Monday, October 18, 2010

The Last Step With Adobe Photoshop CS5

It was a pretty good weekend, photographically.  With the fall colors at just about peak we had to maximize what we had, so I shot Saturday, early Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon.  One of the reasons for the urgency was the high winds for the entire weekend.  For anyone who doesn’t live in a place with the wonderful change of seasons we get in Connecticut, let me tell you how it goes.  The leaves turn and just hang on the trees.  Without a fairly heavy rain storm or some wind they’ll sit there for a couple weeks.  It’s the times when the weather is calm that you get the spectacular colors you see in magazines and on calendars.  Once the wind comes, it’s done.  One day the trees are a riot of color and the next they’re bare.  It’s as quick as that.  It’s a metaphor for life.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  So, every fall there’s a mutiny by those couch potatoes who’d rather sit and watch a game on the weekend and the roads near any vantage point become as thick as molasses with car after car slowing to get a few seconds of autumn’s glory.  There’s an adage about those not learning from history being doomed to repeat it, and we’re no different.  Seems like every five years or so we get an irresistible urge to take a ride along the Mohawk Trail through western Massachusetts.  It’s actually Route 2 and follows the hills and ridgelines of the Berkshire Hills.  Every time we get suckered in.  Thinking, as we start out along the trail, that “this isn’t too bad” and wandering along for the first thirty miles unencumbered.  We scoff at those traveling in the opposite direction because we see the traffic jam at the exit point, stretching for miles.  Because we’re there to capture the wonder of one of nature’s greatest displays we tarry and end up at the terminus (it really doesn’t matter which end) after dark, sitting in a ten mile long chain of headlights.  I’m sure from the air it must look lovely.  From ground level, not so much.  Today’s image comes from a different, equally evocative, tourist spot at a completely different time.  To find out where and what “makes” today’s image, hit the “read more”.
Today’s image is not as far away as the Mohawk Trail. It’s Kent Falls State Park, in Kent Connecticut. At least I didn’t have to travel out of state to get the shot. In the past couple months I’ve mentioned the town of Kent several times along with, at least, four images in posts. The falls are just north of town and a magnet for people wanting to see the 270’ falls. The parking lot is full throughout three of the four seasons, but not at 6:00 AM in any season. I had the entire park to myself. I could have shouted, generally run amok and had my way with the flora and fauna of the park. I didn’t. I was just there to shoot the falls. The falls are a series of cascades of anywhere from 6’ to 20’, so there are plenty of drops to keep a photographer busy. We haven’t been to the falls in a lot of years. Enough years have passed that I was shocked to see a flagstone patio at the base. It’s very nicely done and makes the base of the falls wheelchair accessible. It’s worth the trip.

The thing that “makes” today’s image for me is the very last step in the finishing process. I had worked through the “normal process” and the best I could say was “okay”. It was an average shot at best. The last stop in my workflow is to put a vignette on the image. I typically try to be pretty subtle and not let the viewer say “oh, look. He put a vignette on the image.”. The way I apply a vignette is simple. I make a composite of everything done to the image (CTRL/ALT/Shift/E) and then make a copy of that Layer (CTRL J). The composite is used for sharpening and the copy for the vignette. There are two things that grab the eye when looking at an image. Lightness and sharpness. Making a copy of the composite before sharpening insures the center of the image being sharper than the edges. On the copy, I’ll use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) with a high degree of feathering applied to create a Selection around the Center of Interest. With the copy Layer selected I hit the Delete Key to knock a hole in the image. The Blend Mode is then changed to Multiply. This darkens the outside rim of the image. Typically by too much. The Opacity is then reduced in 10% increments by holding down the Shift Key while either tapping the Down Arrow Key or rolling the Scroll Wheel on your Mouse. An average amount of vignetting is around 40%. Today’s image has the vignette set to 100%. Something I think I’ve only done one other time. It’s different.