Often when I am driving somewhere, I'll see something that I think is interesting off on the roadside. "I should grab a shot of that," I'll think to myself as I keep on driving to my destination. Sometimes I really don't have the time. Usually, I could probably spare the time but instead of stopping I just file a mental note and tell myself I'll grab that shot the next time. I've missed a bunch of shots with that sort of thinking!
Recently, while out running errands, I took my camera bag with the intention of grabbing some of those shots that I had been just driving by in my daily commute. I purposely sought out some rather ordinary looking things that I typically see on my way to work each day. In addition to taking shots of a few things along the roads I commonly travel, I wanted to challenge my post processing skills and see what kind of dramatic images I could create from rather ordinary looking scenes. I learned last year in a workshop with David Nightingale that you don't need an inherently dramatic scene to create a dramatic image in post processing and it had been a while since I really put that that idea into practice.
Alone in a Sea of Green - Click here for post processing before and after.
This first shot is extremely simple. That's what I liked about it! The freshly painted fire hydrant sitting in a green field with a blue overcast sky in the background really appealed to me. I saw this fire hydrant by the side of a country road in what used to be farm land. I can only assume that there is going to be some development on this land in the near future. This is the sort of shot that you should really take when you come across it. If I were to have kept procrastinating, the empty green field might be paved over with a strip mall or a subdivision and the opportunity would be lost.
I kept my processing of the the hydrant shot as simple as the scene that I had captured. The simplicity of the scene was a powerful statement on its own. I did make the sky look a touch more dramatic with Topaz Labs Adjust. Everything else - cropping, slight exposure adjustments, and saturation tweaking was done in Lightroom. Not particularly dramatic maybe, but it does illustrate how something as common as a fire hydrant can be turned into an engaging image.
The Thicket - Click here for post processing before and after.
Now we're getting into some dramatic post processing. I've driven by this thicket of trees many times on the way to work. I don't really know why it was appealing to me. I just saw "something" there. It was an overcast day and the scene as captured was bland and lifeless. When I got home and looked at the image I wondered what I saw here. This was a challenge to make something out of.
The thicket got a generous dose of contrast and a burned edge effect through a black and white layer that I created with Nik Silver Efex. I blended the B&W layer in with luminosity mode to preserve the color. Nik Color Efex Pro Contrast was used to further hone the contrast. The result is a sort of sinister looking image with a lot of depth. I had some fun with this one!
Reclamation - Click here for post processing before and after.
For this next image, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do with it when I took the shot. I had seen this damaged wind mill, neglected and in the process of being overtaken by nature. Although I had seen this scene months ago and thought about getting a shot many times, I felt somewhat justified in waiting so long because I did want to have an overcast sky in the background. The wind ravaged windmill needed a gloomy backdrop.
I wanted an antique look to this image with a very bold and moody feel. I got the burned edge and contrast through Nik Silver Efex with the Antique Plate preset. The tone of the image comes a split tone effect in Lightroom. Here again, the original scene wasn't that exciting but with a little post processing I came away with a very dramatic image.
Abandoned Silos - Click here for post processing before and after.
This last image is a vantage point I had in mind for a while. Remnants from an old Co-Op, these silos sit along the main highway through Hutto, TX. Rather than shooting from the main road, I wanted to get a shot from a side street, across a field before anything else gets built on this land. This shot was a bit drab due to the overcast skies. It was lacking in contrast and color. I also wanted a bit more drama in the sky without going over board.
Basically, this image needed just a little pop. I called upon Nik Silver Efex again to create a black and white layer that I could use in Photoshop to adjust contrast and add more detail to the sky. I also used Nik Color Efex with the Indian Summer preset to boost color ever so slightly in the field. A slight vignette in Lightroom finished off the image.
I hope my little exercise will inspire you to stop and get a shot of something that you pass by in your daily commute. It's an ever changing world and you never know when something that you thought would make a great picture might disappear from the landscape. It doesn't have to be anything special. With a little creative post processing work, even a seemingly mundane scene could be turned into a great photo.