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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.
We went to a lot of work with this image to solve a problem that's inherent to a lot of HDR images, and that is this low contrast problemm or this just even, dull tonal problem. Out of HDR, because it was able to pull good tone for so many pixels, we end up with an image that's a little flat. And so we went through, and we painted in light, and we painted in brightening, and we painted in darkening. And that works great, but there is something to bear in mind. We did a lot of work to restore good contrast to this foreground.
If I go back to my original image, well, this foreground already has good contrast in it, but the problem with this image is it's got a bad sky. But what if we took this image and merged the foreground with our nice HDR sky? Would that give us a result that's a little bit easier to achieve than doing all of this painting? Maybe, maybe not. Let's take a look and see what happens. The way I'm going to do this is, in Bridge, I'm going to open up just this first image, which of course is going to open Camera Raw. I'm not going to worry too much about setting my tone, because I think the foreground looks pretty good.
This highlight clipping is happening in the sky, and we're going to loose the sky anyway. So I'm going to open this image as a 16-bit file. Camera Raw will process it. Now I'm going to select all with Command+A and Copy. I can now go and paste that into the other image. There's another way I could do this. In the Layers palette, I can go to this menu and choose Duplicate Layer and tell it to put it in Drakensburg Merged.psd. And now what I end up with is this.
This is that LDR, Low Dynamic Range image, sitting here as a layer. I'm going to drag it down here, so that it's just above my HDR image. So this is the original source image. That's the HDR version. As I turn this off and on, you can see that - a couple of things here. Obviously, better sky here, better foreground here, but they're not registered. Fortunately, Photoshop can take care of that for us. Holding down the Shift key, clicking on the Background layer, now both of these layers are selected.
If I go to the Edit menu and choose Auto -Align layers, put it in Auto mode and hit OK and just let it think for while, it's going to align the layers for me. This is the same algorithm it uses during its HDR merge. And note, it's kind of cool to see what it did. It needed to do a little bit of rotation, it looks like. And it translated it a little bit, but now look what happens if I turn off the foreground layer. There is no movement. Obviously, the telephone wires are coming back. That's fine. We'll paint those out later. So these are perfectly aligned.
I'll need to crop it at some point. I'm not going to worry about that now because I want to see if this technique is even going to work. So what I need now is to merge the foreground from this image with the sky in the background. I'm going to do that, obviously, with a layer mask. Content layers don't, by default, have a layer mask attached to them. So I'm going to select this layer and go up to Layer and choose Layer Mask. I'm going to tell it to Reveal All. That gives me a layer mask that's white, meaning every bit of this layer is visible.
And you should know the next bit by now. I'm just going to create - with this layer mask selected, notice I can select here or here. If I select here then I'm painting into the image. That's data actually going into the image. If I paint here, I'm painting into the mask. And that's revealing the image that's down below. What I want to do is a gradient from maybe here to here. And looking here, now I have got my foreground Low Dynamic Range Image with good contrast and my HDR sky.
So that's pretty cool. I can't really see the seams of my mask. It's as they were in last lesson there, obscured by all of this haze back here. So that's good. Let's have a look now at some of our other adjustments, because since all of this stuff has properly registered, all of this painting fits fine on top of either layer. You can now think of these two layers as being our single image layer. So the next we did was we improved the contrast overall. Well, I don't know that we need it that aggressive because this image was already contrast-y to begin with.
I'm going to skip that one for now, or actually, no I'm going to adjust - oops! I'm going to adjust this one for now. Let's back off that black point a little bit. I like it a little contrast-y. It's hardly anything, all right. So our next layer was painting and highlights. And I like that. That actually still works on the Low Dynamic Range image. And then we brightened the foreground. That's looking a little too bright to me. Let's leave that off for now, and let's darken the sky. So I'm not sure which is the way to go.
We'd need to look at them side-by -side and just make a decision. And that's the kind of decision you're going to want to make on paper because these images are going to change a lot when they print. But still, there will be times when the easiest way to correct the contrast in an image is to pull as much as you can from one of your original source images. And thanks to the Auto-Alignment tool, it's very easy to stack up layers that way.
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