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Dramatic Fine-Art Landscape Photography, Processing Instructions and Photography Tours by Daniel Laan.

Landscape Photography Editing: The Making Of "The Conjuring"

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Behind the Scenes - The making of a Landscape Photograph. Every now and then, Laanscapes discusses how the scenes came into being. This blog is a chronicle of some of the best making-ofs.
 

Landscape Photography Editing: The Making Of "The Conjuring"

Daniel Laan

Raw images

There are three shot going into the final one. One is focused on the foreground flowers, the second on the mountain and the third is shifted upwards to capture the full extent of the mountain spire.

Blending the Foreground and Background Images

The idea is to focus stack the flowers and background with only two images shot at a small aperture. Then the darker mountain shot will be added later.

Foreground.jpg
Background.jpg

Here is a crop of the same area of the fore- and background at 100%. As you can see, focus stacking is not very straight forward with these. The flowers should be aligned, but even the slightest wind caused a lot of swaying.

Foreground100.jpg
Background100.jpg

So I ended up spending three full days to mask the flowers out by hand with just a brush and no selections. Here's the resulting layer at 100% and the mask of the same area.

BG-FG-Blend.jpg
BG-FG-Blend100-mask.jpg

It's far from perfect. The out of focus areas can't be masked out, so had to be cloned from different parts of the image. Because so much had to be cloned, I used a trick that makes it look more natural. I mirrored the clone tool about 50% of every time I used it.

Clone1-100.jpg

It took two layers and another two days to carefully clone out every distracting element. It still isn't perfect, but that won't show in the final image unless you knew it was there.

Perspective Blending

Combining two images that have a different perspective is called perspective blending. For this composition, I shifted and tilted the lens (18-35mm) upward to mountain to capture those nice clouds and waterfalls. The mountain image did need a lot of warping to fit nicely over the blended fore-and-background. It's also 2/3 stops darker than the blended fore-and background. A gradient with curves was enough to cover all that. Next up are the results.

 Before perspective blending

Before perspective blending

 After perspective blending

After perspective blending

Fit and Stretch

I want to fit the entirety of this image inside a 3:2 box. 3:2 is actually my highest vertical shot. The reason for that is that it maxes out the field-of-view on print as well as on the web. So I've warped and stretched it at this stage to accommodate that aspect ratio. It's warped most in the center, where it is the least apparent.

 Cropped

Cropped

 Stretched

Stretched

Additional Cloning

I've found the remaining farm wall to be quite distracting, although I do like the dead tree as a small detail.

Post-3-stretched-100.jpg
Post-4-stretched-100.jpg

Post-Processing

In my editing, I won't call it post-processing until most of the image stands. No more blending beyond this point.

In this stage I've done three things:

  1. Expand the mid-tones (levels)
  2. Darken the shadows (levels)
  3. Establish mood and change the toning (Camera Raw Filter)
Post-5-atmosphere.jpg

That looks like quite a lot of work compared to the last image. Truth is, that this sort of post-processing takes about 10 minutes. The Camera Raw Filter is the most powerful tool in Photoshop right now. It's like having Lightroom with full control over layers and masks.

Dodge

Next, I'll grab a brush and paint in a bright blueish color over the waterfalls and white over the clouds and the side of the mountain that catches the sunlight.

Post-6-dodge.jpg

A closer look at the dodging involved. It's quite subtle. Maybe a bit more in the end.

Post-7-dodge-100.jpg
Post-8-dodge-100.jpg

Curves: Faded Film Look

A lot of my inspiration comes directly from cinema. And one of the tricks to deepen shadows without darkening them is to lower the exposure in the shadows and raise the black point. I use curves for this in nearly all my photos.

Post-9-blacks-100.jpg
Post-10-blacks-100.jpg

It looks a bit faded, but I'll correct it in the final stage of editing. The idea is to lose unnecessary shadow detail and make the image simpler and therefor stronger without altering the composition.

Light Effects and Color Balance

Next, I'll pull saturation from the highlights to get rid of that red there. I'll then add an Orton Effect and blur the brightest highlights that suggest a light source. Lastly, the shadows were lifted a bit more while adding blue to them with Curves.

Post-6-dodge.jpg
Post-11-light-fx-100.jpg
Post-12-blue.jpg
 That's the mood I was aiming to capture.

That's the mood I was aiming to capture.

Sharpening and Export

I've used a three-step sharpening process to bring back some of the details. Hope you get an idea of what editing such images entails. If you'd like to learn how to do this yourself, go ahead and book an appointment with me for a two hour editing session over Skype.

Learn Advanced Editing

If you'd like to learn how to do this yourself, feel free to book an appointment with me for a two hour editing session over Skype.