In the days of film you could rely on emulsions like Fuji Velvia and Kodachrome to exaggerate and intensify the colours of a sunset, but today’s digital cameras deliver a more accurate rendition… which can also be quite disappointing.
This picture is a good example. Admittedly, the conditions weren’t ideal for sunsets – it was one of those days where the sun goes down without a whole lot of colour. A meteorologist might be able to explain why this happens – it’s probably to do with dust in the atmosphere and light scatter.
In any event, this shot needs a little jolt of colour, and the Bi-Color filter in Nik (now Google) Color Efex Pro is just the tool for the job. Here’s how it’s done:
01 Color Efex Pro 4 window
Here’s the Color Efex Pro 4 window. The filters are displayed in the long vertical panel on the left and the adjustment tools for each one are on the right – they’re not visible at the moment because we haven’t selected a filter.
02 Bi-Color Filter options
If you select Bi-Color Filter from the list on the left, the default filter colours are applied straight away. You can choose a different colour set by opening the drop-down menu on the right, but the first in the list gives a great result.
03 Bi-Color Filter adjustments
All we need to do now is carry out a few minor adjustments. Increasing the Opacity makes the colours more intense, increasing the Blend value spreads the gradient transition over a wider area and reducing the Vertical Shift value moves the transition towards the top of the frame, where our horizon is.
04 The end result
The colours in our final picture aren’t exactly natural (we know how they were achieved, after all), but they do make a striking picture, and they’re close enough to real life that most people would accept them as real.