lightroom

One to one workshop in the forest

It doesn’t happen very often, but when conditions are right, the photos are right there, in front of you. That’s what happened last Sunday during my workshop with a friend. I wanted to go to a new forest and I asked him if he knew about a place near where he lives. He said he had never been there before, but that the fog had set the previous night and that we would have fog until midday. I was in!

After a one hour drive I got to this beautiful place and the magic began. Autumn colors were showing already, there was a nice, thick fog, the beech trees had incredible shapes and the best thing was that we had the place for ourselves.

During my workshops in the forest, people often ask me how I compose and how do I achieve a specific mood. I understand that it can be a bit tricky with all the information we have in front of us, that’s why I think that foggy conditions as well as rainy mornings help achieving better results. You may ask why photograph in such dark conditions… but the truth is that dramatic scenes are more attractive than dull ones. Rain saturates the colors, therefore leaves look more vibrant. Fog helps composing the scene, it blurs the background, helping create more simple, yet more powerful compositions.

The key is to find a subject and try to photograph it in a way that the viewer will stare at it for more than two seconds (huge achievement nowadays!). Always look around, don’t stop when you shoot the first photo, I’m sure there are many other ways to find a different perspective.

I always compose through the screen, I feel it helps to check if branches are interfering in the corners, or if there’s anything we want to leave out of the scene. Also, I always shoot with my editing in mind, so I usually underexpose in order to get deep shadows, because in a forest scene like this, you will have lots of dark areas as well as bright light in the higher part of the photograph, so why try to always expose everything?

I feel that the most important thing in my workshops is not just to learn the technique, but also to take the time to look around and feel lucky to be there at the right time in the right place. I feel it’s when I’m most creative and then during the editing everything comes easily.

I already mentioned this on a recent post on IG, and here it goes again… I don’t know what my photos may make you feel. I don’t want my photos to seem scary and I’m not trying to achieve the mysterious look either... I’m simply trying to convey a rather peaceful feeling, and definitely pushing you to take care of nature.

If you want to get more info about available dates for my landscape or online editing workshops, drop me a line to leireub@gmail.com :)

All photos were taken with a Fujifilm XT2 + 16mm f1.4

How I achieve this moody look in my forest photos

Outdoor photography isn't easy. There are many factors that make this style really challenging, but today I'm going to concentrate on just one: Mood. I often read comments on my photos that say something like "Oh I love the mood in your photos", but what does this really mean?

I'm very specific about the kind of photos that I like to take and make. I have already mentioned in other blog posts, that I like to go out when it's dark, cloudy and foggy. There is something about that eerie and mysterious look that I'm really attracted to. I feel that the sense of adventure is greater in those conditions. I don't know really know, maybe it's because of the place where I live (Basque Country), where rain and clouds are a constant in our lives and I'm just comfortable shooting in the rain. I guess that somehow, having grown up in an environment like ours, has played an important role in the style of photographs that I enjoy shooting, and I'm very grateful for that. 

I always carry a small camera with me and this helps a lot, because whenever the conditions are right (for the kind of photos I like to take) I always have a tool available in my car. I'm lucky to live surrounded by beautiful forests and mountains, so in less than a thirty minute drive, I have all these locations that you see in the photos below, for myself. I'm usually the only one out there, probably because people don't find rainy weather exciting to go out and shoot, so it's always a pleasure to wander around these places in silence. 

Other important factors of my photographs are how I expose and edit. I like dark shadows and vibrant colors. How do I achieve that? By under exposing while I'm taking the photos and playing with the curve tones and the different sliders of colors in Lightroom. Many people have told me that I under expose a bit too much in camera (sometimes even a couple of stops), and then during post processing I open up the shadows quite a lot. For many photographers, this may sound a bit contradictory, because they prefer to get the correct exposure when they are out in the field. However, I find editing as important as the actual process of taking the photo, so I've put in a lot of hours to develop an editing style that I really like and that works for my photos. 

Over the years I've created a bunch of presets, and most of the photos you see here are based on a couple of those. Once I apply the preset, the next step is to adapt the sliders to each photo. The same happens with the new Forged presets that I use and were created by Tribe Red Leaf Studios. Their colors are incredible, but when you buy presets from others, you need to adapt them to your own work, because the light, atmosphere, textures and subjects are different in each session. Even if I put my presets up for sale, you probably wouldn't be able to get the same tones as I do, unless you also exposed and took the photos in the same kind of light and conditions that I work in. 

There are some repetitive factors on my photos, the locations I shoot, the conditions in which I photograph, the way I expose in camera and the kind of presets I apply in editing. I know that that's what differentiates my work from yours, and I really believe that each of us should have our own techniques and should work to find a unique look. This is not easy, because we are constantly flooded by the same kind of photos, in the same kind of places and with similar styles... But at least, we should try to overcome this and create something different and one of a kind.

