Saturday, January 19, 2013



It has been awhile since I posted to this blog.  I hope that as I evolve in photography that I improve with both the capturing of the subject and the processing of it as well. 

First let's list the equipment I used for this shot.  I was shooting with a Nikon D600 24 megapixel camera using Nikon's new 28-300mm FX lens set at a focal range of 65mm.  This is not a prime or relatively expensive lens but one I purchased as a walk around lens. I am trying to 1) lighten the load when I hike, and 2) force myself to concentrate on using and learning the capabilities of a particular lens.  My Aperture was set to f/7.1, a shutter speed of 1/400 of a second, since I was hand holding the camera and the clouds were moving rather fast, and an ISO of 400 in order to maintain a fast shutter speed.  This is the Mississippi River on the south side of the levee at New Madrid, MO.  On this day, January 16, 2013 the sun set in New Madrid at 5:07 and this picture was taken at 5:16. I shot in RAW and process in Adobe Camera RAW.  OK what does that mean? Well in my opinion, and I am by no means an Adobe master, Adobe strips all the camera settings except White Balance giving the RAW file a muted and flat look.  Don't panic all the data is stored in the RAW format waiting for you to bring it to life.  What does JPEG do?  Pictures taken in JPEG are processed in camera based on a collection of store examples in the camera's computer program and it throws away all the rest of the data.  Today's Digital Cameras offer controls and settings to fine-tune the JPEG output.  However, this does not guarantee that you will produce what you actually saw and it takes away from your personal creative juices.  So right out of the camera a RAW file will look flat, muted, and colorless just like the example in the upper left hand corner of this post. 

 I begin by opening the RAW file in Bridge, this is the Raw Converter for Adobe Photoshop (PS) CS6, and check the White Balance (WB) settings.  Depending on if your camera settings are available the WB drop down menu will give you several WB options you can choose from.  At the top of the menu is "As Shot" so you can click on the choices and always go back to the "As Shot" settings.  In addition you can customize the WB by using the temperature and tint sliders.  For now this is the only thing I want to do to this picture so I am going to open it in PS. 

Once in PS I made a duplicate layer. Now what attracted me to this shot, in addition to the red/orange sky, was the small amount of blue reflection on the water from the clearing in the sky. However in the RAW format it was not coming through the way I saw it.

From layers I selected a New Adjustment Layer.  Layers>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation.  This opens a layer with a mask.  Because I only want to adjust the blue sky at this point I went to the "Select Menu" and chose "Color Range".  This opens up a new window and using the eye-dropper + selection tool I was able to select only the blue sky and water areas to adjust. Returning to my Hue/Saturation layer I moved the saturation slider to the left to remove any of the orange color and reveal the blues. 

For this particular picture I did not adjust the WB in Camera RAW because I wanted to work on the blues of the sky and water first.  Once I had my adjustment I saved the file as a tiff and then went back and opened it in Camera RAW to adjust the WB, pulled back some clipping in the highlights and shadows, and did some pre sharpening.  I finally selected the "Cloud" setting of the WB options to warm up the picture and bring out the reds and oranges.  I also increased the exposure using the histogram as my guide.  Once satisfied I took the picture back in PS for further processing.

This is a good place for me to introduce you to Tony Kuyper's  tk-actions.  I use these all the time.  They consist of a series of plug-ins to help you adjust the lights, mid-tones, and dark areas of your photographs using luminosity masks.  Click on the link to Tony's web gallery and learn more and I highly encourage you to purchase his actions.  Tony provides instructions in pdf format  but If you want to see these plug-ins in action check out the video tutorials of Chip Phillips.  Click on Chip's name to be directed to his web site for previews of this training videos using Tony's tk-actions.  You will have to purchase these but at the time of this post you can buy them for under $40 each.

Back to my picture and back into PS.  Again I made a duplicate layer of the RAW adjusted picture and using Tony's tk-actions, adjusted the light areas using the "Light Light " luminosity mask.  If you enlarge this screen you will see in the exhibit to the right the mask I added.  You should also note the light areas of the mask.  This mask is attached to a curve adjustment layer and here is where you will adjust the light areas of this photograph.

I am not going to display all the masks I used but using another luminosity mask I opened up the mid-tones to lighten those  areas.

 Using a curves adjustment layer, in color mode, I removed any color cast.  You can use the Hue/Saturation layer and "Color Range" selection that I mentioned above to fine tune specific colors without affecting all the colors globally.  Another option is to use the tk-action for saturation painting. 

For this picture I used NIK Color Efex Pro to tweak the contrast using the PRO-Contrast filters and neutralized the whites with another filter.   I also used NIK Define Pro 2 to selectively measure and reduce noise.

That is about all I did to process this picture.  I always flattened all the layers to save disk space and saved it as a new tiff file adding the letter "P" in the name to let me know it is the processed version.  I then resize and save as a JPEG version for posting on facebook and fickr.  Be warned that facebook does not do justice to your pictures.  OK so here is the final version.  Now I will review this a few times over the next week to see if I can improve on it and if I can then it will get added to one of my galleries. 

Another View

Thanks for stopping by and if you are serious about improving your pictures and taking your photos to the next level invest in Tony Kuyper's tk-actions and Chip Phillips training video using them  Just click on their names above and it will take you to their web-sites..

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