It’s Friday already, and that means it’s time for ABFriday Forum, which is rocketing toward its one-year anniversary, a mere six weeks away. But while the chattering class debates whether we will actually make it to that glorious milestone, we choose to focus on the present and deliver some new examples of the many ways to transform what the camera gives us into our own creative visions.
Earth Day was also this week, and in recognition of the day, I’ve been spending my photography time in several local parks where Mother Nature is the prime attraction. And in Virginia, this week is when the Virginia bluebells put on their show. I haven’t had a chance to process them yet, so I selected an image taken on Earth Day last Year. The location is Riverbend Park, a small park along the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia. It is one of the best places to go for local photographers on the hunt for the bluebells.
(Technical Data: Nikon D800E on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 62 mm. Exposure: 1/100th sec. at f/16, ISO 200.)
The original “Before” Image is shown above, straight out of the camera with no processing at all. It was an overcast day, which provided an excellent soft lighting. But there was a slight touch of afternoon sunlight striking the rock in the river and the trees on the opposite shore which added a nice glow. My intent was to restore the scene as I saw it on that day and fortunately only a light touch with the post-processing toolset was necessary.
As usual, the first step was to make basic exposure adjustments in Adobe Camera RAW. After setting the White and Black Points, it was necessary to cut back on the highlights a fair amount and open up the shadows for better detail. Clarity and Vibrance were increased to the level I usually choose. The image at this stage is shown below and the specific settings are listed immediately afterwards.
After the ACR Adjustments
ACR Settings: Highlights: decrease to -40; Shadows: increase to +25; Whites: increaseto +48; Blacks: decrease to -13; Clarity and Vibrance: Both increased to +30.
The image was then opened in Photoshop cropped to provide better framing for the bluebells in the foreground. The bluebells are the principal subject so I wanted to brighten them just a bit. This was done by selecting the foreground with the Polygon Selection Tool and then opening an Adjustment Layer–>Curves. The bluebells were given just a slight bump. The image at this stage is shown below.
After the Curves Adjustment to Lighten Bluebells
Next, I wanted to add some warmth to get that glow of the afternoon sun. Rather than the tedious process of carefully selecting everything that should be included, I used the Polygon Lasso to select the large rock in the River, opened an Adjustment Layer for Hue/Saturation (Blend Mode=Normal) and moved the Saturation to +53. Then it was just a matter of using the Paint Brush (opacity = 50%) to add the Hue/Saturation to the trees on far shoreline. Basically, the Paint Brush action has the effect of reducing the effect of the mask but not entirely. The rock has the full effect and the trees about 50% of the effect. If this abbreviated explanation isn’t clear, just say so in the comments and I’ll go into greater detail.
The final step was to tone down the brightness of the sky just a bit. This was done by creating a new Layer and using the Gradient Tool (Blend Mode=Soft Light) to mimic the effect of a graduated neutral density filter. The advantage to doing this in Photoshop is that one is able to mask out the effects of the graduated filter where they are not wanted—in this case the large tree on the right side of the frame. All that is required is to create a Mask on the adjustment layer and use the Paint Brush to block out the effects of the Gradient Layer on the tree trunk. The final results are shown below.
Questions? Comments? But first, everyone who hasn’t already done so, should go directly to Stacy Fischer’s ABFriday Forum and check out all the other examples of post processing creativity. All you have to do is CLICK HERE.