How Its Made Monday: A Barn Forgotten


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Combine decay and barns and you have my attention! Im a sucker for falling over barns, and when I find one close to the road, you better bet I’m going to get my camera out!

Here is today’s base picture from the camera –

1 - 0 Exposure

0 Exposure

Doesn’t it look creepy and beautiful, and lonely and forgotten, and begging for some HDR?? I took this and its darker and lighter cousins, and merged it into photomatix pro 5 –

2 - Tonemapped

Tonemapped in Photomatix 5

It did a great job as usual in retaining the sky and barn details that got lost in the highlights and shadows. My main focus for this workflow was to make it gloomy, yet dreamy and inviting – thats really the only way I can think to describe the feeling I was going for – its much easier for me to communicate in pixels the way the image looks in my head than words. I’ve got about 15 million pixels to work with. No way i can think of that many words!

I opened the image into Adobe Camera Raw, as I start all my workflows and adjusted the brightness back down and increased my blacks to help add some depth. I also cropped it in a little tighter on the barn to make sure it was my point of focus for the image.

3 - ACR and crop

Adobe Camera Raw and Crop

Next I wanted to make sure I retained the color of the clouds and the sky that were there when I was taking the photo. The sky was a prefect aqua/blue and the clouds had the slightest tint of orange about them. The resulting image from tonemapping/ACR was a little too orange/yellow. I used some color selection curves in yellow/red/blue to tone it back to where it needed to be.

4 - Color corrections to sky

Color correction for the sky

The next step was to very subtly bring in some more shadows on the barn, under the roof ledge, inside the barn, around the bushes. I wanted to make sure I had a good solid shadow there because I knew where I was headed. Its always important to give yourself a good base to work with as you go if you have an end goal in mind. Because I knew what I was headed for, I knew to do this step. It only comes with practice and work, and sometimes its just fun to explore and find these things out by mistake!

5 - Tone Correction

Shadow adjustments

At this point the sky needed some help. All the pushing and prodding at the pixels had left the sky a little muddy, noisy, and rather dirty looking. I used a radial blur to zoom them 10 pixels on a selection of the sky that I duplicated to a different layer. I then masked in around the tree branches so they wouldn’t be zoomed. Nothing is worse than adding ghosting to an HDR image and not realizing it till your are done. The software tries so hard to remove ghosting. Don’t add it back!

6 - Sky blur

Sky smoothing

Next I did some dodging and burning via a tutorial from Blake Rudis @ – As he explains, all you need to do is duplicate the layer, make it a gausian blur at around 55%, add a hue saturation layer, make it a clipping mask to the blurred image, 0 out the saturation – then change the blend mode of the gausian blur layer into overlay at about 40-50%. You can then adjust the saturation slider as you want to bring back some color! Super easy and quick and makes a great dodge and burn layer.

7 - dodge and burn

Auto Dodge and Burn

The barn was receiving a little too much blue from the sky and the grass was a little too washed out in the pale yellow sections. I made a quick hue / saturation adjustment layers to address the cyan color cast on the barn wood and the sheet metal that had fallen off.

Next I made a photo filter adjustment layer to add some orange/yellow back to the washed out grasses in front of the barn.

Both were made as clipping masks to a stamp of the whole image so i could easily adjust them and mask them as needed!

8 - Color Correction to grass and barn

Color correction for barn and grasses

Now I had started this image knowing that my Color EFX Pro 4 preset that I created, aptly titled “Mega Glow” would be awesome on this. It gives those deep shadows and soft glow effect. I applied that and tweaked it to increase the saturation slightly, and then masked in some of the barn to bring back the details.

Click on the image above to jump to the full res version!


Free Tutorial Friday: Turning on the Lights!

Hey guys, today’s tutorial is one I use every now and then, but is quite cool and can make your image totally unique to you. In my case, unless someone came by later and plugged in the christmas lights, no one has a picture of the “Burger Bar” in Bristol, Va w/ their lights on!

