It’s mid December and winter is taking hold so the landscape changes. I’ve always liked living here with four very distinct seasons. About every 90 days, your photo opportunities evolve. The river ice is starting to form, the sky is overcast with a glow, some fresh snow and a powdered forest. The best of nature’s textures in one landscape shots.

Click on the photo for a larger detailed view –

Winter River and Forest in Muskoka by Marc ManthaOn the way home from the Muskokas where I’m clearing some land, I stopped at a bridge to take in a few shots. I went with a landscape photography favorite, the Sigma 12-24mm to enhance the perception of depth with the ultra wide perspective this lens offers up.

I’ll share more of the details with you on how this was shot was taken along with some of my post editing tips.

Taking the Shot


It’s overcast and although the perceive light is dim, with the snow the scene is fast. That’s to say, I can achieve a really fast shutter speed with any wide angle lens. Therefor I can do handheld bracketed exposure shots without a tripod because even on the brightest exposure (slowest shutter speed) the shutter speed is well over 1/30 of a second.

Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 DG HSM IIThe Lens and Settings

All of the following are possible with most digital SLRs and SLR-like cameras.

I’m using the Sigma 12-24mm on a Canon 5D mark III.

  • Shooting Mode – Aperture Priority F14
  • Shooting format RAW (JPEG is fine too)
  • Check the White Balance and test shoot. Used Cloudy setting preset
  • Set Exposure Bracketing for 3 shots

Post Processing

  • Tonemapping, aka HDR processing is done using Photomatix Pro and using the three bracketed exposures I shot handheld in RAW format. You can just as well use JPEG file format for this too. There are lots of “presets” with Photomatix. I never use them.
  • Next, we’re off to PhotoShop with a little Dodging on the highlights knowing and understanding the direction of the natural light to make enhancements that make sense in the scene. The overcast light tends to be cool so I warm up the colors but not too much, it’s not a hot summer afternoon.
  • Now we clean up the noise and graininess created by HDR processing. You can micro smooth with Photomatix Pro, but it can affect the details of the grainee snow and so can DeNoising with Topaz my noise fixer-upper of choice. But…I create a duplicate layer of the original and apply Topaz DeNoise to it.
  • Masking is the next step. The DeNoised layer gives me a smoother sky and still waters in the river, while the other layer has all those fine edges and textures in the tree branches, snow and ice. The DeNoised layer is on top the original layer, so I’m erasing all those areas where I want to reveal the fine details. The digital brush I’m using has soft edges and the flow and opacity are around 30%.

PhotoShop Image ResizingMarc’s Resizing TIp

Something changed with PhotoShop CS6. Most users shifted years ago from printing to posting and digital sharing. The default PS setting in the drop down menu at the bottom of your Image Size dialog box always used to be Bicubic Smoother “Best for Enlargement”. The default is now Bicubic Sharper “Best for Reduction”  as most photos are prepared digital display nowadays.

Reducing image sizes typically softens image details, but you might find using the Bicubic Sharper option does the job.

Hey, have fun, take lots of photos and go out and find what you weren’t looking for.

Check some more winter photos…

MAMA Photography

MAMA supports the creative minds of the planet earth. If you come across somebody doing anything interesting and out of the ordinary, or just something that makes you smile, we’d like to know about it.


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