One Photograph, four versions

I recently wrote an article on my post processing workflow for Fuji X-Trans RAW files in Adobe Lightroom and NIK Color Efex Pro 4.

The article triggered some strong debates on the question of wether significant post-processing results in an image that is effectively a 'lie' - The image presented varies significantly, not only from the image captured by the cameras sensor but from the view that the photographer witnessed.

I have re-visited the shot of the road in Iceland and have presented four interpretations of the RAW file to demonstrate how one scene can be interpreted in post processing.

Background

I was on a once in a life time (hopefully not!) vacation to Iceland. I had arrived in the town of Hofn the night before and hadn't had the opportunity to explore the local area. I got up before dawn and headed out in the dark along Route 1

After a few miles I came across an interesting shoreline and distant hills and found a place to park my car at the side of the road.

I am always tempted in these situations to try and grab as many compositions as possible in the narrow window of time. I initially focused on the reflection of the mountains across the water as the sun came up behind the hills. The image below was captured on my mobile phone as I took a long exposure with my Fuji X-T1

Sunrise near Hofn, Iceland

Sunrise near Hofn, Iceland

As I was packing up and heading back to my car I thought to take a shot with the empty road leading the eye to the hills. This felt like a fitting photo as I was not planning on following the Route in this direction.

The morning light had pretty much faded by this point but the sky was still interesting. I thought about fitting a 10 stop ND filter to my lens to capture a long exposure but expected some road traffic.

RAW file straight from Camera

This photograph represents the un-edited RAW file straight from the X-T1. It is pretty flat, lacking contrast and sharpness and under-exposed. I bracketed the scene at the time to ensure that I captured the full dynamic range and this frame is slightly under exposed.

Fuji X-T1 with Fuji 18-135mm
Un-Edited RAW file

Bracketed RAW files edited with Aurora HDR 2017

I bracketed the scene with multiple exposures and this HDR image was created from three exposures around 1 stop apart. (1 stop under, correct, 1 stop over)

I used Aurora HDR 2017 for the processing selecting a pre-set from the included options. In this case I used 'Captain Kimo, Paradise'  - No further edits were made, this is close to how the scene looked at the time.

Fuji X-T1 with Fuji 18-135mm
Bracketed RAW files edited in Aurora HDR 2017 with a default preset

RAW file edited in Adobe Lightroom only

This photograph represents an edit made within Adobe Lightroom only. I used a free pre-set called Red-Rock which adds significant 'punch'

RAW file edited in NIK Silver Efex Pro 2

This Black and White version of the photograph represents an edit made using the excellent (and recently made available for free) NIK Silver Efex Pro 2 I used some selective edits to darken the skies and lighten the road. I also burned in the top and bottom a little to add focus to the central part of the scene.

mostly-photos-23_09_2015-X-T1-0001-2.jpg

RAW file edited in Adobe Lightroom and NIK Color Efex Pro 4

This version of the photograph represents a significant edit to the original image. I have used split toning in Lightroom to add color to the sky that was not there at the time. You can read my earlier article 'Before and After' for the details of the edits made.