Disclaimer: I edited this image using artistic license. If that’s not your thing, I get it; it’s not for everyone.
Before Images (3)
For Wave Streaks
Background & Vision
I shot this image on a recent trip to the Washington Coast. The visible satellite showed a clear horizon and high clouds above, indicating the potential for a blazing sunset. Well, maybe if I was up on Mt Olympus. But down at sea level, not a chance. As is routine in June, low-level stratus clouds in the marine layer socked in the views. Not deterred, I decided to take advantage of the even lighting and ended up getting small breaks in the cloud deck, which added texture and interest in the sky.
When I’m in the field, I try to capture any pieces I may need for the final image. If that means combining several frames for the right waves, then that is what I do. I generally avoid moving any permanent objects, but it is art, and each of us must define our limits.
For the final image, I emphasized the following:
- a directional light source
- pleasing wave streaks
- a cool, monochromatic mood that captures the feelings of my time spent on the coast
I spent 15 minutes in Lightroom, mostly culling, and selecting the base images. And then I spent about 3 hours in Photoshop.
14mm, ISO 160, f/13, 1/6 sec, polarizer.
Lightroom - Raw
- Expand dynamic range - used Highlights and Shadows to expand the dynamic range so that the image looked right to how I remembered the scene.
- Split Tone - added a touch of warmth to the highlights to separate the tones more by color. and added blues to everything using a cooler white balance
- Adjust colors - in Calibration panel, add Blue Saturation (+70) and shift Red hue (+15)
- Reduce unwanted color - used HSL to reduce green color in algae on the rocks and trees on the edge of the frame.
- Remove water spots using Spot Removal Tool
- Remove Chromatic Aberration (Lens Corrections)
- Sharpen image by holding ALT while dragging the Amount, Radius and Detail sliders. Getting the image to the correct sharpness added too much noise to the sky and using the Mask slider created halos. Since I knew I needed to do further work on the sky, it was important to get a clean file. Therefore, I created a virtual copy in which I removed the sharpening and applied Luminance Noise Reduction until the noise disappeared.
- Opened all four images in Photoshop as layers (Base, Base with no sharpening and noise reduction, and the two wave streak images.)
- Blend sharp ground with the noiseless sky - selected sky using Quick Selection Tool and refined in Select & Mask.
- Blend streaks - adjust the transparency of streak layers to 50% and use the Move Tool to move them into position as needed for the composition. Once in place, bring transparency back up and use a black mask with white paint and a soft-edged brush at 100% opacity to paint in.
- Straighten horizon
- Flatten image.
Now, I focused on drawing the eye from near to far. To do this, I:
- Emphasized the light source - on a blank layer, I used the Dodge and Blur tools on the distant highlights. I then added a touch more warmth to them in Color Balance.
- Dark to light (create depth) - added more dark contrast to near objects using Levels and a mask.
- Create separation between background layers (i.e., sea stack and trees behind it) - stamp visible and add large Gaussian Blur (200-400pixels). Hide it with a black mask and paint using a white brush at low opacity (~10%). Most distant objects get maybe 20%; closest get around 5%.
- Spot healing brush to clean up some distracting elements
- Creative sharpening using High Pass Filter (2-3 pixel radius) with the layer set to Overlay and paint on with white brush on a black mask.
- Crop to remove white space.
At this point, 90% of the heavy lifting is done, and I spent the next hour or so making small adjustments to the contrast and color using Selective Color and Levels in combination with @Sean_Bagshaw’s TK Action Panel to select the tones I wanted to modify.
- Vignette to draw the eye
- Orton - using the TK Action Panel, add blur (~50 pixels) and luminosity over the entire image (including foreground). Set layer to ~10% opacity. Yes, I like sharp, blurry images )
- Web Sharpen and add signature
Please share any feedback, and let me know if you have questions. Cheers!