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Make your own mood

Image of the September 2019 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more articles from the
September 2019 Issue

Editing tricks can create interest in even the most boring light conditions.

Good outdoor photography is all about interesting light. Unfortunately, our control over light conditions in the great outdoors is limited. On some days we are stuck in the undesirable middle ground between golden sunsets and the gloom of angry rain clouds – light, flat as a pancake and clouds with no detail turn the world dreary due to a lack of contrast. But there are ways to spice up the look of your images back at home or even on the trail.

Turn up the heat
Changing the white balance setting either in-camera or on your computer can help to warm up the mood of an overcast day. If you’re planning white balance changes back at home, make sure to record RAW images, since they allow for more control in post-production.

Go classy
Most modern cameras offer a wide range of creative options. Black and white simulations, sepia filters or classy film looks can go a long way towards compensating for boring light conditions.

DIY sunshine
Your post-production approach should always strive towards amplifying existing conditions. A rainy day will never look like a sunny afternoon, but why not give a partly overcast sun a nudge by boosting its intensity?

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Left to right: Flat lighting can leave photographers wanting more; Desaturated colours and boosted sepia tones helped achieve this autumnal edit. Photo: Dennis Radermacher

Camera: Fujifilm X-T2
Lens: Fujifilm XF16-55
Settings: 55mm, ISO200, f8, 1/200s

The Breakdown
When I took this image, Canterbury’s high country was blessing us with yet another featureless layer of high cloud. I decided to shoot at the long end of my lens and from a low angle to emphasise the layering of grass and rock, thus drawing attention into the foreground. Since the resulting image had next to no colour, I pushed the white balance setting way up in post-production until it looked ridiculously yellow. This was compensated by desaturating the image to achieve a nice sepia look that still retained some of the greens and blues in my subject’s clothing.

The light was mostly flat with just a hint of direction from the left. I added a spot of brightness and haze in the top left corner of the frame to simulate faint sunlight bleeding into the image. The resulting image is more creative than documentary in nature, but I much prefer the autumnal feel over the dreariness of the original.

– Dennis is a commercial photographer and teaches photography here.