Monday, May 6, 2013

Evening Exposure

Over the long weekend just past, Karen and I went to Dubbo, and stayed overnight at a wonderful place called Pericoe Retreat just outside of town.  It was a lovely location with 25 acres of property for me to wander around and photograph.  It was a glorious sunset, and just as I was returning to the house, they had turned on all the outside lights, and there was a beautiful deep blue sky above.  I couldn't resist the contrast of the orangey lights against the deep blue, so set about getting a photo.

As you might guess - there seemed to be no exposure setting that would capture full range from the lights shining on the building and grass, to the deep blue of the sky, so I took a number of shots exposed specifically for the sky, the building, and then the foreground grass, with a view to getting the best of each in PS later on.

Once home again, and with access to my PC, I chose the 3 shots that were best suited for each of the three areas, and opened them all in Photoshop, and then copied all three into a new image as separate layers.  I organised the layers in order from lightest to darkest, with darkest on the top.

Despite having the camera mounted on a tripod, the photos still didn't line up quite, so the first task was to auto-align the three layers, and then crop the result to the area covered by all three.

Next, I added a layer mask to each of the top two layers, then I took a fairly large and soft edged brush (set at 100% opacity), and with the top layer's layer mask selected, started painting black - effectively erasing part of the image to reveal the layer below.  Starting at the bottom of the image, I 'erased' all the grass and house from that layer - leaving only the deep blue sky.
Next, I selected the middle layer's layer mask,and did the same, but this time erasing only the grass.  This left me with the three main bands of exposed image - the grass from the bottom lightest layer, the house from the middle layer, and the sky from the darkest layer.

I did some further refinements and tweaking (which are not shown in the masks above).  The roof and surrounding trees were still a bit dark on both the top and the middle layer, so I masked them out and let the bottom layer show through there as well as the grass.  I also did a bit of repair work on the grass, to hide some doggy toys, and a couple of drought affected areas.  As a final touch, I found that the Pericoe Retreat logo on their website was a convenient PNG image with transparent background, so I 'borrowed' that, and placed it on the image, just to give it a little 'branding'.

If you ever fancy a visit to the Great Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, you might consider staying at Pericoe Retreat yourselves - there are lovely photos to be had, and the Lamb Roast Dinner was to die for!!!  Tell them Graham sent you :D

BTW - I sent them a copy of the finished image, so take a quick squint at the screen saver on the PC in their reception, and see if they used it.

Keep those shutters snappin'