Friday, November 9, 2012

The River Is Wide - Thanks To Photoshop Content Aware Scaling

Today's image is another from out recent road trip to Maine and New Hampshire.  The covered bridge in the shot is just south of Conway NH along Route 16.  As you cross a bridge, if you look to the northwest you'll see the covered bridge.  As we drove by we saw several photographers standing on the Route 16 bridge shooting the scene.  Every one of them was standing on the bridge and shooting the "tourist" version.  I knew there had to be "something" better.  The west side of the bridge was a straight drop down about sixteen feet.  The east side offered a more gentle slope with a weathered "trail" to the water.  I walked down and it was pretty obvious that the underside of the bridge was being used as shelter for some (or more than one) person.  I made sure I didn't disturb anything and really didn't dare move anything.  At the water's edge I got down to almost water level and shot the scene.  It was an alright shot but needed more drama.  It got the needed "drama" in Adobe Photoshop CS6.  To find out how the "drama" came about, hit the "Read More".
Adobe Photoshop CS6's Content Aware Scale (the lesser known cousin to Content Aware Fill and Content Aware Move) to the rescue.  Today's image is the full shot, as it came out of the camera, but squished into a panorama.  If you were to try that with "normal" techniques you'd end up with just a squished up image.  Free Transform (CRTL T) could be tried, but the results would be pretty terrible.  You could go to Image Size (Image/Image Size) and uncheck the Constrain Proportions checkbox.  That would be equally dumb looking and neither technique would give a shortened stream and leave the sky as large as it is.  There must be another way.
I wanted everything from the base of the bridge on up to remain just as it was and pull the bottom up to build the pano.  The first thing to use was the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M).  The upper two thirds (to just at the bottom of the bridge abutment) was drawn out with the Rectangular Marquee.  Inside the Selection a Right Click was made.  Scrolling down there is an option called Save Selection.  This produces an Alpha Channel.  It does matter if you're using CS6 or Adobe Photoshop Elements 11, it still makes an Alpha Channel.  The only difference is that you can get at the Alpha Channel in CS6 while the only thing you know in PSE 11 is that you saved the Selection.
Get rid of the Marquee Selection you just made (CTRL D).  Make a copy of the Layer (CTRL J)  Use Select All (CTRL A) to capture the entire image on the new Layer.  Go to Content Aware Scale (Edit/Content Aware Scale) (ALT Shift CTRL C).  In the Option Bar at the top of the page there's a dropdown titled Protect.  Without a selection having been made and saved the only option will be None.  (Not very helpful.)  With a Selection made and Saved you'll get a list of things to choose from.  In the case of today's image, only one Selection was Saved.  We could have named it and the name would show up in the dropdown.  Since we didn't name the selection it shows up as Alpha 1.  Choosing Alpha 1 means nothing can happen in that Selection area.  This can apply to any area you want to keep from be effected by scaling.  (An example would be having a person in the shot.  Obviously you wouldn't want to change the shape of the person, so a Selection would be made and saved of the person.)
There will be a set of Handles in the corners and mid-sides  of the image.  The bottom middle handle was pulled up to create the typical Panorama shape.  Once satisfied the Commit Check was clicked.  This leaves the original image sticking out the bottom.  Click on the original Layer and drag it to the Trash Bin at the bottom of the Layers Panel.  The image will have to be cropped to get rid of the tranparent area at the bottom. 
Now you're ready to do whatever finishing you'd like.  I recommend either Alobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 (LR4) or the latest issue of Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) to do the finishing.