The image Ship Rock Fire Sunset, on the cover of my book Photoshop CS Artistry, is a composite of two bracketed photos created from one original 120 film 6×4.5 shot. In the first of this two-part article ( PT, March/April 2008), I showed you how to create and work with both digital- and film-bracketed images, and how to line up several images. Here I’ll cover exactly how this Ship Rock image was created, how to create masks from channels, and how to separately adjust the colors from each image that went into Ship Rock Fire Sunset.
The following steps are common to working with many bracketing processes. You can get two versions of the same image by shooting two different exposures in the first place, or scanning a single film exposure twice using different settings, or creating two different Raw interpretations of a single camera Raw file. Another way to end up with two versions of the same image—which is what I did for Ship Rock Fire Sunset—is to make two different initial adjustments to one image to get different sections of the image ready for final compositing and adjustment. Whatever your situation, these next few steps show you how the two images can be combined and improved with Photoshop layers.
The Ship Rock image
Let’s take a look at the Ship Rock image on the first page of this article. First we’ll examine my final layered file for this image, which you can see in Figure 1.
The layers named Foreground Spotted and Sky Spotted originally came from the same 16-bit scan of Fuji Velvia film and a 6×4.5 Mamiya 120 camera. This image was originally created using Photoshop 7, which supported 16-bit files but not 16-bit layers. To create the Foreground Spotted and Sky Spotted layers (let’s just call them Foreground and Sky) in Photoshop 7, it was necessary to open two copies of the original scan, then process each of those copies using a Levels adjustment followed by a Curves adjustment. The adjustments to the Foreground image were done to open up the details in front of the rock and on the rock itself. The adjustments to the Sky image focused on getting the optimal sky values from that original scan and didn’t worry about what those adjustments would do to the details in the foreground areas. Those details were going to come from the Foreground image. After making the adjustments, I converted each of those images to 8-bits per channel using Image > Mode > 8 Bits > Channel. I then combined them into one Photoshop layered file and added the adjustment layers you see in this ShipRockLayers file.