Processing Green

I mentioned before that I felt pretty much overwhelmed by the insane amounts of green in Germany, and I thought this photo and the different stages of editing may illustrate what I mean. This is something that I normally don’t do anymore – a before/after comparison (and to round it off, I throw in an “SOOC” as well).

This is the topmost cascade of the waterfalls of the Gutach creek at Triberg in the Black Forest region in Germany’s southwest (the whole series of photos is on my website: Triberg Waterfalls).

It was an overcast day with light drizzle – which is an awesome condition to photograph scenes like these: the light is very even, there’s no dappled direct sunlight breaking through the foliage creating an insane contrast range, and most of all, everything was moist and lush, and that really bumped the perceived saturation – I did not use a polarizer for the photo, only a 6-stop neutral density filter to get a longer exposure and blur the water considerably. The ND filters of course mess with the color balance but I found that the D800’s auto white balance handles the shift introduced by such filters remarkably well.

The first image is pretty much what the photo looked like after importing it into Lightroom (I reverted to this from the v1 version to have the same crop and sharpening). I only applied a -1 exposure compensation to get the brightness to the correct level (I’m trying to expose to the right). And I’m afraid to say that this is really a quite accurate rendition of the scene! White balance could perhaps be a bit more into the green side (tint is at +30) but other than that – yep.

The second image is not dramatically different from it, I worked on the highlights to get more detail in the water, and the whole image has a bit more structure. The green has actually be desaturated in this version (and the hue shifted). This was the photo that I originally shared (on Flickr), and that was how I edited the whole series (link above).

And as it happens so very often, after a good night’s sleep I looked at the images again and found them just incredibly boring, and without any character. There had to be more – I wanted to reduce these in-your-face greens, but at the same time elevate and transport the feeling of this beautiful waterfall rushing through the lush, almost enchanted forest. This involved juggling all the different parameters in Lightroom that affect the color balance (HSL panel, split toning, camera calibration) – and I’m quite happy with how it turned out.

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2 Comments

  1. I find it interesting that the second version here you describe as an “accurate rendition of the scene” – and yet you still find it a bit much. I am curious if you always have done this with the greens in similar scenes or if your time in Southern California has shaped your ideas on colour somewhat?

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    1. I’ve been asking that myself but I don’t know, Michael. I do know for sure that I never really liked how the green initially come out. I always tweaked them to some degree.

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