Nowhere Newsletter 11: Henri Prestes

Interview with photographer Henri Prestes

What is your backstory?

My name is Henri Prestes. I was born in a small Portuguese town near the Spanish border. I was always very interested in stories, whether they were from films or books, I spent all my free time consuming them. Growing up and for the longest time, I was never exactly sure what I wanted to pursue or what mediums to use; the only thing that I knew for certain is that I wanted to tell stories.

I had recently started shooting small commercials for local companies when I purchased my first still camera around five years ago. Once I started going out at night to take photos I immediately found myself in love with this medium. There was something about it that pulled me in; the ability to have full control of the output, and not having to rely on so many variables like other mediums: It was only myself and the camera and the motivation to go out to explore my surroundings, and the potential to create stories with single still images. 

What camera /editing setup do you use?

I mainly use a Nikon d850, usually paired with a 24mm or 35mm lens. I edit all my images in Lightroom and then use Photoshop for finishing touches: sharpness and slight adjustments to color if needed.

How do you achieve the look of your photographs and could you take us through the process?

In terms of the way I photograph my images, most of the time I don’t know exactly what I’m going to shoot; I just have an idea of the mood I want to capture. Sometimes I scout an area beforehand and then I go out when the weather is interesting, either with fog or while raining, and I’m usually attracted to more secluded environments that remind me of the exploring I used to do as a kid.

If it’s nighttime I always use long exposures, most of the time only relying on the ambient light present in the scene. Lately, I’ve been experimenting a bit more using Led Lights if the place is too dark or I want to create a more dramatic look and it’s something that I’ve been enjoying as well.

In terms of the editing, I don’t have a set process that I repeat each time, every photo I start in a different way, and it involves a lot of trial and error until I get something that “feels right”. Some photos I can go months before I find an edit that works but then after a long time of not looking at it, I come in with fresh eyes and usually spot what I like and don’t like about it immediately and usually get the edit finished.

Could you provide 3 before and after shots and take us through your process?

#1 (below)

This image was a long exposure of 10 seconds. I was exploring some woods at night in the outskirts of a village when I noticed this otherworldly light that was coming from a cabin in the distance. And even though I felt a bit stressed out to be spotted I knew I had to take a photo. I set out my tripod, took a few long exposures and got out of there fast. On the edit, I pulled the temperature down and tint towards green. I pushed the exposure up using several small local adjustments in Lightroom (mostly in the background area). I then added a bit of clarity to certain parts of the images like in the water puddle to make the reflections more visible. I also darkened the lower bottom with a local adjustment brush because it was distracting and finally, I upped the overall vibrance of the photo.

(Unedited photograph, top)

#2 (below)

I was driving around during a very rainy day when I came across this lonely cherry tree with beautiful color that contrasted to the surrounding darkness of that day.  I photographed it handheld through the windshield. I usually shoot underexposed but usually not as extreme as this one. I had to do a lot of pulling in the edit. I pushed the highlights, shadows, and blacks up a lot, especially in the sky. I then started to add local adjustments to my interest spots, like the big tree, where I added saturation and overall brightness. Then I started playing with warm and cold temperatures using local adjustments: dropped the temperature on the road and added warmth in the vegetation.  In some of these areas, I also added a bit of clarity with a very small adjustment brush. To finish things up I added a slight green tone in the highlights and increased the overall temperature of the photo.

(Unedited photograph, top)

#3 (below)

I was exploring the outskirts of this Portuguese town during a foggy night when I noticed some construction work going on around the train tracks. I went in as far as I could, taking long exposures of the enviroment when I heard the sound of a train coming. I quickly set my tripod and prepared myself to take a shot. This was a 0.6 seconds exposure. In the editing I dropped the temperature to 2000 and pushed the tint a bit towards green. I lowered the highlights so that the big lamppost light wouldn’t be so distracting. Then I started to add local adjustments to certain areas, like adding clarity to the ground, so it would have a bit more texture to it and also to the train rails. I then upped the brightness of the train. I used split toning in LR to add a blue tint in the hightlights and a bit of green in the shadows.

(Unedited photograph, top)