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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.

Processing 

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! 🙂

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