Blue Hour Baseball

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/5692534656/in/photostream/

Blue Hour Baseball 135mm, f/3.5, 1/250s, ISO 3200

I recently took in a high school baseball game in the role of the official photographer (filling in for Pete Talke).  When on the first base side I often tried to get photos of a baserunner avoiding a pick-off when he took a big lead.  I generally would prefocus near the base to avoid having autofocus go off in the weeds.  There were a few decent images from the night and I decided to process this one with some textures in order to put into practice a few things I’d learned recently.  This isn’t the most exciting image (other images had dirt flying, etc) but I chose it because both players are shown well and the coach is completely out of the frame.  It also happened to be the “blue hour”, that time of deepening darkness after sunset when the sky has that deep blue hue.

First step: clone out the light poles from the original (shown with basic edits below).  Had I been at a wide enough angle and the actual light fixtures themselves been showing I likely would have left them in as they would add that baseball park feel to the image.  They were simply annoying in my framing.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/5693931862/in/photostream

Original image

I continued by choosing a few textures which had potential.  Some were picked based on color, some solely on the actual texture (It’s “shape”?  Not sure what words to use to describe that…).  I loaded up the starting image and the textures and began experimenting.  I blended in earthy-toned textures more heavily into the dirt and grass while using more blues in the sky.  Some textures I incorporated into the whole image and some only in a portion.  Blend modes used were overlay, soft light, and linear light.  Below I show a screenshot of what I ended up with as layers and masks.  There were many pleasing combinations and frankly it was hard to decide what direction to take at times.  I also took the liberty of modifying the texture layers with the clone stamp in two cases.  One example was the “Office” texture had some text in it which I found very nice until I added the skyline — just didn’t work so I cloned out the text.  Some layers are more prominent than others as well — the second scratched copper layer was rotated about 30 degrees from the first then blended in but in truth is barely noticeable at all.  I could probably remove that layer without changing the image much.

The skyline was added as an afterthought when I already considered myself done.  My original intent with it was to use the layer (original skyline image is here) to create something similar to what an artist would sketch in pen then blend the hard pen strokes into the sky as another texture.  However, I ended up using a gaussian blur of 5-ish pixels to soften it like the existing background then blended it in with a blend mode of ‘soft light’.  Your mileage may vary but I like how it’s there but very subtle and not too distracting from the action.  It’s not intended to look real but just add another element of texture to the image.  [Artistic honesty disclosure: The Austin skyline is not visible from the Lake Travis High School baseball diamond…I added it in post in case that wasn’t abundantly clear].  Incidentally, the skyline layer is the same image which the Red Cross of Central Texas uses on their website.

I used 4 curves layers: A general s-curve, a darkening curve for parts of the image (luminosity blend mode), a lightening curve for a very small piece (could’ve just used the dodge tool), and another darkening curve for adding some vignette.

One last change I considered was adding a ball in-flight to the first baseman.  I decided against for now because the only positions for the ball that I thought were natural seemed to unbalance the whole image IMO.

Scratched copper texture is from Tymcode

Office texture is from ArtByChrysti

Scratched rainbow texture is from Pink Sherbet Photography

Paper texture is from Visualogist

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6 responses

  1. Amazing. I love it!

    May 6, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    • Thanks, Sarah! I had a good amount of fun playing around with this image.

      May 6, 2011 at 7:14 pm

  2. sweet shot my friend, love your treatment here! Jim

    May 6, 2011 at 9:21 pm

  3. Great image, reminds of playing ball when I was younger. Thanks for walking us through how you did it!

    May 9, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    • I know what you mean — I thought back to my little league days just being there. Glad to bring back some memories for you!

      May 10, 2011 at 4:56 pm

  4. Pingback: Filters And Layers « Michael Tuuk Photography

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