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In Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography, Ben Long outlines a full, shooting-to-output workflow geared specifically toward the needs of landscape photographers, with a special emphasis on composition, exposure enhancement, and retouching. This course also covers converting to black and white, using high-dynamic range (HDR) imaging techniques to capture an image that’s closer to what your eye sees, and preparing images for large-format printing. Learn to bring back the impact of the original scene with some simple post-processing in Photoshop. Exercise files are included with the course.
Black-and-white film photographers of course did not have to go through the black-and-white conversion process that we went through earlier, but they did have a lot of other stuff they had to do. They had to think about how long of an exposure to take when they were developing their film. They had to think about exposure times printing their film. They had to think about how much they were agitating the tray and shaking the film tank and all that kind of stuff. We don't have to worry about any of that, but all those things served to do some of what we were doing by simply clicking on colors and dragging left and right, that is they were able to expose different tonal values in different ways.
We don't have to do that. They didn't have to go through the conversion we did, but there are certain things that we share with traditional film black-and-white photographers. First is we try to get our tonal values set the way we want them, but after that, in addition to that, film photographers would also go through sometimes extensive processes of dodging and burning different parts of their images to make some parts brighter and some parts darker. We can do the same thing, to the same end, which is to accent some things, hide some of the things away, to add contour, to make more interesting lighting. All of these same vocabulary of light and shadow that film photographers used, we still have in our landscape work.
Fortunately, our tools are much easier to deal with, and we can back out of our edits if we need to. Photoshop does provide Dodge and Burn tools, which are right here, but they are destructive, meaning we can't undo them later if we need to, and they're kind of blunt instruments. We're going to do dodging and burning in a different way. We're just going to use localized adjustment layers; we're going to use Levels Adjustment layers with masks with the idea of painting in light and shadow. This image has a problem, which is it was shot in the middle of the day. So while there's a little bit of contour in here, there is not a lot.
This looks kind of lumpy, and kind of flat and boring. I am hoping that we can punch it up a little bit with some careful placement of some lighting. I am going to make a Levels adjustment layer and just brighten the image. I am not worried about the fact that this is blown out. I really don't care what it does because the next thing I am going to do is mask it all out completely. I have selected black as my background color. I am selecting all, Command+A, Command+Delete to fill this mask with black, Command+D to deselect, and now selecting a brush with the Brush key.
White is my foreground color, so as I paint into the mask, I am going to be painting in the brightening of that adjustment layer. As I do that, I've now exaggerated the light side and dark side of this, and it looks a little more three- dimensional. Here's the before. Here's an after. I am going in and basically faking later afternoon light, trying to get more contour onto this image. And the way that I am choosing where to paint is I am just following the highlights that are in the image.
I am just making them brighter. It's pretty easy to see, if the light is coming from over here mostly, and again it's a little bit over head, of course the sun is never completely over head, but it does seem to be biased more to one side. So I just need to think about what would be in light and what would be in shadow, and of course there are also some of these stones are simply darker and so they appear more black. I decided I don't like that one; I am going to undo that. I am going to paint in some of this.
The more I can create contrasting textures, the more I am going to see contour in the form, and this is not an obscure edit I am doing. I do this to most of my landscape images. I go in and I try to exaggerate the lighting in a realistic way. I think that's actually a shadow. That looks like its sticking straight up, so the next light part would be up here maybe. This does also work on color images, and we're going to be taking a look at that later.
I think that's a little much, so I am going to do what we did before. I don't want that much brighten things, so I am going to go in with some gray, and tone that down a little bit. So let's do another before and after. This is before my localized editing, and after. Suddenly, this thing goes from this just sitting there overhead lit thing to filled with much more contour, a little more three-dimensional. So I think this is working pretty well.
There's only so far I can push an image like this. Another thing that I am doing, in a way, is painting in gloss. Some of these areas up here, when I hit them with more light they end up looking slippery. They look like they have been worn. They look like water has been running down them maybe. So I am not just painting light; I am painting geologic time, changing the geologic history. CS6 will have a Geologic History brush which we will do that for you.
So I am just going to add some of this in here. Incidentally, that's not true. I don't know what's in CS6. If you believed that there was going to be a Geologic History brush, then I have an old copy of such Photoshop you might want to buy. All right, now I am going to turn this off again. I am looking at this area here that I just went over, and I am liking that better, look at this area here, liking that better. This is a very, very powerful effect, and again, it's one that I use in a lot of black-and-white images.
Let's take a quick look at some of these, and you can get a better sense of what I did. I first did my black-and-white conversion, which didn't involve a lot of toning there. I then hit it with global adjustments that plunged a lot of this stuff into shadow. Trees are wonderful things for black-and -white because they're round, so they get these beautiful gradients of light across those, so I painted highlights on the bright sides of the trees, and I painted shadows on the dark side. And I did the shadows just by making a Levels adjustment layer that went to darker, and then just painted those into those areas.
Here, I went in some places, and painted very thin little bits of highlight on certain pieces of bark and not on others. They're really going through and exaggerating certain highlights and exaggerating certain shadows. Same thing here, although not to the same degree; this image is pretty good just in a straight conversion. So very powerful tool, something you want to think about with your black-and- white conversions, is localized painting of light and shadow.
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