Monday, September 6, 2010

Maxing Out Adobe Photoshop CS5's One Image HDR Toning

I knew exactly what image I wanted to use for today’s post. I haven’t taken it yet, so that presented a small problem. It was supposed to be a beautiful weekend around here so I thought the time was right. It’s starting to get dark earlier, the evening temperature was going to be tolerable (compared to trying the same shot in January or February) and the sky was forecasted to be clear. So, off we went on Saturday late afternoon. The route goes past one of our favorite restaurants (The Cook House in New Milford, CT), so leaving earlier left time for dinner before setting up. The goal for the evening was “star trails”, so darkness, without light pollution was a must. Arriving at the restaurant and surveying the skies didn’t exactly give us a warm, fuzzy feeling about the prospects for success. A recheck as we left the restaurant was a little more encouraging, as the clouds were breaking up a bit. Heading up Route 7 into the darkness of northwestern Connecticut, with an eye on the sky, teased us onward hinting of clearing. We got to one of the targets at late dusk. Enough clouds persisted to dash out hopes of shooting any stars. Sunday we had the gear packed in the car as we left for a family picnic. The picnic was still going as darkness closed in. At one point my brother-in-law and said “what are you looking at”? I replied “stars” and we were off chasing the night. Again, headed north to escape the light pollution, we arrived at the place we’d scouted on Saturday. Everything was set, the time was now, stars were sparkling, the night cool and clear and we at the right spot. Told my wife I that before we got out the tripods I was just going to do a couple of hand held shots just to check for exposure. I said they would, undoubtedly be blurry, but they’d only be a quick test. That’s when the sad fact that I’d left the camera on for a week and completely drained the batteries became apparent. That’s when Doris said "let’s was pack it up and go home. I’ll get my shots the same night you do”. Very nice of her. So, that’s the tale of how today’s image was selected. If you’d like to learn about what was done to it, hit the “read more”.

I just felt like playing this morning, so I found an image that could be played with. It’s a ride at a local carnival taken last month, during the day. I liked the bright red seats with the somewhat faded piping and seat backs. This one wound up being fun because it involved a Mask for the pavement below the ride, the background behind the ride and a combination of the two. It was taken into Adobe Photoshop CS5’s HDR Toning and a little side trip to a Shadow/Highlight Adjustment.

The first thing was to take the blah gray pavement below the ride to a good, rich black tar. The Quick Selection Tool (W) was used to pick up the areas of pavement. Right clicking on the selection brought up a dialog box and Save Selection chosen. This produced an Alpha Channel that could be activated at will. Next was another Mask for the areas between the padded pipes. Same thing, the Quick Selection Tool (W) with a little clean up with your favorite selection tool. Now we have two Alpha Chanel Masks. Each had something to on their own, but there were also times to use both together. Holding down the CTRL key while Clicking on the Alpha Channel icon reselects your original collection (either the “pavement” or the “background”. To marry the two Masks, drag either one down to the New Alpha Channel icon at the bottom of the panel. Select it, right click to get the dialog box and select Add to Selection.

After that, it was just fun and games, playing with HDR Toning (Image/Adjustments/HDR Toning), jacking up the individual colors using individual Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers and sliding sliders in Shadow/Highlight (Image/adjustments/Shadow-Highlight).

So, although we got skunked trying to get some start trails, today’s image was a fun one to play with.