Recreating the Mood

There are some moments that come and go in an instant. The day was hot and sultry. As dark clouds accumulated overhead, the wind began to sweep across the open prairie. I could see it coming over the fields in my direction so I got out of the car, grabbed my Fuji F10 and took the shot just as the wind got to where I was standing.

You can see it arriving on the right. When I opened the image, it was ugly. The colours, while true, seemed oversaturated. Details were harsh and had too much contrast. There were jpeg artifacts and noise in the darker tones. There was nothing of the mood I felt when I took the shot so it was time to play.

In the first go-round, I duplicated the layer, reduced the saturation globally by 8 (Hue & Saturation, Master, -8). Merged Down. Duplicated this layer. Then, applied a very light Oil Paint filter (CS6) with Stylization 7.33, Cleanliness and Scale both at 0.1 and Bristle Detail at 6. Shine was reduced to 0. Masked the oil paint layer and brushed back detail at about 10% building it up selectively. When I was happy with the result, I merged layers, duplicated, and applied a very light burn to midtones around the edges to vignette the image. Done. Mouseover to see the original.

In the second go-round, I duplicated the layer, reduced the saturation globally by 20 (Hue & Saturation, Master, -20). Merged Down. Duplicated this layer. Next, since contrast was an issue, I decided to exaggerate it. I chose to filter it using Diffuse Glow set at Graininess 0, Glow Amount 4, and Clear Amount 13. Merge Down, Duplicate Layer. Then, did the same as the first image and applied a very light Oil Paint filter (CS6) with Stylization 7.33, Cleanliness and Scale both at 0.1 and Bristle Detail at 6. Shine was reduced to 0. Masked the oil paint layer and brushed back detail at about 10% building it up selectively. When I was happy with the result, I merged layers, duplicated, and this time applied Filter, Lens Correction, Custom, Vignette with Darken set to -30 and midpoint left at 50. Mouseover to see the original. This was originally published in September 2006 but has been updated with new techniques. If you are using CS4 or CS5 (which is a lot better than CS6, in my opinion) then you can manipulate pixels like this and in other extraordinary ways with Pixel Bender, a free tool for Mac and Windows. Get it from Adobe here. Want to see what it does?

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