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Fuji x100 F8 1/500th ISO 320

 

Not every image is worthy of being an Featured Photograph.  Sometimes despite your best efforts, conditions will conspire to produce a rather unremarkable image.  When this happens we can sometimes draw on our ‘other’ skills to produce the desired image.  By other I mean Photoshop.

In our Featured Photograph you see a man shooting a sporting clay with his shotgun.  You can clearly see the man, the shotgun, and the clay at the moment it explodes.  These were the minimum desires requested by the client/shooter.  Now that the image is produced it appears a simple process.  But would you be surprised to know I had to study this image and create several versions, over the course of several days, before I saw the desired image within the image?  I started with this.

 

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Fuji x100 F8 1/500th ISO 320

 

To start, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to time your shutter release to an exploding clay.  It took me 4-5 tries before I nailed it.  You must have a deep enough depth of field (DOF) to keep the shooter and the clay in focus, and you must have a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the exploding clay suspended in the air.  You also need to use a lens wide enough to capture both the subject and the exploding clay.  A 35mm lens, an F8 aperture, and a 1/500th shutter speed were requirements.  From these selections I can adjust the ISO up/down and the shutter speed up.. to get the desired image.

Now that you have the image you discover that even though you froze the clay in mid-air, it’s still next to impossible to see, and it’s certainly not one of the two desired focal points of this image.  You can also see the shooter is not exposed as much as you’d like, but the tree tops are as exposed as they can be without blowing out detail.  Everything seems to blend together.  No matter how I looked at this, there was no way to take this image to satisfy the clients requirements.  Without Photoshop.

One of the first things I did was to make the fragments of the clay larger while retaining their original shape and placement.  This took a bit of careful work at the pixel level.  While I was at it I made the color of the fragments match a new clay.  To finish this part I increased the amount of smoke around the fragments making sure it was feathered and done just enough where it looked natural.

Once the clay fragments were finished it was time to attend to the shooter.  I brought up the exposure on the shooter and the shotgun until they could both be clearly seen and were in line with the clay fragments I’d worked with earlier.  I thought I’d be done at this point, but the more I looked at it the less I liked my results.

 

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Fuji x100 F8 1/500th ISO 320

 

The background completed by the trees and harsh sunlight didn’t allow for enough separation from the two main focal points of the image, the shooter and the exploding fragments.  I think this image is more ‘natural’, but it didn’t meet the desires of the client, so the next step was to simply de-saturate the background to black and white, leaving the subjects with their natural color.  I wrote a tutorial on how to do this here.

We went from an uninteresting original image, to a better natural looking image, and then finally to an image which met the clients requirements.  Anyone looking at this image will immediately see the shooter shooting a clay from the air with the clay exploding in fragments.  Using my camera I was only able to meet part of my clients requirements, Photoshop allowed me to meet the remainder.