Pathway to Nawia

Pathway to Nawia
Cosina Cosinon-S 50 mm 1:2 | 50 mm | 1/8 s | f/5.6 | ISO 64

Here's a photo taken during a recent exploration of a forest I'd never been to. There was nothing extraordinary about the scene apart from a piece of moss-covered ground illuminated by sunlight. At the moment of taking the shot, I didn't think much of it. Here's what I started with:

The starting point, after applying profiled denoising

I started with a tweak to colour calibration to obtain a warmer image.

Colour calibrated photo

Colours were nearly spot on at this point. I decided to introduce only a subtle tweak to the colour zones. I shifted the greens slightly towards blue and desaturated them a bit. I also focused on the oranges to make the brown leaves pop a little. I shifted them a tiny bit towards red and added saturation.

Colour zones: changes to the greens and oranges

The main focus of the image was the sunlit moss in the middle so that needed some dodging to make it brighter. Adding just 0.5 EV to the exposure made a big difference.

Masked the sunlit moss and raised exposure

Then came the fun part. In reality, the scene had some pleasant sun shining through the tree canopy. I wanted to make that evident. I started by masking the areas that needed to be edited. A couple of ellipses were all I needed.

Mask of the areas where sunlight needed enhancing

The way I edit sunlight in my photos requires three tweaks. The first one is a slight negative dehaze (or rehaze, if you will).

Applied negative dehaze

The second step is a fairly aggressive dodge. I added 1.25 EV to the exposure of the masked areas.

Increased exposure

The third step is warming the sunlight. I started by applying a split tone globally. Highlights were tinted yellow-orange and shadows, blue.

Split tone applied

Some fairly strong burning on the sides and the bottom of the image was applied as well to concentrate the viewer's eyes even more on the sun and the sunlit moss. That was a -1.5 EV change to exposure.

Created a vignette

The photo was nearly ready at this point. The final tweaks included boosting the local contrast (I used a parametric mask with a +52% detail threshold so the local contrast wouldn't be applied to areas with less detail, like the sunlight). I also decided to add some more warmth to the sunlight and the sunlit moss by tinting them orange a little bit more. Finally, I added a small boost to the highlights' luminance so the sun would appear brighter.

Finished image

The last step is always doing nothing. I left the photo alone for a few days to marinate and since I was still happy with the result, I published it: