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A "Mist-ery" mountain scene



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9 Comments | Report
sarahthomas
 
sarahthomas July 18, 2016
This is one of the best mountain terrain photos I've seen. Absolutely love!
truetolifephotography PRO
truetolifephotography January 14, 2017
Thanks sarahthomas. Appreciate knowing you feel that way about it and sorry to only get a reply to you now.
gabrielmometti
 
gabrielmometti November 18, 2016
Love it
SylviaRourke PRO
 
SylviaRourke January 14, 2017
Excellent, I wish it were mine.
afpera
 
afpera March 06, 2017
lovely mountains!
ShellyRwanda PRO+
 
ShellyRwanda April 14, 2017
This is a stunning shot. Where is this and did you shoot if from a helicopter or ....?
truetolifephotography PRO
truetolifephotography April 14, 2017
hi it's from around Central / Eastern China from an aircraft.
CarlMorgan
 
CarlMorgan August 26, 2017
WOW...
priyaselvan
 
priyaselvan September 17, 2017
Breathtaking!!!!
Absolutely amazing
erinmcnulty
 
erinmcnulty Feb 06
Wow.
RGHunt PRO+
 
RGHunt May 19
Beautiful artwork.

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Behind The Lens

Location
This is somewhere over southern China flying towards Hong Kong on New Years Day 2010.
Time
This was shot a long time ago so I had to refer to the data in my RAW file. According to that around 11am GMT and I think looking at images shot around a similar time of year it would appear that my camera was set to GMT back then so by deduction that would mean this shot was captured around sunset Hong Kong time and similar local time approximately over China.
Lighting
The image was correctly exposed for the highlights in the RAW file but needed work in post processing to realise the full potential of the sunset colours. One of the cool things about finding moments like this one is that the way you observe the lighting from altitude is always unique to how you would see it even if you happened to be standing on the highest peak of those mountains below. By being so much higher than everything else you get to see how light interacts and intersects in unique ways with the entire panoramic vista below. A perspective you simply cannot fully get when on the ground no matter how high up you are. You can sometimes literally see the boundary between night and day and sometimes even the intersection of moonlight vs sunlight and the diffusion of colours as they strike different parts of the terrain depending on how high the sun and moon are, how positioned relative to each other as well as relative to the different mountain peaks they are casting their light on below. On the ground you can only ever see part of this effect at best (except in very few really unique situations). However, from the air if all the elements come together you get to see it all play out across a vast volume of air and area of land! Truly awe inspiring!
Equipment
Nikon D90 with 18-105mm kit lens. Hand held.
Inspiration
I'm always on the look out for intriguing or spectacular airspace vistas and my portfolio contains many aerial images captured over stunning and remote parts of the world. One of those was even displayed at the Louvre Museum in Paris last year and in the Final Round of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 2015. I published my first bespoke designed limited edition book series called City to Wilderness and the first book was Wildlife. I am thinking about one of the series being of airscapes. Would be good to know if my followers think this is a good idea after they take a look at what is in my archives! I had seen this mountain range before on a similar flight but on this occasion the scene appeared to be most aesthetically pleasing with just the right amount of valley mist plus the time of day being around sunset worked as a nice contrast to the shadowed mountains. This particular frame caught my eye as the lines of the central misty valley lead the eye towards the sunset.The simple primary and complementary colours of blue and yellow/orange being important to the image as well.
Editing
As I always shoot in RAW, post processing is a necessary part of the photographic process. My philosophy however being keep it "true to life". Anyone who says they don't shoot RAW because they don't want to "photoshop" their images don't understand digital photography very well and I impress this point on my students that it is important to learn how to process RAW images properly. This image was in my archives for several years before I got around to processing it! During a review of my back catalogue and while looking for images which might be used for teaching in my post processing classes which I conduct in Hong Kong, I literally stumbled across this one. With fresh eyes I saw a different potential to it than I would have done a few years earlier thanks to my improved knowledge of post processing over that time. One reason why I tend not to delete images with reckless abandon. RAW processing engines are always improving and hopefully so are my own skills improving over time which means I can revisit old images and consider reworking them. Here, knowing that I had a misty scene anyway, the usual lack of contrast from shooting through aircraft windows was not an issue. In fact it helped on this occasion, except where I needed to bring out the sunset colours a bit more and improve the contrast and structure of the mountains carefully without losing the mistiness which is so important in this particular photograph. Although the RAW file was well exposed I adjusted the black and white points for better dynamic range as is necessary for processing any RAW image but importantly I kept the black point in particular away from the edge of the histogram as clearly this particular scene has no true black point.Then some gentle local dodging and burning in areas around the horizon paying attention to the highlights gently brushing in some increases in certain areas and decreases in others. Some global saturation and vibrance but in other areas actually reducing saturation locally and finally some minor white balance adjustment. During the whole workflow the objective being to retain the mistiness while adding contrast in key areas to grab the viewers attention while leading the eye through the image in the desired manner.
