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on Aug 19, 2011 in B&W Photography

When You Can’t Do it Without Post

There we were in Warbird Alley as the sunset with a line of P-51D Mustangs glowing. There was a great photo there. The question is, how to get it? What my imagination was going to was an airfield in WWII, Mustangs ready to take flight. The only element of that I see in reality are the three Mustangs. How do I get the rest that my imagination saw? I knew that there was no way I could in reality get what my imagination was seeing in one click. And as Jake just posed in his blog, how much post is right to use?

That means that in order to get the final photograph my imagination sees, I will have to use Photoshop (one reason I love wildlife photography, I never have to think this hard). OK, with that thought, time to go to work. The subject is the line of Mustang canopies, gotta start with making the most of them. The lens on the camera was the 70-200VR2, looked through the viewfinder, not enough compaction. Switched to the 200-400VR2, compaction was good but….I couldn’t see all the canopies. They were all stacked up behind each other so the feel of “many” was lost. At the same time, there was of “junk” in the viewfinder that would simply take way too much time to remove. And the other problem many don’t think about when they know they have to work in post is, there wasn’t enough material to work with to make the junk disappear. How can I solve my problem?

Go Up! I looked around and behind us were the five row risers for the theater presentations. They were further back but they are the only elevation around. So I ran back to them and got up on the top riser. I looked out with my naked eye and liked what I saw. Put the camera to my eye and my heart sank. While I loved the canopies, the junk still remaining in the frame was a killer. The shutter speed was already down to 1/50 @ f/4 (ISO 100) so there wasn’t much time to do anything else. Click!

Keep in mind that my own personal standard is, if I have to spend more then two minutes with an image in post to finish, I abandon the image. I knew when I went click that this was going to take more then two minutes to finish. But it was real simple, how often have I seen three Mustangs lined up in killer light on a GRASS field like you might have seen in WWII? The time in post was worth the click. Keeping the subject in mind, the canopies, I took the image into post. I did my normal in ACR for aircraft (don’t know that that is, come to my session at Photoshop World in a couple of weeks) and then took the image into PS.

While when I took the click I assumed I had the skills to pull off the image, well, you know what happens when you assume. So the first thing I tackled to see if I would pull it off was reconstruction of the leading P-51Ds wings and wheels. Once that was accomplished I dealt with the middleground of the photograph. Last think I did was to take care of the background, the easiest. The entire time I kept one thing in mind, the subject. That’s why I filled in the trees in the background, created what looks like a taxi way in the grass and removed and rebuilt the elements. And the total time invested to get to this point, 8min, but I was liking what I was seeing on the Cintiq.

To get to the finished color image required a solid click to start with a basic game plan for finishing in post. Making the click without that knowledge, finishing in post would be near impossible. And all of that would have been not without the imagination creating the image to begin with. Because what I was looking for was an image reminiscent of an airfield in WWII. That meant going to B&W which was a simple single click with Silver Efex Pro. And that was that.

Do I like the final image? Yeah, I do, it fits what my imagination saw and it pulls at my passion for aviation. And I can hear what some of you might be saying right about now. “I no where have this ability.” Well, a number of years ago I didn’t either (ok, a decade ago now). How do you get this skill level? You gotta start by pushing yourself, take on challenges the simply make you sweat, have you doubting yourself and make them work. It’s not until you have a problem and then find a solution can you move forward. Now if a two day discussion on this very topic, looking and problems, solutions and applying them to your photography, Photoshop for Shooters is the class for you. You gotta start with your heart, add in imagination, sprinkle in camera gear and technical talents and you too will come up with those photos you desire. Push, take the time and make a great click this weekend and don’t panic when you can’t do it without post!