In this exersize I will try to bring out a bit of dark mystery to this image.
It was shot early in the morning with the sun shining through the thick mist.

It looked beatuful to the eye, but the RAW file is a bit flat and some of the magic is lost.

Technical details:

  • Fujifilm X-T3 and XF100-400/f4.5-5.6
  • ISO 160
  • 1/850s shutter
  • f7.1 aperture
  • Edited in Capture One Pro 12

First, let’s look at the unedited raw file:

Unedited raw file

As this file has a wide contrast range I have set the Base Curve to Linear Response.
This is very flat curve and will not imediately blow out the already bright highlights.

Step 1 – Crop & Contrast

First we will crop the image to center the tree. At the moment the tree is slightly to the right.
I will also set a starting Black Point with the Level tool.
This will darken the shadows a lot and bring back some of the contrast that I saw when taking the image.

These adjustments where added to the whole image:

Step 2 – Sharpening

I will add the sharpening selectively to parts of the image.
Although this a low ISO image the extreme contrast and processing could bring out some noise.
We do not want to add sharpening to the sky and out-of-focus areas so we will use a brush and paint in a mask to limit the sharpening to these areas:

Step 3 – Shadows

In this step we are going to work on the dark parts of the image.
Capture One 12 has introduced a new Luminocity Mask feature that allows us to select a tonal range for further editing.

Here we will select only the darkest part of the image:

03 - Shadows Luma Range

All I have done here is reduce the saturation in the shadows as there was a strong blue cast.

This will give us the following result:

Step 4 – Highlights

Now we will look at the brighter parts of the image.

I have used the Luma Range tool with these settings:

04 - Highlights Luma Range

Here it is important to note the following; we are masking around the trees with a lot of fine detail.
To make sure the mask retains the details we must set a high RADIUS and SENSITIVTY in this dialog otherwise the mask will be diffuse and the results will look very odd.

I have used the Level tool again to add a lot of highlight contrast.

This gives us the following result:

Step 5 – Dodge (lighten)

The step above (4) has added most of the highlights I wanted, but I would like to add a few extra brighter areas for extra drama.

We will use a bit of exposure (+0.67) and brush this in, but there is a problem.
If I simply paint in the mask with the brush it will add this exposure to the whole tonal range – in other words it will also brighten the shadows.

We do not want that here as we have taken care to darken the shadows.

So I will use the Luma Range tool again to limit the exposure to the lighter parts of the image.

Here I have simply copied the mask from Step 4 above and erased the parts I don’t want.
I have also painted in a few extra highlights on the ground.

This gives us the following:

Step 6 – Colour

Finally I will add a little bit of colour to the foilage on the tree.
We will use the Color Editor to select the yellow leaves and accentuate the colours.

With the colour picker we select a yellow and green leaf and add some Saturation and Lightness.
This is then painted in with a brush.

This gives us the final results:

Final comparison between before and after;

That’s all for this image.
It is one of those photos that can be edited and interpreted in so many different ways and this is my take on it.

Hopefully it will add some ideas and technics that can be applied to your own editing.

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