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After 3 attempts over the last 2 years I finally got what I was after here. My goal was the very peak of spring green, a lot of water flowing and a very dark, gloomy rainy morning to lower foliage contrast and exaggerate the green as much as possible. My client and I showed up in the dark (AM) to take advantage of the lowest contrast lighting. As far as compositions go, anyone who has spent much time here knows there are very little great compositional variations because of a variety of obstructions you have to deal with. Focusing much more on shooting for my print market these days I did not want to go vertical as they sell a lot less than horizontals. After spending three separate days here (about 3-6 hours each scouting countless different possibilities - and yes using waders to spend tons of time in the water) this was my favorite composition.
It was raining during this shot and although I wanted that (to produce the most “dreamy” quality I could get) the foliage was moving all over the place! So, what I did was get my composition as best as I could, and then with maximum polarization and an umbrella on hand, I would lift the umbrella and shoot off a series of shots and then lower the umbrella. Next I would wipe off the polarizer very carefully (a whole bag of lens wipes!) and wait for another moment of relative calm (never getting real calm). I did this over and over and over, acquiring too many shots.
Post Production (for the potential benefit of those curious about post production):
In ACR 7.1 (CS6) I worked one image to as best as I could get it there, and then applied the same settings to 15 images in total. On the 15 images luminosities were off a little (lighting changes and shutter speed differences) so I used the point sample to read all the images RGB values in one same area, and then adjusted the luminosities separately to match each other as close as possible.
I saved all 15 images as 16 bit TIFF in ACR (the save button there) then went to Bridge where they were saved and selected them all bringing them into PS CS6 as layers (I love that function!) using tools/Photoshop/load files into Photoshop layers. Then I highlighted all the images and ran the Edit/Auto Align Layers/Auto. Next, I ran Edit/ Auto Blend/Stack images. This did a tremendous job of choosing only the tact sharp foliage with no blur! I use this function all the time these days (for DOF bracketing/blending) but this image was the biggest challenge I have ever had with blurred foliage everywhere in every image (so DOF was the least challenging of the issues). With the exception of a little clean up and haloing in a few small areas, the software did an astounding job! I shot this with the Canon 16-35L2 @ 17mm at its sharpest f/stop of 5.6. DOF bracketing helped not only for DOF but all those extra exposures blended so well I think I have found another use for that PS Blending function! To resolve foliage blur during waterfall shots.
After flattening the 15 image blend I took that master file and re pasted it into the stack and did a little clean up in a couple of small areas, as well as chose my favorite water texture (on one layer) and masked (erased) that in. I then flattened the master file. The raw files I brought in, I purposely kept them quite flat needing more contrast and under saturated because of a technique I have been playing with lately with some green foliage shots (I will explain in short here).
After a slight crop (after all the blending/clean up was done and the file was flat) I duplicated the layer (top layer) and Gaussian blurred it by about 30. I then thumbed through the layer blending options (layers pallet) and loved how Multiply looked! I was after a very slight dreamy quality here (to counter, or as opposed to the overly forced flat raw files I brought in) and all though Multiply was doing it, it was WAY too strong of an effect for my taste. I simply went to my favorite blending masking tool in all of PS the “Blend If” sliders (Layer/Layer Style/Blending Options) and I split out the highlights all the way across to black (splitting the left side of the white slider, holding down alt, and dragging it all the way to black). Then on the lower layer “blend if” slider I split out the blacks (right side of the black slider) to about 128. This produced the very look I wanted (in terms of a dreamy quality) but the overall effect was still quite too strong. Since this was all on a duplicated LAYER I simply reduced the opacity down until it was where I felt it fixed the overly flat raw files and created just the touch of dreamy quality I wanted. I did not want an image too flat and I did not want it too fantasy. After scrutinizing the opacity of the effect for a couple days (setting it aside and coming back to it) I settled on this (and because it was on a layer I was able to lower the effect locally by dappling it out by erasing or masking).
Lastly a global “Color Balance” color correction adjustment was done in color mode (so contrast would not change) and a last levels adjustment in luminosity mode (so colors wouldn’t change). That is about it.
Hope it help’s someone.
by Mark Metternich
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