This is another post in response to the questions I got on flickr regarding these images of graffiti in the Seaholm Power Plant. What I’m about to describe is certainly not the way I process all images — especially portraiture and the like — but it is typically the way I start with images like this one. The image I’ll use as an example here is another one I never intended to post but again, it works well as a quick example of part of my processing. There are lots of things which make this a lousy image but hopefully you can get past those for this illustration.
Here’s the original image with no edits:
I began by adding a slight s-curve in a curves adjustment layer (result is shown after the layers/curves snapshots). Note that I masked out the red sign so that this curve didn’t affect it. The blend mode is “normal” which results in additional saturation in the image. The result is shown below the curve diagram.
Next I added a curve to adjust what the red sign (and a bit of the dark corners) looked like. This curve was in “luminosity” blend mode to avoid changing the saturation. Note the odd curve — since I was masking out most of the image I used a curve which only effects the part of the histogram related to the sign. That curve would really wack out the image without the masking of course. The end result is that the lettering stands out much more than in the previous image.
My final curves adjustment layer is what really gives the image a bit of pop. The sign is masked out and I partially masked the dark corner to reduce the effect there. The blend mode is “hard light”. How did I pick that? Trial and error — tried modes and curve shapes until I got an effect that I liked. The final image is shown at the top of the post. It was processed only with three curves layers — no sharpening, no saturation or vibrance adjustments, no Topaz Adjust, etc. I call this kind of processing “a la Chromasia” (go check out his work and his tutorials — great stuff).
That’s a typical start for me when I process an image like this. Curves adjustments constitute 80%+ of my processing in general. I certainly do play with saturation, vibrance, levels, sharpening, etc. but not until I’ve gotten most of the way to the final result using curves and masks.
If you subscribe to David Nightingale’s (chromasia) tutorials you’ll be able to go through some great teaching on how to approach the creative process. He works his way through images and describes what he sees, how/why he wants to alter parts of the frame, etc. My simple example in this post touches on maybe the first 0.5% of that…check out the tutorials.
Thought I’d post another image from the photog excursion to the Holly Street Power Plant. We had a great time and processing the images helps to re-live the experience somewhat. I also want to get through some of these images and pass them on to the folks at Austin Energy in a timely manner. Today we — a group of Austin photogs who somehow ended up being called the HDR Mafia — had a group lunch at Chuy’s. Every month or two we get together and talk photo stuff. It’s great to hear about what others are experimenting with, what they’re doing business-wise, etc. Not everyone uses HDR extensively but we all dabble in it at least.
The image at the top is a 6-exposure HDR which was taken in the generator room. Processing consisted of tonemapping in Photomatix, masking in pieces of various original exposures, masking parts of two layers processed with different settings in Topaz Adjust, then playing with a couple of curves layers and masking them in appropriately. I didn’t notice the blue glow until I got the exposures home…not sure where that came from. It adds a bit of mystery.
The image below is a 4-exposure HDR of a random beam with huge cables attached. This was also in the generator room. Countless items like this were available to shoot. I processed this image in a more straightforward-ish manner. I tonemapped in Photomatix, added curves adjustment layers to portions of the frame, and blended in a layer processed in Topaz Adjust (but I used a much more subtle preset than I did with the top image). I’m really not stuck on one way to process or one final outcome with these HDR images. It’s not like a wedding shoot where one needs to pay great attention to color matching sets of images and such. I consider each of these HDRs to be its own thing and play each by ear as I process. The outcome is greatly influenced by what I’m in the mood for at the moment.
Mike Connell set up an appointment for several of us local Austinites to tour and photograph inside the Holly Street Power Plant (see Mike’s story here). It would have been a joy to see the place even if we couldn’t photograph it. When energy was still being generated here I used to run the trails adjacent to it and I’ve always wanted to see inside the place. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to join my friends for this adventure. The plant has been closed for a few years and is scheduled for demolition starting in a few months so this is a last-chance opportunity.
There is no electrical power in the plant currently and as we entered through an unlit room our guide — a burly guy named Bobby Gosey — remarked that we wouldn’t believe how creepy the place is at night. Most of the floors were metal grates which creaked and clanked as we walked and the darkness below was apparently endless in the dimly-lit environment. None of us had to push our imagination too far to believe him.
As I’ve perused the resulting images I’ve thrown out far more than I’ve decided to keep but I do like how a few turned out. The photo above shows the entrance to one of the control room areas. I thought it was an appropriate image to start with given the prominent Austin Energy logo on the door. I’ll post “something rusty” in the future.
While poking around online, I found a site which has all the “as-built” architectural drawings for the power plant. I find these drawings kind of cool…I’m just a geek that way. Here’s the link for you other geeks: http://www.holly.austinenergy.com/asbuilts.htm.
Thanks go out to Carlos Cordova and Bobby Gosey for accommodating our group and giving us freedom to roam at will throughout the facility.