Hi everyone and welcome to today’s post. Fall color is just around the corner and we may see the full display by the end of next week. So while I wait for nature to take its course in the next few weeks I am bring you some intense color of a different type. Many of you who follow this blog, and my work, know that I have shot quite extensively in Antelope Canyon. I love the sinuous curving formations and how light plays off the sandstone walls. It is light that brings the canyons to life. I other posts I have talked about some of the lighting in slot canyons including bounce, or reflected light, chiaroscuro light, and blue light. All can have a dramatic impact on your shot. Today I am going to show you what happens when you apply some creative White Balance Settings in-camera during your exposures.
But first just a small bit on Color Temperature which , in photography, is often associated with White Balance. Essentially color temperature is a characteristic of the visible light that we see, or in some cases, we don’t see. Color temperature is conventionally stated in the unit of absolute temperature, K, on the Kelvin Scale. Color temperatures over 5,000K are called cool colors (blueish white), while lower color temperatures, 2,700–3,200 K, are called warm colors (yellow white to red). In photography, the daylight or normal color temperature, is deemed to be 5000K. If you set your White Balance selector on your camera to Daylight Setting you will be shooting at 5000K. But what happens when you go indoors and shoot with incandescent lights on a 5000K setting? Your image will appear very warm and red/orange. If you lower your White Balance Setting to Tungsten, somewhere around 3200K you can compensate for the warmer color and render the scene more naturally. In this case you are bringing the color down from the warmer side of the spectrum to the cooler side.
You can use this information to do some creative White Balance shooting in your photography. Today’s image was shot in two separate exposures-one at 5500K, what I call my “normal” White Balance for slot canyons, and one at 2500K to bring the warm tones down to a bluer color. I can then combine the two files to create a dynamic image expressing blues in the shadows and oranges in the warmer highlights. When I looked at the “blue” image I noticed I picked up some slight magenta tones which gave me the opportunity to process a third, magenta toned, image to use in the composition. The resulting blending in Photoshop would give me an image that moves from blue to magenta to orange. So lets take a look at the files I processed to achieve the final image.
Image 1: This is the first image shot with a White Balance setting of 5500K. I typically shoot just at a WB of 5500K for most of my work and make adjustments depending on the light conditions. You will need to check your manuals for setting a custom WB. On the Sony a900 I can set this right from the main menu screen. On the Nikon D3x I can set this from the WB controls on the back of the camera. Both cameras also give you the opportunity to adjust the color temperature further with by hinting the color towards the Green or Magenta side. Setting this to zero is fine.
Image 2: In RAW processing of Image 1 I increased the WB to 5800K and made some adjustments to the Green/Magenta Tint using the slider in Lightroom. The intent here was to brighten up the warm tones.
Image 4: This is the second shot in my bracket set and was made with the camera WB at 2500K. This is below the Tungsten Setting of 3200K. In a situation like this, having shot so much in slots, I go for a lower K-number as I can get much cooler tones in the shadows. You can just note a hint of magenta color in the far part of the image. This led to processing out a third image to accentuate this color.
Image 3: This is the Magenta file processed from Image 4. For this I simply raised the WB in Lightroom to 3500K and adjusted the Tint Slider more towards Magenta.
You will notice that after all the adjustments the final files used for the blend all have the same relative luminosity and tonal consistency. Other than the various changes for WB and Tint the RAW processing for each file was the same. I applied the same development to the curves, noise reduction, and pre-sharpening. This must all be the same so the file set can blend together properly. When I was satisfied with each file I returned to the Library Module in Lightroom, selected the three files and then went to Photo > Open as Layers in Photoshop. All three files were processed and placed in Photoshop in a Layer Stack. The Layer stack for this image is shown below.
I ordered the files going from warm to cool in the Layer Stack. For this processing I preferred this as I wanted to paint on top of the warm file as I felt I could see the changes better visually. I added a Layer Mask filled with Black for the Magenta and Blue Layers. Using the White Reveals and Black Hides concept I went from Layer Mask to Layer Mask painting in and out the color changes until I reached a blend I liked. I used a soft brush and adjusted the size and opacity as I worked on the various layers. It is important when blending files like this to pay attention to the Blend Zones – the areas where the colors overlap. Here you must be subtle and work the masks to eliminate hard edges.
Each of the Layers also had a Selective Color Layer where I adjusted the color intensity. Keep in mind this is a salt to taste function. For this file I wanted more intensity in the colors so I pumped up the blue and magenta. I finished off the file by setting the White and Black Point, adding several Curve adjustments, Dodging and Burning, and Creative Sharpening. Dodging and Burning is an important Layer as painting in darker and lighter tomes adds additional detail and helps to blend in color at Blend Zones.
Technical Details: The image was shot with a Sony α900 and a Zeiss 24-70mm lens at 28mm. The image was exposed at ISO 100 at f16 for 1.0 seconds.
If you have any questions on this post just send me an e-mail. Thanks as always for visiting and supporting this blog.