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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 @ EverydayHDR.com – 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!