LEVEL 17 CHALLENGE: The Personal Challenge
My goal going into Sphere 1 was to challenge my creative side to bring together the new skills I learned in level's 0-10 to create some interesting and unique landscape images. For my Level 17 challenge I thought it would be helpful to post the "before and after" of a few images I processed to help illustrate how I accomplished those goals.
Below you will find my chosen images in which I explain the story, the process, and the vision of what I was trying to accomplish when taking and in post processing the final image.
I chose this challenge because it is often benifical to reevaluate and re-live an experience by walking through the completed process with a critical eye. By doing so, you will often find other paths to take in accomplishing the same goal which will push you to the next level of your development in your craft or career no matter what it is.
The First image I chose to present is the Creation War Entry "Foggy Lake". This is obviously the "Before" and is a Jpeg copy of the original unprocessed Raw image right out of the camera. The Fog was just starting to settle and the trees across the lake started to be more visible. The fall colors of the trees stood out from the white fog which caught my attention. I visualized this shot in a pano format and was using my 24-70mm lens. The "star" of this image was the trees and going wide at 24mm gave me to much water in the foreground which would have to be cropped out in post. So I zoomed in tighter at 70mm which accomplished what I wanted, with the lens I had.
This above image is obviously the after image. In Lightroom, I first adjusted the shadows and highlights, white and black points and added a little contrast. The image was cropped in Lightroom for that Pano look. From Lightroom I went into OnOne Perfect Effects and used the Dynamic Contrast Filter which helped bring details to the trees. I also added the Fall Color filter which made the reds pop. From here, I went into my texture collections and looked for a texture that would complement the red tonal values ,as well as adding some texture to the sky.
Before applying the texture, I added a Blur Filter effect to give a blurred movement feel to the texture, in hope of giving the sky an interesting look. When working with textures, I think it is important not to let the texture "over take" an image. A texture should be used as a tool only in setting a certain tone, feeling, or to assist in creating drama ,in an effort to enhance an image. This is not how I worked with textures when I first started using them, as is evident in the first critiqued images submitted in the Arcanum. This is something I learned as I experimented with them. Of course there are certain images in which a texture needs to be applied heavily in order to blend better with the image, but most often the effect looks better when applied gently, unless a specific look is intended as you will see in the images that follow.
After the texture was applied and blended with the image, I took the image into photoshop and did some dodging and burning to bring additional contrast to the darker tones and to bring out the reflection in the water. As a final touch, I added the birds with the use of photoshop blending modes. For the bird reflection in the water, I duplicated the bird image in photoshop and with the help of a tutorial, I made a mirror image of the bird's and placed the mirror image in the water ,while bring down the opacity to bend in naturally.
This next image is the before of the Central Park image. The image on its own, is an Okay image, but I felt something needed to be added to bring some drama, color, and interest to the scene. The main Star of this image is the "horse and carriage going over the bridge" and felt the buildings in the background, while interesting, needed to be less distracting to the overall scene. The buildings seemed to be competing with the main subject due to the the light sky in the background, which caused the buildings to stand out and distract from the main subject.
So my goal in post processing, was to do something to darken the sky while at the same time to add an element of interest to the sky and background. I thought that I should turn a daylight shot into a twilight shot and looked for a texture that would accomplish that.
I started in Lightroom with my normal workflow of bring up the shadows and lowering the highlights, in addition to adjusting my white and black points. Knowing that I wanted to make this look like a twilight image I also "turned" on the lights with some exposure adjustments to the light posts in the background.
The image below is the after image, with an Abstract Texture applied with a star like twilight feel. I was going for a more dramatic over the top, surreal effect, so I opted to increase the color intensity to give it a look as if it was being lit from behind. I blended the texture with photoshop blend modes and masked out the star effect in the foreground. I did some additional dodging and burning on the steps in the foreground and the bridge in the background. The light poles were straightened and I cloned out the person under the bridge.
This is the before image of the "two images in one" taken on another foggy morning before sunrise. This image was taken from a high vantage point looking down on the lake. Of interest to me were the trees and the way the branches reached out into emptiness. As the sun started to rise, the branches became more noticable and I started shooting before I lost the opportunity. The image below is a Jpeg of the unprocessed original Raw image.
When shooting in fog or snow, you need to compensate +1 exposure, to avoid the muddy grey look like I have here. I forgot to make that adjustment in camera, but did so in Lightroom post processing. The center tree jumped out at me and seemed to give an almost natural split to the frame. So I cropped out the trees on the left while trying to keep the tree canopy in the upper part of the image to fill the top portion on the frame. Once the cropping was right ,I played with the white and black points to darken the tree limbs, to get a silhouette effect. With the exposure adjustment brush I made some additional adjustments to the boat and tree limbs to make them darker them stand out.
In finishing the image, I wanted to play off the split frame the tree gave me, so I looked for a texture that had a split tone of color going right to left.
After searching many textures, I found this golden tonal texture which was a perfect fit with what I wanted to create. The darker gold tones lined up nicely with the tree in the lower left, almost outlining the branches, while the lighter white golden tones fit perfectly in the right side of the image creating a look as if it were "two images in one".