Words and images by David Clapp
The never ending autumnal glade of golden perfection, does it actually exist? Well I have to say my explorations so far have left me believing otherwise. Just like bluebells in springtime, the dreamy effect of a forest wonderland free from uncluttered branches and bushes still remains a fantasy.
A few years ago I got so fed up with being in the New Forest that I drove home again in just 48hours. To add to the compositional problems, there were tripods everywhere. I meandered round those flat heathland roads being overtaken by cyclists on carbon fibre road bikes, chin resting on the steering wheel, waiting for inspiration to crash into the van. Then the penny dropped. There is no perfect Autumn forest, it’s just pockets of colour, careful processing, the truth bent with the temperature slider...
So with that in mind, here’s a few top processing tips to get your images advancing a week or so early.
Firstly go straight for the temperature slider. The camera’s auto white balance will try to cool the warm colours, but here is what the scene actually looked like. Getting there but about a week off:
Step 1: Adjust the temperature
Grab the temperature slider and advance forwards in time. In this situation a temperature of around 6500k did the job without going too far.
Step 2: Add a soft focus effect
Now let’s add some more ‘Ortonising’ effect to add a dreamy soft focus effect – Duplicate the layer then add Gaussian Blur – Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur and set the slider to around 30.
Step 3: Play with levels
Now go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and push the mid tone slider to the left, around 2. Then go to the Layers Palette and change the Layer Blend Mode to Soft Light.
Step 4: Add a Layer Mask
Select the Brush Tool and apply the soft focus effect sparingly. Remember the effect will look far more apparent on a hi-res image. The golds and reds will now have a beautiful and very subtle diffused effect.
Now go downstairs and check on the dog, grab a chocolate bar and check you haven't overdone the processing on your return.
Remember when Sharpening for Web, that the effect can often slightly desaturate the colours, so go to Image > Image Adjustments > Hue/Saturation and add a fractional increase to the Reds, about +7.
It's a far cry from the original isn't it. Remember this Autumn, that with some subtle Photoshop skills you can turn your forest shooting into beautiful images, instead of driving around and round and round with a stroppy face. Remember to toot your horn if you see me.
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