London Nights – Millennium Bridge
When I took this I wasn’t sure if it was a picture of the Millennium bridge or the Shard, heck, you can see Shakespeare’s Globe so maybe it’s a shot of that….
I took this a few weeks ago during a cold London Photowalk (if you live in London you should really join in on these walks) but it’s taken a bit of wrangling in post processing to get it right. This is about the fifth incarnation and to be honest I’ve had enough of it! My tripod also suffered a serious mishap and I woke the next day to find it was missing a foot, whether this was before or after consuming many pints that evening I’ll never know but the good folks at 3 Legged Thing sent me a new one…….free! One of the advantages of having a quality tripod is that it can all be taken apart, bits can be replaced/swapped/cleaned/lubed/rubbed down/thrown at children etc. The disadvantage of this is you need to make sure every now and then that everything is nice and tight, like a fat man wearing hipster jeans.
So, this is a 3 shot HDR bracketed at +/- 2 stops, 17mm, f8, ISO 200 on my 7D with a Sigma 10-20 yada yada, with another -4 shot thrown in. The fourth shot is taken from dropping the exposure of the darkest image another 2 stops in Lightroom, above is the 4 shots. Each shot de-noised in Nik Efex Difine before being combined in Photomatix. Just like my other 2 images I just focused on making sure all the detail was there without any nasty haloing while not being to worried about its washed out appearance. This shot took a bit of work to get right and I’m not sure I’ve gotten it as good as it could have been to give me the best possible base to work with, the end result is below.
Then I’ve colour corrected, pre-sharpened and straightened and the image. It was a freezing cold night so I’ve gone quite blue with the colour correction, I probably pushed it a bit further than the reality was but I’m happy with the blue. The sharpening was done in Nik Efex Raw Pre-Sharpener and I used Transform-Skew in Photoshop, basically to make the Shard vertical instead of leaning. As you may have noticed from the screen shots, this may or may not be the order in which I did things…This image has been in the works for a while and quite a few whiskies have been consumed during its post processing, I can’t be held accountable if I can’t remember the order things were done in.
The next step is what took me the longest. Essentially all I needed to do was add some contrast and detail into the image. I mucked around for ages using mostly Nik Efex Colour Efex 4, adding detail with the detail enhancer, Pro-Contrast, Dark Contrast etc, all sorts of things with complicated masking added as well, each one looked worse than the last.
Turns out I just needed to be a bit more subtle, I loaded up my old stalwart, Nik Efex Viveza and gave it a gentle tweak, you can see the settings I used above, then a slight Contrast boost with Pro-Contrast in Colour Efex 4 and the a very slight application of darken/lighten centre, more to even out the image than anything else (the corners were looking a bit bright). Finally a couple of subtle level and curves adjustments, masking out the bridge, were applied which left me with the below.
All these tweaks have enhanced what I suspect was my initial sloppy HDR processing (I did try a few times but never got better results than my first try!). You can see some weird things going on in the sky around the bridge, I decided my best bet was to use the clone tool. Since all the lines of the bridge are pretty much straight it was easy to select the bits that I wanted to change, effectively meaning I could clone to my hearts content and not erase the bridge! As you can probably guess I cloned dark bits of the sky over the light bits, being careful to try and create a smooth transition. My cloning skills are a bit ham fisted and I’m sure someone who knows what they’re doing could’ve done a better job.
Finally I threw in an exposure gradient into the top right of the sky to darken it a bit and I decided I was done! The screen shot below shows the final result, you can also see all the layers and the masking on my final curves and exposure tweaks, Ignore the Silver Efex layer, I just wanted to see what it looked like in black and white.