The pictures I’m using in this feature are all credited to Stick, the processing is mine.  Somehow I ended up with them on my computer and they fit the requirements for this feature so Stick was generous enough to allow their use.  Thank you Stick!

Canon 5d, 24-70mm F2.8L  @F11  1/400th  50mm   ISO 100  (credit to Stick)

 

The pictures I’m using in this feature are all credited to Stick, the processing is mine.  Somehow I ended up with them on my computer and they fit the requirements for this feature so Stick was generous enough to allow their use.  Thank you Stick!

Sometimes our images are taken on someone else’s schedule, so we can’t wait for the best light or circumstances.  The best we can do is to grab a solid composition and proper exposure and if we really like the image we can put in the effort to use advanced (extreme) image processing techniques to get the most out of them at a later time.   In this feature we’ll show the before and after images and talk a bit about what we can do to get there.  In a later tutorial I’ll walk you through the process step by step.

The image above is a finished image.  We have a nice sky, it appears the light is hitting the decorative features of the entrance lending more detail and color, and the background is thankfully void of ugly power lines and unnecessary clutter.

 

Wait, hold on a minute.  The “before” image shows  just how plain the image was as it came out of the camera.   Notice the terrible power line clutter?  The green gas meter on the left side of the fence?  Extra flags, trees, poles, and broken pieces of fence?  If we wish to show off the Thai architecture in the best possible light, then it often pays to isolate the piece and ensure the light provides the best color and detail.

Canon 5d, 24-70mm F2.8L @F11 1/400th  50mm   ISO 100 (credit to Stick)

 

Wait, hold on a minute.  The “before” image shows  just how plain the image was as it came out of the camera.   Notice the terrible power line clutter?  The green gas meter on the left side of the fence?  Extra flags, trees, poles, and broken pieces of fence?  If we wish to show off the Thai architecture in the best possible light, then it often pays to isolate the piece and ensure the light provides the best color and detail.

How did we get there?  I have to warn you, this is absolutely safe to try at home.  In fact, I encourage you to grab the before images in this piece and see what you can do with them prior to the upcoming tutorial.  In this image we used selective editing in Lightroom to direct light and detail on the decorative art.  From there we imported into CS5 Photoshop and used a combination of the content aware healing brush, cloning, and history eraser to remove the power lines and other clutter, and then levels to balance the exposure.  It sounds simple, but consider I have about 45 minutes invested in the processing of this one image.  The power line removal was accomplished at the pixel level and really does require a fair bit of patience.  Give it a try, the more you practice the better you’ll get.

There are some elements to look for to see if you make a good image, or just dressed it up a bit.  First, make sure you didn’t miss any stray bits of power line and other clutter.  Look in the small apertures of the gate to ensure you removed them there as well.  Look at the sky where the wires and clutter once were, notice how smooth and graduated the tones are?  If you do this one the sky will never look right.  Be consistent and be neat, and above all be very patient.  Do this pixel by pixel and you’ll be really happy with the results.  Let’s look at some other examples.

 

Wow, what a beautiful boardwalk.  The clay tiles are colorful and show their strong patterns, the ornamental lights show off their gold and silver finish, the Me Kong river is blue and almost pristine looking, and the sky is well exposed in relation to the body of the scene.  Wonderful balance with many interesting compositional elements.  A classic shot well executed.  But it needed some work to get there.

Canon 5d, 24-70mm F2.8L  @F9  1/400th  24mm   ISO 100  (credit to Stick)

 

Wow, what a beautiful boardwalk.  The clay tiles are colorful and show their strong patterns, the ornamental lights show off their gold and silver finish, the Me Kong river is blue and almost pristine looking, and the sky is well exposed in relation to the body of the scene.  Wonderful balance with many interesting compositional elements.  A classic shot well executed.  But it needed some work to get there.

