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Photo therapy: the art of patience - why it's worth waiting!

Peter Fenech
(Image credit: Peter Fenech)

I'm not a patient guy! This applies to me waiting in a fifty mile line at Starbucks and it most certainly describes my behaviour when out shooting photographs. This isn't something to be proud of, though I should point out it is only because I want to see results and be the best photographer I can be. There are times when patience pays off however and landscape photography in particular benefits from waiting. 

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This can be difficult when you've dragged yourself out of bed for a sunrise, hauled kilograms of expensive photo gear into a forest, all with great expectations, only to be faced with a damp squib of a dawn. That happened to me at the location shown here. I'd wanted a misty sunrise, but there was no sunrise, nor was there mist. I was a bit disappointed to say the least. 

I didn't give up and shot a few frames, but I knew there was nothing dramatic about to happen. The only option was to try again in a few days. I returned on a clearer day, but despite the promise of fog there wasn't much. I had a good view of the rising sun through the trees though, so we were half way there. After a further three attempts I finally got lucky!

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I really wanted to capture this tunnel of trees, filled with illuminated mist, ( I had this image (opens in new tab) in my mind and wanted to recreate it). So placed the camera close to ground level, mounted a Sigma 10-20mm lens (opens in new tab) and waited for the sun to appear at just the right angle. I'd have preferred a longer lens to compress perspective, but needed the wide angle-of-view to fit in the left hand tree.

In woodland photography be careful of empty spaces - a wide lens can capture too much foreground. Here that wasn't a problem as the leaf carpet was attractive but remember to try zooming to compress the scene.

Why the image works

A longer exposure can help create more painterly colours, which helps with a scene like this, although keeping the trees sharp is important. (Image credit: Peter Fenech)
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  1. Darker to lighter: the edges of the frame a much darker than the centre creating a tunnel-like effect. Enhance with vignetting.
  2. Leading lines: the trees form leading lines and guide the eye into the centre.
  3. Warm to cool: The frame has more blues (high Kelvin) colours at the edges and reds/yellows (low Kelvin) hues at the centre, creating direction and depth.

The day before yesterday - the same scene is far from inspiring without the sun visible and mist present in the shot. (Image credit: Peter Fenech)
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The magic of Dehaze

One of the best additions to Lightroom and Camera Raw in recent years has been the Dehaze Slider. It's fantastic for removing hazy mist or light fog but I'm far more enamored of it because of what happens if you drag it the other way. If there is even a little mist present Dehaze can drastically enhance this and create that thick fog feeling.  

For this image I pulled the Slider to -66 to soften the whole scene and then used the Adjustment Brush (K) to add a little extra over the sun area. I then used the Auto Mask feature to selectively remove any unwanted application over the foreground trees.

Use Lightroom's Auto Mask feature to remove any added mist from foreground features, helping create the sense of dissipating detail moving away from the camera. (Image credit: Future)
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The next step was colour adjustment. I cooled the shadows by adding some blue and Green using the Curves control in Lightroom. I also added some warm tones to the highlights. (Image credit: Future)
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Final image: By using a Cloudy White Balance and reducing the reds at the edges a good colour contrast gives the image added depth. (Image credit: Peter Fenech)
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Conclusion - good things come to people that wait. Making sure you are in the right place at the right time is as much of an important photo skill as learning your camera settings. Take the time to assess what lighting and weather you are likely to find and make informed decisions based on that. If you can't get the conditions you want keep coming back (when possible). With each visit you gain a more detailed knowledge of how best to get drama in your images.

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As the Editor for  Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) magazine, Peter is a specialist in camera tutorials and creative projects to help you get the most out of your camera, lens, tripod, filters, gimbal, lighting and other imaging equipment.


After cutting his teeth working in retail for camera specialists like Jessops, he has spent 11 years as a photography journalist and freelance writer – and he is a Getty Images-registered photographer, to boot.


No matter what you want to shoot, Peter can help you sharpen your skills and elevate your ability, whether it’s taking portraits, capturing landscapes, shooting architecture, creating macro and still life, photographing action… he can help you learn and improve.

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