Watching and Waiting

I kind of gave away a sneak peak at my own final results from the photo used in the “Edit My Photo” project in yesterday’s article on Using Photoshop to Add Vignette. So I figured I might as well post the real deal.

This photo was taken on the beach while I was at Trevor Carpenter’s photowalk in Santa Monica. It was approaching evening and we all headed down to the beach for some more photo-ops. I kind of wandered off down the beach on my own with my macro lens attached. I took a few shots of some birds on the beach, but I wasn’t too impressed with what I was getting at the time. I was a little disappointed that the yellow buoys were sticking out in the background, but I took the shots anyway. When I got back and saw this photo, it sparked my interest. I then realized that the buoys could easily be taken care of, and I was glad I took the shot. Lesson of the day: don’t let little imperfections in the scene prevent you from getting the shot.

Watching and Waiting Process

The JPEG (1) looks pretty dull, and gives the impression of slight underexposure (but it’s actually exposed fine). I adjusted the RAW (2) file to brighten it up a little bit, add some contrast, and increase the color saturation. I also used the straighten tool to level the horizon and crop. The first thing I did inside Photoshop was some Touch-Up Work (3) to clone out the buoys and some dust spots. Then I duplicated the resulting image into a new layer and applied a Hard Mix Layer Blend (4) at 30% opacity and 30% fill to help out with the color and contrast. I still wasn’t impressed with the contrast, so I applied a Levels Adjustment Layer (5) with a black point of 49 and a white point of 245. Taking the contrast to another stage, I used a Curves Adjustment Layer (6) to bring the lower mid-tones darker while keeping the upper mid-tones near their original value. For the levels and curves adjustment layers, I applied a mask over the bird to keep the small amount of detail to be found in the feathers — without the mask, the bird becomes a silhouette. Liking the contrast at this point, I looked toward the color saturation as a possible improvement. I didn’t want it terribly saturated, but I wanted the colors to look a little cleaner. I increased the saturation using a Hue/Saturation Layer Adjustment (7) with +12 on the saturation — not a huge difference, but noticeable at larger scales. Then I made a copy layer of the resulting image and sharpened using the Unsharp Mask (8) at 120%, 5.4 pixels, and a threshold of 2. I didn’t like how it made the entire image look, so I masked out the water and sky, leaving the beach. I also lightly masked the edges of the bird because the sharpening gave it a halo. The last thing I did to this image was the addition of Vignette (9) using the method outlined in yesterday’s article with an amount of -55 and a midpoint of 20.

All of this took maybe 1.5 hours to complete (which includes going back and re-adjusting previous layers), but what I didn’t tell you about was the other 2 or 3 hours of messing with it and trying things out over the course of two weeks. So I’d consider this a 4 hour photo.

Watching and Waiting

** You can also see this photo at Zooomr and Flickr **

Photo by Brian Auer
08/04/07 Santa Monica, CA
Watching and Waiting
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Sigma MACRO 105mm f/2.8 EX DG
158mm equiv * f/2.8 * 1/125s * ISO100