I was visiting Afan Forest Park to scout the area for a possible location for a mountain bike shoot as there are numerous mountain biking trails and facilities in the park. After having a good drive and look round, I set aside some time to get some landscape photography in as well.
With the river water level relatively low, a lot of the river stones were very dry and pale, which made them stand out, especially against the green-yellow reflection of the sunlit foliage. Photographing in direct sunlight causes all sorts of problems with contrast, especially when one side of the valley is in shade. A lot of people forget that graduated filters will help in these conditions and don’t have to be used across bright skies only. In the very top image I used two filters; a 3 stop soft grad to tone down the sky and sunlight foliage and?a one stop hard grad then placed over the sky. A quick use of the adjustment brush to correct the darkened foliage on the upper left corner finishes the process. The key is not to over filter the sky. Reflected skies and other reflections in water are always darker than the actual sky and should be retained this way.
The alternative option was to exclude the bright sky and foliage completely as in the above image. This means that all parts of the image are in the same light. The boulders in the lower left help provide some foreground interest, which could have been quite plain with just river water and visually empty space. Depending on the sky conditions another option would be to try and photography on a cloudy day; bright white sky would be useless, but darker grey clouds could possibly work.