Friday, July 9, 2010

A Little Slice Of Heaven

You can see the change of weather coming in toward this house on the shore in Maine. The crystal clear blue sky does have possibilities, but, without some clouds the sky isn’t going to add a lot to the shot. There are aspects of this shot that are a little hard to figure out. Just off the steps there appears to be almost an arrow pointing toward the steps. What it actually is is a cove with the outlet to the sea off to the left. The other side of the cove is a gently sloping, forested, hill. Seagulls whirl endlessly at the edge of the water. It’s here that they have the best chance to find food at low tide. A high shutter speed and high F-stop number (F 11 in this case) is fairly easy to obtain on a day like the one portrayed here. The Maine coast in rife with photographic opportunities. One of the biggest caveats is that some of the prettiest shot are on private estates along the coast. Today’s image is the Keeper’s House at Marshall Point Lighthouse. The grounds are open and the lighthouse is one you’ve seen in many images of the Maine coast. It’s not Portland Head Light, Nubble (Cape Natick) Light or Pemiquid Point Lighthouse, but once you get past those you’d probably find Marshall Point on the top ten list of New England lights. It is definitely on the “rock bound” coast, without a grain of sand visible around the point. The rocks are probably part of the construction of the lighthouse put there to keep the fierce winter waves at bay. They are “walkable” (perhaps “scrambleable” would be a better word) during the summer months and give the photographer many angles to shoot from. Overall Marshall Point is a picturesque spot with several photographic opportunities. To find out what’s different about today’s image, hit the “read more”.
The first thing is the birds. They’re a little ham handed, but accurately portray the scene when we were there. Gulls were very active and you had to be very selective not to get, at least, a couple in a shot. After being careful to not get any gulls I decided the shot might be better with a couple in it. The gulls come from a ferry ride from Cape May, New Jersey to Lewes, Delaware on a recent vacation.

The back of the house needed a little TLC. There’s a one story addition off the back of the house and a large brass bell in the yard. The bell is a Liberty Bell sized bell, so it’s not something that hides easily. I figured Adobe Photoshop CS5s Content Aware Fill would do a good job and threw a freeform Lasso Tool (L) loop around the part to be replaced. That didn’t quite work out as well as I thought it might. By taking random samples of the entire image and trying to make sense what it was being asked to fill, Photoshop took pieces of the building, the grass and the sidewalk and tossed them all “up against the wall” to see how it came out. As you might think, it was a mess. One of the worst Content Aware Fill jobs I’ve gotten yet. The second attempt worked a little better. What I did was use the rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to get a slice of the wooded area off the back of the house and then used the polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to outline the edge of the building with the tool in the “add” mode. Then a copy (CRTL J) was put up on its own Layer. From that the offending area was outlined and Content Aware Fill was tried again. Better, but not 100%. Some of the grassy area showed up in the trees. Not very realistic. The third (and final) try eliminated the grassy area from the “master selection”, leaving only the sky and trees for Photoshop to select from. This time it worked great. Moral of the story is that letting Content Aware Fill select globally might not always be the best option. Limiting the sampling area will, under the right circumstances, give a superior fill.