Creating a treatment for your landscapes is more than just picking a funky preset in Lightroom. Ideally the treatment itself should be a reflection of the experience, it should carry a hint to the true nature of the landscape you are shooting.
Lofoten, on the coast of northern Norway, is a unique place to visit in the depths of winter, with dramatic snow dusted mountains that plunge into the water. The temperature of the ocean negates the Arctic conditions and moderates the extent of freezing. On a cloudy day the cold air and low light creates a deep blue tone that strips colour from almost everything, with just the deep red tones of fisherman cottages defying the tonal pallet.
The blend of blue hues and slow skies inspired me to build a treatment for these landscapes that plunges into the world of white-imbalance. Instead of resisting the unusual colour range my chosen treatment embraces it, enhances it and immerses in it. I dropped the colour temperature towards the 4400K mark and additionally dropped the colour saturation to a fraction of it's normal level.
Without easing off saturation the manipulation of colour temperature usually comes across as corrupted instead of calibrated. Subtle application of saturation is the key to flexibility when creating bold treatments. And our aim here is to be very bold instead of very normal. After all, why be normal when you can be interesting.
This set of images from Lofoten were gathered during a 5km walk that took around 6 hours to complete. Slowly slowly. Every few hundred meters, with tripod slung over my shoulder, a new vista would inspire my imagination and I'd spend a good 30 minutes shooting variations on the composition.
Drawing long clouds and silky water into the frame were the two main objectives. A very powerful Neutral Density (ND) Filter does the heavy lifting, converting a dull and flat cloudy day into a moody and magical capture. A ten stop ND filter is gold, although in the fading light a 4 stop would have been handy too. Given the chance to shoot exposures at 30 seconds you can get some lovely slow scenes, but if time permits then 5 or 10 minute exposures are even better.
At the end of a week in Lofoten I had barely scratched the surface of what this landscape has to offer. Mountains of towering rock, deep coatings of fresh snow and narrow channels of ocean tucked into fjords. Beaches where the snow is washed away by tides, and tides that are frozen solid by the snow. I could spend a month here and still not get bored.
Armed with my blue treatment I looked back on the rest of my first flush of Lofoten captures and applied the same response to those scenes. Some worked better than others because some images were captured with a different processing in mind.
Knowing how you will treat your RAW files in processing will change the way you shoot them, especially when working a very bold treatment. You get a little more picky about what you shoot, tailoring your captures to suit the final effect. Anything that narrows your creative style will also make your work more distinctive, for better or worse. Mostly it's better.
A place such as Lofoten will look gorgeous with many kinds of treatments, but etched into my mind's eye are those tones of blue that you get from a cloudy day in the Arctic. Sometimes photography is as much about what you feel as what the camera sees, which is why processing images with your own treatment is so important to the final result.
See the full set of images from Lofoten here: