The light, the leaf and all the elements of the image above are real. What is fake is that none of it was as seen here when I first came across it. I made decisions that took these elements and arranged for them to look this way and those decisions extended to changing the light.
Let me explain. Last weekend I was out walking and I saw this bridge railing. The light was pre-dawn and a little overcast, so there was no definition. I liked the curve and I thought about what I could do to bring that out.
I made two decisions straight away. I created some contrast by using an off-camera flash coming from the right hand side and I simplified the composition by going closer and losing the top and bottom rails. I used a wide aperture to isolate a section. It looked better to me but I felt it needed more.
The next decisions resulted in the final series of images. I saw the leaf on the ground nearby and it had the right colour contrast against the steel. There was also the contrast of organic against industrial textures. I needed somewhere to place the leaf so the bottom rail came back into frame. I also shifted the flash to the left hand side to avoid shadows falling across the rail. It made more dramatic shadows as well.
Now if there is a point to this post it’s that you should always give yourself permission to change what is in front of you when it suits. It is no worse than adding a filter or making changes in post. Another point is to always ask yourself what you can add or take away.