Phone booths, Big Ben and how the hell?
Woah! It’s my second London nights tutorial watsit. It’s a London phone booth/Big Ben (ELIZABETH TOWER damn you!) HDR/Tiltshift shambles!
I was wandering around the Southbank and the Northbank trying to find inspiration for a shot, thinking of something involving either the parliament building or County hall/London eye. But the sky was very dull and boring I couldn’t see anything else that tickled my fancy. Also, on a side note, all shots of County Hall taken from across the river are now ruined by the top of the Shard which rudely photo bombs over the top of the building like a drunk friend of a friend of the London eye.
Then I saw these phone booths with Big Ben (I’m going to use it’s incorrect name as that’s what most people know it by) in the background. I thought maybe with a wide angle lens, from a low angle, big booths in the foreground, Big Ben in the background, maybe out of focus, maybe using a tilt shift effect, something might just work.
So this is a 3 shot + 2 shot shot +/- 2EV HDR at ISO200, f5.0 using my Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6. The reason it’s a 3 shot plus 2 shot as when I got back home I realised even my darkest shot was showing an almost completely white clock face, a common problem when shooting Big Ben at night. Bringing down the exposure of the darkest shot in Lightroom by 2 more stops brought the detail back so I figured what the heck, lets raise the brightest by 2 stops as well, almost certain overkill and it may have made things worse instead of better, but oh well, they look pretty all lined up…
I pre processed and combined the shots in Photomatix the same way as I did in my Tower Bridge shot from the other week. Here’s the final result after I cropped it square to remove all the dead space at the top of the image (and a bit from the bottom) and altered the converging verticals a bit. Oh, and after altering the converging angles I had to do a little cloning on the bottom left corner to fill in the lost space, the discarded drink bottle went too.
Next I’ve slammed it through Nik Efex Viveza to boost the structure and saturation followed by Colour Efex 4 (which I’ve just got) to adjust the contrast. I seriously recommend you try Nik Efex software out, they have trial versions available, prepare you credit card once you’ve tried em though… These adjustments boosted the yellows WAY too much so a hue/saturation layer in Photoshop removing the yellows helped sort that out. Here’s what I ended up with:
Probably still a bit warm but I’ve got my final image in mind so I think I’m ok…
Next it was time to apply a tilt/shift effect, I’d wanted to do this for 2 reasons. 1, I thought the scene would suit it when I first shot it and 2, I’d just gotten Photoshop CS6 which had a dedicated tilt/shift filter which I wanted to try out. This new filter has its plusses and minuses, it’s got lots of control and it’s got lots of control! As you can see below I’ve used several layers just for this effect. The first was the main application of the effect, the beauty of this filter is the control over the focus fall off, the left side of the image has a gentle roll off into blur whereas the right drops off straight after the edge of the booth. A second layer had to be used to blur the chimney of the building in the background and the edges of the tree. Another one was used for the windows of the booth. Look at the building through the booth, blurry yes? It wasn’t originally, but I didn’t notice until I’d finished the image, once I’d seen it I could not un-see it, so I had to go back to it again. If you want more info on this new filter there’s few tutorial videos on Youtube that Adobe released talking you through them.
Finally I’ve used Nik Efex Silver Efex Pro2 too create a high contrast black and white layer with a bit of added structure (possibly too much?) and a heavy vignette. I’ve then lowered the opacity on the black and white layer to 67%. I do this a lot, it creates interesting de-saturated images a bit differently than simply lowering the saturation. I’ve then boosted the reds a bit so the booths jump out. A few curves and level adjustments to make the whole thing pop and I’m done. The curves adjustment is important as the combined low opacity black and white layer tends to suck away the contrast so it needs to be added back in.
I’ve also done a gritty version where I just added a bunch of film grain to the black and white layer. I can’t decide which I prefer but here it is as well. Which do you prefer, if any?