Fine-Tuning Your Colours

‘Herringfleet Mill’, Herringfleet, Suffolk
Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF14mm f/2.8 R, Manual Mode, 1/15 seconds @ f/11, ISO 200
LEE Seven5 2-stop Neutral Density Graduated Filter.
Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 tripod, Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head.
Panoramic Stitch. Adobe Lightroom.

“For effective expression of mood in landscape photography, colour reigns supreme.”

Fine-Tuning Your Colours

The digital process provides so much control, all instantly available at our fingertips, that sometimes the creative choices can feel overwhelming. Colour rendering is one facet of the digital process that is so pivotal to the success or otherwise of an image, so profoundly important, that obsessive immersion in this aspect of workflow pays massive dividends. Look at the work of any of the top colour landscape photographers and you will repeatedly find subliminal subtle nuances relating to depiction of colour. For effective expression of mood in landscape photography, colour reigns supreme.

Even within a single application like Adobe Lightroom, there is an extensive array of tools at our disposal for meticulous honing of hues. The first choices available within the ‘Basic’ panel of the ‘Develop’ module relate to whether we wish to create a colour image rather than convert to black and white, and whether we wish to compensate for any particular environmental colour temperature at the time of image capture. These choices have an obvious effect on prevalent hues within our image, but all of the adjustments made to exposure, contrast, white-point, black-point, saturation and even clarity, have a part to play. Moving through the other panels of the ‘Develop’ module, with few exceptions, just about any change we make has a bearing on colour expression.

There are two panels within the Lightroom ‘Develop’ module worthy of special mention: the ‘Split Toning’ panel provides evocative emphasis of certain hues in either the shadows, the highlights, or both; and the ‘Camera Calibration’ panel offers equally powerful possibilities. Creative experimentation within the calibration panel is not just limited to choice of camera profile, but it also allows expression of the primary colours, selectively saturating or desaturating them, and we can also fine tune the tint of hues emphasised in the shadows along a green to magenta sliding scale; a variable that is too often ignored by those of us obsessed with colour temperature which, crudely put, only adjusts on an orange to blue basis.

We arrived at Herringfleet before sunrise, hoping to capture a captivating chorus of colour. Alas, such a display was not to be, cloud cover resulted in a more melancholic metamorphosis. In order to capture this smiling ‘U’ shaped dyke without the benefit of a high ladder, I needed to move in close, necessitating an extreme wide-angle of view. The widest lens available was my 14mm prime, so I captured a series of images with the camera vertical, and stitched them together using Lightroom CC. The resultant DNG file was then split-toned to achieve a more painterly colour-palette.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.