Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I love lighthouses. They are usually beautiful, but I think it is their symbolism that resonates in my spirit. They were built to guide sailors either away from hazards or into harbors. I was in Michigan for fall foliage, but I was near two lighthouses near sunset.

The Manistique Light is right on the edge of the jetty that leads into the harbor. The day had been cloudy all day long, and right at sunset the sky cleared. I like to find ways to photograph lighthouses where you can see the light. There is a trick to have your camera ready and then with a long enough shutterspeed to hit the shutter right as the light comes around and a long enough shutterspeed so that the shutter is open as long as the light is on. I have also found that it has to be dark enough for the light to show up. When you can catch that light, often you get a natural lens flare that accentuates the light.

As a traveling photographer rather than a local photograher, I often only have one opportunity. Sometimes the weather and lighting cooperate, sometimes they don't. On this evening, the clouds were not conveniently behind the lighthouse, but there were some pretty clouds after the sunset. I also took cloud photographs.

To combine the two images, I first made a new layer from the background, Layer 0. Then I did a select all and copy and pasted the cloud image which created a second layer. I put the lighthouse layer above the layer and did a layer mask. Using the quick selection tool, I was able to select most of the sky, but by using a mask, I can go back in and clean up the edges with a soft brush. I also used the move tool to move the clouds up above where the lighthouse was. Using a layers adjustment I was able to match the color tones of the sky with the sky color inside the lighthouse. The finished product looks natural and is more artistically pleasing to me. If I market this image, I will market it as digitally altered.

I also had the opportunity to photograph the Eagle Harbor Light. It was overcast, but I spent some time photographing it, hoping the sun would find a slit to light up the clouds behind it. When I was doing my conversion from RAW, I added a little more red tones.

I had taken sunset photos at Manistique as the sun was turning the clouds in the distance a pretty pink.

I was able to combine these two photos. It took a little bit of trial and error, playing with it -using levels to adjust both photos so that the sky colors matched.

I am hoping to find a way to brighten this one up so the lighthouse shows up better. It is not lit at night. But somehow the water's color works with the cloud background. I like this version better. I could wish to be there again sometime when the natural surroundings - the sunset colors produce a masterpiece photograph. But it is fun to create something artistic out of the materials you have at hand.

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