Here we are, back for the second part of this rundown; the part where things get juicy! In the last post, I went over using Photoshop’s photomerge from Lightroom, cleaning up the foreground, and bringing my model back in without distortion. In today’s post, I will be running you through the techniques used to finish creating the world. Let’s dip straight in.
The final image I had in my mind saw Nahrae surrounded by cliffs – a secluded place, a world only for my subject. Earlier this year, I had taken a drive down the Great Ocean Road. The first night’s sunset was weakened by the haze on the horizon, and I knew my photographs of the cliffs at Gibson’s Steps that day would be perfect for the feeling I was hoping to create. The cliffs naturally curve around the bay there anyway, and so my use of a super-wide lens accentuated this enough that they would be perfect for the panorama I was producing.
I opened the two cliff images in Photoshop dragged them into the composite. Then, I needed to resize and reposition the cliffs, matching them to the horizon line of my original panorama and making them a little larger. I did this by lowering the opacity of each layer and working with it in free transform (CTRL/CMD + T) until I got it in the right position. If I had been going for absolute detail, I probably wouldn’t have enlarged these, but you’ll see why I didn’t care too much in the last step. Then I added a layer mask to each of the cliff images and masked the ground and sky surrounding them.
Next, they needed to be matched to the scene itself. This was done with a combination of hue/saturation adjustment layers for colour and saturation, then curves layers to correct contrast. The hue saturation adjustment allowed me to destaturate the sunset colours in the cliffs, and the lightness slider brightened them up and crushed a little of the contrast. The subsequent curves layers were used to pull up the midtones again, further reducing the contrast and giving a softer feeling. After colour correction, the clone stamp was used to bring some of the texture from the sand in the original image over onto the smoother sand from the cliff shots. Multiple passes with different opacities when cloning helped to convincingly reproduce the texture of the ground.
The right hand side of the bay still needed work, however, and a fourth image was used to create the water’s edge. Again, colour and contrast matching was needed. Again, the same combination of hue/saturation layers and curves layers was used.
Once completed, it was time for the sky. This sky was taken in Seoul one evening with my old Panasonic GF2. The sky just lit up that evening like it never does in Seoul, and I have around 20 different sky plates from that evening to use at times like this. I dragged and dropped this in, then switched its blending mode to multiply before masking it into the area I wanted. The good thing about the multiply blending mode is that it mixes with the layers below it in a way that makes blending around dark hair, or things of similar colour a very easy task. This meant I wouldn’t have to cut out all of Nahrae’s hair, and blending with the cliffs would be much easier. It also took the original sky gradient from beneath and mixed it with the new sky.
Below you can see the layer mask for the sky and how rough it is. It is rough because it doesn’t need to be perfect, the combination of multiply blending mode, and a low opacity allow it to blend in with the rest of the world and look like it is bleeding around edges, just as real light would have.
I loved this sky, but by having the sun that low on the horizon and facing directly into the lens we have caused two more issues. First, very few lenses could withstand the sun coming straight in like that and not produce some form of flare. Two, the shadow is too short and too hard for the light in this scene. The flare issue is easy fixed. Photoshop’s lens flare filter can be tacky, but I added a few extra effects to it in order to blend it more seamlessly.
This technique requires you to first create a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E / CMD+OPT+SHIFT+E) and place the lens flare where you want it. After creating the flare, I deleted this layer. Then, I made a new blank layer in its place and filled it with black. Then I hit CTRL/CMD+F, which reruns the previously used filter, creating the lens flare exactly as before. Then, it was time to add a little blur. Gaussian blur worked just fine for this. Then I used a hue/saturation adjustment in ‘colorize’ mode to adjust the whole flare colour to a similar hue to my sky. This helped it blend in a little. Finally, I changed the blending mode of this layer to ‘screen’ and faded the opacity until I was happy with it.
Now to recreate the shadow. In order to achieve this I first stamped the layers as before, then I selected Nahrae’s feet and the shadow and copied them to their own layer. From there I used free transform to elongate the shadow until I was satisfied with its size and direction. The trouble with doing that is that all the texture in the shadow got skewed and looks a little odd. So, using my wacom tablet again, I repainted that shadow on it’s own layer using a black brush. Then, I blurred the new shadow to fit in with the soft light of the scene and lowered its opacity so I could see the texture on the ground below. But I could also see the original shadow, and a little quick clone stamp work fixed that.
From here, there is a little more Photoshop work to be done, and then some Lightroom editing to finish everything off. See you in part 3!