Winter storm: (sort of) High-Key editing

Are High-Key and snow a good combination? As for my taste, I guess so, since editing the pictures I took during a trip to Allgäu (a beautiful mountain region in southern Bavaria), I immediately went for that style. This enhanced the look& feel oft the scenery, where visibility was so limited, that it almost looked like a foggy day. But soon, I realized, that I needed some stronger contrast to achieve a “winterstormy” feel. That per se is not what High-Key is about, so the results are “(sort of) High-Key” pictures.

The editing process started with the usual adjustment of highlights and shadows, exposure and contrast etc. in Lightroom. To further enhance the look, I worked with clarity/dynamics and the gamma curve. That way, I produced clear and dark elements in the foreground (that weren’t that well visible in the original pictures due to the limited view), whereas the more distant objects like trees or barns almost merge with the white background of the snow or the snow-clouded sky. I also decided to desaturate areas, that contained strong colors in the foreground. In some of the pictures, I had to get rid of unwanted objects like a power pole and its supply lines. I used the repair tools of Lightroom, that in this case were more than sufficient.

Next step was to create the black&white versions. I used a High-Key-preset of Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 and there, too, fine-tuned gamma curve and exposure settings. Final touches (sharpness using Nik’s Output Sharpener, small adjustments to exposure and gamma curve) finished up the editing process. Zooming in to 1:1 view, I realized, that darker objects had a pretty blurry feel – they did not seem as sharp as I would have expected them to be. That effect was created by the heavy contrast between the dark objects and the almost horizontal streaks of the wind-blown snowflakes. Sometimes, that almost looked like major sensor noise, which of course it was not. So one can say, that my “(sort of) High-Key” pictures got an old-fashioned, partial “film noir” look as well…