Here’s another view of the Victorian homes across from San Francisco’s Alamo Square known as the Painted Ladies. There are usually several photographers up on this grassy hillside shooting this scene with the combination of the Victorians in the foreground and the San Francisco skyline in the background.
On this particular morning in February 2009, there was a clearing winter store and the sun had just begun lighting part of the city as the clouds remained in the sky. I had been up on Twin Peaks as the clearing began where I saw the opportunity to capture some interesting light and sky in this classic San Francisco shot.
This image was post-processed first as a single image HDR (from my Canon 5D Mark II) using Photomatix Pro and then in Photoshop CS5 using a combination of techniques that accentuate the drama in the sky and the colors and lighting of the Victorians themselves. Click on the image itself to see a larger version.
I recently took a 1:1 workshop with Jaime Ibarra – wanting to learn more about his technique for post-processing images. His approach to post-processing is strikingly different – and one which I enjoy. And he’s also an amazing photographer as well!
Jaime and I spent a couple of hours together via Skype video talking about both his approach to photography, some new challenges for me, and then his approach to post-processing images in Photoshop. I’ve been to several photography workshops over the last couple of years – but this one was really unique and different – and I learned a lot!
Frankly, I expected our time together would focus mostly on post-processing – but we spent a lot of time upfront talking just about photography, what it means to us, how we approach it, how we’re challenged by it, etc. That discussion was surprising for me – and enlightening. Great fun. Perhaps even more useful to me in terms of my wanting to learn about portrait shooting than the post-processing techniques Jaime subsequently shared.
So, what did I learn? Here’s an example of an image I both shot and post-processed earlier today using some of what I learned from my workshop with Jaime. The colors are different – not exactly unusual, but different. Different enough to matter and capture the mood. The venue is the California Avenue Farmers Market in Palo Alto. The image is titled “Karmel Korn” – shot with my Canon 5D Mark II with the Canon 135mm f/2 lens.
A few weeks back, I tuned into one of CreativeLive’s classes titled “Dramatic Post-Production” hosted by David Nightingale. I learned a lot from David about how to use Curve adjustment layers in Photoshop to really enhance a photograph.
David’s a master at this technique – and I struggled to follow along. I recently used his technique to enhance one of my Point Lobos images. Here’s the original image I had processed earlier and posted to my online portfolio:
After watching Nightingale’s session, I decided to try to take this very flat looking image and make it better. While this version was very photo-realistic – it certainly wasn’t dramatic in the sense that David brought to his images. So, back into Photoshop I went to try another adjustment session – this time based upon Nightingale’s techniques.
I re-opened the image in Photoshop and began to apply Curves adjustment layers. As it turned out, I divided this image into three ranges for adjustments – the sandstone in the lower right of the image, the darker rocks in the upper right and lower left, and the water.
I applied three separate Curves adjustment layers to make these adjustments along with the layer masks to isolate the changes to just those areas within the image You can get a sense of my process by looking at this snippet of the Photoshop layers off to the right.
The final layer (on top) is a gentle vignette that I applied using Nightingale’s technique of selecting a border, inverting it, feathering it, and creating a new Curves adjustment layer to darken the edges. This kind of vignette is easy to apply in Lightroom – but knowing this technique in Photoshop is helpful as well!
Below is the resulting image. There’s more definition and “pop” in this image that I enjoy. Hope you do too! Click on the image to see it large. I welcome your comments!
Note: I recommend David’s subscription-based tutorials that teach his techniques (affiliate link). In terms of my levels of Photoshop skill, his teaching and tutorials have opened my eyes to new techniques that I hadn’t known before. David’s a really great teacher!
Note to self: I was reminded while re-reading The Creative Digital Darkroom this afternoon that it’s possible to use Gaussian Blur on the layer masks to smooth out the transitions between the areas. I need to remember to use that technique next time!