It's important to know how the weather conditions affect the way a place looks, therefore, I always recommend to go back to the same place and shoot over and over in order to learn when it's best to choose one location or another. Yes, sometimes I'm lucky and I'm rewarded by these beautiful scenes even when I wasn't planning on it, but a lot of the times I just head back home with an empty card. And that is still fine, because the little walk in the forest is always perfect to clear your mind and to connect with nature.

So, tell me, what do you like to photograph and what are your favorite conditions to photograph in? Let me know, I'd love to hear!

Brief adventure on a snowy Tuesday

I had three hours in between classes and my husband was working the afternoon shift. There was snow in the mountains so it only took us a couple of minutes to put on warm clothes and head out of the door. We don't have a proper sledge, so we took a couple of plastic bags to slide down the mountain. It was the best 3 hours e've had in a while. 

All photographs taken with the Fujifilm Xt10+16mm f1.4

Unexpected mood while location scouting

Last Friday, I had some time in between classes and went to scout for new locations. It was bright and sunny and no sign of fog or clouds anywhere, but I have some portrait sessions coming up and wanted to check out if I could find any new spots.

As soon as I drove up to the mountains, there was a beautiful, thick fog covering the forest and I quickly stopped at one of my favorite spots. The sun was trying to get through the trees, creating some stunning sun rays through the forest. Everything was in silence, and the only noise you could hear were my foot steps. There is nothing better than being surprised like this. I didn't have any person to photograph but the atmosphere was so special that I forgot all about my location scouting plan and started shooting with my little Fuji X100T. 

After this first stop, I drove to my next spot, which is another forest, where I've previously taken some of my favorite photographs. There is a dam right next to it, and the last time I came here it was half empty. So I wanted to check how high the water was now and if there were any possibilities there. I was really grateful for that thick fog, it completely changed the scenery in front of me. The atmosphere was really moody and mysterious and I was having so much fun! I walked down towards the dam and turns out that the rain we've had in the last few months, had helped fill the muddy empty dam a bit more and was now looking much better. 

It only took me less than two hours to shoot some of my favorite photos I've taken lately. My feet were cold and my working boots a little muddy. But, I didn't care. I wasn't expecting any photographs from that morning and I definitely came back home with a handful of favorites.

*All these photographs have been taken with the Fujifilm X100T and post processed in Lightroom with my new presets and workflow.

How I edit my landscape photographs taken with Fujifilm cameras

Last week I received an email from a fellow photographer wondering if I could explain how did I finally manage to edit my landscape work with the Fujis. That is why I decided to write about what the process has been like for me. 

My journey with Fujifilm cameras started a couple of years ago when I wanted something smaller and lighter for my trips. Back then, I used to bring a full backpack with a camera, several lenses, filters and a tripod. For cityscapes though, I would bring the 6D and one lens. I remember that it always ended up being a big hustle and so uncomfortable to carry it around from one place to another. So I made up my mind, and chose to get a X Pro1 with a couple of lenses. In the summer of 2015, before going on our month and a half trip to the US and Canada, I really wanted to get familiar with the new system and went to shoot several portraits in the forest with some friends. I was sold immediately and that’s when my love for Fujifilm cameras started. I really enjoyed the sharpness and the quality of the images and I loved the camera itself. It was one of the most beautiful cameras I had ever seen and so much fun to shoot with. 

While in the US, I took the X Pro1 around NYC and other cities in California, Oregon and Washington. I was really happy, it was perfect for what I wanted. Small and great, much easier to carry on a day out exploring the streets than lugging around the 6D. I also shot landscapes with the Fuji around the Capilano Suspension Bridge near Vancouver and in the Olympic Peninsula in WA. The experiment with a new system turned out to be really exciting and I was happy with the results. So last year (May 2016), I got the XT1, and up until August or so my 6D stayed in a shelf. I also stopped taking a bag with filters, the tripod... and guess what? Everything felt lighter and so much comfortable. I loved everything about the cameras and when I used them for portraits or as daily carry I literally thought I would sell my Canon gear.

My favorite thing about these cameras has always been their size, the layout of buttons and dials, the EVF and simply how beautiful they are. Also the dynamic range is incredible, and I’m always amazed by how I can get the perfect balance between the highlights and shadows. This is so much better compared to my 6D where I always have to underexpose to get some details in the clouds in post production. With the Fujis though, it only takes one look through the viewfinder to adjust the settings and you’re done. But there was something major that stopped me from selling my Canon and actually keeping both systems, and that was my editing. I couldn’t match the looks between my Canon and Fuji files. For some reason the landscapes were really difficult to edit to my liking. I could have given up and sell all my Fuji gear, but I didn’t. I just loved it so much for all the other situations!

Now that I think about it and after months of working on it, I guess my problem was with colors and the learning curve of working with a different kind of sensor and processor. I know people love the color these cameras produce, but I don’t really enjoy the blue tones SOOC and I totally dislike the greens and the way the camera renders them in landscape photographs. I have also figured out that the photographs I make on cloudy and misty days are much easier to edit to my liking than the ones taken on sunny days, I just can’t handle to edit those blue, cloudless skies (this also happens to me with the 6D, by the way). I love muted tones and for some reason I couldn’t achieve that with my usual editing. Sometimes the vivid colors of these files just don’t speak to me because I find them really different to my editing. So it was a matter of learning what works for me and what doesn’t when post processing the files and that, unfortunately, took me longer than expected.

