Monday, October 26, 2009

I Feel Like Luke Skywalker

Yes, I'm starting a quest, just the same as the Star Wars hero. Mine isn't quite as noble as Luke's, and I don't have Yoda or Obi-Wan Kenobi to guide me, but a quest never the less. Today's image is the initial salvo in trying to step away from being a blatant, in your face, highly saturated color type of image developer. The goal is to try to find some "kinder, gentler" colors in images, but produce images with just as much feeling as I have in the past. At least once a week I go over to the Landscapes 2.0 site and take a look at some of the marvelous work displayed there. One thing I've noticed is that my "normal" style of developing an image just wouldn't fly over there. Flip through a couple of pages or try their "Top 10" or "Random 5" buttons and see the beautiful work shown there. Something you will probably notice is the gentle touch on "most" of the images. I just hit the "Top 10" button to see what's high on the site's list lately and every one of the images have these soft, muted tones. I compare them to my "in your face" images and think there must be some kind of a Jedi force working. Sort of makes me feel like Jaba the Hutt. Some big "ham handed" slug who does things way to heavily. To find out more about this "trial balloon" image, hit the "read more".

Today's image required a lot more work than you might think. The smaller image that goes along with the main image is one of the masks used to separate the sky from the trees. It was surprisingly easy to produce, using some of the latest techniques I've been playing with. It actually sounds much scarier than it really is. I used a couple of Alpha Channels and the Calculations feature in Photoshop to make short work of coming up with the mask. It's shocking how good a mask can be made in a very few minutes using those two items in concert. Today's mask isn't perfect, but adding a slight Blur and cleaning it up with the Dodge and Burn tools would probably come up with a mask capable of capturing single strands of hair.

That said, how good is today's mask? Good enough (I hate that phrase) so that a 16 x 20 print, viewed from a typical distance of five to ten feet, would appear perfectly masked. Close examination, hand held, would also pass muster if the viewer wasn't told that a mask had been applied. It's that good! As I said, it's not perfect and I still have to strive for that Jedi "let the force be with you" goal of "do or do not, there is no try". Mastering masks is the key to being able to do anything you'd like in Photoshop.

In today's image, the sky had to be enriched. The information was there, it just needed to be brought out. In the final image it's probably two stops darker than the trees. Just bringing the exposure down by two stops killed the leaves in the trees and the "whiteness" of the birch. The top of the birch tree became a gray mess. Once the mask was made the sky, the trees and the water could be treated as three independent objects. The sky was darkened, the blue in the water was brought out and the trees could be developed to maximize their impact. All in all, for a first shot at using "the force" to control my "normal" (that's something I don't get referred to as being very often) urges to go bright sort of came out okay.