Our Wallowa Wanderlust workshop in early May was a great success. The weather provided a lot of interest in the sky (and on the ground). The hills were green and the mountains were packed with snow.
Here is an image I took during the workshop. This is the Triple Creek Ranch octagonal barn near Joseph. Restoration of this fabulous bark was completed in 2013. It is still used for everything from livestock auctions to weddings.
This image was shot handheld with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and a Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L lens (tilt-shift).
- ISO 200
- Auto W/B
The 24mm tilt-shift lens was used with camera handheld level and lens shifted up to eliminate distortion (vertical lines of barn bend in when standing close to an object with the camera pointed up).
Lightroom 5 was used to convert the RAW image and make initial adjustments for color and contrast.
The image was then sent to Photoshop CS5 where I used luminosity masks to set white and black points. A curve adjustment layer was used with a mask to isolate the clouds and add contrast to them which had the added benefit of creating a vignette around the barn to help emphasize it.
The images was then sent back to Lightroom 5 to isolate the clouds once again with an adjustment brush and reduce clarity (smooth out the clouds) and decrease saturation (the clouds had a blue cast causing a distraction). At this point I wanted to emphasize the barn a little more. So I used the Radial Filter in Lightroom 5 to isolate the front of the barn and increase exposure and decrease contrast (subtle, yet effective).
Needless to say, I can’t wait for next year’s workshop where we have many new sites to visit and explore.
Thanks for looking.
Night photography is challenging on many levels. It’s dark, so it’s hard to see your camera controls. It’s often cold. White balance is a problem (unless you shoot RAW). Exposure settings are a challenge (see my previous blogs on this subject). Focus is also challenging. But the rewards are well worth the effort. Plus it’s just plain fun.
This blog post will focus on post processing which offers its own set of challenges.
Here is a shot taken September 7, 2013 during my Wallowas Wanderlust workshop. This is a rare wigwam burner (I’ve heard that there are only five left in Oregon and none are being used). Below is a comparison of three states of the image…
On the left is the RAW image right out of the camera. As you can see, it’s under-exposed. The white balance was a big problem. The green tint on the burner is caused by some mercury-vapor lights from a nearby house. As with any RAW file, the image is flat. Some may ask “Why shoot RAW if the images are flat?” Sure, I could have shot JPEG but with the white balance challenges at night and compounded by the nearby light sourced, it would have been impossible to get the end results seen here. RAW images contain all the information recorded by the camera thus allowing great leeway in post processing.
The middle image was processed in Lightroom 5. Here a I started by adding contrast, saturation and depth in the Basic panel. I adjusted white balance the best I could but still wasn’t happy with the un-natural colors in the sky. The Milky Way didn’t stand out enough. Then there was the green tint on the burner and ground. I addressed this fairly well with the adjustment brush tool to isolate just that area and desaturate it. But the burner still didn’t stand out enough and it is the main subject in this image.
The image on the right is the Lightroom version sent to PhotoShop CS5. Here luminosity masks (LM) really strutted their stuff. As you’ve heard me talk about in previous blogs, LMs are target specific tones in an image. For the stars, I was able to set the white point just in the bright tones thus solving the problem encountered in Lightroom. Here are the rest of the steps I took in CS5 with this image:
- Even though the wigwam and ground were desaturated in Lightroom, I created a B&W adjustment layer and applied a mask to sky. This allowed me to add some contrast to the area with a Neutral Density preset.
- I created a selection out of the mask above and used it with a curves adjustment layer to further add contrast to the wigwam area.
- I again created a selection from the mask above and inverted it. This turned the selection into one isolating the sky only. I added a Color Balance adjustment layer and added some green to the mid tones and red and blue to the highlights (all with the ‘Preserve Luminosity’ box checked).
- I played a bit with levels on the sky mask. This and the step above created a more natural appearance in the sky.
- My last step (as I usually do) is to add a sharpening layer. Create a new layer on top of all others. Select ‘Layer > Merge visible’ while holding down the Alt key (this merges all layers below into one layer without destroying the layers below). Then add a High Pass filter to the layer with a radius of about 10 and select ‘Soft Light’ as the blending mode.
