Friday, June 3, 2011

Revealing Detail Using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3

Take a look at the direction of the shadows in today's image.  The easiest place is on the roof of the overhang.  You can see that the sun is just about directly in front of me as I took the shot.  Take a look at the front of the steam locomotive (don't call it a steam engine in front of a railroad enthusiast.  They'll ask if you're referring to a teapot.).  There's a lot of detail in the front.  Take a look at the 1930 Ford sitting in the shadow of the building.  You can see a lot of detail there too.  A couple of things about today's image.  1) It is a five shot HDR.  2) The HDR was done to get maximum realism in the image, not to go to the extreme of HDR and make it look like an illustration.  3) The initial detail in the shadow wasn't visible.  The locomotive and the truck still looked pretty much like black blobs.   I'd say 90% of what was done to the image came out of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3.  The other 10% was a quick trip over to Adobe Photoshop CS5.  I needed to take it to CS5 because there was a second (legal) license plate on the radiator and a flyer in the window to the right.  I also balanced out the lighting in the building by putting a light on in the right window.  (Copy the base Layer, put a Layer Mask over the upper right window pane, detach the Mask from the Layer [click on the chain to "break" the link], and use the Move Tool (V) to slide the light to the masked area.  [Sounds more complicated than it is.]).  To find out how the detail was brought out in LR3, hit the "read more".

The Adjustment Brush got quite a workout in today's image.  Fifteen separate "pins" were dropped to make adjustments to different areas of the image.  There are four "major" areas that were lightened.  The front of the barrel of the locomotive, the "cow catcher" portion of the lower carriage, the Ford truck, and the under hang of the station on the side facing the train.  Parts of the road were toned down due to the high contrast between the highlights and shadows. 
The front of the barrel got a general lightening of about a stop and a half.  A pin was dropped and the area painted in.  The Exposure was then brought up by highlighting the Exposure Slider Value and using a Shift/Up Arrow combination to "walk" the exposure up.  The default is to move the slider by one third stop increments when the Shift Key is held down.  Trying to go up (or down) without using the Shift Key is counterproductive.  You're not going to see the difference between a two tenth and a three tenth stop movement.  Same with all the Sliders.  With those that go to 100 you'll never see the change between 45 and 46 points.  You will probably see the difference (however slight) between 30 and 40 points.
The under carriage area actually has a couple pins dropped on it.  One brings up the overall exposure and the others treat the individual hoses, chains, brackets and other flotsam.   Several pins were used, depending on what was being addressed.  Hoses are a little brighter than chains.  The metal plates are just slightly up from the steel they're bolted to.  As this area was being worked on, the magnification was increased to 2 to 1 and, for the more delicate pieces, 3 to 1.  The size of the Adjustment Brush can go down to a single digit pixel level.  That fine a line wasn't needed, but if there's a particular pixel that offends you, rest assured you can brighten or darken that one pixel.
The truck got an overall sweep of brightening with the placement of a single pin.  The wheels (not the tires) received  additional brightening and a healthy dose of both Clarity and Sharpness.  I thought it was necessary to make sure the spokes could be readily seen.
The area under the eave of the building on the side facing the train was a black hole.  There was the shadow of the eave and  the train blocking any reflected light, there wasn't a whole lot to light getting in there.  It would have been unnatural to really brighten up the area, so a very slight increase in exposure was all that could be applied without making it look really faked.
There were other, minor areas that got hit with the Adjustment Brush.  Bigger changes, using the Gradient Tool or global slider adjustments were avoided.  To much of the image needed specific attention to make major moves.