News and Views from Dave Wilson

Archive for April 6th, 2008

Hamilton Pool (post Willmore)

by on Apr.06, 2008, under Uncategorized

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Hamilton Pool, originally uploaded by David A G Wilson.

I finally got a chance to play with some of the techniques that Ben Willmore talked about during the Photoshop seminar last week and here’s what I came up with. I’m very much happier with this version of the image than I was with the original since the sky was always rather overexposed for my liking. It’s incredible just how much difference using a more saturated sky and a subtle vignette makes to the overall image.

If you are interested in what I did, read on for the play-by-play…

When I was originally working on this image, I had tried to replace the sky but ran into problems generating a mask that handled the tree area on the right well. Despite using some techniques that Dave Cross had talked about in a previous Photoshop seminar, I couldn’t get rid of some nasty fringing. With the move to CS3, however, and the magic eraser tool, it was no problem to fix this now. I duplicated the image and used magic eraser to get rid of the sky then used the resulting layer to create a mask.

The new sky actually comprises two layers. There’s the basic sky itself and a gradient to darken it somewhat towards the top right. Rather than applying the mask I created to both layers separately, I used a clipping group with the bottom layer generated from the mask and the two grouped layers above it for the sky and gradient. This way, I only have 1 layer to modify to refine the mask rather than 2 independent layer masks which just happen to contain the same thing.

Although the new mask did a great job around the trees, I wasn’t too happy with the edges around the rock overhang – a slight fringe was visible – so I tweaked this using a technique I learned a couple of years ago. I made a selection containing the areas that showed the fringing then added a 1 pixel Guassian blur to the mask in that area. Keeping the selection active, I then used Curves to increase and decrease the contrast of the mask. This has the effect of very slightly expanding or contracting the mask and let me tune the edge very precisely.

After this, I added a new Curves adjustment layer to bring out some of the texture in the foreground rocks and a second to vignette the image and draw attention to the waterfall and overhang area in the centre. In the past, I would have used a soft black brush, painted black into the areas I wanted to darken and used either Normal, Darken, Multiply or Overlay blending mode and a lowish opacity (20-40%) to apply a vignette. Using a curves adjustment layer and a layer mask provides far more subtle results, I reckon, and will definitely be the way I do this in future.

Overall, I really feel I got my money’s worth last week and now have a version of a well-loved image I am finally delighted with.

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