After-Before Friday Week 2

The ABFriday Forum, launched by Stacy Fischer, of VisualVenturing,  is open to anyone who wants to illustrate the difference between two versions of an image, one being the final result and the second being the original or starting point.  The idea is to exchange ideas about a photographer’s conceptual vision and how she or he made it happen.   The “After” image in my submission this week is shown below.


Dawn, US Air Force Memorial (After post-processing)

This image of the US Air Force Memorial was taken just before in a light rain in April 2011.  Although there was a heavy cloud cover, the sky was much brighter than the statues in the foreground. I adjusted the exposure for the sky, knowing that I could bring out the needed detail in the statues of the soldiers during post-processing.  (Technical Data: Nikon D700 with 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens; exposed 1.6 sec. @ f/16, ISO 400)  The image resulting from that exposure is shown below



Dawn, US Air Force Memorial (Raw Image)


All of the changes were made in Adobe Photoshop CS6.  When I made the original image my plan was to include the Washington Monument in the composition.  But when I brought it up on the monitor, the Monument’s small size seemed to make it a distraction more than a helpful component.  I decided to direct the viewer’s eyes to the two most important subjects: the four statues in the foreground and the base of the Memorial spires just beyond.



Dawn, US Air Force Memorial (Raw Image Cropped)

Once the crop was made, there was a little bit of clean-up involved.  It’s hard to see in this size, but the sensor of the D700 was in need of a cleaning and there were also a few small drops on the skylight filter.  I used a combination of the Clone Tool and the Healing Brush to remove these artifacts.


 Dawn, US Air Force Memorial (Foreground grass darkened)

The next step was to darken the grass in the foreground.  This is a subtle step in controlling where the viewer will look, but I didn’t want the drab lawn in the foreground to be a distraction.  The above image shows the effect of a Curves adjustment layer (blend mode: luminosity) with a mask blocking the effect everywhere except in the foreground grass.



The last step lightened the statues of the four soldiers.  I used a selection tool to isolate them from the rest of the image and applied another Curves adjustment layer (blend mode: luminosity) to reveal detail in the statues.

One of the questions asked by a reader last week was how long it took to make these changes. In this case, I would estimate I spent 30-45 minutes, with most of the time involving the clean-up activity.

Thanks again to Stacy Fischer for organizing this effort.  Please check out her post and the submissions from other photographers.

10 thoughts on “After-Before Friday Week 2

  1. Really enjoyed reading through your process Robin. Interesting that you mention about darkening the grass in the foreground, it really make a huge difference. Did you consider cropping to a portrait orientation?


    • Thanks Ben. I appreciate the feedback. Good question on portrait vs this nearly square format. I don’t recall (currently on the road and away from my inventory) whether I took a portrait shot while standing in that specific location. I’ll have to look when I get back to home base in a few weeks. But I know that I took quite a few images from different perspectives that morning. If I didn’t get a portrait from this spot it was probably because I would have had to step back to include all three spires. If I had done that, there may have been too much grass in the foreground, diminishing the emphasis on the wet sidewalk. But, maybe it would have been an interesting look with part of the left spire cropped out. I’ll try to remember when I return. Agin, thanks for the input. I’ll be going back again this summer and can give it a try.


      • Yeah I was wondering about just cropping in from the left a little more. Definitely agree that you don’t want more grass in the foreground. I’m don’t know if it would work any better, just a thought really. Great shot either way! I’d love to visit DC some day.


  2. Robin, it’s amazing the difference such subtle changes can make. As Ben says, the darkening of the grass in the foreground does make a big difference, and of course, lightening the four statues is a great choice. Beautiful shot! Visiting this memorial has been on my bucket list for a while. I’ve only seen it from afar, not even realizing these statute were there. Now I’m even more determined to get there. Thanks for your submission and your ongoing support of ABFriday!


  3. Lightening the statues was mandatory (and very well done) but the key edition choice was cropping the frame taking the statues to the relevant place they deserved. Excellent job Robin!


  4. Pingback: After-Before Friday Week 2 | Visual Venturing

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