Monday, August 6, 2012

Sometimes It Just Ain't A Photoshop Thing

Why not?  The shot could be taken from just about anywhere, stick a tree along the left side, put a little grass along the bottom and you've got a pretty reasonable composite.  Easy to do in Adobe Photoshop CS6 (or earlier versions).  Then again, every once in a while, the shot is really there.  That's the case with today's image.  It's a one position panorama.  I say a "one position" because it is a three shot from the single position.  It's a three shot, but not an HDR.  Confusing enough yet?  Let's get started on how today's image was worked.

It starts out in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.  I use it for all importing and cataloging of any images that come out of the camera.  It was shot as a nine shot, hand held, bracketed burst.  It was a bright summer day, so I really didn't worry about the shutter speed dropping too low.  There's good news and bad news.  When I shoot general shots I'll typically shoot a three shoot bracket using one third stops.  I usually have the camera set at minus one third EV (Exposure Value) to get a little denser image.  The three shot bracket ends up being -2/3, -1/3 and zero.  When I shoot with HDR in mind I'll flip the auto bracketing to one stop increments.  In today's image I forgot to make the flip.  So, rather than having exposures from -4.33 to +3.66 I wound up with -1.66 to +2.  A wee bit shorter range that I'd normally like to have to choose from.  Again, so, I thought I'd try something other than "normal" HDR.  I brought the -1.66, -1/3 and the +2 shots into Adobe Photoshop CS6 as Layers (in LR4, Photo/Open in Photoshop as Layers).  Once there I used AAL (Edit/Auto Align Layers) to get them in sync.  Next was ABL (Edit/Auto Blend Layers).  There are a couple choices with the ABL function.  You can choose from blending the Layers as a panorama or stacking the Layers.  Since, at this point, it wasn't yet a pano, I opted for Stacking.  I hadn't played with it before.  It puts a Layer Mask on each Layer and picks the parts it feels is most sharp.  I thought it worked pretty darn good.  The one thing it didn't have that comes with CS6's HDR Pro is Remove Ghosts.  In the end I had to use the Healing Brush Tool (J) and the Clone Stamp Tool (S) to get rid of some of the more obnoxious ghosts and gaps.  Then it was back to LR4.

The Adjustment Brush got quite a workout in today's image.  If you don't use Lightroom, the develop module is exactly the same as what you get in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) that comes with CS6 or a subset comes with Adobe Photoshop Elements 10.  There was some haze over the city from the point we were at.  The first Adjustment Brush Pin was dropped on the buildings to increase the Clarity.  Two additional Pins were dropped on the buildings to further increase the Clarity. After three Pins with the Clarity cranked up to 100% the building finally had the detail needed.  The next Pin (again on the buildings) brought the exposure down a tad.  Another Pin brought the colors of the buildings up.  The Temp and Tint were both adjusted to get the "proper" colors.  "Proper" is a subjective thing.  It looks "proper" to me.

A couple more Pins were used on the hills behind the city.  They were pretty blue in the haze, so the density of the outline of the hills and the color of the hills were brought up .  The next Pin was for the trees along the shoreline.  Color and Clarity were adjusted on the same Pin.  The last Pin was on the truck of the foreground tree (not the grass).  A slight splash of Exposure increase brought out the vines clinging to the truck. 

Back in the Basic Panel some overall Clarity was added and in the Effects Panel a slight, Post Crop Vignette was added.  As you can tell, 90% of the work done to today's image happened in LR4.  Sometimes it just ain't a Photoshop thing.