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Low resolution GIF file which shows a series of layer adjustments. See below to open up a spectacular full resolution file on our website.

Not every voyage to Antarctica has blue sky. Not that it necessarily matters as a perfect blue sky day can be a tad boring. Nevertheless, on my voyage back in 2009, we had seen zero sunshine and the weather had been poor. However, on our last day when we passed through the Lemaire Channel, we experienced beautiful, still water and amazing reflections. The whole ship was on deck to view the spectacle.

Once through the Channel, we spent some time ashore following penguins and then it was time to re-board and head back home. And suddenly the sun came out!

A break in the clouds created some directional light on Booth Island. What I found curious was the distinct yellow colouration in the distant clouds, proving once again that truth is stranger than fiction. At home I would put the colouration down to pollution, but in Antarctica, the air is, if nothing else, super clean and so I told myself it must be the clouds breaking up the visible spectrum, holding back the blues and letting the yellows pass through.

No idea if this is true, of course.

One of the challenges in shooting scenes like this is ensuring there is detail in the snow. While we all know that snow is white, this isn’t always the case and even if it were, photographs would look rather boring if snow were reproduced as pure white on the screen or on paper. However, you can’t always simply darken down the file to bring in detail. If you have overexposed your capture, then that means you have no detail in the highlights to play with, so when the image is darkened down, you end up with areas of flat, detailless tone. This is why during capture I always keep an eye on the histogram to ensure that I am not ‘clipping’ or overexposing my whites.

There is a trick to looking at the histogram. Sometimes it appears obvious where the histogram ends, but if you look closely, the graph can ‘dribble’ along the bottom for a lot further into the highlights. If you drop the exposure further and you can still see the ‘dribble’, it means you were still clipping. 

Most cameras have an exposure warning system where the LCD screen flashes red or black to show the areas in the photo that are overexposed. When the LCD shows the full image, the warning might not appear, but enlarge the preview image and you may find there are indeed areas of snow that are clipping. Sometimes this can be controlled with less exposure, but if they are specular highlights (direct reflection from the sun), exposure alone may not solve the problem. A polarising filter can help, although there are other issues to consider, such as an increase in contrast.

While the straight capture looked great, a little post-production allowed me to use my database of 'ideas' to take the image further. You can find all the techniques to do what I have done in many places - they are not complicated. The trick is using those techniques to implement your ideas - and this is where instruction like my Landscape Photography MasterClass can help. For this image, I use it to discuss different ways of vignetting an image, so you don't end up with a circle!

If you're already a subscriber, the Landscape Photography MasterClass has been recently updated with over 20 new movies, so log on and enjoy. If you haven't yet subscribed, why not take advantage of the special offer below and get 40% off - plus you can pay for it over 10 months and there's always a money-back guarantee if it's not for you. Click here for details and a showcase of the contents.

And the full resolution file of the photo above? Use the Read More link below to visit the website and then click on the image to open up a full resolution version to view! It is so much better than the little image above!

Click on the image above to enlarge, keep clicking to enlarge more, click and move mouse to navigate around the image.