Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

Prairie Sunrise

Prairie Sunrise
Prairie Sunrise

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

How The Picture Was Made - Blending Two Zones of Light

Photography requires as much post processing as it does time in the field. In fact, almost all digital images require some post processing to bring out the extra pop we all desire in our photos. Fortunately, there are a few easy to learn techniques that help us in creating a finished photograph. One of these is knowing how to blend two Zones of light.

First let's go back a step or two. Blending two zones of light starts in the camera and is accomplished by taking at least two separate images of the same subject, one using the ambient light and one using a speedlight(s), then blending them in photoshop as a single photograph. The reason we do this is because when using speedlights, it sometimes becomes necessary for the lightstand to be in the shot in order to get the best angle to light the subject. When that happens we need an easy way to remove the lightstand without having to perform a lot of cloning magic which can at times get cumbersome. It is also necessary because the ambient light is almost always darker than the light from the flash and we must allow for the 'Burning In' of that background light before the flash fires to illuminate our main subject.

Let's look at the portrait of a 1976 Corvette I recently made. The situation was like this. The background was the National Corvette Museum and I wanted to take the photo during that narrow window between dusk and dark. Doing so would allow for the capture of the dynamic lighting on the museum's Skydome and also allow for some of the dusky light in the sky to be captured. This however prevented me from capturing the Corvette with a correct exposure using just the available light. To accomplish that feat required the use of multiple speedlights positioned strategically around the Corvette to illuminate it.

The two zones of light then were; The background ambient light coming from the sky and the museum, and the speedlights used to expose the car. In order to have an effective light on the car required that two of the speedlights, one with a softbox attached, be in the shot. A first baseline photo was made without the lights in place and was done simply to get the ambient light exposure where I wanted it. The second shot then was setup with the lights in place to capture the car.

The first two images then shows the ambient light photo without the speedlights in the picture. It was opened as a RAW image and tweaked to obtain the desired results for the background light, then saved and opened inside the Photoshop Elements work window. The Tweak settings were noted for later use.

There were some powerlines showing in the sky in the upper left of the image so they were removed using the Healing tool. Then the second image taken using the lights was opened also as a RAW image.

Notice the softbox showing in the upper right of the image and also not as noticeable the speedlight sitting on the other side of the car firing into the window. The same RAW settings were applied so the second image would closely match the background settings of the previous image. Notice the Powerlines are also visable in the second image, but they were left alone.

Next I used the Select All option under the Select dropdown box then selected Copy under the EDIT dropdown. I then reopened the first image and used the PASTE option to overlay the second image exactly on top of the first one. This created a Layer Mask that could then be used to erase anything showing on the top layer to expose what was beneath it. In this case I simply seleted the Erase tool and expanded the brush to a medium size and erased the sky area, the softbox, and the speedlight shooting into the car.

With a little more applied tweaking of the brightness, contrast, color, and the removal of some stray artifacts to clean up the final image...the results!

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