The Icelandic landscape is often cold, spectacular and very windy. This afternoon it was all three. It was the end of a long day’s shooting and across the road from the hotel was this black lava beach, a late afternoon sun and a loud, crashing surf.
The water drained through the coarse lava sand in seconds, so I was running in after each crashing wave to capture the reflection in the sand before it disappeared. So I was mildly disappointed that the RAW file looked a bit flat.
So here’s a new ‘interpretation’ in Capture One, using two radial filters to enhance the key areas of the picture, some white balance adjustments to warm up the colors and some back-and-forth editing that often happens as I work towards a finished result.
The reality of editing and re-editing
This often happens. Very often you don’t know how much of an adjustment to make until you’ve applied others – and then you often need to go back and re-edit a setting you’ve already made.
This is the great advantage of non-destructive photo-editors like Capture One. All your adjustments happen in parallel, not in sequence, so it doesn’t much matter which you do first and it makes it much easier to ‘evolve’ an image to the result you want.
It is Capture One that’s being used here, but the same tools and techniques can be used across a range of programs, including Lightroom, Exposure X, ON1 Photo RAW and more.
01 A radial filter for the surf
So this is the first step, creating a radial mask over the surf in this scene, which I’ve then elongated horizontally along the beach. In Capture One, using the radial mask tool automatically creates a new adjustment layer , visible over in the Layers panel on the left of the screen. You can rename layers in Capture One, which is really useful for going back over what you’ve done later.
02 Darkening the outer areas
In Capture One, the radial mask protects the inner area by default, so adjustments apply outside that area. I can set to work straight away, reducing the Exposure value to tone down the sky and increasing the Saturation to give it more depth.
03 White Balance and Clarity
I want the sky to be warmer and more pronounced, so the next step is to increase the White Balance Temperature value and boost the Clarity.
04 Adjusting the background
Now I can see that the surf itself looks quite dull and ‘cold’. I could create a new radial mask for this area alone, but it’s just as easy to swap back to the background image by selecting it in the Layers palette and then applying some adjustments here. I’ve increased the Exposure, shifted the White Balance to match the rest of the image and added some Clarity.
05 Back to the sky layer
Lightening the background image as a whole has also lightened the first adjustments, so I can just go back to that ‘sky’ layer and reduce the Exposure to compensate. This is typical of the ‘to and fro’ editing that many images need as you build up the final look.
06 Enhancing the rock stacks
These adjustments have left the distant rock stacks, perhaps a key focal point in this picture, looking quite weak. I can use another very wide, narrow radial mask for this, but there’s a difference. This time I need to adjust the area INSIDE the mask, not outside it. In Capture One you do this by right-clicking the mask button for the new layer and choosing ‘Invert Mask’.
07 Finishing adjustments
Four quick adjustments bring this small area around the rock stacks in line with the rest of the image: maximum Contrast and Clarity, a generous saturation increase and a white balance warm-up with the Kelvin slider.