I just took my first trip to Point Lobos on California’s west coast since I transitioned to digital several years ago. Before that I had always shot with a medium- or large-format camera. With digital tools at my disposal, I decided to produce a photograph using the extended depth-of-field capability of Photoshop CS4.
I selected a relatively small image, with sufficient distance between the rocks in the foreground and the wet glossy plateau on the rock at the back of the image. I made three exposures, each focused differently, and imported the resulting images into Lightroom, which I use as my initial software for all non-montage work (Figure 1).
In Lightroom, I selected the three images, did global corrections on the first one, then synched it with the other two. From Lightroom I went to Edit > Open as Layers in Photoshop. Selecting all three layers, I ran Auto Align then Auto Blend on the three focus layers (Figure 2). I then flattened the layers and saved the file; it was automatically moved into Lightroom. I now had my base image with extended depth of field.
The wet rocks had a luminescence that permeated to the outside rather than to the inside, and I wanted to reverse this. Selecting Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush tool, I drew a mask around the perimeter of my image and then lowered the brightness in that area (Figure 3).
I next created another mask for the low center rock and again decreased the brightness. I added an additional mask to the bottom rocks to darken them further. I added a f inal Adjustment Brush mask to the center, and then set it to lighten the middle of the image. At this point, I decided that most of my general corrections were complete.
I exported the file as a 16-bit Adobe RGB file into Photoshop for further tweaking (Figure 4). Once in Photoshop, I cropped the image a little tighter on the top and bottom to help define the lower right rock and give a smooth edge to the top.
I created a new blank layer and set the Blending mode to Soft Light. This isn’t so much image correction as it is finessing an image’s interpretation. I used a white brush of 15% opacity and lightened the wet areas of the rock to emphasize the luminance values. I changed the brush to black at 15% and darkened the light flat rock on top of the foreground boulder that I felt was competing with the luminance areas. I then lightened the wet areas of the rock and darkened the flat light portion of the bottom rock.
While I could have sharpened in Lightroom, my habit is to sharpen at the very end of the process. I used Smart Sharpen in Photoshop (See final image). I use a formula for determining optimum radius and sharpening. I take the ppi value of the output file and divide it by 200; thus, the optimum radius of this image is 1.5. I then adjust the sharpening amount as needed.
The final result had the aesthetic weight in the section of the image where I wanted it, and the eye easily moves through the image the way I wanted it to.