Monday, April 19, 2010

Combining Single Image HDR With A Straight Shot in Adobe Photoshop CS5

As the title says, today’s image is a combination of a single image HDR shot using Adobe Photoshop CS5’s HDR Pro and a straight shot. The “trick” is that they started out as the same image. Through the “magic” of Layer Masks the two were recombined to make one final image. The “original” image does fairly well on its own. The reds, yellows and green can be fully saturated and make an interesting image. This same farm has been featured in a couple of posting here at the gallery. This one combines a truck from a little town in Maine with the farm, located in Connecticut. Another use of the farm can be found in our tribute to the USA celebrating the 4th of July last year. This farm gets around. It’s been used three times and none of them are a straight shot of the barns as they sit on the ground. It goes to show that some scenes are iconic and can be the basis for many “story telling” images. It also shows the benefit of “working” a scene. This is the first of the three images where you can see the fences. Seeing as the farm is private property and we were just driving by searching for something to shoot, all shots (so far) have been from the road. It’s not unusual to get images that can be used in a variety of ways if you know where the good scenes are. Yesterday we went out shooting. We didn’t have a defined place to shoot, but had an idea of what we wanted to look for. Barns! People for other parts of the country or world don’t typically think of Connecticut as being rural, but we natives know the pastoral areas of the state. We took a ride to Bridgewater, Roxbury, Woodbury, Southbury and Newtown. (You can plot it out and pretty much figure out our route.) We didn’t even take the cameras out of the bags. One place I aimed for was a beautiful, big horse farm with snowy white fences flowing up the side of a hill. I remember being really impressed by it as a possible scene. But, that was then and this is now. The horse farm looks like a construction site now and soon there’ll be shiny new McMansions dotting the hill. Another spot, already a hodgepodge of million dollar homes is on an aptly named road called Poverty Hollow. Talk about irony. To find out about today’s image and how it was “combined”, hit the “read more”.
As a “straight” HRD rendering I really didn’t like the sky. It just looked too fakey, even of the far side of HDR. So, having become some sort of mask maven, I used the good old Calculations (Image/Calculations) dialog box and make an accurate mask separating the sky from the land. I then went to apply HDR Pro to a copied layer and got stuck. First thing that popped up was a warning box saying the image would have to be flattened in order to apply the single image HDR (Image/Adjustments/HDR Toning). Oops! Sort of defeats the purpose of what I was trying to do. Well, I already had the Alpha Channel of the mask. So all I had to do was to have two copies of the original image. No big problem, the original image was still sitting of the computer, so flatten away. Then apply the HDR Toning to get the effect on the barns.

I opened a second copy of the unaltered image and dragged it over onto the HDR image. Now I had a Layer that was HDR Toned, a straight Layer, and an Alpha Channel with the mask. I lit up the Alpha Channel as a selection (CTRL Click on the Alpha Channel) and clicked on the Create New Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel. That was it. HDR barns and a straight sky from the same image. It is easier than you think. Give it a shot, or let me know and I’ll walk you through it.