While processing the photos that I made on my hike to the Zwiesel peak yesterday, I stumble across a problem that I have for quite a while now if I work on pictures from a similar event: do I want to document the hike, or do I want to show photos that stand on their own? I don't have a solution for that problem (and it's not that it really bothers me either, because my focus usually is on the single photo), I'm just sharing my thoughts here... :-)
I think that the key to a successful series of documentary photos is a consistent look. Which means consistent post processing. However... the way I make photos is no good for consistent post processing. I try to expose to the right without blowing out the highlights... and the difference from one photo to the other in its un-processed form can be... quite big.
This is not a problem when I just stroll around with the camera and create unique photos of single scenes - I process each picture individually (and they usually end up collected in my monthly collected albums on Picasa Web), and it's not a problem when their appearance is different. But documenting an event or an activity that lasts for a couple of hours, like this hike... if the look of the photos is not consistent, it looks somewhat random and amateurish to me.
White Wash (NIKON D700, 1/400s @ ISO 200; f/8, 135 mm (in 35mm)
The hike itself was really great - I was sweating like a horse on the way to the first stop (Zwieselhaus) because the mountain forest was very damp and warm. Near the Zwieselhaus I reached the cloud cover and it became cooler with some nice wind (unfortunately, the Zwieselhaus' kitchen was closed, they only offered beverages and sweets - I was hoping to have a soup there...).
Ascending to the peak of the Zwiesel with it's two crosses was rather delightful because it wasn't so warm and damp anymore. At the peak a strong winds drove the clouds in and out, and when the clouds where gone for a minute or two, the view around was quite remarkable.
The problem with conditions changing so dramatically from one minute to the other is of course getting a consistent look (and using UniWB, I cannot really tell from the camera display what the photos will look like, I just check the histograms for clipping) - exposure times ranged from as low as 1/60s to 1/800s at ISO200 within minutes being trapped in foggy clouds vs the grand view of mountains peeking through the cloud cover...
A tip for the Lightroom and ACR users: create white balance presets for your camera (personally, I find that auto white balance is a pain in the b*tt - color temperatures could vary from one photo to the next even if you moved just a couple of meters/feet. That really defeats the goal of a consistent look.)
Here's how I did that for my cameras: set the camera to a fixed white balance mode (the Nikons usually have sunny, cloudy, shade and some more for artificial light; I only care about outdoor white balance). Make a photo with each of the camera's white balance modes (I'm only talking about raw data, of course!). In Lightroom/ACR, import those photos and create a preset from the white balance reading. For me, bright sun is 4650K, cloudy is 5000-5333K, and shade is 5600K. The individual adjustment of the green/magenta axis depends on the camera's sensor - or rather, the UV and IR filters that are in front of it.