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.