Topaz ReMask and Layers

What a gorgeous day outside!! I would really love to be out there with my camera, but since I’m technically still employed for the next two weeks, and therefore have to stay close to my workspace, I decided to spend some time practicing on some photo editing and processing skills. I’m still getting acquainted with my new Wacom Intuos tablet,and I also wanted to get more practice with masking and layers.

I decided to work on this image that I took this past weekend in downtown Tupelo. It’s some sort of sculpture that’s supposed to celebrate water. (I really should pay more attention to what I’m shooting!). Anyway, when I was taking the photo, there were several things going through my mind:

  • I wanted to catch the rising sun coming through the opening at the top of the sculpture.
  • I wanted that sunburst effect, so I used a narrower aperture (f/13) than I would have normally used.
  • I was more concerned about the exposure on the sculpture than on the sky, even though I knew that the sky would be blown out.
  • I forgot to check the ISO setting when I was setting up this shot, but it was at ISO 500, and the exposure time was 1/200 sec.

So here is the raw file (saved as a JPEG):


I got the starburst that I wanted, along with some cool green lens flare. And as expected, the sky was blown out and the sculpture itself is underexposed.

So I thought this would be a good candidate to use for practicing with masking and layers.

The first thing I did in Lightroom was to straighten the image slightly so that the base of the sculpture was more horizontal. (Evidently I can’t hold my camera straight to save my life!). I then exported the image to Photoshop.

Once in Photoshop I took the following steps (as best I can remember):

  • Duplicated the Background layer.
  • On the duplicated layer, I opened Topaz ReMask, and created a mask using only the sculpture portion of the photo. I actually did this step about four or five times, trying to get it right.
  • Next, I duplicated the Background layer again, and on this new layer, I again went to Topaz ReMask and created a mask of everything EXCEPT the sculpture (the sky and the foliage).
  • Back in Photoshop, for the SKY mask layer, I applied Gaussian blur, a brightness/contrast adjustment layer, and a curves layer. This helped bring back some details in the sky and the trees.
  • For the SCULPTURE mask layer, I used the Topaz Clarity filter to brighten the color, exposure and details.

And here is the final result (saved for the web, so it’s only 800 pixels tall, but you get the point):


I’m pretty pleased with it, considering it’s my first real attempt at something this complicated. I’ll have to say that using the Wacom tablet made it a lot easier to make the mask selection, but I’m still trying to figure out all the hand gestures that the tablet recognizes when used like a touchpad. It gets pretty confusing when suddenly the image zooms in or out and I have no clue what I just did.

Pretty fun!! Can’t wait to try more!

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Editing and All That Jazz

It’s Saturday night, and all the SEC football games were blow-outs, so I decided that rather than watching football, my time would be better spent getting a little editing practice.

I shot this image in New Orleans last week, down in the French Quarter. I shot this with my Nikon D700 using my 24-85mm Nikkor lens at ISO 250, 1/100 sec at f/13.0. This is the raw, unedited version (resized to 800px wide at 100dpi):


I’m using Paint Shop Pro X7, along with the Topaz bundle of plug-ins to do my editing. To be honest, I don’t even remember what all I did to this image.  I started off by cropping it to get rid of the uninteresting top area. I then just experimented with levels, curves, saturation, and clarity. I used the Topaz DeNoise plug-in to clean up a few artifacts. I also played with some masking to add in some blue sky in the top left corner where it had been blown out in the original image.  It was clumsy at best, but I’m finally starting to understand the whole “paint white on black” and vice-versa thing.

It’s not gallery-quality by any means, but it was fun to play with, and I learned a little more about the tools at my disposal in the software that I’m using.

And I learned that I need a LOT more practice and patience.

Here’s my edited version, also resized to 800px wide at 100dpi.


Oh, and I’ve changed the theme of this blog (obviously) from the old, dated black background with small fonts to this cleaner looking version.  I’m still too cheap to pay for a WordPress theme so I continue to use the free versions with limited customization options.  But it gets my point across.

Thanks for following along, and let me know what suggestions you might have to improve my work!

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Glendale at Night – HDR Processing Marathon

I had great fun tonight processing the photos that I took last night in downtown Glendale (see my post from yesterday).  I had sixteen sets of three bracketed shots to work with, and I processed them all. Once again I used Photomatix to create the HDR image, and then did some post-processing in Paintshop Pro.  Tonight I did a little more experimentation during the processing in Photomatix, and I actually wound up using the Tone Compression tab more often than the Detail Enhancement tab.  The photos I was processing had a great deal of contrast, and the Tone Compression option seemed to produce a more pleasing result.

Here’s an example of the difference between the two processes.  This first HDR was produced using the Tone Compression option:

Bitz-ee Mama's - Tone Compression HDR

The photo has a great late-night diner feel to it with the roof fading into the night sky. The “Open” sign is clearly visible in the window, and the lights on the building provide some nice areas of contrast and interest.

Now here is an HDR produced from the same three photos, but this time I used the Detail Enhancement option:

Bitz-ee Mama's - Detail Enhancement

This shot kept all the detail of the trees, even the green one behind the building (keep in mind this was shot at about 9:00 PM so it was dark back there).  I’m not sure which of the shots I like best, but they’re certainly different.

Another first for tonight’s processing was that I got some experience in using layers in Paintshop Pro to do some burning and dodging on one of my HDR’s.  I shot a street scene, and during the third bracket shot (the over-exposure), a car drove by and I got the typical red and white trail of lights, which was fine.  However, it also created some glare on the backs of some of the vehicles parked on the side of the street.  When the HDR processed, this glare was badly burned out in areas, and no matter what I did with the sliders in Photomatix, I could not fix it.  Here’s the shot with the bad area highlighted:

HDR with burnout

So I decided to try my hand at masking.  I opened up the best of the three shots, which was the one at normal exposure, and then I layered the HDR image on top of it.  Then I used my Eraser tool to “erase” the burned out area and allow the clean image to show through.  I wound up totally removing the light trail since part of it was burned out–I couldn’t just leave part of it and erase the rest.  The result was not perfect by any means, but it did look a heck of a lot better, especially when viewed as a normal web image at 600X400:

HDR masked

So now, it’s after midnight, and I’m in the process of uploading my shots to Flickr, and for some reason it’s taking forever.  Probably because I’m ready to call it a night and go to bed!