 

This is the original image.   What’s missing?  Sure, the light.  Unless you want to wait around for the perfect afternoon light you won’t do better than this.  Sometimes we just happen to be there when the light is great, other times we need to shoot a scene and move on to the next and sort it all out later.

Canon 5d, 24-70mm F2.8L @F9 1/400th  24mm  ISO 100 (credit to Stick)

 

This is the original image.   What’s missing?  Sure, the light.  Unless you want to wait around for the perfect afternoon light you won’t do better than this.  Sometimes we just happen to be there when the light is great, other times we need to shoot a scene and move on to the next and sort it all out later.

Now, imagine the afternoon light shining in from over your shoulder and from the right.  Keep this light direction in mind as you process the image.   I used the exact same tools and sequence in all of this shots so I won’t repeat it for every image, but the finished result is a fantastic scene brought to life through the hand painting of light which brings out the natural colors and details already present.  Let’s do another one, this is fun!

 

In parts of Thailand you’ll find brightly painted colorful older tuk tuks.  It’s almost instinctive to make this capture.  A lone vintage tuk tuk, resplendent in it’s design and bright colors juxtaposed over a rather drab background.  This processing called for selective saturation techniques we covered in this tutorial Selective Saturation.

Canon 5d, 24-70mm F2.8L @F7.1 1/320h  40mm   ISO 100 (credit to Stick)

 

In parts of Thailand you’ll find brightly painted colorful older tuk tuks.  It’s almost instinctive to make this capture.  A lone vintage tuk tuk, resplendent in it’s design and bright colors juxtaposed over a rather drab background.  This processing called for selective saturation techniques we covered in this tutorial Selective Saturation.

 

This is the original image and it’s fine how it is.  I just thought it would be more dramatic if processed using the selective saturation techniques.

Canon 5d, 24-70mm F2.8L @F7.1 1/320h  40mm   ISO 100 (credit to Stick)

 

This is the original image and it’s fine how it is.  I just thought it would be more dramatic if processed using the selective saturation techniques.

 

I love this image.  Storm clouds providing a darkened sky which really sets off the white and gold shrine in the background.  The light is shining directly over my shoulder on shrine bringing out it’s beautiful colors and detail.  There is no substitute for great light.  Well, maybe sometimes there is.

Canon 5d, 24-70mm F2.8L @F10 15000h 24mm   ISO 100 (credit to Stick)

 

I love this image.  Storm clouds providing a darkened sky which really sets off the white and gold shrine in the background.  The light is shining directly over my shoulder on shrine bringing out it’s beautiful colors and detail.  There is no substitute for great light.  Well, maybe sometimes there is.

 

It was the middle of the day, there was no darkened sky, and there were distracting power lines and other clutter everywhere.  Yet, with a great deal of patience and about 30 minutes we transformed this image to the ‘before’ image above.  One is dramatic and shows off the natural colors, detail, and beauty always present in the scene, and the other is what we most often capture as the victim of timing and mother nature.

Canon 5d, 24-70mm F2.8L @F10 15000h 24mm ISO 100 (credit to Stick)

 

It was the middle of the day, there was no darkened sky, and there were distracting power lines and other clutter everywhere.  Yet, with a great deal of patience and about 30 minutes we transformed this image to the ‘before’ image above.  One is dramatic and shows off the natural colors, detail, and beauty always present in the scene, and the other is what we most often capture as the victim of timing and mother nature.

When you make these captures keep post processing in mind.  Understand your tools and what they can do, and what base exposures you can take at the time to provide the best canvas for processing later.  Thailand is full of beautiful temples ruined by negligent city planning, stray mongrel dogs, faded and/or dirty paint, and the general ravages of time.  We can turn back the clock, adjust the timing, and make great pictures which will stand up to pixel level scrutiny and will print at any reasonable size including 30x20 inch prints.   I’ll bet if you go through your own archives you’ll come up with many such shots you can improve through extreme image processing.  See you next time with the tutorial.