Here are the steps I went through in the video –

1. Duplicate the layer
2. Create an adjustment layer by clicking the black/white circle (adjustment layer button) under the layer window – Choose Photo Filter, and select yellow, max it out to 100%
3. Make that a clipping mask by holding “Alt” or “Option” and clicking the little line between the layers in the layers window. This allows us to make a layer mask on the duplicated layer later on.
4. Create another adjustment layer, this time choose “curves” – and you want to drag the middle of the curve up to the left to really brighten the image.
5. This layer should be a clipping mask too, if it didnt automatically make it one, use the same steps as I mentioned above – Hold “Alt” or “Option” and click between the layers.
6. Now you want to make a layer mask on the duplicated image layer, and click “Ctrl” or “Command” I to invert that layer mask to black.
7. Click “Ctrl” or “Command” B to activate your brush (make sure you have the black layer mask clicked)
8. With a very small brush size (left or right bracket keys adjust brush size) paint over your lights, they should be turning a very bright yellow.
9. Once you have completed the brushing of the lights, click on the layer mask, and go to the propreties tab and adjust the feather slider to 2px or type it in. – This gives your lights the glow they would have had if they were actually turned on.
10. turn the layer off and on and see if you like the color/intensity of the lights – since we made these as clipping masks and havent done any “destructive” editing, you can always change the photo filter intensity or the curves adjustment to your liking!

I hope you enjoyed this quick video tutorial, and if you use it, please let me know and give me a link to your image!

If you have another way of doing this or something similar, Im always excited to hear about it! Drop me a comment below!

Any other ideas for tutorials?? Shoot me an email – or leave a comment below.

– Tyler

How Its Made Monday: The Church on The Corner


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Last Monday I showed you the step by step for the front door on the other side of this corner tower from the Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Bristol, Va. I mentioned how i was dissapointed that Santa failed to make an appearance on my Christmas Eve photo shoot. However, i thought possibly I did capture some trial runs he was making around the Appalachians.

Here is the 0 Exposure straight from the camera –

0 Exposure

0 Exposure

You can’t tell much from this but there are (possibly) 7 different reindeer streaking across the sky in the upper right corner. Besides the fact that I caught this on camera, I wanted to capture an image that embodied the feelings that I had as a kid when Christmas Eve came around. It was a holy, special night that my family would spend at a candle light service at church, then over at my Nana’s house for family time and some good food. We would always wonder at the virgin birth that we were celebrating, but be beside ourselves in anticipation for the gifts we hope would somehow end up under the tree with our name on it. This classic, ancient church with the Christmas wreath’s and ribbon embodied that ideal perfectly for me!

Onto the reindeer I mentioned… Here is the tonemapped image that I produced in Photomatix Pro 5

Tonemapped image from Photomatix

Tonemapped image from Photomatix

Notice those reindeer? I promise if you crank the exposure down on the 0 exposure they are there, same with the +2 and -2 – Here is a zoom in on them, I cant make out if any of their noses match the color of the door though –



Interestingly enough, the clone stamp or healing brush also works on unwanted sleigh pullers that happen to make their way into your frame. As you can see in the next image, I went through and cleaned up the reindeer and also the power line on the left. I made a selection of the sky, and hit “control + J” to duplicate that selection onto its own layer, then did a blur filter: Filter>Blur>Radial Blur>Zoom at 10%. This gave me the streaking clouds and drew the viewer into the picture I think!



Next I made some curves adjustment to individual highlights and shadows to make the stones pop and add some depth to the steps. With the Select>Color Range>Highlights/Shadows/Midtones and then selectively adjusting the range to only select the tones that I wanted to adjust I was able to make some very intricate adjustments.

Curves Adjustments

Curves Adjustments

Next I made more curves adjustments, but this time on the individual colors of the image. By selecting Color Range, and then choosing the individual colors and making a curves adjustment layer I was able to increase the reds and yellows intensity (Door/steps) and the green in the bushes/wreaths.

Color Adjustments

Color Adjustments

The next step I used was the NIK Software, and their Color EFX Pro 4 application. I was able to add some mood / glow to the image to make it a little less like capturing the image and a little more like capturing the feeling. Glamour Glow is one my favorite pre-sets in that program, I use it and apply another filter or two and adjust the sliders for each image. It creates a great base to use though!

Color EFX Pro 4

Color EFX Pro 4

My next step was to apply a sharpening effect to help bring some definition to the stonework and make sure that I hadn’t lost any detail from the tonemapping process, which tends to happen!



