Monday, April 25, 2011

Look For The Details With Adobe Photoshop

At first glance, today's image probably looks like a pile of mud.  It does to me.  Click on it to see the enlarged version and you'll see the detail throughout the image.  In the deep shadow, in the highlights, in the stream, the brush, and the trees.  Detail doesn't always have to be barefaced.  It's alright that it's subtle.  This from the guy who, in probably 280 of the 298 posts on the blow puts colors and details very "in your face".  There's probably a half dozen posts where I lament the fact that I'm not very good at the nuanced image.  Today's image forces that subtlety.  It's shrouded in fog.  Fog automatically flattens out contrast.  It also makes pulling the details out that much harder.  The differences between a tree branch and the leaves of the tree is almost zero.  It's not until you look at the enlarged image that you can see how much depth there actually is.  Over on the right you can see a line of trees that goes back about one hundred yards.  On the left you can look into the wooded area and see the forest floor and the duff that's gathered there.  What looks like just a grey page is actually alive with detail.  To find out how the detail was drawn out of the scene, hit the "read more".
There' s two big things working together to bring out the detail. One, and this might be a surprise, is that today's image is an HDR rendering of the scene. It started out being a five shot, one stop per shot sequence. I wasn't sure if it was a waste of time or if it had possibilities. I'm thinking it was time well spent. With the scene as it is, anyone shooting it wouldn't be able to get a single, properly exposure image handheld. A tripod was an absolute necessary for this image. The shot that was two Stops high was pretty useless in that it just plain took on only the fog and was nearly a blank white frame. So the frames used to make the HDR image were the "as metered" (which is typically minus a third), two stops below and the one stop high frame. While in Adobe Photoshop CS5's HDR Pro the Detail was cranked up quite a bit, as was the Vibrance. That's the extent of work done in the HDR Pro dialog box.

The colors were brought up using individual (Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, and Blue [no Magenta]) Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers. Color was removed from the water as it tumbles down the slight cascade and the area brightened using a 50% Grey Layer in an Overlay Blend Mode. A small, soft white Brush (B) with its Opacity set to about 5% was used to just brush over the white water areas. The flow of water was brought up just slightly with several strokes.

But, that's not how more detail was brought out. The High Pass Filter (Filters/Other/High Pass) method of sharpening was used to snap more detail into view. The difference between turning the Layer on and off was dramatic to say the least.

That's it. Two simple tricks to bring out a wealth of detail.