Behind The Shot

'Tian Tan Buddha'

Canon EOS 550D @F8 1/500s, IS0200, 250mm

with Chaise Taylor

Chaise, tell us a bit about you…

I am turning 37 in June, and I currently live in the Manawatu region. I love living here because of the amazing scenery and the black sand beaches. I was born here, and although I have lived in Northland and Kapiti, I always miss home and end up coming back.

Currently, I am living the single life and have converted my 4WD into a camper. This allows me to go on photography trips into the bush and gives me a place to base myself when I am travelling. I work part-time for the regional council, which helps fund my photography and gives me the flexibility to spend more time in nature.

What’s your background in photography?

When I was three years old, my mother let me take a photo with her Pentax DSLR. The photo was of her, and it came out in focus and framed nicely. For as long as I can remember, I have always loved photography, and over the years, I have collected various vintage lenses and adapted them to my cameras. I primarily use my trusty Canon 550D, which I have owned since 2015, but for the last few years, I have started using a Nikon D600 to get the benefit of full-frame lenses.

Photo editing has become a passion of mine. I find it relaxing to put my headphones on and create something interesting. With so many options available now, I have settled on using a combination of Adobe Lightroom and Luminar by Skylum. I find that I can easily make changes to multiple images in batches between these two programs, reducing the repetitive nature of editing photos. For example, my Canon has one dust spot on the sensor, which is noticeable in most images. Lightroom allows me to remove it once and apply that correction to every photo in my workspace. Luminar uses artificial intelligence to make alterations and supports replacing the background of a photo in just a few clicks.

Tian Tan Buddha

Tell us about this image…

In 2018 I was lucky enough to visit Hong Kong for a week with my family. During my stay, I visited the Tian Tan Buddha monument. I took many great photos there, but when I returned home and started sorting my memory cards, I noticed some photos were basically unusable as they were. I decided to edit some of them to create an artistic rendition that was different from the original, but that could still be used as an interesting photo on social media.
This photo is the best example of such a digital edit.

I started by importing the photo into Lightroom, where I made the basic corrections. After straightening the image, I adjusted the contrast and highlights. Next, I removed the haze from the sky to restore the natural terrain feature, which was initially too faint to see. I chose to de-haze the sky using the Graduated Filter with a large feather gap to make the blend look smooth and not affect the foreground too much. Because I was going to edit the photo in Luminar further, I didn’t need to adjust the colour saturation at this stage.

After exporting the edited photo into Luminar, I used the Replace Sky feature and found a free stock image with a sky that would suit what I wanted to create. Once I had the new sky in the photo, I was able to relight the scene and blend the two images together.

The resulting photo looked quite good at this stage, but I wanted to create a mysterious, moody feeling. The monument is located high up in the mountains above Hong Kong, and I wanted my photo to represent that and give the viewer a sense of another world almost, something usually reserved for blockbuster films.

I imported the composition back into Lightroom and started applying various landscape filters I have created. These filters range in various colour temperatures and effects, but I start with them as a baseline to see what is visually pleasing to me, and then I have a direction to move in.

The filter I selected is very warm and emphasises the green channel in saturation and luminosity. I dehazed the lower half of the image and lightened the shadows on the trees to make them stand out more. In the original photo, the trees and surrounding landscape are very flat and boring. I needed to almost create a high dynamic range effect to restore the natural contrast.
The day I took the photo, it was very dull and cloudy. There was little in the way of bright colours, so I tried to emphasise the main colours in the image (the greens and yellows) while decreasing the luminosity of the other colours.

Sadly, whenever a photo is this heavily edited, it is impossible not to create a large amount of noise in the image. I used ON1 Nonoise AI 2022 to remove as much noise from the image as possible without sacrificing too much detail.

What else should we know about you and your photography?

Experimentation is vital for me to get creative. Whether using a fifty-year-old lens from a garage sale or digitally recreating a B-roll photo, thinking outside the box and basically playing with what I can find is what I love to do. For me, photography is a passion, and I love learning new tricks. Computers can help a lot, but nothing can substitute just grabbing the camera and getting out into the world.

Where can we see more of your work?