My next step was quick crop to make sure the door was centered in the frame and to make sure that I could easily fit this onto a standard sized print!



My 2nd to last step was a dodge and burn to add some depth to the arch above the doors, and darken the rock ledges on the left and right of the stairs – again, this is to make sure the eye of the viewer is sucked right up the stairs and to the front door, and the imagination of the viewer is wondering what the inside of this church looks like.

I also made some clone stamping to get rid of the plaque on the front door. I always like to make a very subtle adjustment to every picture I take just to ensure that the image i forged is 100% original to me. Sure someone else could come make this image and it would look awesome, but the blemish on that one stone I cleared away is unique to my image, and you wont ever know which stone it was! You may notice the front door plaque though 🙂

Clean / Dodge and Burn

Clean / Dodge and Burn

And here is the final image! Quite the long how it’s made today, and maybe I should have left those reindeer in there? What do you think?


Make sure to click the image above to see it over on Smug Mug in full resolution, and please leave a comment if you like these!

Free Tutorial Friday: Sunbeams!


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Hey guys and gals, new themed posts coming to the blog this year! Free Tutorial Friday. I’m sure others have used such clever alliteration on other blogs before, so that’s nothing new. Hopefully though, i can show you some cool stuff to make your photos pop! I’m going to make these tutorials as all encompassing as I can from the standard dodge and burn technique to the crazy artistic sunbeams like I am doing today. They will vary as we go, but hopefully you will be able to work them into your workflow and it will make us all better at this!

Original HDR image

Original HDR image

Here is the image I had made from 3 exposures of my neighbors tree. When I took the photo, I had what I ended up with at the end of this tutorial today in mind, but at the time I processed this image, I didnt know exactly how to achieve what I had in my head when I got back to Photoshop.

I wanted to achieve this –

Final image w/ the sunbeams I wanted!

Final image w/ the sunbeams I wanted!

So how do we get from point A to point B? Its a quick highlight selection, a radial blur, a filter to add some color, some dodging and burning, and some color correction –

Video tutorial is posted at the bottom of this post.. or here

Step 1: select the highlights and get them on their own layer

With your image open and selected, go to Select>Color Range, and choose highlights from the drop down menu. Set your fuzziness to around 50% and your Range around 190 (specific for each image, but that’s what I used for this image. Then click “Ok”

Hit Control or Command C to copy the selection, add a new layer. Change that layer name to “Sunbeams” or something that sounds cooler if you can think of it.

 Step 2. Radial Blur

With the “Sunbeams” layer selected – go to Filter>Blur>Radial Blur. Slam the amount slider all the way to the right, to 100, chose zoom for the blur method, then leave the selection for the quality on Good. In the blur center window, you want to center the cross hairs on the sun. This can be tricky. I like to add guides, but clicking on the ruler a the top of the image and dragging down and clicking on the ruler on the left and dragging right so my guides make a cross hair centered on my sun. if the rulers are not visible on your image press control or command R. Once the cross hairs of my guides are centered on the sun, i can try and match the cross hairs in the blur center window to match my guides. Then hit “Ok”. Unless you are awesome, which you probably are, your blur center is a little off. No problem. Click control or command Z to undo the blur, open the blur menu again and go to radial blur. All your settings are still there and the blur center is where you left it. Now adjust it as needed to make sure its centered on the sun. Repeat this as necessary until you get the centering just right.

If you turn off the background layer, it should look something like this –

Radial blur - Zoom

Radial blur – Zoom

You could stop right here, combine layers, and call it a day, or you can push on and really make it standout!

Step 3: Add some color and depth

This step is optional, but worked well for this image. I use NIK software alot in my post processing, so opted to use their Analog EFX Pro 2 filters. I chose Classic Camera 5 in the presets and hit ok – it added some great color and “thickness” to my sun beams. After applying the filter I changed the blend mode to “lighten” because some of the blue’s were a little too overpowering. The result is below –

3 - analog effects pro 2 - classic camera 5

NIK Anaolg EFX Pro 2: Classic Camera 5

Here is where are now w/ the background turned on, and the blending mode for the fliter set to lighten –

Sunbeams taking shape

Sunbeams taking shape

The addition of the NIK filter layer just allowed some glow from the sun to penetrate the leaves of the tree, without this filter the tree leaves wouldn’t be glowing or as “Foggy” as they appear. Your choice!

