Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring Is Almost Here And Can Always Use A Little Help From Adobe Photoshop

Take your hand and cover the top one third of today's image. Without that third of the image it doesn't really "tell" the complete story, right? Without seeing where the water comes from it's sort of blah. Looking at it you can't tell if it's a lot of a very small stream or a little of a bigger stream. Today's image "almost" qualifies as a monochrome print. It wouldn't take much to suck the blues out of the shot and leave only black, shades of grey and green. One of the other things you've probably noticed is that it's pretty dark. The light "shines" down through the center of the image, drawing the eye through the image. One of the big things to watch out for is closing down the top of a shot like this. The overall image has a typical very light vignette, except...! The vignette has been removed from the top of the shot. Even though the vignette is pretty subtle on the lower half of the image it was too much for the top half. All along the top of the top, everything was lost. The rocks on the left side, the center flow of water and the sunlight on the right were just black. The "halo" along the top of the rock in front of the pool is just that. I looked at it and thought it was something I did while bringing out the texture of the moss on the rock. Nope! It's actually the mist from the water falling into the pool. I checked the original image, the finished image and several steps along the way. It's there all the way through. To find out about how today's image was "brought to life", hit the "read more".
The first thing was to go back to an older technique (way back a year ago or so) to get the image to a very neutral color position. To find the blackest black, the whitest white and the dead center middle grey a Threshold Adjustment Layer was used along with the Color Sampler Tool (i - eye). Moving the slider to the left shows where the blackest black is. Once found (in today's case it was at about 8 in the range of 256 shades) a reference marker (from the Color Sampler Tool) was placed. The slider was then moved to the right until the entire canvas became white (about 231 of 256). A new Layer was added under the Threshold Adjustment layer and filled with 50% grey. The Blend Mode was changed to Difference. Going back to the Threshold Adj. Layer now shows that the curve is folded back on itself. That means middle grey is now the lowest number that can be seen.

After the black, white and center points are found they can be worked with. The next Adjustment Layer needed is Levels AL. I used to be an advocate of using a Curves Adjustment layer, but am now leaning more toward Levels. The reason is that the input and output levels can be controlled. Take the Black Pointer and find Color Sample Point #1. Click on it to set the black point. The White Pointer and set the white point (point #2) and then the center point using the Grey Pointer. Then go to the Output Levels. Forget about the slider. Set the points to 5 [to 8] (Black) and 245 [to 248] White. This insures there's detail in both the blacks and the whites. The values are so close to the ends of the scale that no one is going to take a look and say "Whoa, there's no true Blacks (or true Whites) in this image. Someone would have to have measuring instruments to prove there is no black or white.

Once the image was set, the Dodging and Burning could begin. A New Layer was added on top of all other Layers and filled with 50% grey. Using the Brush Tool (B) with the Brush Opacity set to 20 - 25% and the Foreground color set to White the areas needing brightening could be brought up and controlled to lead the eye through the image.

Today's image is all about moving the viewer's eye to the areas you want to emphasize and away from spots you want to downplay. It's about movement within an image.