One of the hardest things to photograph is weather. Atmospheric effects. Fog. You see things with the eye in weather that you just can’t capture in an image.
But you can try.
This valley along the A82 in the Highlands somewhere between Glasgow and Skye was filled with the coming storm, or passing storm on that day, and I was after the veiling effect of the cloud against the mountains on the far side, and that little bit of sun (almost…well at least a lightening in the atmosphere) creeping up the valley ahead of the cloud.
With a shot like this, you do your best in camera but you know that most of the work will be done in post. I counted on the Recovery slider in Lightroom to let me pull detail from the veiling cloud and shot on Programed Auto. As it was, the image required both Recovery, and some fill light, as well as a bit of adjustment of the curve at the high end to balance the light for this effect. I also moved the black point slightly to the right to add intensity. Some Vibrance and Clarity in the Presence panel, and a touch of added saturation for the yellows in the HSL panel. Landscape sharpen preset.
I also applied a slight crop at the left and top…left to eliminate a bit of road and two cars, and then top to balance the composition. This had the advantage of shifting the little grove of trees in the mid-ground off center, which I like.
With all that I got close to what I was after. Close enough. With weather, that is about as close as you get. If I stand back from the memory and just look at the image, I like it!
After some comments, especially concerning hot white area at the upper left (fully saturated) I decided to take another crack at post-processing this image in LightZone. If you don’t know LightZone, it is wonderful tone mapping program, with some very unique features and abilities, not to mention a powerful set of styles: presets which make major effects possible in a single click of the mouse. Though it is designed, like Lightroom for that matter, to work primarily with RAW files, it does wonders for jpegs, if there is enough data in the file. In addition to dealing very effectively with a wide range of light values, it provides local contrast enhancement which can bring out a startling amount of detail in a landscape, pumping up the molding or modeling of even small details until they look much more 3 dimensional.
Take a look at the image below and compare it to the Lightroom version above. In a single click of the “relight” button, LightZone shifted the tone values to bring the burned out white area in the upper left back, but there was evidently enough information even in the burn to provide shading, so that the area was not filled with solid gray. The light now flows naturally from dense cloud cover in the right to misty cloud on the left. I used LightZones sharpen and color tools (adding some luminance and saturation), and finally applied a second relight to pull up shadow values and deepen the molding of details. The result is impressive. Not necessarily more true to life, but certainly striking.
For a larger view, click the image.