“You’re never finished in the Mac Lab.” That quote seems to define my approach to a photo. No matter how much time I spend in Photoshop and Camera Raw working on an image the first time around, I always find something to improve upon in the following days (sometimes quite a few somethings).
This is a key quality in a digital artist; the ability to assess one’s work and recognize that it is never truly complete. I am constantly learning new skills and techniques that I can use on old photos to transform them into new wonders. This continual acquisition of knowledge is a defining factor of what makes the cutting edge such a great place. When we stop learning, then we have failed. And so I try to never stop learning.
The batch of photos that resulted from my trip to Mt. San Gorgonio, like most of my photos, has recently found itself inside Photoshop once again. Read this comment, and you will understand my eagerness to get to the tweaking. There is nothing more satisfying for me that seeing one of my photos rolling out of the big Epson, so I have been working fast to get my favorite images up to a level of quality that represents the best of my current abilities. Note that I did not say that I am done, but merely at a point where my skill is appropriately reflected in my images.
Of the four hundred picture I took on my trip to Mt. San Gorgonio, 12 made it to this blog. Of those twelve, I have selected my favorite five to get a second run through Photoshop.
My plan for the three picture of the Milky Way featured in this post is to create a single print for all three, and for that I must make them look like they go together. I used the this one as a starting point, and matched the color and contrast of the other two as close as I could. Here is the before and after of the second image. And the before and after of the third. The different exposure times made exact matching impossible, but I think they go together nicely. I tried very hard not to go crazy and make them too unrealistic.
In addition, for Orion_02, I tried something different. I went all the way back to the beginning and started over with the original file. My goal was to create an image that was mostly color correct but at the same time vibrant and dramatic. My result is feature on this post. It is completely different but I like it even more. What are your thoughts?
Next, I turned to this image. My problems with it were twofold: the sky and the white balance. I played with Hue/Saturation and managed to oust the excessive orange in the forest. I also used H/S to make the sky most pleasing. That was easy, and makes all the difference.
Then I tried to make the focal point of this image, Mt. San Jacinto, more defined, and succeeded with a simple Levels layer. While at it, I brightened the bushed in the foreground and threw a contrast curve on the already dramatic sky. I really like this picture because of its beauty and the personal connection I have with it (end of this post). I think I have done it justice.
I was about to call it a day, when my I realized I had forgotten this photo. I particularly like this one, and so tried my best to oust the red in the rocks and fallen tree and make the sky more peaceful. A handful of complicated Adjustment Layers and Masks later, I had succeeded, and made the leaves actually green.
Well, it has been two weeks since I first posted these photos and already I have found loads of thing to improve upon. That is life as a learner.
Am I finished? Not now, and not ever. By the time I return to these photos again, I will have learned new and interesting things. And the cycle continues forever.
Update: It is September 25th. I woke up at 5:00am to go the Mac Lab Saturday School™ but learned that the video shoot I was going to take part in was canceled, so I decided to stay home. Instead, I spent four hours returning to these pictures once again and make improvements on all of them. I’m not going to bother writing a new post to give the details on this, as that would be a little redundant.
Just never stop learning.