Sunday, July 20, 2014

Digitally Restoring A Vancouver Island Rainforest

The west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia gets a lot of rainfall during the fall and spring seasons.   The moisture laden clouds hit the mountains of Vancouver Island and are forced up, causing them to cool and drop their moisture in the form of a lot of rain.  For those of you metrically challenged, 500 mm is almost 20 inches.  On average the coastal town of Tofino gets about 2,440 mm or about 96 inches of rain in the six months between November and April! 

When May arrives the rain is replaced by clear cloudless skies.  In the month of July they average 80 mm or about 3 inches of rain.   When we were there in mid-July this year we had clear blue skies every day with almost no clouds except for the fog that came in off the ocean in the afternoons.

Outdoor photographers have some strange ideas about what makes for good vacation weather.  A good time to take photos in a forest is on an overcast day.  It's even better if it's raining.   Now clear blue skies are beautiful but that bright sunlight can make taking photos a real challenge, especially where there are shadows and bright sunny spots.  The first version of the photo below was taken in a Vancouver Island rainforest on one of those bright sunny blue sky days.

Version 1 - Unedited

Notice the extreme contrast between the dark shadows and the bright spots on the boardwalk and ferns.   Those bright spots draw a viewers attention and create distractions that take away from the cool boardwalk and trees. In the original format this is not a photo that I would keep.   I did the following to save it.

First I used the Nik Color Efex software  detail extractor filter to bring back the details that were hard to see in the really bright and dark sections of the image.  If you compare the first and second versions you can see that the details have been extracted out of those areas and the lighting is a bit more even.  I also added a little tonal contrast and adjusted the color temp to take out the slight blue tint in the original version.

Version 2 - Nik Detail Extractor Filter

I then used the adjustment brush in Adobe Lightroom to further darken the brightest spots, gave the boardwalk a slight brown tint, further reducing the unnatural blue tint.  I also straighten the image and added a slight vignette to darken the outside slightly.

Version 3 - Bright spots further darkened.

The final version still shows enough of the shadows to let the viewer know it was a sunny day, but not so much that the bright spots are distracting.   It has more of a rainforest feel to it, unlike the original version.

Click on any image and then use your keyboard arrow keys to move between versions to see the difference.

I will be creating a Vancouver Island folder in my online gallery.  Check back to see more photos from our mid-July 2014 trip.

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