Matching Your Vision to Reality:
Youíve prepared all night, cameras loaded, batteries charged, route selected and sunrise time checked and rechecked. You head for your locale with only the stars, lighting your way. With a flashlight in your mouth, you set up your tripod and double check every setting for the tenth time. The stars are slowly replaced by dawnís early light and you see your planning has panned out. In front of you are the Grand Tetons, below you, the Snake River and painted across the heavens are magical clouds. Oh, this is going to be good!
You look through your viewfinder and double check the vision in your viewfinder to see if it matches the one in your heart. Everything seems to be lining up perfectly as the light of day brings life to your vision. Then, the magical clouds over the Tetons begin to blow to the south. They take on an even more elegant sweep as they slowly move away from the peaks. By the time the light kisses the tops of the Tetons, the clouds are to the south and out of the frame. You take the photo in the viewfinder of the Tetons, walk very quickly behind you to get a clear shot of the clouds and take a photo of them. As you pack up your gear, you take a certain satisfaction that youíve accomplished everything you set out to photograph.
ďWait just a second,Ē youíre probably saying. ďHow can you be satisfied when you missed the shot? You photographed the Tetons with bald skies in one image and just a sexy cloud in another.Ē The satisfaction comes from knowing your craft, having an imagination and the talent to make it all work together. You know that within a few minutes youíll have the perfect image to print and 16 mount on your wall. If you donít see how thatís possible, then you need to read on to learn the tools so you too can have the same satisfaction. Itís all about matching your vision to reality.
Capturing the Vision
It all begins with a vision, an image in the heart and mind that you want to match up with what you see in the viewfinder. Itís called photography. I canít stress enough that you need to get it right, right from the start. That means when you take the photo, youíve taken it as perfectly as you can at that moment. That should mean itís a completed photo, you donít need PhotoShop to jackhammer a bunch of pixels to fix something that should have been done at the point of capture.
In order for this technique to work seamlessly and not making up for camera mistakes in the digital darkroom, you need to do certain things. Weíre photographing sunrise for example, that means we have the warm colors of sunrise to deal with. In order to match up the colors of two different images, we need to match exposure in both. You need to shoot with the same f/stop so focus and DOF are constant in all the images. Iím not going into the howís and whyís of these in this piece, but you can ďmake upĒ for not doing this in PhotoShop, it just takes time and skill you might not have. Thatís really all there is to the technical side of this technique, be a photographer.
The hard part of this technique for many is following the imagination. Youíve got to work outside the box, literally. Youíre going to have to look at the scene, the reality and then look at the scene with your imagination and use your camera and digital darkroom skills to combine them. In this example, we donít want bald skies so by just turning to our left and walking twenty yards, we can fill the bald skies with a click, of the shutter and the mouse.
If Iím making this sound way too easy, donít worry, because it is. In the digital age, this technique is very simple to learn, master and apply whenever needed. Because once you have the two images, hereís what it takes to finish off your visual story.
Creating the Reality to Match the Vision
It all starts with your workspace. I canít emphasize enough the importance of a calibrated workspace. Iím working on a Wacom Cintiq 21UX. It is calibrated with Gretag Eye One, which I depend on since I work visually. This makes the rest of the process a snap!
Just that easily, youíve merged the two photos and made a composite! The rest is just finishing touches to the process.
Double click on Background layer and name it Tetons. Double click on Layer 1 and rename it Clouds. With the Cloud layer active (the box is colored/dark), set the Opacity for the layer to 70% (Opacity is found right above the layer, to the right). Tap V so you have the Move Tool and move the Cloud layer so itís positioned exactly where you want it over the Tetons. With that accomplished, bring the opacity for the Cloud layer back to 100%.
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