Breaking the Ice

This winter lasted a long time, but now spring has finally arrived. During the winter time I have had many opportunities to photograph ice in the fiords around Roskilde. This particular day I ventured out on the ice with a tripod and two cameras. It’s a very shallow part of the fiord and should I have gone through the ice I would have been in to the knees, no more than that. The ice does funny things around the rocks. It looks like small frozen vulcanos. There are many rocks in this area, and I  shot a few of them.

About the post-processing

I have had some problems trying to get the ice look good. Ice is basically grey’ish, maybe with a blue tint, but is not that colorful. However, when the colors of the sky reflect in the ice, you can get a little color out of it. My project has been to get some intensity out of of the ice, while still believing that it is ice. Ice is blue and the mind accepts it to be blue.

The photo is a 5 shot HDR (High Dynamic Range) photo, but to make the final photo I have used two different images I made in Lightroom from the 0-exposure and one I made in Photomatix Pro.

This is the original 0 exposure photo:

Breaking the Ice - Original

As you can see a flat and dull photo and certainly not reflecting the reality. But you can also see that almost everything is visible. There are no completely blown out areas of white, neither is there any pitch black areas. This means that there is not a lot of dynamic light in this scenery and no real need for HDR software like Photomatix, but Photomatix not only assembles several exposures into one High Dynamic Range image, it also does some post-processing of the image. The post-processing can also be applied to single photos and give really great results. In this case I had 5 different exposures, and I used them all, simply to get a better quality of image in the shadows, but I could have used just this single photo.

#1 The sky is dull. I started playing around with the sky in Lightroom and exported two different versions of the 0-exposure, and I anticipated that I would use one of those two skies in the final image. I made a beautiful one and then I did a more dramatic one. I made the two in Lightroom, because Photomatix often makes a grey’ish sky, and that does not look good. This is something I have learned over the past couple of months and come to realize, that Lightroom is pretty for making gorgeous skies. In this case, however, I was tricked – Photomatix did the best sky.

#2 The area with the golden colors reflecting in the sky has to come more alive. I did that by amp’ing up the saturation and by adding a little softness to area.

#3 Clean up. I do it every time and it makes a difference! It really does. Try and compare. In this case I used the Lasso select tool in Photoshop CS6 and then pressed SHIFT+F5 for a content aware fill. In some situations it does amazing work. And then I used the Healing Brush remove a larger number of stones and ice peckles both close the Rock and further out in the distance. This does take some time, but it is worth the effort!

This is the first of my images exported from Lightroom. You can see three horizontal lines. That is a Gradient filter. The effect starts from the lower line and reaches the maximum effect at the top line.

Breaking the Ice - The Sky

In the right hand side, you can see the settings for the Gradient in the top section. In this case I ded a fine tuning of my global changes. The global changes you find in the section below (the middle one you can see). In the middle section you can see how I simulate HDR in Lightroom. This is done by lowering the Highlights to -100 and raising the Shadows to +98 (or 100). This gives a flat HDR looking photo, but by adding some contrast and clarity things starts looking really good. I amp’ed up the saturation too, to get a great looking sky. The Black and Whites I also adjusted a little bit to add a little more punch the image.

The second image I generated from Lightroom is a more dramatic one. As you maybe can see, some of the ice from this image, is in final image. The sky from this image I didn’t use.

2013-01-25-Frozen water-190

And below is my image from Photomatix Pro. I found a really nice processing in the “Exposure Fusion” and “Method: Fusion/Natural”. I have some presets that I use and then I adjust them a bit, when I find something that I like.

Breaking the Ice - Fused

In this case the sky turned out really nice and I ended up using this sky. I also blended the Ice with the second image, giving a more blue color to the ice.

These three images I loaded into Photoshop as layers, along with the five original shots, giving me all together 8 layers. I then started mixing the final image, by using layered masks (see my tutorial on blending layers in Adobe Photoshop here). As it turned out, I never used anything from the original shots in the final image, but only from the three images displayed here.

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