The Right Tool

Approaching Storm — Corolla, NC g© jj raia

Approaching Storm — Corolla, NC g© jj raia

In Thursday’s post, I mentioned an extra final step in the processing to an image of a hammer and nail set, that was suggested in one of Alister Benn’s You Tube videos from his channel Expressive Photography. Since his work and passion have mostly to do with the landscape, I decided to try the same method on one of my landscapes that was a bit of a disappointment when originally processed last fall. (Check out Alister’s web site by Clicking Here, or here, and don’t forget to look up his You Tube Channel, Expressive Photography, for insights and more great suggestions for your photography. Many, many impressive images on Instagram as well).

During a trip to NC’s Outer Banks, there were some really interesting cloud formations late one day, and I headed to where there would be a good view looking west across the sound at Whale Head Bay, hoping there might be some sunset light if there were breaks in the clouds along the horizon. I did some long exposures (132 sec.) with a 10-stop ND filter to smooth out the ripples in the water and blur the clouds, and some short exposures (1/10 sec.) to keep the clouds crisp, but no sunlight ever did appear. As mentioned before, the processed images were lackluster, and did not have the impact I’d hoped for to really illustrate what was happening that afternoon.

For Lightroom users, just to get an idea of how the originals were processed globally; Exposure, Contrast, Dehaze and Saturation were all left alone at zero; Global changes were: Highlights minus-93, Shadows +88, Whites +34, Blacks minus-37, Clarity +30, and to cut down some of the blue cast, Vibrance was actually reduced to minus-27.

For this attempt to arrive at a final image that was more satisfactory than the original result, I thought to blend the two previously processed frames in Photoshop, the long exposure with the short exposure, to have the smooth water and the crisp clouds together in one frame, and go from there back into Lightroom. The resulting combined image still seemed a bit flat as they both were before they were combined, as seen below. So, following the basic Alister Benn method, in the Basic Panel, the exposure of the combined image was reduced almost a full stop to minus-0.95 and the whites were increased to +71, making sure not to clip the highlights by holding down the option key and maintaining a black screen. These two simple adjustments instantly made the image come to life!!

It has to be mentioned that these numbers are not formulaic, but each is adjusted according to your own taste. The result still seemed much too blue in the clouds, so the saturation was reduced using a grad filter to allow them to appear more realistic rather than oversaturated, but leaving just enough color to retain some of the anger and steely blue/gray. After a few other slight adjustments using brushes, grads and radial filters, the result is what you see at the top of the post. Quite a bit of difference in the contrast, drama, mood, lighting and impact, compared with the image below. In addition, the line of rocks extending out into the bay and on the left hand side, now have a more three dimensional quality to them, while the storm clouds appear much more menacing as they did that afternoon.

Approaching Storm — Original Processing

Original Processing from Photoshop

I was certainly overjoyed that these simple steps created such a vast improvement!! The image now leans more toward what I was striving for as a final result, but previously seemed unable to attain. Now that this technique has been used successfully twice, on two different types of photograph, it will always be an option to use if needed; another bit of acquired information that may help to achieve a desired final result. I’m sure it will not be appropriate for use in every photo, but it’s an additional tool for the toolbox. My father always said it’s good to have “the right tool for the job.” And this tool may be just right for quite a few.


2 thoughts on “The Right Tool

  1. Pingback: Seeing Differences

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