After-Before Friday Week 6

This post is my submission to the After-Before Friday Forum sponsored by  Stacy Fisher’s Visual Venturing blog, which encourages a discussion among participants and readers on the subject of taking an original photograph as captured by the camera and transforming into the image that was envisioned by the photographer.  The contributions of other participants can be found here

This week’s image is a detail of the Fountain de Medici, located in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. The historic fountain, despite its desperate need for a major clean-up and repair, is a popular stop for tourists and when there is nice weather, many locals take advantage of the well-shaded chairs beside the long rectangular pool.   For me, the neglected state of the structure with its moss-covered stones seemed to enhance the horrific theme of the central group of statues.  The great dark figure looming above the young lovers is Polyphemus, the one-eyed giant who, according to Homer’s tale, devoured several of the crew members of the Odysseus expedition when they landed on the island of Cyclops.

The weather, bright and sunny, was not in my favor and I had time only for a few quick shots.  But I thought it would be an interesting exercise to see if the original image could be infused with the darker mood that I saw in that sculpture. I’m not entirely satisfied with the results, and would be interested in feedback from readers of this post. (Camera data: Nikon D800E with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, extended to 66mm. Exposure: 1/100th sec. @ f/5.0, EV = -0.67)

The original image is shown as the RAW file came from the camera, before any changes were made in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).


RAW Image without any adjustments

The first steps were taken in ACR, and the adjustments made were as follows:

Highlights: Reduced to -75, to tone down the bright specular highlights;

Shadows:  Reduced to -44, to add shadow and darken the scene slightly;

Blacks:     Reduced to -20, just to the point of clipping on the histogram, to insure there was a touch of pure black  (Thanks to Stacy for suggesting this technique.)

Clarity:      Increased to +30 standard on most of my images

Vibrance:    Increased to +13 to give just a small boost to the greens

All other settings were unchanged.  The result was then opened in Photoshop CC and looked like this:


Image after adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw

A quick adjustment to remove the slight tilt was made using the crop tool.  Then a much tighter crop was made to bring the central statues closer, eliminating distractions such as the large body of water in the foreground and most of the people along the sides of the pool.  At this point the statues have become the main point of interest as shown below.


Image after first crop

But more work was needed.  I used a Curves layer adjustment (blend mode: luminosity) to darken the scene and inject a more somber mood. A mask was added to keep the statues unaffected by the curves adjustment with the intent of giving depth to the scene and drawing the viewer’s eye to them.  This was followed by another Curves layer adjustment (blend mode: luminosity) to create a vignette, darkening the areas outside the center, in an attempt to further enhance the mood.  The result at this point is shown below.


Things were looking better, but it seemed that one more step might help.  One last crop was applied to bring the viewer closer to the scene and eliminate the bystander with the blue shirt on the right.  The final image is shown below.


Final Version