Step 4 – Sharpening

There are about 754 ways to sharpen your image in Photoshop. I really like NIK sharpener Pro 3. I used that filter to add some texture to the sun beams and bring back a little contrast and detail to some the leaves in the upper right and upper left corner where the beams weren’t as prominent. You can use an Unsharp Mask, and High Pass Filter, Sharpener tool.. you get the idea. The thought is to make it a little more realistic, a little less cloudy and “glow-y”

5 - Sharpener pro 3

Sharpener Pro 3

 Step 5 – Color Corrections

Looking at our image at this point you may want to make some color adjustments. Using the Hue Saturation adjustment layer, I wanted to tone down those cyans around the perimeter of the image and also clean up some of the yellow/green you see in the middle right of the image. I desaturated the cyan’s and and lightened them slightly, and changed the hue of the yellows to make them a little more red, then masked them in with a layer mask.

6 - Cyan color correction

Cyan Color Correction

Final image w/ the sunbeams I wanted!

Yellow color correction


Step 6 – Dodge and Burn

Finally, for this image I made a new layer, hit “Shift+F5” to fill it and chose 50% gray. I then changed the blend mode to “overlay”. I do this so when I dodge and burn, it only affects tone and not color. Then I chose the burn tool and went over the tree branches and trunks that are in the bottom right quadrant. I wanted to make sure they were good and dark, as there is no way you were making out any details in them staring into the sun like that.

This is the tree in our neighbors yard, and I used this image for a photoshop tutorial on making sun beams! If you haven't checked it out yet - www.tylergloverphotography.wordpress.comClick the image about to jump over to smug mug!

If you found this tutorial useful, please leave a comment and let me know if you you use it, and leave me a link to your picture!

If that was too much reading.. here’s the video!

How Its Made Monday (on a Tuesday): Santa’s Lair


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This past weekend we traveled to Bristol, Tn to visit my family for Christmas, and on Christmas Eve I ventured out in hopes of snapping an image of old Saint Nick, but was unsuccessful (I THINK!!! MORE ON THIS NEXT MONDAY!!)

What I did do was visit the art gallery that I have my prints set up in and made sure to say hey to everyone there. Even found someone on the street that recognized me from my picture hanging in the art gallery. I had my sharpie ready to sign whatever they wanted, but they never asked..

Anyway, the Emanuel Episcopal church has a gargoyle-esque looking tower at the corner of it, and with the bright red doors, and the wreath, I wondered if this wasn’t Santa’s Lair?

0 Exposure straight from the camera

0 Exposure straight from the camera

As you can see, this would be a great place for Santa and the elves to hang out when they were feeling especially secretive. Bristol wouldnt be the first place many people chose to look for Santa’s workshop.

Tonemapped image from Photomatix

Tonemapped image from Photomatix

As you can tell from Photomatix, we were able to get alot of the details back in the rocks around the door and the wreath.

Camera Raw

Camera Raw

My 1st step is always opening the tonemapped image into Adobe Camera Raw. In Camera raw I utilized the highlights and shadow sliders, as well as the black and white point sliders to help do some additional tone control to help bring back even more detail and add some depth to the door inset.

I also used the HSL slider panel to work on those red doors and help make them and the wreaths really pop against the stone.

Highlight and shadows curves adjustments

Highlight and shadows curves adjustments

The next step for me is a curves adjustment to individual highlights and shadows. This really made the stones look more “3-D” and jimp of the screen at you. It looks like the screen has a texture to it, you can almost feel the thousand year old stones (or 100 maybe).

Color adjustments w/ curves

Color adjustments w/ curves

At this point i used the curves adjustment tool to tone down the hyper-electric red in that door, cool as it was, it was almost too much to look at! I also made the red? grout a more natural, moldy brown. The green leaves on the wreath were also brightened a touch.

Dodge and Burn!

Dodge and Burn!

The 2nd to last step was a good solid dodge and burn across the whole image thanks to an awesome technique from Blake Rudis at – A Gausian blur layer at 55, set to overlay or soft light blend modes at 50% opacity – BOOM!

