final (larger on Daily Photo)
Anytime I wake up to fog I head to the Montlake Fill, the birding mecca a mile down the hill. I have met dejected photographers there on foggy mornings, with fast 500mm bird photography lenses who would wish the weather were otherwise. With a wide to mid tele zoom, I'm happy to work the sere winter landscape, which only looks better the more dreary it is.
I had been working my usual obsessions—the tangled trees, the bare twigs against still water, the glistening spiderwebs among the alder catkins. I turned and saw a group of runners approaching, and I had about 3 seconds to consider if I was in the right place. I composed from where I was standing, and waited for them to enter the frame. I followed them around the circling path for the next minute and got another dozen frames off, but none of those compare with the first shot in the series. Often the initial reaction is the truest, as it acts before the thinking mind has a chance to mess up the process.
As anyone who has worked in a digital workflow for more than a week knows, the RAW image right out of the camera is the worst your image will ever look. Every image needs a modicum of tweaking. I have a set of default settings that everything gets, and I refine from there.
Image 1 is the right out of the box shot. Image 2 is with my defaults, 5400 color temp, -.55 exposure, up a little on the black and contrast. Image 3 shows what you can do with adjustment brushes.
I wanted the overall look to be coolish, but that mushed down the color of the ground vegetation, so I ramped up the yellow on just that piece of the frame. I didn't like how dense the nearby copse of trees looked, so a second adjustment lowered the contrast on most of the rest of the image. Then I zoomed in and painted a mask on just the runners. I lightly upped the contrast, saturation and sharpness on them.
Nothing happened on Photoshop subsequent to these adjustments. These were quick and modest processing tweaks that brought out the potential in what was already present. I consider them akin to dodging and burning in the darkroom—a straight print off a negative is often the worst your image will ever look.