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Thread: Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

  1. #1
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    I've been doing a bit of experimentation in photographic snow scenes, and I am getting to a point where I am up against a bit of a wall when it comes to PP work. Here are my issues:

    A. Snow is white and a great reflector. This creates two problems. It reduces shadow detail to the point where snow can look like a big. boring homogeneous mass of white. Boring images. We can play with our adjustments in PP to increase shadow detail; but this adds a grey overtone to the image. Snow should look white, not grey...

    B. Our eyes are naturally drawn to the light parts of the image, which in a scene containing snow, it is rarely the subject matter. A classical way of focusing the viewers attention in this type of situation is to add a vignette; usually we tend to darken the corners of the image to draw the viewers eyes to the centre of the image. This tends to make the snowy areas look grey, and again our brains tell us snow is not grey...


    Three examples of where I am coming from:

    1. Out of the camera image with a tiny bit of sharpening and exposure adjustment - in my view this results in an image that needs some help as per points A and B above. Even here, there is an element of grey in the snow:

    Conundrum - PP with a snow scene



    2. After a bit of PP work (mostly using the Nik Contrast Enhancer filter); I get to the issue I mentioned in Point A. I get more detail in the snow, but this means I have introduced more grey. While this introduces shadow detail, I find I am still not as focused on the subject as I would like.

    Conundrum - PP with a snow scene


    3. Here is where I have introduced what I consider to be a fairly light vignette, but the effect is immenidate and the image takes on the grey overtones that says "not snow", but I do direct the viewers eyes to the subject.


    Conundrum - PP with a snow scene



    So, are there any suggestions on alternative approaches that might give me a better image? I'm rather hiitting my head against the wall here. I suspect the problem may be difficult to solve as I really am trying to trade off two conflicting issues.

  2. #2
    Wayland's Avatar
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    Re: Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    The first thing to remember is that snow is not white, it is reflective and we therefore usually perceive it as white.

    In shade it often reflects the blue of the sky, at sunrise it can be pink and at sunset it may be red, orange or purple. More often than not it is just a light shade of grey.

    There is nothing wrong with grey snow in a picture providing it is light enough to look in keeping with the lighting.

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    Clactonian's Avatar
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    Re: Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    You could maybe consider some selective blur to the foreground and background to isolate the subject, but you'll need to be careful, otherwise it will look very false.

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    Re: Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    beautiful photo... I think #2 looks perfect

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    Re: Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    Manfred what about it on two layers, one layer from snow and one for deer. Get the deer bold and darker so they really standout against the background than mask out the surrounding so the other layers snow only come through. Yes our eyes go to the light when there are dark areas, however if it is a white bright backgound and has a dark element than our yes will go to that. Like a puck on white ice surface you do not see the white but you see the black puck because that is what stands out, could work.

    Cheers:

    Allan

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    Re: Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    You could (according to the histogram) push the white a bit more (lower the white point): the maximum in the histogram
    seems to be at 220, and there's almost nothing above 240. That would help with the gray impression.

    And to get texture, you know that you need some directional light. The light here seems very diffuse.

    And personally, I find that in a high-key image, I'm mostly drawn to the darker zones (them being different). And here, the
    darkest zone is the pine tree(?). So Allan's suggestion about darkening the deer could work as well.

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    Re: Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    3. Here is where I have introduced what I consider to be a fairly light vignette, but the effect is immenidate and the image takes on the grey overtones that says "not snow"
    For me, everything about this image says that this is most definitely snow...and very naturally looking snow. I wonder if you need to get away from the image for a few days to a week. I believe that if I had post-processed this image exactly this way, you would have felt that the snow looks very natural. In other words, I wonder if you have become so aware of every little change you made that each change seems to be more dramatic to yourself than to your viewers.

    I can't wait to see what Steve (Steve S) has to say about this. He regularly confronts exactly this situation with snow and deer and deals with it very well. If he doesn't eventually show up here, I recommend that you PM him.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    Thanks for all the comments. I was happy with the image, but someone who saw it thought that the snow did not look bright enough, so I thought I would ask the other folks here on CiC for their thoughts.

    I didn't think there was a "magic bullet" here; I've been shooting snowy scenes for decades and thought I know how to handle it, but I guess that comment took me off guard a bit. That being said, I'm always on the lookout for new ways of doing things, so thanks for the suggestions.