Gradient toning w/ PS's pre-set photography gradient maps!

Gradient toning w/ PS’s pre-set photography gradient maps!

The final step before a vignette and a print was to add a gradient map on overlay mode, using Photoshop’s built in photographic toning gradient maps. Its a very subtle way to add a nice glow to the whole image w/o destroying all the color and tone work you’ve done.
And there is Santa’s Lair from start to finish! Just click the image above to jump to smug mug and see the big version, maybe you will see an elf looking out the key hole!

How It’s Made Monday: Tracks in the field


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The Set Up

Last Sunday, 12/14/14, I was pretty pumped by the fact that the sun was back in Tennessee – for a few days there it was “50% Gray”, I really wanted to switch it into Overlay – sorry bad Photoshop joke. I told my wife I was running out to take photos, she said where to? I told her that I didn’t know, but I would find something. It was quite liberating to have to be somewhere in 30 minutes or the sun was gone, but not have any idea where that somewhere was. I headed west towards the small town of Nolensville. I had an idea that the fields out that way would be great, but didnt know which field would work. I found a small neighborhood under construction (as you can see in the photo, they have started the site-work). There was side street that ended in a culdesac, so I drove to the end and jumped out and started walking around the field trying to find a cool composition.

I ended up w/ this set up and I really like how the tire tracks are parallel to the cloud bank – after I saw that it was simply getting it into the middle of the frame so i could have plenty of room to crop it and straighten if i needed later.


0 Exposure straight from the camera

0 Exposure straight from the camera

Above is the 0 exposure straight out of the camera – i took this and its +2 and -2 cousins and slammed them together in Photomatix Pro 5 to get the following –

Tonemapped image from Photomatix

Tonemapped image from Photomatix

As always, i kind of go “whoa” when i look at the before / after from Photomatix. When I first started making HDR photos, i was 99% complete at this point. I would spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make the Photomatix result the be all, end all. That is a pretty much losing proposition. Photomatix is just putting your “raw” ingredients into the baking dish – make sure you bake that thing in the Photoshop oven!

Zone edit curves adjustments

Zone edit curves adjustments

The edits made here are hard to see in these small images, maybe i should make a video?? The zone edit allows you to run curves adjustments on specific sections of the highlights/shadows. This time I brought back some detail in the sunset on the right, and some shadow to the ground and darkened up that blue sky a touch.

Color Curves adjustment

Color Curves adjustment

Utilizing the Select>color range tool in photoshop, I made curves adjustments to each color and tried to bring back some of the saturation that my eye saw. Notice the deeper blues in the left and the deeper yellows in the right, and then the more natural green of the grass? Love this editing technique.

5 - Dodge and Burn

Dodge and Burn

Using a dodge and burn technique for the whole image allowed me to correct some of the over exposure of the shadows and under exposure of the highlights that come about via HDR processing.

6 - Color EFX Pro 4

Color EFX pro 4

The next step was a Nik Color EFX Pro 4 custom filter i made, which im finding is more and more useful w/ a variety of images. I call this filter “Mega Glow” and have used it on a couple different pictures to varying degrees. In this image for example, I have it applied only to the grass, it has some contrast and glow in it, so it really made the field have a little more drama and depth.

Denoise, clone stamp, curves

Denoise, clone stamp, curves

My second to last step for this image was to run a Topaz Labs Denoise filter on the image to clean up the sky and trees, clone stamp out the power lines, and apply a curves adjustment to the whole image to verify that there was a solid white and black point after all the processing I had done.

and here is the final image after a crop and vignette…

You wouldn't know it without experiencing it, but coming from winters in Washington, DC to Nashville means that December evenings in the 50's temperature wise are quite common! This is a lovely excuse to get out and shoot pictures - especially when your subject is as photogenic as middle Tennessee!

(PS – Make sure to click the image above to jump to smug mug and see it full screen!)

