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  #1  
Old September 14th, 2006, 02:43 PM
Mike Spinak Mike Spinak is offline
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Default Challenge: Crepuscular Rays: Optimize This!

Hi, Folks,

I took a picture, in July, of crepuscular rays breaking through a clearing storm over the high Sierras, from the Alabama Hills. I'm fond of it... but I can't seem to figure out how to produce quite the final finishing touches I'm looking for. Here it is:



© Mike Spinak

I'm thinking that I would like to show the foreground as a little warmer, brighter, and more luminous, and the background (everything above the near rocks) as a little contrastier, and perhaps a little cooler, maybe with the rays a little more glowing, without blowing out any detail. I would like for the final results not to stray too far from the bounds of reality, but there is certainly some room for individual interpretations of the scene (including different from what I detailed, above).

I'd like to see how you would optimize this. Hand-painted masks, etc., are fine, but please give, clear, reproducible, step by step instructions that can be easily followed, for your post-processing techniques. Please be sure to add "© Mike Spinak" into any version of this picture that you post.

For a prize, you will have my hearty thank you, and congratulations. : )

Mike

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  #2  
Old September 14th, 2006, 02:48 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Wonderful image as is. I look forward to people's best efforts.

Asher
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  #3  
Old September 14th, 2006, 02:56 PM
Mike Spinak Mike Spinak is offline
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Thanks!

M
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  #4  
Old September 14th, 2006, 02:56 PM
Tim Gray Tim Gray is offline
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Any chance of pointing to a higher res version? There's not a lot you can do to 775x344 that won't end up looking a bit bizzare.
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  #5  
Old September 14th, 2006, 03:05 PM
Mike Spinak Mike Spinak is offline
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Tim,

Would ~1245x555 be big enough for you to work with?

Mike

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  #6  
Old September 14th, 2006, 05:03 PM
Tim Gray Tim Gray is offline
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That would be great. (but tend to agree with Asher's comment)
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  #7  
Old September 14th, 2006, 05:14 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Gray
(but tend to agree with Asher's comment)
Meaning?

RAW?

Asher
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  #8  
Old September 14th, 2006, 05:26 PM
Mike Spinak Mike Spinak is offline
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© Mike Spinak

Here's a larger version. It's only going to be up for a few days.

Cheers,

Mike
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  #9  
Old September 14th, 2006, 05:50 PM
Tim Gray Tim Gray is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asher Kelman
Wonderful image as is.
That part.
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  #10  
Old September 14th, 2006, 05:51 PM
Mike Spinak Mike Spinak is offline
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Thanks!

Mike

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  #11  
Old September 14th, 2006, 06:02 PM
Don Lashier Don Lashier is offline
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I agree, I like it just as it is. I'm not sure that bringing out Alabama wouldn't detract.

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  #12  
Old September 14th, 2006, 06:07 PM
Tim Gray Tim Gray is offline
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© Mike Spinak

Methodology: (I deliberately set out to see what I could do limiting myself to blending modes).

Create a mask for sky and foreground using color range.
Sky = blend mode 'soft light' at 60%
Foreground = blend mode 'color dodge' 25%
slight contrast with curves for foreground
I actually made the foreground a bit cooler - it looked too much like a paste-in otherwise (and admittedly still does to some extent).
USM 10, 10, 0 (variation on local contrast enhancement) for foreground.
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  #13  
Old September 14th, 2006, 06:16 PM
Tim Gray Tim Gray is offline
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Actually, kind of like in BW

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  #14  
Old September 14th, 2006, 06:25 PM
Don Lashier Don Lashier is offline
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Tim, it works in BW but I like the original better afa a color version. In the modified color version the hills fight for attention with the background scene.

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  #15  
Old September 14th, 2006, 09:03 PM
Nikolai Sklobovsky Nikolai Sklobovsky is offline
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Default Great image, Mike!

Here's my version:




A bit of LAB, a bit of masked blurring, nothing special, just tried to shift the attention to the rays...

Thanks for the challenge!
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  #16  
Old September 14th, 2006, 09:11 PM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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Wonderful image and a wonderful word, crepuscular. Thanks for both.

Nill
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  #17  
Old September 14th, 2006, 09:59 PM
Joe Russo Joe Russo is offline
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Mike -

Here is my version.

©Mike Spinak

Post Processing:
Select foreground->Add Hue/Saturation Adj Layer;On Master, inc Lightness - On Red/Yellow, inc saturation to warm up foreground
Select everything but foreground->Add Curves Adj Layer on top of previous Adj layer; Add slight increase to part of curve corresponding to leftmost mountain
Use Color Range to select rays->Add Hue/Saturation layer; On Master inc saturation
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  #18  
Old September 15th, 2006, 01:53 AM
Dierk Haasis Dierk Haasis is offline
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Joe, looks like you understand the concept of 'air perspective' quite good. Don't know how widespread this is, it was quite big with some photography teachers in Germany during the 50s-70s. It just tells us that you get a sense of a three-dimensional world into a two-dimensional picture simply by the colour the air has; the farther away the blueisher it gets.

