What you see is just the beginning of the creative process of making a great image
American photographer Ansell Adams said something like, "If I feel something strongly, I will make a photograph that will be the equivalent of what I saw and felt. When I'm ready to make a photograph, I think I quite obviously see in my mind's eye something that is not literally there." He is expressing something seen from within, rather than just taken from without. Thinking this way makes each photograph your own, and it's how I like to work also. Unlike Ansell, however, I often combine images to create the image I see in my "mind's eye", so I thought I'd share a little of this process of image making.
I call this "Moon Dog Rock", Johanna
This image was unplanned so I was only equipped with one lens on my beach walk that day. As soon as I saw this fantastically shaped rock I wished for my 17mm Tilt Shift (TS) and a tripod! The TS is a specialty architectural lens, but is also great for multiple formats in landscape, as it allows creating formats equivalent to square (1:1), 6x12 (1:2), 6x18 (1:3) and 5x4 (the format of the older view cameras, and a good ratio for landscapes) ie. seeing outside the standard 3:2 frame, which was just not working for me.
I wanted more of the landscape but didn't want to go wider & further back. I wanted the intensity of being close to the rock foreground, as well as the ocean movement & cliffs in the background.
The sea is always moving so I shot several of the water section on the left so I could choose the best version. To make sure the sections of my stitch join up, I rotated from the hips as I shot so keep it all on the same level.
I used Lightroom (Lr) to stitch my images in 3 steps - selecting Photo Merge, then Panorama, then Perspective. I saw this as a gritty black & white image in my mind, so I converted my stitched image to monochrome.
Now this is still far from the image I have in my mind (in homage to Ansell Adams). After adjusting the colour channels in the monochrome conversion I took it to Photoshop CC, adding a sharpening channel using High Pass in hard light mode (Filter-Other-High Pass). But I don't do this globally as I want to keep the sky soft but make the rocks gritty. I use a reversed (black) mask to add selective sharpening only on the rock surfaces and not areas the eye expects to be soft (sky & water). This finally gives me the gritty, high contrast look that reflects the feeling from this coastal landscape.
But there's still more to do to make this a really strong image, and two pairs of eyes can be better than one. Showing this to my astute partner, she said the sky bothers me, it dominates the rock. She was right, a totally blue sky can be boring sometimes! So I searched my library of skies and found some clouds I'd taken on a different visit to this same beach, now the image really "rocked" (see lead image above).
You never stop learning, no matter how long you've been doing this, so it's always good to show your work to another. We don't all see the same way and creative feedback is really helpful.
Nor do we have to accept the limitations of the conditions of the day, or of the equipment we have brought with us. With some curiosity, creative thinking and imagining we can go far beyond what literally presents itself.
So if you're inspired by this and want a little help with your own images, you can contact me for a personal (and supportive) image critique, coaching session or you can join me on my next workshop on our beautiful southwest Victorian coast & Great Ocean Road.