5 Steps to a Digital Landscape

Landscape images are where you find them. I happened to find this farm around the corner from where I used to live and started photographing it because someday it would be gone. That day is now and I’ve chosen this image to remember it as it was or maybe as it might have been.

Step 1: Capture An Image. The original image was captured on Kodak color negative film that was processed and printed at a local camera store but while the overall color and density approximates the hot day when I made the photograph, it captures little of the mood. Step one was scanning the image.

Step 2: Image Enhancement I think it’s a good idea to make an image look as good as possible before starting any manipulations and in this case with making sure the horizon line is straight. Using Adobe Photoshop’s Measure tool (It’s in the Eye Dropper tool’s fly-out menu,) I drew a line across the horizon. Next, I rotated (Image > Rotate canvas > Arbitrary) the photograph and Photoshop automatically inserted the exact amount of rotation need to straighten the horizon.

Step 3: Digital Graduated Density Filter I’m a  fan of graduated density filters to improve of landscape photographs. Although, I didn’t use one on the camera, I can digitally apply one later and Nik Color Efex Pro filters offers a choice of colors. I selected the Graduated Coffee filter and the plug-in’s interface lets you changes the filter’s density, color, transition, and even how it’s is rotated. Play with the various sliders to produce an effect you like then click OK.

Step 4: Let’s Turn Out The Lights. Part of Nik’s Color Efex Pro package is a family of Midnight filters that lets you add varying amounts of blur, contrast, brightness, and color to create a “day for night” (La Nuit Américaine) look. What’s moonlight without a moon? I didn’t have any sharp moon photos, so I borrowed a file from my friend Barry Staver. You can shoot your own Moon shot by using the longest lens you have and photographing a full moon with your camera mounted on a tripod just as Barry did during a recent lunar eclipse. Using Photoshop’s Elliptical selection tool I selected the moon, copied (Edit > Copy) it to the Clipboard, then pasted (Edit > Paste) it into the farm file thus adding the a moon as a separate layer. After you select “Show Bounding Box” in the Options bar, clicking the Move (Arrow) tool shows manipulation handles on the moon layer. To resize it and maintain proportionality, hold the Shift Key and drag one of the layer’s corners and drag the moon where you want it to be.

Step 5: Just Add Some Digital Water I wanted the final image to include water effects and selected Flaming Pear’s Flood plug-in to produce a lake effect. The interface has controls that let you change the kind of digital water and its reflection, but the most important tool is Horizon to sets the water’s level. Try different levels to see what works best with your particular image. Go ahead and do it; it’s fun.

For the final image I used Photoshop’s burn tool to darken the sky even more to give the image an overall early dark, moonrise look. Sure this isn’t the way the farm actually looked but it’s the way I would prefer to remember it and it sure beats the heck out of a six-lane blacktop.

Author: Joe Farace

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