Saturday, April 8, 2017

Icelandic Blues

We didn't see a lot of blue sky in Iceland. Most of the time the sky was solid white or light grey. Even with these conditions, we occasionally saw grey clouds become slate blue with an orange sun hidden low in the sky. The blues that did come through were striking.

I recently learned about selective saturation in Adobe Lightroom, where instead of boosting overall color saturation and vibrance, you can boost selective colors depending on what you want to bring out in the scene. You can emphasize the blue sky, green grass, even a little orange in the soil without making it look artificial. We want a picture that represents what we saw, to bring out memories of when we were there and elicit an emotional response. I want to make pictures that feel good to look at. Too much color and it doesn't look real, too little and it looks flat. Somewhere in between will make you oooh and ahhh. Remember how it looked? How blue the sky, how green the grass below grey clouds and a hazy horizon? That's what I want to see, what I want to feel. To feel like I'm there.

But Iceland isn't all clouds and rain. Sometimes the sun comes out and the sky is shockingly bright by contrast. 

Walking around Fjaðrárgljúfur I found canyons can be very challenging as far as exposure goes. The sky is bright, the river is in shadows, and there's a full range of light and dark in between. If you have a tripod you can bracket exposures to capture both the bright and dark areas, the usual method for serious photographers. If you're walking around taking handheld shots, the usual method for fun-loving vacation goers, you're limited to a single exposure and inevitably you cut something off the top or bottom of the brightness range. Either overexpose the sky to get the darker canyon, or get a properly exposed sky and canyon lost in shadow.

Since I felt the canyon makes a better picture I chose to overexpose the sky so the brightest clouds are washed out in a sea of white. There a little blue sky peeking through which I was able to bring out by boosting the blues using - yep - selective saturation. Then I nudged up green to brighten the grass, plus believe it or not I found a little orange in the soil. It pays to experiment.

Nearby at the famous DC-3 wreck, possibly the most photographed plane wreck in the world, we have a black sand beach, blue sky, a bit of orange in the sky, and yellow rain jacket. Again, I wanted to bring out the colors of the sky without altering the scene or making that rain jacket too bright. It's plenty bright already.

Sometimes nature turns up the saturation for you. I didn't have to do much of anything to this next picture. On our last night in Iceland, it was the autumnal equinox and we arrived for dinner as slate blue clouds accented a sunset behind the red roof architecture in Reykjavic, making for the perfect end to our trip.

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