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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 EverydayHDR.com – 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!

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