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    Re: Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    Perhaps the only way to get your shot to what you want or what you thought you saw is to use some brushes and selectively add the contrast. Snow has always been a problem for many of us who live with it so many months out of the year. It's one of the most difficult things for me to capture. Many times you have to make a decision on what you are going to emphasize in the photo and adjust your exposure for only part of the frame while the rest is left to be over or under exposed. As with many other opportunities it comes down to the quality of the light. The easiest for me has always been the bright sunny days. Direction and height of the light are also important factors. Consider your same shot on a clear day with the sun low and to the left. The deer (caribou?) would be brighter and shadows in the foreground and background would be a bit more defined. Also consider what I think is the most important fact. What colour is the snow really? We all know about the variances in the colour of light and how our eyes and brains make adjustments so that things appear white to us in everything from incandescent to fluorescent light. We are all used to that in our photography and make colour temperature checks or changes on just about every edited photo. This is no different. As Wayland has mentioned the colour of things is what is reflected. If your snow is being lit by a grey overcast day then it can't be reflecting just white. It's very drab and lacks texture. I've had a few falls on the ski hill for exactly the same reason. In very diffused light you sometimes realize there was a large bump there only after you're in the air. If you are curious about how much the difference there can be in the colour temperature of snow take some shots with a grey card in varying conditions from high noon bright to sunset to light overcast to heavy overcast and edit for the card. I had to do that in Jr High and it's a good exercise for all northerners.

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    Re: Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    A couple of things to try manfred...........................


    1. Add some gamma. About +0.10 to 0.15 should prob. do. This will brighten the shadow detail and reduce the contrast a little.

    2. Reduce the contrast more by raising the shadow detail and decreasing the highlights. I use the curves tool and make a reverse S curve. This will further reduce the contrast and get the shadows and highlights to a closer exposure.

    3. Next you need to get some of that contrast back, because now the image is a little flat. To do this, I increase the blacks and add LCE ( you may even want to bump the clarity a little as well. ). I also add a couple of very mild vignettes to draw some focus to the subject and add some large scale contrast.

    4. Some dodge and burn to lighten up or darken some areas a little.




    Personally , i think your edit looks pretty darn good. Snow in the shade, has a grey cast, and is normal.

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    Re: Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    In essence, you need to drive apart similar levels in the high tones to produce contrast. I had a quick play in ACR ... maxed out the exposure to the point of clipping and then brought the lights slider all the way down - and then tweaked darks and shadows to push the midtones. A few GNDs to give a vignette, output sharpen, and here's what I came up with ...

    Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

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    Re: Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    In essence, you need to drive apart similar levels in the high tones to produce contrast. I had a quick play in ACR ... maxed out the exposure to the point of clipping and then brought the lights slider all the way down - and then tweaked darks and shadows to push the midtones. A few GNDs to give a vignette, output sharpen, and here's what I came up with ...

    Conundrum - PP with a snow scene
    Snow looks good colin, but you lost all the detail in the deer . (grey deer )

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    Re: Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve S View Post
    Snow looks good colin, but you lost all the detail in the deer . (grey deer )
    They look ok my end.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    Thanks Steve and Colin - now that Easter is over and I'm back home, I will play around with your suggestions.

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    Re: Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    Thanks Steve and Colin - now that Easter is over and I'm back home, I will play around with your suggestions.
    No worries. Keep in mind too that if you present it with a black matte then it'll make any gray look a lot brighter.

  16. #16
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    Re: Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    Hi, Manfred;

    What I will sometimes do with shots that have a lot of snow in them is edit in black and white (I use Power Retouche's "Black and White Studio" plug in) on the top layer and edit for the color elements on a lower level.


    Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    Quote Originally Posted by John Morton View Post
    Hi, Manfred;

    What I will sometimes do with shots that have a lot of snow in them is edit in black and white (I use Power Retouche's "Black and White Studio" plug in) on the top layer and edit for the color elements on a lower level.


    Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    Thanks John - I assume you do this to ensure that the snow is totally neutral?

  18. #18
    John Morton's Avatar
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    Re: Conundrum - PP with a snow scene

    Hi, Manfred;

    Actually my intent in doing that is to edit the snowy areas with the equivalent of multigrade filters, which the plug-in I use provides. That way I can treat the snow as if it were a low contrast black and white scene, and pull out subtle gradations in tone which would be lost with a higher contrast treatment. This allows for the use of a multigrade filter equivalent of, say, anywhere between 0 and 2.

    Any tonal qualities the snow has picked up from ambient lighting can be treated with the rest of the image colors on the bottom layer, and united with the tonal distinctions defined through the black and white layer in the final photograph when the two layers are brought back together.

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