Chureito pagoda - two workflows

Inspired by how different images Carmen and I came up with after shooting together at Chureito pagoda in Fujiyoshida, I decided to write this post to show our workflow and how we achieved those results.

For my image I chose a horizontal frame (I was wider with my 16-35mm lens) and very close to sunset, when the sun was down behind the hills on the right of mount Fuji. We were not lucky with tremendous amount of colour that evening so the purpose was to accentuate that orange that you can see close to the horizon.

I am a big fan of Sleeklens Photoshop actions for landscape and I am using them quite a lot recently in my workflow. So I started with an “BASE expanded Dynamic Range” combined with “ALLINONE Subtle sunset” (both of them turned down to 20 and respectively 25%). The colours where suddenly begin to pop, especially the oranges in the foliage and on the sky).
After that I decided I want to correct the perspective a bit (I know, I am quite a mess regarding the order of my steps) and I enhanced the highlights to be warmer (another Sleekslens action – ENHANCE Warm Highlights).

I applied a bit of Orton effect to give a more dreamy look to the image and I did an extra overall colour pop (Tone colour Pop action). In the end I did some Details enhancer (I was using an action from Jimmy McIntyre), I decreased the midtones a bit using a levels layer and I corrected the sensor spots. That’s pretty much it. I got a colorful vivid image, showing Fuji-san surrounded by tints of orange complementing nicely  the red-orange from the foliage and the dark red tints of the pagoda.

Carmen on the other hand had a portrait composition due to shooting with a 20mm Nikon prime. She also chose an earlier moment of the day, when the sun was higher up in the sky, producing beautiful star (the 20mm prime is extremely good at handling direct light in the frame, transforming it into beautiful star shapes).

She started with a Pro contrast in Color Efex Pro 4 (it used to be my every image tool as well before I got into Sleekness) and then she straightened the image.
Carmen, on the other hand, is a big fan of VSCO presets in camera raw, so she used Kodak Gold 100 Vibrant to pop up the image.

After that, it followed a very tedious work of correcting small details, cloning out unwanted elements and fine tuning various parts of the image: cloning out the wire that was hanging from the pagoda’s top, removing some flares, correcting the white balance of the snow on the top of Fuji, doing various colour adjustments using curves or hue /saturation layers in Photoshop. In the end, she removed the noise the sky (using Topaz Denoise and sharpened the image with an overall high pass filter.

The final result is a powerful image putting the focus on the beautiful sun star that balance well the pagoda and the majestic mount Fuji.


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