Monday, March 24, 2014

How I Create An Image.

Bonneville Salt Flats by Nick Oman Photography.

First and most important is capturing the image in camera. I shot this with my Tokina 16-28 and with the bulbous front element I didn't use a ND filter. I knew then that I would manually blend the final image in Photoshop from at least two images and possibly three. Bracketing with minus two stops and plus two stops to get the full dynamic range was all that I needed. My settings were 18mm at f16 for .3, 1.0, and 3.0 seconds. My camera was about a foot off of the salt and that is why I needed the larger depth of field that f16 provided. For those scared of using f16, having the greater depth of field will yield a sharper image even with diffraction than a shot with too shallow of a depth of field. Trust me.

So it's a two hour drive to the salt flats from my house, which isn't too bad, except if they are still flooded and the sunset doesn't turn out. If this happened it would have be a miserable two hour drive back of me mostly pouting. Luckily I was rewarded from my drive this night by one of the most dramatic sunsets I have ever seen. Amazing!

Now for all of my photos I import to Lightroom and make all of the basic adjustments i.e. lens correction, horizon alignment, dust spot removal, and white balance corrections. With this photo, I made a couple adjustments and I selected edit with Photoshop as layers so I can manually blend all three of the exposures using masks(to go over how I blend using masks is a whole other post that I will go into at another time). Once the layers are blended, that's when the subtle but key adjustments take place.

Ultimately contrast is what makes or breaks an image for me and I have a few methods that I use depending on how I want the finished image to look and feel. Smaller fine tune adjustments in the highlights, the midtones, and the shadows is the best way to control contrast and this can be a done from using plug-ins or using masks for even finer detail. I don't use contrast in Lightroom or apply a general adjustment in PS very often. The reason for this is that these are kind of a sledgehammer approach to contrast and that can blow out highlights and blacken too many shadows. Use with caution.

After adjusting contrast in the specific areas, applying noise reduction and sharpening to the areas that need the help, a quick save and back to Lightroom. I like to go over the image one more time. Sometimes I'll add a little bit more vignetting or even dodge and burn a little more with the brush(one of my favorite tools) before exporting the finished image for print and the web. Done.

Here is the single middle exposure before and the blended finished image after.