One of the things about photographers, we are always trying to make the scene as beautiful as it was in person, but to be honest, without a little trickery it simply isn’t done.  So, I thought I would show you what is commonly done.

Big Sur out of camera JPG

As you can see it is very blah.  Part of the reason, is that I exposed the photograph for the sky, so ground is underexposed.  This is a very common technique because sky highlights and details are often very important.  Probably not quite as important in this photograph since the clouds are a minor component.

Our eyes when we see a scene like this in real life, will be constantly adjusting the focus and brightness as we look over the landscape.  If we look at the sky, our eyes will adjust to see the most detail.  And the same thing keeps happening as our mind and eye scan the scene.  But it doesn’t seem to happen the same way with a photograph.

So, the battle is to make the photograph look as I remember the scene in my mind.  While I want to emphasize certain things about the scene, I believe it should look real enough that people don’t respond that it is fake.  I use Adobe’s Lightroom for basic modification of photos.  The first step was to modify the photo to make the foreground and bay look as I remember.

First major step of the image retouching

I will not detail every step, but the major adjustments were to increase the exposure by a little more than an f-stop, increased the clarity, vibrance, and saturation.  The grasses in the foreground, look a little blue… but they were getting a lot of blue sky illumination, so this makes sense.  The same thing with the sand and water in the bay.  But, this is the way I remember it, so I am happy.

The mountain and sky beyond the bay are over exposed now.  Many times the method to fix these issues is with a gradient tool that is found in Lightroom.

The final picture

The main effect of the gradient tool was to reduce the exposure.  I also used a brush to bring out the clouds a little more.  The gradient started at the first ridge  and ended by the time it hit the horizon at the far mountain.  It basically took out an f-stop of exposure that was added earlier.  There is some brown in the ocean that looks a bit purple in the smaller version.  This is actually a kelp field.  When it is viewed in the larger picture, it looks a bit more realistic than it does above.

I believe this picture will become at least a 20 x 30 inch print in my office soon.  It captures a magical moment in time with my wife.  I will be posting this picture in the project section of this web site soon.  It will also be making an entry in the gallery section as well along with some other nice shots of the Big Sur area of California.