Also, feel free to ask questions and tell me what your favorite editing techniques are.. always looking to learn something new! 🙂

How It’s Made Monday: Claytor Lake


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Even Exposure straight from the camera

Even Exposure straight from the camera

There’s a lot things that needed to be addressed in this image. For one, it was taken on a dock, that was floating w/ the waves of the lake as boats drove by, so forget tack sharpness. Secondly, it was directly into the sun, and this was taken in 2012, before I knew to drop the exposure bracketing down to -3 or -4 for direct sun shots. The mountain range on the right needed some drastic shadow and exposure increases to be brought back into shape. There was also a nasty lens flare that had to be dealt with. The result was an image that is quite gorgeous, but lacks the clarity and sharpness that I could achieve today.

That’s because you are always learning things! One of the most fun processes I go through is looking back at old pictures and remembering how proud I was when i posted or shared them 4 years ago, and how I would hit delete immediately if that was my final product today! Whenever you feel like your talents or abilities are plateauing just remember to look back at where you came from –

Don’t focus on how far you have to go, focus on how far you have come!

Tonemapped Image from Photomatix Pro 5

Tonemapped Image from Photomatix Pro 5

Above you can see the result of my efforts in Photomatix Pro 5 – which combines multiple exposures into a single image. This took a -2, 0, and +2 image and combined them into this. I love the sky in this image – it really came to life. The sky was awesome the whole weekend we were there really; an HDR Pro tip – clouds look fantastic when you process them!

Camera Raw Filter edit after importing to Photoshop

Camera Raw Filter edit after importing to Photoshop

The settings I have set up in Photoshop allow me to directly open any .TIFF files into the Camera Raw application. I save all my Photomatix files as 16 Bit .Tiff files and when I’m ready to begin working on them I click them and open directly to Camera Raw. This is always my jumping off point. Think of Photomatix as the grocery store, here you get the ingredients you need. Camera Raw is the baking dish – all the ingredients come together and theoretically you can eat it I suppose, but you should probably bake it – in the Photoshop oven.

In Camera Raw, i made some color adjustments (see the blue in the sky, green of the trees, and yellow color cast removed from the water on the right) and some light level adjustments (shadows of the tree line and clouds).

Topaz Denoise 5 and High Pass Sharpen

Topaz Denoise 5 and High Pass Sharpen, along w/ some clone stamp work

Its really hard to tell that there has been any noise reduction or sharpening when the images are this small, but believe me there was. Also, did some clone stamp work.. notice anything missing in this image?

6 - Zone edit

Curves adjustments for the sky and trees

Next I made some selective curves adjustments to the highlights and shadows using Select>color range>Highlights/shadows/mid-tones and adjusting the figures to select certain parts of the image. This is so much better than a general overall curves adjustment and allows you to selectively play with it rather than affecting the entire picture!

Nik Color EFX 4

Nik Color EFX 4

The next step was to run the Nik Color EFX 4 program to bring back some of the sunset glow that was missing. It helped pop the sunset yellow throughout the image while maintaining those blues and aquas of the sky.

Nik Sharpener Pro 3

Nik Sharpener Pro 3

The second to last step was an overall image sharpening to help bring back some of that sharpness that was lost due to the rocking of the dock I was standing on. In the end I’m kind of disappointed with the overall blur that exists on the tree line, but there isn’t anything I know to do – give me 4 more years!!


The dreamy sunsets of Claytor Lake never disappoint. When we spent the weekend here I snapped hundreds of pictures and just recently found a handful that had never seen photoshop! Its always fun to dig through old folders when its 100% Gray outside and you want some sun!
(Remember, you can click the image above to jump to Smug Mug and see it full size or even get yourself a print of it!)


How it’s Made: Children in the Park


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Welcome to a new weekly event on HDR by RTG! How it’s Made Monday. Every Monday you can look forward to, or dread, a new HDR image from me and the steps I took to get there. It will be part self training, part journal, and partly because I want to see how my techniques progress! Mostly though, I hope it helps you out in your photography and maybe inspires you to grab your camera if you have not looked at it in a few days, weeks, or years?!

So for today (12/8/14) we will start our first “How it’s Made Monday” with a shot from some statues in the park in Chicago. Last July 4th weekend, my wife and her parents and sister made a trip to Chicago (I had never been, they had been – and we all wanted to get out of our respective home towns for the holiday). This was our last day in town and we walked, no joke, like 10 miles that weekend. So needless to say, I wasn’t too interested in carrying around my tripod, so I was working with handheld images from most of this trip – which really isn’t too hard to handle for day time HDR shots.