As always, thanks for looking.
Here is a link to our Wallowas Wanderlust workshop this year.
PhotoShop to the Rescue
When Lightroom just won’t quite get you there
During our last arctic blast (as the media loves calling it) I slogged my way up to my favorite place on earth – Silver Falls State Park. This place is magical any time of the year, but when Mother Nature graces it with the powdery white stuff, it is pure heaven on earth.
I could write a novel about the park but that’s not what this post is about. How about the image and how I achieved it? For starters, it was a very snowy day which was washing out the images somewhat. The heavy cloud cover wasn’t helping either.
My first attempt at making something useful out of this image of South Falls was with Lightroom. Lightroom offers quick and easy to use tools to process images, but sometimes I want more than Lightroom can offer.
Here’s what I did in Lightroom 5:
- I converted it to B&W since most color was absent anyway. I used a preset which decreases Highlights and Blacks, increases Shadows and Whites, increases Clarity, and sets all colors channels in the Saturation HSL panel to -100 (hence B&W).
- I played with Split Toning adding a blue tint to shadows and highlights to give it more of a clean wintery feel.
- Finally some sharpening was added.
Here’s the final result from Lightroom…
Not bad, but I wasn’t completely happy. The bright whites are too bright, the waterfall seemed a bit lost in the image, and the Basalt cliffs did not have much detail. I also wanted the foreground rocks to stand out a bit more. So PhotoShop to the rescue once again.
First the image from PS CS5…then what I did.
- Usually I do some edits in Lightroom prior to sending to PS. This time I decided to do everything in PS from the RAW image.
- I started off in PS as I often do by creating luminosity masks (LM) which are basically masks based on tonal values. I use 9 masks ranging from the brightest lights to the darkest darks. I don’t always need all 9 masks but they are easy to create using Actions.
- I start with the Mids LM to add some mid-tone contrast.
- I then moved to the Lights LM to set my white point and made some minor curve adjustments.
- I then made curve adjustments in the Bright Lights LM.
- Finally to the Super Darks LM with more curve adjustments.
- All of the LM work helps with contrast in specific tonal values.
- I then created a Black & White adjustment layer and played with the color sliders to help bring out some details.
- From here I wanted to isolate certain areas of the photo and correct the issues I encountered in Lightroom. I use Curves adjustment layers for each isolated area. The process for each is as follows:
- Create the Curves adjustment layer.
- Make the curves adjustments for the target area (NOTE: at this point the adjustments will be applied to the entire layer since it is filled with white – remember, White reveals…Black conceals).
- Use the paint brush tool and paint black in the areas where I DON’T want the adjustment applied (I use a Wacom tablet with pressure sensitive pen because of the increased control but a mouse will work too).
- NOTE: I could have filled the layer with black using the paint bucket tool and painted with white in the areas I DO want the adjustment applied to achieve the same result. It usually depends on which method offers the least amount of painting.
- Review the image to see if the area affected (left white in the mask) is what I want and make further curve adjustments if necessary.
- Name the layer for future reference.
- I created Curves adjustment layers for the following areas:
- Plunge pool – to bring out details in the snow covered rocks and other details.
- Ice – to create more contrast and detail in the ice formations behind the waterfall below the trail.
- Waterfall – to help make the waterfall stand out from its surroundings.
- Rocks – to help bring out details in the Basalt rock face behind the waterfall.
- There were some distracting elements in the upper left of the frame so I cloned them out using a ‘retouching’ layer (I never do anything directly to the Background layer).
- Finally I wanted to add some sharpening to the entire image. To do this I used a trick I found some time ago:
- Create a blank layer on top of ALL other layers.
- While holding the ‘Alt’ key, select the ‘Layer > Merge Visible’ function. Holding the ‘Alt’ key creates a layer with everything below it into one layer while leaving all other layers intact. Otherwise you end up with one merged layer and no way to edit at a later date.
- Use the High Pass filter with a radius around 10px.