As I mentioned earlier, if you take a look around my portfolio, you will see that the majority of my work is done on rainy and cloudy days. I believe it’s the atmosphere of those days that really pulls me to get out and photograph nature and landscapes. Light conditions and the time of the day that you shoot at can make a phograph go from stunning to meh. That is a fact. So I started to go out to photograph on days like those described above, and slowly I started developing some presets that worked for these images. Rich colors mixed with dark shadows, that was it! I developed a moody and dark way of editing that really caught my attention and made me really picky when choosing the time and conditions in which I went out to shoot with the Fujifilm cameras. 

Last summer we went on a 13000km roadtrip in our van to Norway. I knew that I would be photographing some of the most spectacular locations for landscape and travel photographers like me, so I wanted to be prepared. Since we were sleeping in our van, I decided to bring the big camera bag along with the 6D +17-40mm, the XT1+ 18-55mm and the X100T. For some strange reason, I always reached for the Fujis, so I only used the 6D for 15 photos in total and the 2000 + others were from the XT1 with the kit lens and the X100T. This made me even more excited than the previous year. I didn’t hesitate to use the Fuji for landscapes and the conditions were just as I wanted them: misty, moody and super cloudy. People may think I’m a weirdo for loving that kind of weather for my summer holidays, but when travel and landscape photography is your job and a trip like this is the perfect occasion to create some portfolio worth images, that’s all you really wish for. As soon as I came back home from Norway, I pulled out the files into Lightroom and applied my own presets. I was relieved, it had worked. I was improving, and on my way to finally love these cameras and the editing process of their files.

So I guess you are wondering how I post process them, so I will give you a few hints. As I have said on a previous blog post, I achieve these colors by moving the sliders of three different panels of Lightroom. My most used presets are based on VSCO’s Portra 160+++ which I’ve tweaked until I’ve found something that I really like and works for my images. The following are some common adjustments that you can find on the majority of my images: In the tone curves panel, I always lift the shadows and decrease the highlights a bit. If it’s cloudy, I will accentuate those clouds, but if there’s a dull sky, I will usually blow out the highlights in the basic panel. In the HSL panel, my green tones are usually yellowish, and the yellows are a bit more orange. The saturation of the greens is really low but the luminance however, pretty high. I believe split toning is really important too. I usually have a bluish tone for the highlights and a warmer one for the shadows. Those are the three panels where the “magic” happens in my editing. To give you an idea to what it looks like, check the following screenshots. These settings obviously vary from photo to photo, but it's based on something similar to this.

 

Many people have asked me to put my presets for sale, but I don’t think I am ready for that because I believe each of us has to develop our taste and work on something that works for our images. I really encourage people to just keep working on it and not copying literally other’s editing processes. I could keep showing you screenshots of my editing panels, but I adjust every slider in each image, so I don’t think that is worth it. However, I do have some before and after screenshots where you actually see what I mean (check previous blog posts). But I am willing to give people tips and talk about how to think on your editing while you are making the actual photographs and how to improve their editing once you are in Lightroom. If people are interested, I may even create some videos to show you how I work in Lightroom and I can make some videos also editing some of your RAWs, if that is something you might enjoy. 

So what is my plan from now on… Ever since I started to enjoy my new way of editing with Fujifilm cameras, I’ve been saving up to build a lens collection that I am comfortable with. I am currently looking for the 16mm and the 23mm 1.4 since those are my favorite focal lengths. I’m also keeping my Canon system because I can’t let go of my Sigma 35Art for portraits. I have to say that even though I have 4 digital cameras in my bag, they all have a purpose for the work that I do. Except for the X Pro1 maybe, that I only take out when I feel some nostalgia... and I know for sure that I don’t want to sell it. This summer, we are planning on going on a trip to Japan and Indonesia where I want to bring a Fuji camera with the 16, 23 and the 35 1.4 (that I already own). I want to be able to travel light, with everything that I need in a ONA bag. In some of the tests that I’ve seen, it seems like the new XT2 and X PRO2 show less mushing in landscape photographs, and I would love to hear from those who own any of them if that is true or if it's just my eyes suffering from G.A.S (which I admit, Fujifilm cameras make me have it). Hopefully, I will be able to try that for myself sometime soon and we’ll see where that leads to. 

Probably this post was longer than expected and doesn’t answer all your questions... or maybe it leaves out some important information that you were expecting to hear from me. If that is the case, please don’t hesitate to write down in the comments or dropping me an email with your questions. I will try to do my best to give you a detailed answer. 

I would like to finish this post with the before and afters of my favorite 25 photos I’ve taken with the Fujis so far. I hope you like them!