At first glance I knew the “town” portion of the image would only need a mask to be able to sharpen the lower third. The town and the water would definitely benefit from some sharpening, but I think puffy clouds in the sky area of most images suffer when sharpened. They get an artificial, edgy look that just doesn’t sit well in my eye. So, mask number one that I knew would be needed was all the sky. Starting to work on the foreground showed another area that would get a boost from being “developed” different from the town. The island on the left was just plain dull. Everything was in shadow and had no spark, no life, no drama. The island had to be brought closer to having a range similar to the town. Therefore it needed some localized work before the entire scene could be worked. After mulling it over for a couple of minutes I decided to go “old school” on the island mask. The fine details of the bare tree needed to be there to give more weight to the firs. To get an explanation of how the Masks were made, hit the “read more”.
The first mask that was needed was the island Mask. The Blue Channel gave the best initial contrast from which to start. The Calculations Dialog Box (Image/Calculations) was opened. When it opens it populates both Source dropdowns with the channel chosen. In this case it was the Blue Channel. The Blending Mode was set to Normal and the Down Arrow used to cycle through each option. Hard Light gave the best separation between black and white. The Result was set to New Channel and the OK button clicked. The internal areas of the trees had to be hit with a black Brush (B) and the non-island area cleaned up with white. A little cutting around the rocks and the edge of the island finished the Alpha Channel.
A copy of the Background Layer was made (CTRL J). With CTRL pressed the Alpha Channel was selected. The new Layer Mask was clicked and the filled mask applied. The Background Layer was turned off to see what was available and what was hidden. As it happens, the Mask needed to be flipped (CTRL I) to make the island available. A Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer was used to bring the island out of the deep shadows. The Adjustment Layer needed to be “clipped” (ALT click between the Layers) to the masked Island to limit the increase in brightness to the island only. A Vibrance Adjustment Layer was also clipped to the island copy to bring out the colors of the island.
Without clipping any more Adjustment Layers the saturation of each color (Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue, and Magenta) was maximized using individual Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers. This matched the island to the town.
The second Mask was made from the first mask by adding the town and water to the island Mask. Starting with the island Mask the lower third of the image was painted in using a black Brush (B). The tree line behind the town was added by switching the Blend Mode of the Brush (B) to Overlay and reducing the opacity to about 60%. With the Brush set to black, a couple swipes over the tree line finished the Mask. The image was sharpened using a High Pass Filter (Filter/Other/High Pass) and the island plus town Mask applied to limit the sharpening to the island and town.