- Use either Soft Light or Hard Light blending mode and adjust opacity as needed.
Here are the PS layers I used:
As always, thanks for looking and happy shooting.
On a recent snowshoe trek to Trillium Lake near Mt. Hood, I was blessed with amazing morning light. The dynamic range was fairly substantial. The mountain was bathed in sunlight and the trees and frozen lake were in shade.
Below is the original RAW image right out of the camera.
I used Lightroom 5 and PhotoShop CS5 to bring this image to life.
Here is what I did in Lightroom 5:
- Decrease Highlights and increase Whites to add light tone contrast.
- Decrease Blacks and increase Shadows to add dark tone contrast.
- Increase Clarity and Vibrance to add mid tone contrast and saturation.
Below is the Lightroom 5 edit. Getting there but I wanted more punch and detail.
I sent the Lightroom 5 edit to PhotoShop CS5. Here is what I did in CS5:
- As I usually do in CS5, I created luminosity masks. For this image I created five LMs (lights, light lights, darks, dark darks, and mids).
- I added a bit of contrast with the Mids LM.
- I added some brightness to the brighter tones via the Light Lights LM (note that only the brightest tones are available for adjustments here).
- I then turned to the Darks LM where I set the mid tone point (much like setting the white balance in Lightroom). I also added contrast to the darker tones with an s-curve). Note that none of the light tones are available here.
LM adjustments target specific tones but they affect the entire image (further masking could be done on the LMs but I prefer to do that with other masks targeting specific areas of the image.
- I thought the lake was too dark. So I created a curves adjustment layer to brighten the lake. Creating this layer affects the entire image (the mask is filled with white). There are two ways to target specific areas and I approach this by thinking how much mask painting I need to do. Since the lake portion is smaller than the rest of the image, I selected the paint bucket tool and filled the entire mask with black. This effectively takes away the curves adjustment from the entire image. To get the adjustment back on just the lake, I changed the foreground color to white and selected the paint brush tool with a soft edge. I then painted white over the lake bringing the curve adjustment back over the lake (see mask below curves).
- I then turned my attention to the Sky. I wanted more pop here. So I again used a curves adjustment layer and followed a similar process as above. The s-curve added the contrast I was after. I also set the mid point to warm up the sky (the RGB curves below).
- The trees were still fairly dark and I wanted some of the detail back here. On to another curves adjustment layer bringing up the dark tones in the trees. After creating the curves layer I filled the entire mask with black and painted white over the trees to apply the curves adjustment just to that area. Notice in the mask below that there are some gray tones. That’s because I used a Wacom tablet with a pressure sensitive pen. Using a mouse would have painted pure white allow all of the adjustment to show through. But with a pressure sensitive pen I can vary the “amount” of white applied to the mask. This effectively paints varying shades of gray thus changing the opacity of the mask. This could be done with a mouse and changing the opacity of the brush, but a pen make the task far easier.
By now I’m pretty happy with the over all image but – as I often do – I wanted to add a vignette to darken the edges (think Ansel Adams). A subtle vignette draws the viewers eye into the image, but it must be subtle. I could have saved the image and added the vignette in Lightroom, but CS5 allows far more control.
- Start with a curves adjustment layer and darken the entire. There are two ways to define the vignette area. One is to use the lasso tool and make a selection of the vignette border and fill the selection with black. The other method is to use the paint brush tool and paint black inside the area where the darkened tones won’t be applied. Either of these methods results in a sharp edged vignette. To soften the edges, apply a Gaussian Blur with a radius of 250 pixels.
- Last but not least, I wanted to sharpen the image a bit. I started by creating a new blank layer. I then selected “Merge visible” while holding the ‘Alt’ key (this merges all the layers below into one layer and keeping all the original layers intact). I then applied a High Pass filter with a radius of 10 and a blend mode of ‘Soft light’.
This image was completely processed in PS CS5.
It was taken in the Gorge last April. It was one of those days with heavy showers moving through and sun breaks. Here was one of those showers in the background with sun shining from the south hitting the trees and the fields. It was one of those WOW moments. But what I saw and what the RAW image gave me were two completely different things.
