Friday, February 27, 2015

What If Winston Link Had Photoshop?

Click on image to enlarge.
I'd guess I'd want to start this post with a little explanation of who O.Winston Link is.  He's a photographer and a chronicler.   Most of his train work was done between 1955 and the end of the great steam train era in 1960.  He lived just over the border from here in New York state.  The "focus" of his attention was the last large scale railroad to use steam, the Norfolk and Western in Virginia.  If you've followed the link above you saw that many of his B&W images were night shots of trains on the move.  Some of his shots involved fifty or more large flash bulbs to illuminate the trains as they sped by.  In today's image I used a somewhat simpler technique that can be revealed by hitting the "Read More".

Thanks to the magical properties of Adobe Photoshop (PS) and plug-ins from On-one Software and Nik Software I was able to take a shot taken in broad daylight and turn it into a night shot.  As with everything I do, the image started out in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (LR).  There wasn't a whole lot done there "to start".  Just the file storage and a couple of minor adjustments. The biggest thing was a reduction of Exposure to darken the entire image.  It was then over to PS for the real work.

Once in PS I went directly to the plug-ins.  I checked what I could get in both Nik's Silver Efex Pro 2 and On-one's Perfect BW 9 Suite.  I liked what I got from both and the midpoint image was a mashup of both applications.  I'd go into one plug-in and take it as far as I could and then go to the other plug-in and play with it there.  Then back and forth a couple times. 

As a side note: a friend of mine, who does amazing photography and post processing work, complains that she doesn't remember the steps she took to get to her final image.  Hell, I don't have the foggiest idea of the sequence of steps that got me to today's image (or most of the other images you see at the gallery).  Taking the shot is basically science.  The post processing is the art.  Try asking a painter to duplicate the brush strokes it took to create a painting.  He/she would probably laugh.  The art portion of post processing is organic.  The techniques can be learned, but not replicated.

After messing with the image in the plug-ins, the file was sent back to LR for the major finishing work.  As it came over, the ties were not visible.  The Adjustment Brush was used to bring up the visibility.  It was used in a couple of stages.  The closer ties were given more exposure and the ones further back were progressively less.  The front shield of the locomotive was given more Exposure and Contrast.  The side of the cab was reduced to bring out the shield.  The wheels were hit with a slight amount of increased exposure to provide separation between the wheel and the rail.  Probably the greatest increase was put on the engineer.  Without the increased exposures he blend into the scene way too much.

Globally, the Contrast was bumped up to get a grittier, night time look.  The file then took one more (and initially unexpected) trip over to PS.  I started to do local highlight and shadow enhancements in LR, but details were too fine and the time in LR would have been too long.  In PS two Curves Adjustments Layers were added.  One for Shadows and he other for highlights.  I've gone through the justification for using this technique several times, so I won't go through it here.  The short version is that a stroke of the Brush uses the tones in the image to produce individualized highlights or shadows once the strokes are blurred.

It was then back to LR for storage.