Friday, October 5, 2012

The Making of “Around the Bend”

If you tuned in earlier in the week you may have seen the image I posted titled “Around the Bend”.

Of course this is EXACTLY how it looked straight out of camera too. SmileAlright, not really.  Despite being out in the country there was actually a fair amount of traffic on this road.  Somehow, standing in the middle of the road on a blind corner for extended periods of time didn’t seem like a real good idea so I “shot and ran”.  Here’s the REAL out of camera shot.

Here’s a quick rundown on how it got from A to B.

In Lightroom …

  1. Crop and straighten the image.  That “blah” sky has got to go and we can leverage that double-yellow as a leading line to pull the viewer into the photo.
  2. Now for the exposure. What a mess.  Looks like a good candidate for HDR so I focused my efforts on exposing the road properly with the original cropped image and then made 2 virtual copies.  I set the first virtual to an exposure value 2 under my original and the second 2 over.
  3. Selecting all three images I sent them out to PhotoMatix Pro (right-click, Export) and applied the default enhancer template. Looks good to me. Reimport to Lightroom.
  4. At this point, everything is looking good except for what I kept of the sky. Still “blah” and in need of an overhaul.  Lucky for me I had a shot of a nice crisp blue autumn sky just a few shots further into the collection.  Selecting both my new HDR image and shot of the nice blue sky, I right-clicked and selected “Edit In …” and then “Open as Layers in Photoshop…”.

In Photoshop…

  1. First thing is to position the layers so the HDR is on top and the blue sky image below that.
  2. With the HDR layer selected, pick the “Select” menu, use the “Color Range…” option and change the “Select” option to “Highlights”.  Just like that the crumby sky, including the difficult to select area between the pine tree branches is selected.  For good measure, I saved the selection using the option at the bottom of the “Select” menu. Just to be safe, I expanded the selection by 1 pixel from the “Select…Modify” menu to prevent any “white lines” between my sky and trees.
  3. With the HDR layer selected, add a new “Reveal All” Layer Mask.
  4. Select the new Layer Mask, set the brush tool, color set to black and a 30% opacity.
  5. After adjusting the brush size to be able to accommodate the height of the sky selection I make my first pass over the selected sky.  Still a little blah so I made one more pass.  There. That’s better.
  6. Grab the “Move Tool” and select the layer containing the blue sky.  Move the sky layer left/right until the clouds are positioned to complement the scene.
  7. Save the file and exit back to Lightroom.

In Lightroom…

  1. The light on the pavement in the foreground is still a little “hot” so add a new brush using the “Burn (Darken)” effect to paint the bright area until it no longer detracts from the scene.
  2. Add keywords, additional metadata and share.

Compared to the amazing effort put forth by Mother Nature to provide the fall colors, the few mouse clicks were a small price to pay to help the image along a little.

Have you leveraged HDR techniques in any of your fall photos?  Have a link or two to share?  Use the comments section below to share.


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