So here are my 3 Exposures from the statues –

+2 Exposure -2 Exposure Even exposure


I took these three images in Photomatix and processed them into a tonemapped image that was about 50% complete – there was still some key areas that needed adressing – like adding some detail and adressing that gross looking sky! Below is the tonemapped image –

Tonemapped image

It did a great job capturing the faces and foreground the way I wanted it to, but it fell short on the middle left up to upper center, that whole top left corner of the image is pretty sad. So I went into Lightroom and edited the under exposed image only to produce something that would be able to capture the city in the background better. I ignored the entire rest of the image and just concentrated on that upper corner – here is what I got –

2 - Lightroom Edit


















So this image looked great for the sky and the trees, but lost everything else. I took the tonemapped image from Photomatix and the Lightroom sky edit image and masked them together in Photoshop. The resulting image would be my main base layer for the remainder of the editing –

4 - Lightroom edit and Tonemapped Combined


















This image was taken directly in the Camera Raw filter – Here is where I adjusted the shadows and highlights, clarity, contrast, exposure, whites and blacks. I also use Camera Raw for any color corrections, so there was some slight adjustment to the Hue, Saturation, and Luminance of each color. A small sharpening was also applied. The result was –

5 - Camera Raw Filter


















Next up we needed to get some drama in this image somewhere, and my favorite place to add it is the ground or the sky. In this particular case, we didn’t have much sky to work with, and its pretty boring – not much to do there. So I focused on the ground. Using Topaz Adjust 5’s Dynamic Pop 2 filter, I was able to pull back some of the texture and dynamic range of the shadows on the sidewalk and grass –

6 - Topaz Adjust for ground


















When I imported the original 3 exposures into Photomatix, I told it that these were taken “hand held” style, not on a tri-pod. Photomatix is smart enough to align the 3 pictures almost exactly, for its processing. Which is a fantastic tool to have. However, it does create some alignment issues that I didn’t catch when I brought in the sky edit from Lightroom and masked in the right side of the trees so lightly. Its very hard to tell in these thumbnail pictures, but the right side of the first statue had some ghosting on the very edge. Basically, the very edge of the head was slightly transparent so you could see the edge of it, and then some tree branches through it! That looked terrible, so I took the clone stamp tool and just stamped my way down the backside of that head to fill in the transparent bits. Here is the zoomed in view of what im talking about

Ghosting Zoom

Notice the tree leaves you can see “THROUGH” the edge of the statue?














And... GONE!

And… GONE!














Next up I added a “de-noise” filter to get rid of the noise, or speckles in the image to give it that nice smooth look.

8 - Topaz Denoise


















Then I took the clone stamp tool again and “erased” some of the pits and cracks on the 1st statue – notice under the 2nd line down from the top of her head, there was a chunk missing or something, i just filled that in – then a few other spots here and there that where white specs or other small pieces that had fallen out.

9 - Clean up


















The next step was a curves adjustment to the highlights and shadows on a very selective basis. Using “select>Color Range>highlights/midtones/shadows” then adjusting the sliders to fit the selection I wanted I was able to very intentionally adjust certain areas of the image that were too dark or light. This gives me the ability to select the brightest of the highlights and give them a curves adjustment, versus giving the entire image a curves adjustment. Notice how patchy the blue sky was in the previous image? Now look at it below! Subtle, but effective.

10 - Zone Edit


















My next step was to do a Dodge/Burn layer to add some dimension to the first statue’s face – notice how the blowout on the nose got a little more defined, and the eye got a little more depth?

12 - Dodge and Burn


















The next step was to sharpen the image. For this I used a high-pass filter on a 50% gray layer, at 1 pixel, set to overlay mode. Sounds like a lot of work, but I created an Action in Photoshop, basically a recording of my every step, then i just have to hit “play” on that action and it runs through all those steps in about 1 second.

13 - High Pass and final


















The last and final step was another layers adjustment to just darken the tree leaves on the left of the frame every so slightly, they were bugging me. And boom. Final Image!

On our last day In Chicago this past July, we went over the see

Click the image above to jump to Smug Mug and see this thing in full resolution!