White Pass & Yukon Railway

by Dan Stalker
(Gold Coast, Australia)

Photo was taken with a Pentax k-x.

I feel the photo might be improved if I could bring up the colour of the trees a little, but my amateurish attemps to use "Levels' and "Curves' result in a loss of contrast between the mountains and sky.

I'd appreciate your critique, about improvements and how to achieve them.


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As many of you will know I am soon to be moving permanently to the land down-under. And from my sketchy knowledge of the country it's instantly clear that although Dan lists his location as Australia, this wasn't taken there! Yukon apparently. And very lovely it looks too!

But that aside I wanted to share with you my thoughts on Dan's photo using our moving plans as an analogy.

You see moving is a big thing. Moving from one house to another is bad enough. You start going through all the possessions you have accumulated over the years and wonder if that baseball cap with accommodation for two beer cans on top, and a handy 'feeder' straw, is ever going to become a family heirloom. More importantly what were you thinking when you bought it!

And that's just the start of the 'great tat clear out'. The deeper you dig the more worrying it all becomes. Were leather elbow patches really the epitome of men's fashion?

After a while it seems easier to just throw out every unopened box. If it hasn't been opened for years its contents are either unwanted or just too embarrassing to be reminded of. So, numerous trips to the tip later and you've slimmed down your life and are ready to move.

But moving country has extra layers of logistics that are required, above and beyond the great clear-out.

The shipping needs to be organised. The flights need booking. The visas need obtaining. The pension needs attention. Tax offices, both home and away, need paperwork organised.

You need a list. A plan. And this brings me back to Dan's photo. Think of a list of things that make a good photo and Dan's is pretty much there.

Stunning scenery, check. Lead in lines, check. Rule of thirds, check.

Once these hurdles have been surmounted you know you're half-way there. And so it comes down to the post processing.

Dan states that he has tried adjusting the levels. This is the right thing to do as this is a photo that lacks contrast. Adjusting the levels should bring the contrast back.

But there may be a problem – blown highlights.

Because the sky and mountains are so bright if the contrast is increased in this photo these areas will become bleached out.

The trick is to extend the contrast by having two images – one underexposed, where the sky will look good but the foreground will be dark. And one image of normal exposure – where the foreground is perfectly exposed.

Then you layer the images one over the other (let's say you layer the underexposed image over the top of the normal image). And finally you erase the foreground of this layer to reveal the properly exposed foreground beneath.

There's a tutorial that explains this and talks more about blown highlights here.

Once you have an image with a correctly exposed sky and foreground flatten the image and then add a little saturation. This should add a little punch to the shot.

Stunning photo nonetheless, and thanks Dan for your submission,


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