There was a time, not too long ago, when I was obsessed with the need to prevent highlight clipping when processing my photos. I tried hard not to clip the shadows or highlights when capturing the shot. Then when processing the RAW file, I tried to display a full tonal range, but avoid clipping. The result was what I now consider to be lifeless and dull images.
You see I was missing was a vitally important point. It’s the light in combination with colour that creates atmosphere and drama in the landscape. By avoiding deep shadows or clipped highlights I was losing the drama, and it was damaging my photography.
I’m sure many of you reading this will be nodding and saying to yourselves that’s obvious, so I want to say something in my defence. The cameras I was using only 10 years ago and to some degree, the RAW converts didn’t allow for “graceful” clipping. This was especially true in the highlights where there would be a sharp cut off between clipped and unclipped areas. Often this created ugly transitions between the two which looked horrible in landscape shots.
Fortunately, sensors today and the software we use to process our RAW files are much improved. Now we can capture images with atmosphere and drama, at least if we allow ourselves to. Here are a couple of recent shots from up on Higger Tor in the Peak District.
What I like about these images is that they were shot only three minutes apart, but they convey very different feelings. Both are shot with the same camera and lens at the same 12mm focal length. Had I not managed to capture some of the atmosphere of the day I think they would have appeared flat and lifeless.
I hope you like the shots and have a great weekend.