Monday, May 17, 2010

Iconic is Iconic, What Can You Say

Anyone who has followed this blog for any amount of time has seen images of lighthouses. There’s been Pemiquid, Portland, Cape Natick, Bass Head, Lighthouse Park and now Key West. Is there a reason lighthouses end up featured on the blog so often? Sure, they’re iconic if you live anywhere on any coast in the country. Lighthouses have might and meaning. They bring us back to a different era in our history. They’re preserved, but no longer needed. Most venturing out on the seas today have some sort of electronic gear to tell them exactly where they are. The light shining on a clear night or the horn blaring in the fog are more for show today. The signal they give is one of nostalgia or comfort. They remind us of home, if that’s where you’re from, or a time spent at the shore as kids. Hopefully today’s generation of kids will have the same memories given them by their parents. That’s why photographers shoot them. When the waves are crashing or the weather is bad the drama of a shot of a lighthouse is heightened and the images special. If you don’t live near a lighthouse and aren’t at one on one of those magical days when the weather gives you a great backdrop for the lighthouse you have to improvise. To learn a little about the improvision in today’s image, hit the “read more”.

If you’ve followed the blog for any length of time you probably know what’s coming. The sky was replaced. The key, as usual, is making a mask to allow the fine detail of the palms to be seen. Doing a hack job with the tragic Magic Wand (W) tool would most likely leave some “fringe” around the leaves. It’s a dead giveaway that someone tried to slide something in and, pretty much, failed. Using either CS5s Refine Mask feature or the older Calculations dialog box can result in a much finer mask. Once a mask is made and a little touch up is all that’s required, using the Brush (B) tool with the default black and white colors (D to set the defaults and X to flip between them) in Overlay mode (blending mode from the context aware selection bar at the top (typically) of the screen). Using the Brush (B) in the Overlay mode will make anything below 50% grey go blacker and anything above 50% grey go whiter. This makes cleaning up the mask much easier. Running the Brush (B), lightly over the transitional edges of the mask will help define mask for non-mask.

If the sky in today’s image had been totally bald (white clouds cover or something) the Darker Color Blend Mode might have worked well. A little mask on the lighthouse itself and it would be done. There was just a little too much blue in the sky for that to have worked today. Looking at your image and playing for less than three or four minutes should be enough of have you figure out which way to go, either Darker Color Blend Mode or with a Mask. Both work great in the right circumstance, so check out both methods.