Long Exposure and Lightroom Editing

Forillon National Park is one of my favorite landscape photography destinations in Canada. I featured it on many occasions on this blog: Sunrise at Cap-Bon-AmiForillon National Park From AboveCape Gaspe at SunriseThe Perfect Hike. The park is located at the tip of Gaspé Peninsula and as the result all my previously published photos involved views of some kind of open water.

During my last visit to Forillon I discovered for myself something completely different: a little waterfall, located in deep forest. It is called La Chute which in French means the fall.

Canada. Quebec. Forillon National Park
Loc: 48.843867, -64.266650

Shooting

When you photograph waterfalls the most popular and effective technique is a long exposure. The technique allows to create surreal, silky looking effect of running water.

From the moment I decided to photograph La Chute I knew that I would use this technique.  In general I do not use very long exposures (5-20 sec) when shooting running water because it produces plasticky looking effect and I normally go for 1/15 – 3 sec to preserve a bit of texture in the water.

In this particular case, the shooting was easy. I had my camera on a tripod, I cranked up the aperture to f20 and it allowed me to reduce the shutter speed to 1/6 sec.

The challenge was the location and the lighting.

To come up with more interesting composition was out of the question because there was no room around the falls. Actually, the spot I took this photo from was the only option I had.

Another challenge was the lighting. The sunlight was illuminating only half of the falls keeping another half in the deep shadows. Even though I had no plans to use HDR processing for this photo I took 3 bracketed shots (-1, 0, +1) as an insurance.

Processing

To edit this photo, I used a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop. In this case, the use of Photoshop was optional. The similar effect can be achieved using Lightroom only.

Step 1 – Lightroom

Because I was shooting up from the water level, I decided to start with a perspective correction. I used the Crop & Straighten tool to correct vertical distortion.

Then I used the Crop & Straighten tool to crop image tighter to the falls, eliminating “dead” space around it.

Step 2 – Lightroom Editing

I applied the following edits in Lightroom to recover details in the highlights to brighten up the shadows and to give image much warmer look.

Here is the result of editing in Lightroom:

 

Step 5 – Photoshop

In Photoshop, I started with the cleaning. It took me good 15 min to remove or to cover the distracting elements (tree branches, rocks, debris in the water) with the Stamp Tool.

Next, I used Topaz DeNoise to reduce digital noise, mostly in the water (falls, river, sky)

In the last 6 steps, I performed minor color correction:

  • reduced green color cast on the rocks of the falls (Hue/Saturation)
  • applied vignetting to the entire image (Curves 1)
  • selectively increased contrast (Curves 2)
  • brightened shadowed areas (Curves 3 and 4)
  • increased vibrance (Vibrance 1)

Here is the result of editing image in Photoshop:

 

Deconstructing Featured Photo

Camera: Canon 60D
Lens: Sigma 10-20mm
Focal Length: 10mm
ISO: 100
Aperture: F20
Shutter: 1/6 sec
Bracketing: 3 shots (-1, 0, 1)
Tripod: FEISOL Tournament CT-3442  – Check my FEISOL Tournament CT-3442 Review.
Ballhead: FEISOL CB-40D

Processing: Lightroom Processed

Lightroom: import, tagging, straightening, cropping, standard Lightroom editing,  export to Photoshop.
Photoshop:  cleaning, color correction.
Photoshop Plugins:

Archiving: I save all my photos as JPEG (quality: 100%) at full resolution and with the help of the Lightroom plugin, I synchronized them with my portfolio on SmugMug for safekeeping, sharing, image hosting and online sales.

Do not forget that my FREE Lightroom Preset Collection is always free for all subscribers to my newsletter.

 

  • Thanks. This is an excellent step by step guide. I like the fact that you mask the detail enhancement and the denoise to the areas where they are needed. Great result!

  • How did you deal with lens diffraction at that aperture? Would it be better to shoot a longer exposure at a lower aperture with a ND filter?

    • Jeremy,

      ND filters mean carrying extra piece of equipment in my bag and I try to travel light. You should understand me 🙂

      Diffraction is the fancy word but all I care is the quality of the final image, if it is acceptable then I use f20.

  • Zdzisław Jończyk says:

    Bardzo interesujące

  • Daniel Thomassin says:

    Merci beaucoup pour tous vos conseil bien pratique et que je ne connais pas trots bien.
    Daniel

  • Hi Viktor – I am very new to Lightroom and your website is the first that is very intuitive and helpful, thank you so much for sharing information it is a breathe of fresh air without the mumbo jumbo

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