ABFriday Forum–Week 46

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.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 46 Bluebells BeforeBefore Image

(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.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 46 Bluebells Before 02

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.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 46 Bluebells Before 03

 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.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 46 Bluebells Before 04After the Hue/Saturation Adjustment

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.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 46 Bluebells After 02

Final Image

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.

23 thoughts on “ABFriday Forum–Week 46

  1. Pingback: After-Before Friday Week 46 | Visual Venturing

  2. Nice!

    I see those bluebells are near water, as are so many of the examples that I shoot; I wonder if there’s a connection? I plan to go out once more this weekend to shoot some more before they vanish until next year.

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    • Hi, Mitch. That seems to be the case around here. I looked up their habitat and found this: “Virginia bluebells prefer part shade to shade growing best in acidic, moist to wet, humus-rich woodland-type soil. If you can recreate a woodland setting or have a woodland setting that is moist in spring, then this plant is a must to grow. In fact to see these beauties in the wild you will probably have to trek through muddy woodlands well off the beaten path.” Despite their name, they are native through much of the eastern half of the US. And a friend recent;ly sent me some pics of a similar variety in the Halle Forest of Belgium. It looks like that variety is less dependent on muddy conditions.

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      • Cool! I’ve seen them in some places that don’t require a lot of moisture (Manassas comes to mind, as do parts of Texas), but the ones around here always seem to like keeping their feet wet. Good to know.

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    • Thanks, Emilio. I’m glad the description was clear. It took me a long time to get my head around the concept of masking. Like, painting something black to make it disappear? How is this possible?

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  3. Love the light but really effective touch to brighten the bluebells and shore. Bluebells take me back to my childhood in France when we used to see them as a blue carpet in the forest in spring. I miss them, so nice to see them again, Robin

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  4. Beautiful final image, Robin. Really looking forward to seeing what you got at Black Pond!

    As the others said, your explanation was really clear. I had to laugh at you having trouble getting your head around masking – that’s exactly MY issue – as you’re such a pro now! There’s hope for me yet. Just an aside, the new LR now allows adjustments to the gradient and radial filters via the adjustment brush! Very excited by this. It seems to be coming closer to PS with each iteration 🙂

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    • Thanks, Stacy. I’m looking forward to seeing your images from Black Pond as well. I agree that LR seems to be nipping at the heels of PS so to become further entrenched in my trogloadyte position, I am starting to explore Photoshop’s magic chamber of luminosity masks.;-)

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