“Know the difference between image optimization and over-processing.”
Teaching the digital workflow has always been a major part of in the instruction in my workshops. However I don’t consider myself an ‘expert’ in that I have no formal tuition in retouching. What I pass on is self-taught material, supplemented with refinements added over the years from other sources. I teach what I know and do; what everyone else does is often a mystery to me. In fact all the heavy lifting is done in curves and levels and the tools I use are ridiculously simple. While many participants are looking for cool new state-of-the-art techniques and Photoshop ‘secrets’, most people seem to miss the fundamental aspect of good processing – knowing the line between optimized image and one that has overcooked contrast or colours. It’s a difficult skill to teach. Indeed it may be impossible as the best way of getting a feel for this is being a keen observer of light and colour. That all means more time in the field and becoming a student of light.
“Tekapo Light Show” (From the Journal)
There are certain colours that often strike me as being unnatural when pushed too much in the sky – greens and purple (as opposed to magenta). Sometimes the colours we see in nature are so vivid that those who have never experienced them will naturally assume “Photoshop”. In 2010, when researching for my New Zealand workshops, I hit a purple patch of incredible sunrises and sunsets. Like clockwork, the magic hour never failed to produce something special each day. Among the more spectacular slight shows was this sunrise at Lake Tekapo. I’ve attached the unprocessed RAW file at default settings for comparison – it’s about the easiest post capture job I’ve ever done.
I also took some long exposures but they turned out hideously – long tracks of clipped reds gouged across the sky. Even with desaturation, these were not salvageable.