A little change up this week from street life to a emphasis on color. This tree stands on Wheeler Avenue in La Verne, California, backed up by the San Gabriel Mountains. The image was captured in the late afternoon at 5:46 P.M. on May 21. I really like how the sun plays on the mountains during this time of day, the mountains are oriented on an east-west axis, and when the sun is getting low the light really delineates the contours of the south facing slopes. This always fascinates me as we parallel the face of the mountains when we drive along I-210 during this time of day.
After conversion from NEF to DNG in Lightroom, I tone mapped in Nik’s HDR Effects Pro working off of a preset furnished by Jason P. O’Dell, selectively dodging in, upping the contrast and structure in various areas of the tree using control points, slightly darkening the foliage to the left and right of the tree; using Nik Color Efex Pro, applied the Kodak Ultra Color 400UC film effect. In Photoshop I removed a distracting palm tree, light standard and electrical utility box that stood adjacent to the tree and attempted to mitigate the slight halo-ing effect by color masking in layers, but to no avail. Back in Lightroom I sharpened and did a little noise reduction, and exported the TIFF file that was created by HDR Efex Pro to a JPG file.
Palm trees are prevalent throughout Southern California. This shot was made in Chino Hills, California. I was attracted to the symmetry and grace of the palms when I captured this image, then brought emphasis to the sky and balanced the blue of the sky against the warm tones of the buildings using Color Efex Pro.
When history is written in the future, it might be said that women were pioneers in the 18th century, homemakers in the 19th century, professionals in the 20th century, and shoppers in the 21st century. It might also be said that men were still in the feudal age in the 21st century, desperately grasping for power and treasure, more prone to waging war than making peace.
This is part of the rolling stock of the Fillmore & Western Railway, alongside the Fillmore Depot, ready to roll on another short excursion. A special hat tip goes out to Dave Wilson for his tip on reducing halos that result in the skies of HDR images. I had come across the same tip in a tutorial I was viewing recently, and after Dave reminded me of it, I tried it out, on this past Monday’s image and this one. Thank you Dave, for coaching me forward one more step in the development of my HDR skills.
As the sun was getting low over Fillmore City Hall the shadows grew longer and the moon began rising in the eastern sky when I captured the brackets for this image.. The scene might suggest that the seat of government in Fillmore has stood the test of time, that would, however, be an incorrect conclusion. Fillmore was first settled around the time that the city’s grid was first laid out in 1887, incorporation occurred in 1914. While the appearance of this photograph would suggest that the Fillmore City Hall may have been erected at about the time of incorporation, in reality, this is the sixth incarnation of the Fillmore City Hall and it was built in 1997.
To arrive at this final image I combined and tone mapped three bracketed exposures using HDR Efex Pro. I used a combination of Viveza and Photoshop to adjust exposure and tone, and an adjustment layer in Photoshop to replace the halo’ed sky that resulted after the HDR process. The original color tones were too garish to my taste and inaccurate to boot, I used the Color Efex Pro Duplex filter to alter the color tones and the Color Efex Pro Vignette Blur filter to soften the focus on the edges of the image. Lightroom was used for final sharpening.
This was another image that I had worked over quite a bit, and only over time was I able to control my urges to produce a “punchy” image, and arrive at a more subtle interpretation and final vision. I really think that it does help to put aside my images after first processing them, and resist the urge to publish them immediately, so that over time I will find my way back to the images, and a different, and hopefully, better perspective. Deliberation is the key to producing memorable images.
The tree with its branches bare of leaves during its season of dormancy presides over Waring Park in Piru, California, hard by the usually dry Santa Clara River bed. I am surmising that the dark clumps of vegetation among the branches are nests for some of the local critters, but we did not see any while on the scene. Whether avians or small mammals or marsupials, the creatures that made their homes up in the branches did so to stay safe from predators who might be roaming the neighborhood.
We were in the area to photograph an old railroad trestle, and I did capture those brackets before I set my sights on this tree. I actually think the tree was the better overall image. After the initial HDR processing and merging of the brackets with Nik HDR Efex Pro I processed the final image with Nik Silver Efex Pro, and did a little dodging with the adjustment brush in Lightroom. I have pre-ordered a copy of Silver Efex Pro 2 and am waiting to get my hands on that, which appears to be even more robust than Silver Exfex Pro 1.
I am just now beginning to explore the tools available from Photo Shop CS5, and have been enjoying myself practicing with some of the tools available with this robust application. I was in my family room recently keeping my sister company as she was preparing dinner for us one late afternoon, and after getting some shots of her peeling potatoes I zeroed in on the fruit bowl.
When I captured this image, the fruit bowl was sitting on top of a half height wine refrigerator that had a black surface, behind this was the cooking island with maroon colored cabinet work, a white tile top surface and other items you would typically find on a stove top. A very unattractive and distracting background.
When I first processed the image in Lightroom I cropped out the background elements that displayed above the fruit, but that led to a very constrained aspect ratio and an overall poor composition. Then I decided to find out what I could do with Photo Shop. The first thing I did was place the cropped image on a larger canvas, giving some “shoulder room” on the sides of the fruit bowl and adding height to the background.
I then sampled the maroon color that was in the background cabinet and used that color to fill the background of the expanded canvas. I then painted in more color in the background and along the edges of the bowl and the fruit, doing this in an iterative process, and kept my brush at less than full opacity. In the process of cropping and painting I had destroyed part of the left rim of the pewter bowl and ended up using the cloning tool to reconstruct it. I also did some cloning on one of the yellow apples. I also used the blurring and smudging tools to a small extent, but the smudging tool is a bit tricky, and some of that I had to go back and fix.
As this is the first time that I have used Photo Shop to such radical effect I am quite happy with my results, Photo Shop allowed me to take a non-descript image and make it pleasing and interesting to my eye. This exercise also brings home the fact that you can do so much with your images after you have initially conceived them, and you should not be too quick to label any image in your Lightroom catalog as a reject.
You should never hesitate to return to an old image and re-work it. This image was originally created in September of last year when I was first experimenting with HDR techniques. Looking back at the original rendition of the image I can say in all honesty, it was fairly crude and cartoonish as you can see in this thumbnail. I did not hesitate to post the image back then because I consider this blog a manifestation of my growth and development as a photographer, and was just excited to share my journey of discovery of HDR technique. So it is with some pride and a sense of redemption that I am posting the revised image today. Isn’t this what life is all about, living and learning, every day.
As far as what I did when I reprocessed the image:
- HDR processed and tone mapped in Nik HDR Efex Pro instead of Photomatix. I used one of either the Architectural or Landscape filters in HDR Efex Pro (I did not write down which on) and then tweaked the individual control settings.
- Used the Nik Control Point technology to darken, increase contrast and further saturate the top of the building wall in the top right quarter of the image, I feel this gave the building more of a three dimensional effect, and redirected the radiation of the sun from the top right to the bottom left.
- Set a control point over the lower left section of the man and the flower bed and increased the exposure, contrast and saturation, to bring more emphasis on the human figure and also redirect the source of the sun’s rays.
- Used Lightroom to adjust for lens distortion and perform sharpening.
- It should go without saying, that this processing began using the original, raw image files.
I had a blast re-creating this.