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Behind The Shot: Revisiting A Special Scene In New Light

Herve Rannu (@herverannuphoto) has spent the past nine years working in the print industry, eventually specializing in digital printing. In 2017 he found photography and about three years ago, he paused his full time work in the printing industry and started giving lectures about digital printing and nature photography as a part time job. This part time work allows him to put more time into landscape and nature photography which is what he loves most. He says, “I consider printing and photography as my two hobbies so I’m super happy that I can connect these two passions. I love printing my photos and the feeling when I see my photography come to life and I can hold it between my hands feels something very special to me.” Rannu's deep knowledge about the technical aspects and necessities of printing photos led him to the 61 megapixel Sony Alpha 7R V as his camera of choice.   

Product Preview – In This Article You'll Find:
Sony Alpha 7R V
Sony 16-35mm f/4 G PZ

We recently came across this beautiful landscape on Herve’s Instagram and wanted to learn more about how he created it. Keep reading as he shares his story behind the shot and we (hopefully) say goodbye to winter weather with this one last winter landscape.

Photo by Herve Rannu. Sony Alpha 7R V. Sony 16-35mm f/4 G PZ. 1/200-sec., f/13, ISO 100

Photo by Herve Rannu. Sony Alpha 7R V. Sony 16-35mm f/4 G PZ. 1/200-sec., f/13, ISO 100

The Scene: Going With The Flow

The location where I took the photo is very close to where I grew up as a child. Now I live in the capital  of Estonia, and I had to drive about 100 kilometers to reach this location. I actually found this place through photography and first visited it in 2021. The small lake is fed by a hot spring of sorts so in winter the water doesn’t freeze and instead it starts steaming and creates a constant bed of mist. This can create some amazing landscape photography opportunities with the steam and light working together.

Over the time I have learned that if you have high expectations about something and it doesn’t happen in the end then the fall is emotionally harder. When it comes to mother nature, she is always in control so I try not to set my expectations too high. Rather, it's important to just go with an open mind and see what happens. Feel free, accept the possibilities and capture the scene how it is in these natural conditions. With that mindset, I just explored this place and when I found something interesting to my eyes that's when I brought out the camera to capture it.

Photo by Herve Rannu. Sony Alpha 7R V. Sony 16-35mm f/4 G PZ. 1/40-sec., f/11, ISO 100

On the way to the location. Photo by Herve Rannu. Sony Alpha 7R V. Sony 16-35mm f/4 G PZ. 1/40-sec., f/11, ISO 100

Because the weather forecast promised a cold morning (-20 C) I decided to go to this spot again to see what might happen. I love to visit places where I have been many many times. When you think about it, every sunrise or sunset is different. The light is different. Landscapes and nature change. And also I am constantly progressing as a human being and my perception and the way I see things around me changes. That’s why I go back to places that I have visited many times over the years. On this day, time I spent about two hours in this magical place and managed to make three portfolio shots that I am super-proud of. This photo is one of them.

Getting The Shot: Taking Your Time 

The sunrise was at 8:54 a.m. and because I like to take it easy in the morning and not rush myself, I woke up at 5:30, had some coffee and breakfast, and started driving around 6:45. The weather forecast promised high clouds so there was a possibility to get some nice colors in the sky adding to the crispy -20-degrees C and beautiful morning light. The early departure gave me a chance to catch some drama in dawn sky because the sky can create dramatic colors in the period about 30 minutes before sunrise.

Photo by Herve Rannu. Sony Alpha 7R V. Sony 16-35mm f/4 G PZ. 5-sec., f/11, ISO 200

30 minutes before sunrise. Photo by Herve Rannu. Sony Alpha 7R V. Sony 16-35mm f/4 G PZ. 5-sec., f/11, ISO 200

I arrived about one hour before the sunrise to scout the location. As I had been in this location before I knew that the sun would align between the trees later with the reflection in the foreground. I didn’t plan to capture the photo that became the main image. Indeed the sky turned colorful and the whole scene had these pastel tones. It was very dreamy. After a couple of shots I decided to move to the location where I saw everything beginning to come together.

Photo by Herve Rannu. Sony Alpha 7R V. Sony 16-35mm f/4 G PZ. 1/20-sec., f/11, ISO 100

30 minutes after sunrise. Photo by Herve Rannu. Sony Alpha 7R V. Sony 16-35mm f/4 G PZ. 1/20-sec., f/11, ISO 100

When I arrived at the spot, I saw a fallen tree branch in the water with snow on top of it. Light was also hitting the branch from the back, creating a nice little glow on top of it. It was a nice foreground element to include in the photo. Analyzing the surroundings, I realized that this shot might be worth the effort. So I started working on the scene and adjusting my tripod in tiny increments and fine-tuning the composition until I felt it was right.

I tried out different focal lengths to see how the photo would look like. In these busy environments where there is so much going on in the frame, it's always challenging to decide what to include and what to frame out. The mist helped out a bit so there was more depth in the scene and the zoom range of my Sony 16-35mm lens also helped out as I captured the final exposure at a focal length of 34mm, f/13, 1/100 sec and ISO 100. The light was pretty harsh and therefore I made a three-shot exposure bracket sequence to capture detail from the deepest shadows all the way to the brightest highlights. 

The Value Of High Resolution For Landscape Photography

For gear I used Sony Alpha 7R V camera body and Sony 16-35mm f/4 G PZ lens.

The Sony Alpha 7R V body with the 61MP sensor gives fantastic details and dynamic range that I think in landscape photography is very important. That allows me to work with more detail when preparing my photos for print. Yes, there's plenty of software out there which allows you to upsample your photos from a very small size, but I love when the RAW source file is the best of the best.

I have had the Sony 16-35mm f/4 G PZ lens only for a couple of months and I really love it. It gives me more flexibility out in the landscape when I just have to make tiny adjustments in the composition by zooming in and out and where I can’t adjust my position. Also it's very lightweight and I can easily bring it to my longer hiking and camping trips. The lens worked beautifully for capturing this shot.

Editing A Winter Wonderland

In the editing process I used Adobe Lightroom Classic and Photoshop. I always do the first editing in Lightroom and then move to Photoshop for some more complex and precise work. In Lightroom I combined the three bracketed exposures together and then did some basic editing to bring back the shadow detail. I also made some adjustments to the white balance and brought back some cool tones to the shadows.

Then I opened the image file in Photoshop and used Luminosity masks to work more on precise areas of the photo. I think the most challenging part of this editing was the shadows. If you brighten them up too much, the photo loses contrast and can end up looking too flat and if you brighten them up too little then there is too much contrast in the frame and the shadows become a textureless void. In the end I cropped the frame a bit and left out some of the branches from the left side because I think they would have attracted too much attention. I am satisfied with the overall result.

Overall it was a very nice morning spent in a crispy winter wonderland. The decision to approach the location with not-so-high expectations turned out to be one of the biggest highlights of this winter. It's important to enjoy yourself out there and have fun which I did on this day. And I came back with a couple more images that I am very proud of and I can add to my portfolio.

See more of Herve Rannu’s work on Instagram @herverannuphoto.


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