Painting with the camera

The more experience I collect with Adobe Lightroom, the more I realize, how many possibilities I have to express what I call “painting with the camera”. As stated in this blog before, most of the time I do not choose the “journalistic approach” to transport reality with my pictures, but instead try to convey the feelings, a scenery or situation evokes in me.

I’d like to provide an understanding of that thought by using a recent example. I had been visiting the Black Forest – a beautiful region in the southwest of Germany. It was spring, and every morning, the first thing I saw from my balcony, was a stunning view over the hills of a valley called “Glottertal”. Of course, I took pictures of this scenery, where the rays of the sun were already chasing away the last bits of morning mist.

But the pictures from the camera (although I tried various exposures) in no way caught my feelings: the soft touch of the sun in my face, the fresh air, the hills, that dissolved in a blue-ish blur. So I started to experiment with Lightroom, altered exposure and contrast, fine-tuned blacks and highlights, the gamma-curve, saturation and luminance, and, as a final touch, used the adjustment brush to make the vanishing patches of fog visible. Below, you can view a comparison between the original picture and the final version (use your mouse to drag the slider across the picture):

A/B comparison of the unprocessed raw & the final picture

Black Forest Morning Mist (original) Black Forest Morning Mist

Now, you might ask: “isn’t this picture over-processed”? I would say, it is not. Already, by just working with the basic tools of Lightroom (exposure, contrast, gamma, saturation, luminance etc.) I could “restore” much of what the camera already had caught (btw., I am always stunned, how much detail is retained in those raw files). And even by working with the adjustment brush, it did not take huge amounts of alteration to bring out the patches of fog.

Much of the impact of the picture is created by the dark tree-branches in the foreground – I enhanced these with the adjustment-brush, too, to create that silhouette-like effect. Interestingly enough, most of the people I showed the picture to, immediately came up with the name of 19th-century german romantic landscape painterCaspar David Friedrich. I would never dare to compare my photo with his art, but isn’t it at least a nice hint, that I seemed to have achieved my goal of “painting with the camera” a bit?

Finally, let me take you to a photographic journey through my week in the Black Forest…