Upload & Sell: On
Owing to you concerns being aesthetic rather than accurate a couple thoughts come to mind for me.
My first thought is my typical guiding principle of "What's the point?" that you are trying to convey to your viewer. In that, I mean are you trying to present a pleasant picture, or are you trying to present a point about the pollution, but in an aesthicly appealing way?
I say this, and it seems like a minor distinction, but before you explained the cloud formation, I thought you had captured "real clouds" above the stacks to emulate fake pollution to illustrate your point. Now, that I know they are the "actual pollution" clouds, I'm wondering if your point is to drive the pollution point as social commentary, or simply to make an aesthetically pleasing image.
Since color & mood are related, the answer to your WB (for me) rests in whether you want your viewer to be relaxed/calmed by a pleasant image, or do you want them to stand up and take notice (i.e. disturbed) by an image that alarms them, but done so in an aesthetic that it shows your artistic diligence.
My take on the image is that the since the pollution is most noticeable in the sky rather than the water, I wanted the reflections and shoreline itself to be (eh, sorta) close to neutral as the eye might expect to see all the colors at play. Then, to accentuate the 'red' pollution I applied a filter over the image and masked off the shoreline and water to retain their 'neutral' colors. The last thing I did was to try and use the central plume as a transition from "clean" to "dirty" to try and develop a leading line/color to draw the viewers eye from the shoreline to the cloud to "connect" the two.
The one thing that I had a little concern for is the fact that many times a city's sodium vapor lighting can put that same kind of reddish hue into the clouds ... i.e. how to distinguish the fact that this is a pollution cloud vs. a regular cloud simply reflecting sodium vapor lighting ... except maybe to use a "dirty yellow/green" filter to taint the clouds instead of red. I think yellow/green is more of a 'sickening' color, whereas red is more of and 'angry' color. Hence, I stayed with red despite the possible sodium vapor confusion ... hopefully cranking the red/brown strong enough that it doesn't come across as reflected sodium vapor lighting.
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