When my friends Nick and Jill asked if I would photograph their wedding this summer my question to them was: “ I shoot landscapes, frogs and snakes…are you sure you want me to do your wedding?!” So of course, I could not refuse when they said definitely yes. With most of the shooting locations determined, I thought I should probably brush up on my Photoshop skills…er…well…calling them skills is a bit of an exaggeration. I take a pretty simple approach to my photography which means I like to get the best in camera shot possible to keep post processing to the very minimum so I rarely find the need to use masks, layers and whole lot of other Photoshop “stuff” . ( I love my graduated neutral density Singh-Ray Filters ) Having said that, I have a few ideas that would require me to learn using masks in Photoshop so this would be a perfect opportunity to learn and have some fun.
One of my favorite tools in my post processing workflow is Color Efex Pro 4 by Nik Software to make adjustments to contrast in my landscape images. So after playing around with masks and layers on some portraits, I dug up and old image of our golden Alberta prairies from early fall of last year. I recall being not all that excited about this image. It did nothing for me but I figured it would be a good candidate to play around with and see if I could jazz it up a little. A couple of hours later and…poof! Now I would love to go through the exact step by step procedure on how I came to this final image but after 2 hours of playing around adding filters, deleting filters, layers and masks… repeat… I think you get my drift. I merged all layers and now, a week later…I can’t remember…I wasn’t paying attention! (I can just hear my dad now!!) I think it’s quite clear that this image has been “massaged” somewhat, and since I’m all about disclosure, for those that will say that this image is photo-shopped…well, simply put… it is. Having said that, I will try and share with you what I think were most of the steps taken to get to the final image.
To start, I used my awesome Sing-Ray 2 stop, hard edge, graduated neutral density filter to even out the exposure between foreground and sky along with my Sing-Ray LB Polarizer. After importing into Lightroom, I set the profile to Adobe Standard, made some minor adjustments to take care of some hot spots in the sky, adjusted the brightness and finally added about 15 points on the clarity slider. I then cloned/healed all image sensor dust spots. Next, I exported into Photoshop CS4 to make use of its layers and masks. This is where the fun starts.
As I mentioned above, I like to use Color Efex Pro 4 to make adjustments to contrast in most of my landscape images. The tonal contrast and pro contrast filters are exceptional and pretty much my go to filters. I am quite certain these are the first filters I applied and I probably even used both. I then added another layer with another filter from Color Efex 4. I liked what it did with the sky but it did not work well with the rest of the image. Aha…the perfect opportunity to try a mask. I painted in the sky from the new filter ( this is the wild card…it could have been more than one filter ) with gradual adjustments to opacity to make the blend as seamless as possible. I then added a filter called “glamour glow”. That’s right…glamour glow. What can I say? It works well with portraits but when used in landscapes, it can give the image an ethereal look and feel that sometimes can be pretty cool. After a few adjustments to the glow filter, I saved the image as a PSD back into Lightroom. The glow filter made the yellows ‘”glow” a little too much so I reduced the yellows a little and gave the green channel a little boost. With all that processing, a little noise became visible in the sky to which Nik Define 2.0 handled beautifully. The end result is a little on the dark side but I think it adds to the mood of this image.
Of course, I could not resist giving this image a shot in black and white. I loaded a copy into Nik Silver Efex Pro and gave it a slight sepia tone. I think I like the monochrome better!
Until next time…