Photo Story: Out of the Blue

We’ve made our first photo tour to the Canadian Rockies last year and it was a real blast! Athabasca Falls are just one of the many highlights of this amazing piece of land. And now, I’m gonna show what all is hidden behind this picture.

1/ RAW File and Essential Adjustments

The picture was captured during the cloudy day. The very RAW image was dark and rough. It looks as follows:

Canadian Rockies - Athabasca Falls - RAW file

As I use Capture One instead of Lightroom, I do basic adjustments out there. My goal is to dig the most information out of RAW file as possible so the resulting image is the opposite of cool and sexy 🙂

Canadian Rockies - Athabasca Falls - TIFF file

I mostly neutralize white balance, then in case of such dark image I increase brightness, decrease contrast a bit, lower down highlights and lighten shadows. Then I’m doing basic adjustments of sharpening and noise reduction settings. After the essentials are finished, I export the image into TIFF and perform all other adjustments and retouching in Photoshop.

2/ Cleaning

Landscape pictures are typically clean enough as they’ve been captured, but even though I do at least a bit of cleaning to simplify the picture. In this case, I’ve removed some branches along the water I didn’t like.

Canadian Rockies - Athabasca Falls - Cleaning

3/ Local Contrast & Coloring Adjustments

Once the picture is cleaned, I can perform local contrast adjustments and a little bit of color adjustments. As you can see, by adding local contrast I’ve highlighted the structure of the rocks and the river to make it look wilder and more dramatic. As I like dark mood pictures, I’ve darkened too light parts and put primary focus on the wild river. I’ve also desaturated and shifted colors a bit of the trees and the river in order to deliver decent surreal look.

Canadian Rockies - Athabasca Falls - Contrast & Coloring

4/ Mastering

The last phase is the fastest, but also has the biggest visual impact. I tuned up final colors and contrast within the picture as a whole. I tweaked up highlights and shadows separately. And added vignette to emphasize the wild river and hide less important parts around. Finally, I’ve added decent film look and little bit of sharpening to deliver the crispy image and highlight details of the river and the rocks even more.

Athabasca Falls in the Canadian Rockies by Lukas Burkon