Sometimes the shots you think you will like from a trip fall to the bottom of the pile pretty quickly. A few weeks ago I was out near Pitt Lake hoping for some good sunset alpenglow on Mt. Blandshard (aka the ‘Golden Ears’). Burke Mountain ate up a lot of the direct light when the sun went low in the sky, and clouds obscured the top of the Mt. Blandshard peaks. What resulted was a rather bland panorama. Two years ago I would have been happy with it, but now I know it is a throwaway more or less – not bad but nothing special about it.
This was one of those times when suddenly the light just goes away. Turning around I saw the scene above – dark clouds with nice orange colours underneath. Thankfully I have just enough zoom in the 70-200 to show the detail of the treetops which I think adds extra dimension to the shot.
Alpenglow on Mount Redoubt and Nodoubt Peak from Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park (click for larger version) 6 exposures stitched, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM @ 144mm
When I spend time shooting I will normally take a quick overview of the days results immediately. There are often a few shots that will stand out – and those are often processed and sometimes show up here on the blog right away. I have learned that taking a long step back from a series of new photos can be beneficial to me in terms of my objectivity in culling the weaker shots. If I were to go through all the shots immediately I still carry my mental image of what I had planned for a photo. Not everything I try works out of course, and sometimes my initial expectations turn out to be too high. Sorting and processing images a month or two later gives me a lot better perspective of what is a “good” shot or a bad one – as many of my initial expectations have settled down. This has generally worked out so far – and I think I am better at choosing strong images than I used to be in part because of it.
I recently had an experience where the month+ delay in processing a panorama didn’t really seem to help. I processed and stitched this panorama 3-4 times – never quite happy with the colour of the sky. Things got to the point where I was no long able to view the photo at all objectively.
For this particular panorama I stood in the snow next to Chilliwack Lake for over an hour, freezing, taking the odd shot but waiting for the right light. When it came – I shot about 3 panoramas (and many single shots) with a few different compositions. I like the composition of this one the best. The colour of the sky seemed quite purple compared to what my brain was telling me looked “natural”. This could be a case of over analysis – but I try to process images such that they are faithful to what I saw at the time. So I processed the 6 shots that make up this image again in Camera Raw with some PS adjustments to account for the colour. Then I did this again. Still not happy I put the image away for a few more weeks. I should note the purple color is present in the raw file – not as a result of some other colour processing I have done.
Now that I have picked up this panorama again, I am still not sure if this looks natural. I like the colour on the mountain peaks, this is how it looked when I was there – but the sky still bothers me. I have stared at it so long I no longer remember what it looked like in person – perhaps that is the downside in waiting to do post processing? Maybe I just have to drop an image for longer or toss it entirely? I again processed an alternate panorama – taken about 7 minutes before the one posted above – and the sky looks bland and the clouds undefined – the whole image is uninspiring.
So what is the good thing about all this?
During this process I learned a few more Photoshop techniques that I otherwise would not have. Tweaking sky colours using Selective Color in Photoshop, for example. Next time I have a sky colour problem as a result of changing colour temperature etc – I know how to fix it. I have also learned that sometimes I might need to move on from processing an image that just isn’t right – or leave it behind entirely.
Recently the mountains of the Fraser Valley had a good snowfall so I headed out there to see what I could photograph. I parked myself next to the Chilliwack River for an hour or so and having failed to entirely freeze at that location I moved once again on towards Chilliwack Lake.
I had to park outside of the gates again as Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park is closed this time of year. The walk in was much uglier than last time – no tire treads to walk in on. I followed some tracks left by a (much smarter and prepared) person with snowshoes. As I took each uneven, slippery step I vowed to never do this again wearing only trail running shoes and jeans in a cold -10°C (14°F) with a windchill estimated at about -20°C (-4°F). A good parka and toque don’t really make up for freezing the lower half of ones body. So despite freezing and stumbling I did manage to get there in time to catch some of the last light on Mount Redoubt/Nodoubt Peak. A more interesting shot than last time – with clouds swirling around the peaks and a great alpenglow.
A few days ago I drove out to Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park to see if I could get a view of Mount Redoubt in the not so distant North Cascades National Park. Last time I was there it was fall and there was little snow on the peaks. This time I had a bit more than I bargained for as the park gate was closed and we had to hike in from the road. There was also about 8 inches of snow on the ground which I was not expecting. I shot about 200 exposures, a lot of panoramas of Mt. Redoubt, and some wider shots like the one above.
On the far left we have Mount Edgar. In the middle: Mount Redoubt (left peak) and Nodoubt Peak (right peak). Mt. Redoubt and Nodoubt Peak are actually in North Cascades National Park in Washington State while Chilliwack Lake is in British Columbia.
Still not sure about how I feel about this particular shot. I really like some of the panoramas, which I will post soon, but my post processing skills and the colour of the sky in some of them are still locked in a battle of wills.