I typically don’t edit my shots heavily, yet one that I brought back from Nepal demanded some help and was eye catching enough by itself to warrant an attempt. My hope is in walking through these steps, you might glean a an idea or two on a similar shot if you really like night photography. Click on any images in this post to see a 3000px wide rendition for higher detail not possible in the 600px representation.
Starting with the original:
This shot was taken at the basecamp for a climb of a remote peak in Nepal known as Kyajo Ri. Basecamp is situated in a gorgeous 1.5 mile long hanging valley, a valley that has a steep drop off at its terminus. This photo is looking down valley and is shot at an altitude of aproximately 14,800′ (4,500m). It is shot with a Canon 7D and a Canon EF 28-300mm L lens at 28mm, ISO 1600, 30 seconds and f/3.5. I set the camera on a rock as I was without a tripod at this point.
To start with, this isn’t that bad of a photo. The clouds are fairly well exposed and you can see the tents, lit up by my two partners. An electrical storm was brewing and I have many, many shots that did not come out while I waited for lightning strikes in the clouds. 30 seconds was about as long as I wanted to go so as to not streak the stars too much. I also wanted to give some sense of place and that is lost in the fact that the valley wall on the right is missing.
All the edits were made in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, my preferred photo editor.
The first steps where to remove some of the noise I know exists at ISO 1600 and brighten things up a bit. While this image was shot at +0 for Exposure Compensation, it is dark around the edges because of the brightness of the lightning and tents. I moved the Noise Reduction Luminance slider to +38 and Exposure to +1.35.
Now the valley wall is more apparent and the huge boulder next to our tents as well. I then moved Clarity to +30 and Vibrance to +70. These had little affect but did add a small bit of definition around the tent and the clouds. Zooming in, I still found more noise than I wanted and raised the Luminance to a total of +76.
Used the Highlight Recovery to help bring back some of the overblown clouds, but not much, bumping it up to +75. Saturation was given a slight increase to +18 and Contrast was moved to +45 which helped define the clouds more as well as the tents.
I still didn’t like that the tents weren’t grounded. There was no real perspective to them. What were they standing on? We’re they just floating in space? To fix this I used the Adjustment Brush with at setting of Exposure +2.40. I then painted in the foreground as seen in the image below.
That rendered just a bit of the spilled light from the tent cast out on the ground in front of them. In doing this, I also moved the Noise Reduction Color slider to +97 to remove just a small bit of red fringe on the tents.
This is the final image as I enjoy it. It can use some final small tweaks here and there, but I don’t like spending a lot of time in front of the computer with those minor edits. This, to me, gives a feeling of place for the tents but also shows the majesty of the clouds coupled with the limitlessness of Space.