Lightroom could have done quite a bit with this image but I went right to CS5 instead. With the differing light conditions, white balance was a challenge. The clouds were too blue but making them warmer made the trees too warm thus killing those great spring colors.
In CS5 I did the following:
- I started with luminosity masks to selectively lighten specific tones and set the white point.
- To get rid of some of the blues in the clouds, I added a B&W adjustment layer, used the high contrast red filter, and played a bit with the color channels to add contrast and drama to the clouds. I then filled the entire mask with black to kill all the adjustments and used a Wacom tablet with pressure sensitive pen to paint white in the clouds thus bringing back the adjustment layer settings (and not affecting the lower portions). I ended this by adding Gaussian blur to soften the edges of the mask.
- To further add contrast to the clouds I turned to a curve adjustment layer, brightened the lighter tones and darkened the darker tones. I again painted black in the entire mask to kill the adjustments. To isolate the clouds again I activated the selection I used in the B&W filter and filled it with white to activate the adjustments. A Gaussian blur was once again added to this mask.
- I wanted more contrast in the trees to bring out the great light that was hitting them. So once again to a curves adjustment layer with lighter light tones and no change to the dark tones. The same process of painting the entire mask with black and selectively painting white back where I wanted the adjustments was done.
- I then wanted to add some light to specific areas to help lead the viewer into the image. Another curves adjustment layer to get the desired effect and again killing the entire mask with black and painting white just in the areas I wanted (the curves in the field in the foreground).
- I wanted sharpen the image but only in certain areas (everything but the clouds to avoid any unnecessary noise). I created a new blank layer at the top of the layer panel. Holding the ALT key and selecting Merge Visible creates a layer with everything under it but not destroying (merging) the other layers. I then applied a layer mask to this layer and added a high pass filter to sharpen everything. You guessed it, fill the entire mask with black and paint white back in just where I wanted sharpening.
- Lastly, the brown file in the left of the image was fairly bright, so I employed another curves adjustment layer to isolate that area and tone it down.
- Not everything was done in CS5. The RAW image was sent to CS5 from LR5. That way when I saved the CS5 edits, I have a copy of the edits in the LR catalog so I can easily export, print, etc from there.
As always, thanks for looking.
This image started out with some typical problems. The sky/clouds were much brighter than the rest of the image. Being on the coast, there was fair amount of low lying mist which caused the rock in the background to be a bit washed out.
Let’s start with the base image information:
Shot with a Canon EOS-1D X and a Canon EF 70-200 F/4L IS USM
+1 EV exp comp
Tripod mounted with IS turned off.
I started out by doing basic processing in Lightroom 5. This included adjustments to exposure, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, clarity, vibrance, some luminance channel adjustments, and some sharpening and noise reduction. All these adjustments are contained in a Develop preset with some minor tweaks to some of the sliders.
I was close but still not happy with the results. I could have corrected clouds and rock somewhat using the adjustment brush tool in LR5 but there are limits even with this fantastic tool. So I sent the image to PhotoShop CS5.
In CS5 I stated by creating luminosity masks (LM) for Lights, Light Lights, Darks, Dark Darks, and Mids (all my terms used in my PS actions). LMs allow me to target specific tones in an image and apply curves adjustments to just those tones. I start with the Mids LM to bring out mid tone contrast. I then tweaked the Lights and Darks LMs (didn’t need to use the Light Lights or Dark Darks LMs). I still wasn’t quite satisfied with the clouds and the rock in the background. So on to selections to isolate just those areas. I use Quick Masks in conjunction with a Wacom Intuos tablet to accurately “paint” these areas in Quick Mask Mode and then turn the QM into a selection. I then save the selection as an Alpha channel so I can use it again. For the clouds I used a Curves adjustment layer to bring out the texture in the clouds and define the white point. For the rock selection I again tuned to a Curves adjustment layer to reduce the haze and set the black point. For the rock adjustment layer I also used a ‘Multiply’ blending mode with 50% opacity.
Here’s the final image:
Thanks for looking.