Monday, December 17, 2007

My "Church" project

During January of 2006 we were lucky enough to get to spend time in Breckenridge, Colorado. I take a lot of photos that don't get "worked" until much later. Some photos end up higher on my priority list. I took a series of church photos on a snowy day with the express intention of working them up later.

I finally got the "round tuit" for a project for this Christmas.

For my photographer friends, I'm going to give you the "before" and "after."

Cloudy days can be a photographer's best friend or his worst enemy. The clouds help even out the lighting and can help you get more vivid, true color. But cloudy skies really "deaden" an image and sometimes create dull, lifeless colors. Certain cloudy conditions can give you "naturally" black and white photos, especially when you are photographing water features. Lakes and oceans pick up their color from the sky. A blue sky day will give you beautiful blue water, a gray day will give you dark colorless water.

Here is my original image with a minimal conversion from RAW. Notice the dead sky and lack of color.

As I went searching for a sky to use, I wanted to use skies from other shots in the area. The sky I found for this one was taken early in the morning. I am facing in the opposite direction. People familiar with Breckenridge will realize that the church actually faces the sky slope. The finishing touch on this one was to clone snow onto the branches of the tree to the left so that it matches the snow covered trees in the background.

Once again you can see how the gray sky affects this image:


When I went searching for the blue sky for this one, I found that I needed to work on the sky to make it fit with this image. I used a levels adjustment to lighten the blues. Then I added more blue above the clouds and created a second cloud bank. If you look closely you can see that I added some little puffs on the right of the cloud bank as well.

The finished product:

This historic church is just down the street from the other two churches. It sits next to a beautiful building. I believe the church uses both the old and the new.

When I found my sky, it came with this convenient pine tree that shows up on the left.

The finishing touches on this photo were to remove the dark pine tree on the right and to keep the aspen branches to the upper right of the church. I create this combinations using layers and layer masks. I brushed back in the aspen branches making sure that the snow covered trees were visible between them. Without that touch, a careful observer might notice that I had done this cut and paste because the aspen tree would be "cut off" at the roof line. By making sure those branches (or at least some of them) extend higher than the roof, everything "fits in."

While none of these churches are completely as your eye would see them on a sunny day, an artist with a paint brush regularly looks at objects and creates an idealized environment for them. The end use for these photos is likely to be Christmas cards. But when I submit these images, I will be honest as to the modifications I have made. For journalistic or "news" type uses, these would be ineligible. But for that perfect "picture postcard" look that you want for a greeting card, I think these will work.


Pam said...

Mary Ann, I enjoyed your pics of the churches. I also wanted to let you know that I am now a blogger. My bloggs are not as pretty as yours but it could be a way to stay in contact a bit better. Love ya.

Horses4Writers said...

Wow, you are doing such amazing things with your photographs these days.
Beautiful work.

Mary Ann Melton said...

Thanks, Pam and Bettye! Glad you stopped by!