I had a few people asking me how I got the Walla Walla wheat photos to look so good. Mainly it was the use of a polarization filter that helped create a more dramatic sky. However that only got me part of the way there.
As with all of my images, I have to do some post production work on them. The tools we use today in the digital dark room are similar to the ones used yesterday, they are just easier use. Typical things tools used, in the dark rooms of yore, were dodging, burning, masking, bending, exposure adjustments, chemical baths and paper characteristics. All of which lead to a print final that the photographer is ready to show. The digital dark room is the same but quicker and easier. We lighten, darken, crop, sharpen, mask, bend, push colors etc. This risk with any tool set is that you go to far. You can use chemicals to make some pretty bizarre prints, you can also use photoshop to really mess up a decent image. Practice and feedback is the best way to stay on course. My best advice is to take the picture you want and use post processing as the final fix up. The less you have to do in post processing the better your final image will be.
Here is a simple before and after setup that demonstrates how the wheat pictures were made to pop. The first shot is the “raw” shot from my Canon Mark II 1DS. Its comes out plain, low contrast, soft and not in the exact color ranges I would like to see. This is by design for the settings I use on the camera. Starting this way, in the middle so to speak, allows me to push an image further in many directions in post production. The second shot shows how I lightened and darkened areas, added contrast, sharpened the image, fixed up colors and adjusted the crop and the skyline’s center line.