CRYING IN THE LAB

In Inspiration, Instruction by Mason Marsh3 Comments

While I could go on and on about the fracas surrounding the “distracting” nature of women in science laboratories I will instead talk about a different kind of Lab.  On last night’s Creation Wars show, (which for those of you not in The Arcanum is a weekly variety show featuring work from people within The Arcanum), Stephan Bollinger  demonstrated his prowess in Photoshop by processing a couple of images using a crazy technique called “The Man From Mars”. In this technique, he uses the Lab color space in Photoshop to amp up the color in his images. I had never seen this particular technique and I was stunned. It seemed just the ticket for handling the subdued tones of my landscape images, which I captured in Raw format.

Here is one such image, which is actually two Raw images merged in Lightroom into a HDR DNG. Don’t LOL over my acronyms please!

MJM•05-08-2015_200732-HDR

As you can see, the colors in this image are subdued and flat. This is exactly what I plan to see when I shoot these images. The Raw format is the unmolested data from my camera’s sensor and I like to think of it as the ingredients for a final image. In this image, I combined two Raw files to balance the sky and the foreground subject matter. My Canon simply doesn’t have the dynamic range to accurately depict the bright colorful setting sun and the shadowy beach rocks. By combining two images I get a much more accurate representation of the scene as I witnessed it.

My goal in making landscape images, however, is not usually just to represent what I saw. Truth be told, I favor more flavor in my finished works.

I would normally combine the two Raw files in Lightroom or Photoshop, then use basic tone adjustments to bring out the colors and sharpening to make the textures crisp. Most of the time the result is pleasing, but all too often it lacks the punch I would like to see. I have used plug-ins like Nik’s amazing Color Effex Pro and On1’s cool tools, but I usually find the resulting images to be too noisy and affected. I have been using Photoshop since 1991, and Lightroom for several years, but I must confess that I don’t obsess over software and I rarely have time to master the techniques many other photographers have perfected to bring out the magic in their photos.

So when Stephan began torquing his images in Lab mode, I was captivated. Was this the elegant solution I was looking for? Sure looked like it.

So I opened my beach shot and switched it from RGB to Lab mode. (watch the video for the step-by-step)

I followed Stephan’s steps and boom! my image went from flat to Phat! (ouch!)

Here is the outcome…

Trinidad

Comments

  1. That is a an amazing change. The colors seem to balance and the intensity is beautiful in the sky and sunset.

  2. Actually, I like both of these versions of the shot. The raw has a nice subtle moodiness too it, but the final image pops well without losing what’s natural. It’s a gorgeous shot regardless of how you present it. Nice work Mason.

  3. In the top right, there’s a bright halo around the tree in the sky. Is that an artifact of combining your two images with HDR techniques?

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