2020
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).
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.
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.
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!