Crossroads, or why overexposing isn’t always bad

Image EXIF Data

  • Date Taken: 01 Jan 2015, 13:53:14
  • Camera: M Monochrom
  • Focal Length: 50
  • Aperture: f/16
  • ISO: 320
  • Shutter Speed: 1/180 second

As much as a lovely blue sky is nice to look at, for a photographer it makes a pretty boring background in a landscape shot, specially if you shot in black and white. The top of the frame gets very uniform and the observer’s eye gets quickly bored.

So, when fog rose from the valley this day, I was rather pleased, as it promised some interesting shots. It was just a pitty that the interesting scene was in my back, right against the sun. But I noticed that the quickly moving fog was about to create some nice shadowplay on the snow in front of me. I also liked the lines the trails drew in the fresh snow and the fact that on each trail were just a few people.

Now, when you shoot landscape covered in snow, do yourself a favor and don’t let the camera choose the exposure as you most likely end up with an underexposed shot. If you don’t have an external lightmeter to take an incident reading, meter for the bright snow and then open up by at least 1.5 stops.

I used my external light meter and took a reading of the very bright patch of snow in the middle of the shot, and then “exposed to the right”, increasing by 2.5 stops from there, which is about as far as I dare to on the Monochrom.

I know, not the usual way to treat your highlights :)

I know, not the usual way to treat your highlights 🙂

Back at home in Lightroom I used the settings you see on the left to get the overal image as close as to my vision as I could. The treatment of the Highlights and Whitepoint is a bit unorthodox for a high key shot, but it results in lovely shades of very light greys.

One thing I start to learn with black and white photography is what a very important tool local adjustments in Lightroom are. Just like in the old days when you dodged and burned your print in the darkroom to guide the viewer’s eye through the shot.

For this scene I darkened the treeline and then painted over the shadows on the snow. Once I was happy, it was over to Silver Efex and then back into Lightroom to remove sensor dust and then some more local adjustments.

Shot after first treatment in Lightroom

After first treatment in Lightroom. Getting close, but not yet where I want it to be.

Original shot, right after importing into Lightroom

And here for your reference, the shot how it looked right after importing into Lightroom. Looks terribly overexposed on a first glance, but as no highlights are clipped, its a great starting point


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