Snow and sun

Edited in Lightroom and Topaz Lab's Star Effects
Edited in Lightroom and Topaz Lab’s Star Effects

Two very difficult things to photograph, all in one frame!

As much as we love photographs with the warmth of the sun in there, the sun itself is never a flattering thing to get, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.

The sun being so bright, basically over-exposes in most photographs, yielding in an unsightly white blotch in your photo. People may know that it’s the sun, but your eye is immediately attracted to it, rather than the intended subject of your photo, making it an unnecessary evil.

As for snow, that is well known for throwing your camera’s metering off. The pure white fluffiness that we all love in the wintertime fools the camera sensor in thinking that it must make it a neutral grey to prevent over-exposure, yielding in an under-exposed picture.

So, while it may not seem like it, this photo went through a number of edits to make it look more natural-looking. The original image straight out of my Nikon D800 is below—reduced to size.

I exposed the photo just enough so that I wouldn’t blow out the details surrounding the sun too much. Otherwise, there would be too large a white spot in the middle of my frame. This in turn under-exposed the snow in my foreground, but retained all the details that I wanted, like the shadows of the bumps throughout.

I did a large part of the post in Lightroom because I was able to edit non-destructively on my image. I have to admit, I shot this in JPG rather than in RAW—the latter being the better way to go as it allows you to maintain your image quality with a non-destructive editing process. I bumped up the saturation of the blue, and the orange bands using gradients, and increased my exposure to brighten the snow. The snow took on a very blue hue since I shot this in JPG and had it on auto white-balance. To fix this, I painted over just the snow areas with my paint brush in Lightroom, and changed the temperature of it to reduce the blue and increase the yellow, in addition to slightly desaturating it, which removed any colour casts that were remaining.

Then, with the clever use of Topaz Lab’s Star Effects, I added in those sun spikes, emitting from the white blob I had from overexposing the sun. At the very least, the unsightly blown out spot looks a little cleaner and more representative of an actual sun. I made sure to balance the colour of those sun spikes with the orange band in my photo.

That’s pretty much all there is to this image. What was a rather bland image (shown below) that I originally didn’t even bother to rate, now looks more like a usable winter wonderscape.

Nikon D800, 24mm, f/9.0, 0.5 sec., ISO 100 on a tripod
Nikon D800, 24mm, f/9.0, 0.5 sec., ISO 100 on a tripod
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