In my camera bag
I shoot a wide variety of genres so what I pack varies from shoot to shoot. I am also a long time Nikon user. Having been featured by them on several occasions and used their equipment in all kinds of harsh and testing environments plus the excellent customer service they offer me as an NPS member I have to give a shout out to Nikon! After an invaluable amount of time learning with the fantastic Nikon D90 which I used for this image and which was my first DSLR camera I moved up to the full frame D800E and then D810 as well as the D4s. If I could only take one lens out for wildlife photography my go to lens has to be the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8. I also have the Nikon 400mm f/2.8 which is a heavy but truly amazing lens. I have even used it as a landscape lens and for creating large panoramics while also taking advantage of the compression effect. Sometimes I use the excellent Nikon 1.4x teleconverter and less often the 2x teleconverter which gives me up to 800mm at f/5.6 when attached to the 400mm. The 400mm on its own has lovely bokeh, is super fast and razor sharp. For general shooting I love my Nikon 50mm f/1.4 prime. Although known as a portrait lens I love it for landscapes and it is really sharp even if it is the older D model. I just seem to like shooting landscapes at 50mm if I can. The widest lens I have is the Nikon 16-35mm f4 VR and for general purpose use I also use the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8. The only non Nikon lens I own is the terrific Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART prime. I own a few different tripods and although I shoot with my 400mm hand held a lot of the time (sounds crazy I know), I will also use either a panning plate with or without bean bag for support or mount it on a manfrotto carbon fibre tripod with a custom brackets gimbal. However, I truly think that for most panning situations especially on safari in vehicles, the panning plate with bean bag is the best overall combination for ease of use and space saving vs performance and stability. You save a lot of travel weight with that combination too as the panning plate is relatively light and small form factor compared to a gimbal head and the bean bag travels empty so that you only fill it up with rice or beans when you need to at your destination! For landscapes I use the LEE filter system and only use either NDs or graduated NDs ranging from 1-3 stops for graduated NDs and then 4 stops ND by Hitech plus the Big Stopper which is a 10 stops ND filter. I have never used colour filters and doubt I ever will and only very occasionally will I use a Nikon brand polariser. Other gadgets include a Nikon SB-910 speed light, an L bracket for fast rotating from horizontal to vertical on a tripod and a camranger wireless remote system which I have used for some quite major recent wildlife related projects where I wanted to capture bald eagles in close proximity to the camera yet operating it from some distance away and the same idea to capture some big cat activity at a Trust for endangered cats in the UK whose story I am working on telling in one of my next books. I also used it for some recent urban wildlife story in Hong Kong but I won't be releasing those images for a while yet.
Feedback
One of the biggest challenges when trying to capture airscapes while shooting from behind aircraft windows is a lack of contrast which gets worse the brighter the overall scene. In this case however due to the misty nature of the landscape, restoring contrast in post processing wasn't so important overall just in certain parts of the image. Although this image was captured through a passenger cabin window, I also have experience of shooting through cockpit windows which are polarised. This makes matters worse with regards to colour shifts and then there is distortion to contend with particularly around the windows edges so finding the sweet spot in the middle is desirable. Of course ideally you want to be able to photograph with no turbulence but even in daylight conditions and smooth air, there is aircraft vibration to be mindful of so think carefully about your camera settings paying particular attention to your shutter speed and if your lens has vibration reduction consider using it. All that considered think about how you breathe and how you hold your camera at all times in any moving vehicle. Also remember to be mindful of reflections and lens flare in the window and try to find ways to negate this if possible such as by using your hand or something like the inflight magazine to try to reduce the reflection and also try to get the camera lens as close to the window as possible without touching it due to the airframe vibration!

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