Arkansas Wildlife Blog and Gallery
Buffalo National River and NW Arkansas
I would not rate myself as a Photoshop expert, but I learn what I need to know to get some decent results under very bad conditions. My #1 challenge in Boxley Valley is recovering detail in foggy photos. They are a real bugger to deal with, but I have learned some things, I had to to survive. I would be real interested to hear from other photographers on their strategies with these difficult photos.
Shoot It Right, Shoot RAW
The first and most basic strategy begins before you open the file up to process. I have learned a couple of things in the field. First, as I have said elsewhere, I shoot in RAW mode, period. RAW will give you the best shot at getting a great result. RAW gives you a file that contains everything that your camera sensor can give. I shoot only RAW, all the time. Shooting JPEGs is fine if you have great light, but RAW gives you total control. I believe it also gives you more room for error in your exposures. We all make errors in difficult, changing light.
Shoot whatever ISO you need to get a decent starting point. I bounce between ISO 400 and 800, and I spend quite a bit of time in ISO 1600. I admit you get more noise, but camera shake is worse and I hand hold a long lens. There are strategies and software to remove high ISO noise that do pretty well.
I swear some of my exposures are punishment for an earlier life. Open that morning photo up and you are looking at this silvery mess hanging over your subject. You can see the detail back there "behind the veil", but seriously, these photos don't print right unless you want "moody", London fog kind of stuff.
First, I open the photo in Camera RAW. There are four major issues I look at, color temp, contrast, saturation, and noise. I have listed the settings I used in Camera RAW with this photo. These are starting points, they pretty much reflect what I am trying to do, rather than what I always do.
Noise reduction makes a big difference, and sharpening adds still more to the clarity and creates highlights. These few steps give a pretty good result.
Editing Foggy Pictures
Camera RAW 4.5 Adjustment Settings:
Color temp 5650 (tweaked from cloudy)
Fill Light 20
After running noiseware.
It is interesting to see the transformation. What looks like it should be deleted can be recovered for a decent result. Generally after the noiseware, and before the sharpening (sharpening should always be last as most know), I fool around with overall toning and enhancement of the picture. Lately I have started using Viveza for these very local adjustments. I like to take the color off to simulate Ectachrome or Velvia, or some concoction of my own making. (Not done here BTW.)
My basic advice is this. Shoot in RAW, don't delete things that look bad at first glance. Work on them in Camera RAW, then noise reduction, and go from there. This picture was taken in light I would not prefer, but I think the resulting image is fairly credible and worth "grinding" on after noise reduction while still in the 16 bit color space.
Stay in the 16 bit space until the last adjustment is made, then sharpen your image. I am sure you will be surprised what you can do with images you imagine are hopeless.
I would be interested in hearing what others do with these challenges.