By leaving the mountains themselves and the dark clouds in a blue haze you put size back into the photo. You also got the foreground quite right, ehnahncing the contrast between the blue mountains and the reddish rocks. I'd perhaps try to close the gap between the hue of the stones and the one in the rays a bit more to connect them.

Since both horizons in the picture - the one created by the upper line of the foreground rocks, and the one created by the mountain tops - are horizontal, and the light rays have a very small angle towards them, the image may benefit a bit by getting more panoramic. Ciutting a bit off the sky and the rocks (not much).
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  #19  
Old September 15th, 2006, 06:02 AM
Tim Armes Tim Armes is offline
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Hi Mike,

Lovely image! It's really nice to see an original landscape such as this.
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  #20  
Old September 15th, 2006, 06:45 AM
Joe Russo Joe Russo is offline
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Dierk,

I had never heard the term 'air perspective' before but it fits. I did know about enhancing the illusion of distance in a photograph by adding in a bit of blue. This is something that you also see in hazy photographs - not only are objects in the distance partially obscured by the haze but they also have a blue cast to them as well.
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  #21  
Old September 15th, 2006, 11:39 AM
Mike Spinak Mike Spinak is offline
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Thanks to everyone, so far, both for the kindly comments about my picture, and the thought and effort put into post processing.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Tim, I like the increased "luminousness" of the foreground rocks in your version, but I agree with Don that the foreground rocks fight for attention against the background scene in the color version. I also think that the separation between the foreground and the background is a bit too much, and looks unnatural. This shows you why this picture has been leaving me feeling perplexed, regarding the post processing decisions.

Your black and white version looks nicer than the black and white version I tried, previously. I like it; I think yours is fairly strong, that way. Nevertheless, I find the colors relevant for this picture, and am not ready to toss them. Perhaps I will offer this picture in both a color version and a b&w version.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Nik, very interesting notion, to darken the foreground instead of brighten it, so as to add emphasis to the rays and the background. Not what I expected, but I like the results best, overall, so far. This gives me ideas for a direction to experiment with, with this picture, toward seeking what I am looking for with this picture.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Joe, I like yours, too. I'm not sure about the foreground; I like the increased lightness, but I think the saturation is a little too much. Again, the separation of foreground from background is a bit too extreme to look natural, for me. With this crepuscular rays picture, it seems to be especially difficult to find the right balance, enhancing the foreground without overenhancing it.

I really like the concept of your version, Joe, processing in such manner as to increase the sense of "layeredness", from the near to the far. This is also an area that I will further pursue, toward the final version.

Great feedback, so far, folks!

Mike
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  #22  
Old September 17th, 2006, 03:34 PM
Herman Teeuwen Herman Teeuwen is offline
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My quick version:


© Mike Spinak

PP:
Akvis enhancer
Curves
Local contrast enhancement on midtones

I just realize that I would desaturate the upper-right skies/mountains a bit to make them less blue.

Herman
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  #23  
Old September 18th, 2006, 05:51 AM
Stefan Hellstrom Stefan Hellstrom is offline
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My version of the great photo:


I vent for making the complementary colors, blue at the mountains and orange in the stone foreground stronger.
DxO V4 beta2: Kodachrome 64 profile, Multi-Point color balance and DxO Lightning at Strong settings.

BR/Stefan Hellstrom
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  #24  
Old September 18th, 2006, 08:58 PM
Brian Lowe Brian Lowe is offline
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Hi Mike,

Here is my attempt at this, I processed the photo in LightRoom played with all the sliders till I got it to my liking. Then played with it in PhotoShop. Sorry I can't tell you more of what I did I have had the Flu for the last 4 days and I am still foggy in the head at the moment but, I had fun. Oh I remember something I was thinking when I was processing this, the God's are mad. So I was trying to make the sky dramatic.



Brian




© Mike Spinak
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  #25  
Old November 29th, 2009, 04:04 PM
Rachel Foster Rachel Foster is offline
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Now THAT'S a shot!
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  #26  
Old June 24th, 2010, 05:28 AM
Sandrine Bascouert Sandrine Bascouert is offline
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I made a try, I don't know if it was your intention...

http://cjoint.com/?gynAU37a7x
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  #27  
Old June 24th, 2010, 05:30 AM
Sandrine Bascouert Sandrine Bascouert is offline
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My masks are crappy, it was just a quick try...
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  #28  
Old June 24th, 2010, 06:25 AM
Rachel Foster Rachel Foster is offline
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What a lovely shot, though.
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  #29  
Old June 24th, 2010, 10:13 AM
Winston Mitchell Winston Mitchell is offline
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My interpretation.
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  #30  
Old June 24th, 2010, 12:16 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Sandrine and Winston,

I'm glad to see more work on this. You also need to give you step by step method of working!

BTW, Where did you get the big file from?

Asher
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