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Image Blending

By Nick Thomas - United Kingdom

Tutorial on blending different shots to re-create a visualised image.

Sometimes it is just not possible to get the image that you want in a single shot. This is particularly true if the lighting or weather is changing quickly. The image Storm Clearing over Loch Tulla is a typical example of this. At the time I was descending from Beinn Dorain having spent the last hour navigating down from the summit in an whiteout and had stopped to store crampons and iceaxe away in my pack. The storm was just clearing away from the mountains when I took two frames which were later stitched together to make the panorama below.

 


A few minutes later when I had sorted out all my gear the clouds had lifted more and I took another two frames which went together to make the panoramic image below.

 

 

Having stitched these panoramas together I realised that neither of them showed the scene as I had retained it in my memory. What I remembered was storm clouds clearing from distant sunlit snow slopes contrasting with the dark mountainside on which I was standing. The first panorama had the desired contrast in lighting between foreground and background but the summit of Beinn Toaig above Loch Tulla was still obscured by cloud. In the second image the mountains had cleared but the brightly lit but rather boring foreground was dominating.

Although the images were taken about 10 minutes apart and without a tripod, the framing of the two panoramas is essentially the same. I opened both images in Photoshop and dragged the first image over the second as a new layer.

After creating a layer mask I used a soft brush set at between 10% and 20% opacity to paint over the mask with black in the central area of the image where the mountains were obscured by cloud.

Working slowly, and switching the paint colour to white as necessary to restore the top image if too much had been removed, the final image was built up. A final crop and a slight levels adjustment was all that was required to complete the image.

 



Nick ThomasNick Thomas lives in Wales and has been a photographer for 17 years using 35mm and medium format systems. Since buying his first digital camera three years ago Nick’s work has been exclusively digital.

Nick’s current activities concentrate primarily on landscape photography in a variety of environments which can be viewed in the galleries at Land & Sky ( http://www.nickgallery.com/ ).

Nick is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society.

 

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