For the past several years I’ve taken my family to watch the Blue Angels perform in Corpus Christi. This year my family was out of town during the performance but nonetheless I made the trek to Kingsville Naval Air Station to watch them this year. I carried two lenses: a 70-200mm to capture some of the aerial performances and a 10-20mm wide angle which I used for 80% of the ground shots.
I took only a few pictures of the Blue Angels performance this year (I really like to *watch* and didn’t want to be overly distracted always trying to get the best shots). However, I took plenty of shots of the static displays on the ground. I bracketed many (shooting handheld) in hopes of generating some HDR images from the show. On side note, I did try the panning IS mode on my 70-200mm lens and it did an amazing job capturing jets screaming past.
The image above was generated from three handheld exposures and shows the underside of a B-1 bomber with it’s bomb doors open — and a couple young girls doing some modeling. It was quite a processing challenge (for my skill level anyway) due to the movement in the crowd. In a night shot I’ve found masking in crowds to be far simpler because the darkness of the shot generally gives you a lot of leeway. With a day shot like this I found it very difficult because when you mask in a moving subject from a particular exposure you often bring in bits of background (previously hidden by the moving subject in the tonemapped image) which severely differ from the tonemapped image. Adding to my difficulty was the smoke in the background sky from the Tora, Tora, Tora performance. As I worked to fix the background after masking this smoke created challenges in cloning in some sky…a great exercise for improving my skillset.
Here’s the rough outline of my processing on this image: Tonemapping in Photomatix and lots of masking to get the people looking OK. On a duplicate layer I played with exposure and contrast to adjust the sky to my general liking then I masked it in where I could — I wasn’t able to mask in everything around the people because of them being in a different position. To get around this I used the clone stamp to add sky where needed (had to do this a bit on the ground as well). I used Topaz Adjust to modify another duplicate layer and masked portions of that in. Exposure/Levels/Curves followed that. Finally, I tried a new sharpening flow which I picked up from @TipSquirrel today. It involved using “Stamp Visible”, converting the new layer to a smart object, then using unsharp mask with that layer set to luminosity blending. Probably unnecessary for this image but I wanted to learn something new.
I’m pretty happy with the image — my first handheld HDR (though it isn’t too hard to get decent exposures in broad daylight) and certainly the most challenge I’ve faced relative to the need to mask moving subjects. Do you like it…?