Behind The Shot: “Steps”

Welcome to the second installment of “Behind The Shot”.  In case you missed the first one, you can view it here.  Today we’re looking at “Steps“, a photo I took while out walking and testing out my brand new Canon 35mm f/1.4L.  The focus had been more or less “hit or miss” for me, but that could also have been me just learning the lens.  Either way, a walk around town was just what I needed to give this highly-touted lens a good look.  As you can imagine then, I wanted to shoot as wide-open as I could (that is, as low of an aperture number possible), so I put my 7D in aperture priority mode (as I do 99% of the time), ISO was at 100, and the shutter speed was 1/800th of a second.

As weird as it may sound, I wasn’t exactly focusing on anything in particular in this photo.  I started out focusing on the grass just on the far side of the step, but didn’t necessarily like the depth of field that gave me.  That shot is below:

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So I adjusted the focus just a little bit, and got the composition and depth of field I was looking for (below):

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Very similar, but a tiny bit different.  Look at the focus of the light green strip near the upper left and you’ll see a difference.  Editing was kind of involved on this one, so I’ll do a quick overview.  First, I used my “HCM” preset in Lightroom 4.  It stands for “high contrast meep”… I come up with really odd names for my presets.  Anyhow, here’s the shot just after that preset was applied:

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A huge difference, but way too black in the blacks, and the saturation is through the roof.  Plus, that green is way too, well, unnatural.  I slightly adjusted the green using the HSL panel in Lightroom, knocked the saturation down 37 (which evened out the green, and made that ridiculous blue on the houses in the upper left go bye-bye), got rid of the annoying lens-flare on the step, increased shadow detail by a whopping 83, and made the blacks less black.  The HCM preset has the black levels at  -100, which is why the image has that wicked contrast.  In “making the blacks less black”, I changed that setting from -100 to -95.  Here is that image:

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A much more reasonable image here, and yeah, I probably could have been done… but the upper right of the image was killin’ me, so I had to fix it.  I added a graduated filter to lighten the far upper right, and used some adjustment brushes to tame both the highlights and the shadows in the image.  An overview of those adjustments is below, as a 3-part animated GIF (the ‘before’ shot is the one with the upper right darkened, the one with red markings is where I adjusted, etc):

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So finally, another animated GIF from the original shot, to the final edit:

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I apologize for the crappy quality of the animated GIFS, but you can see a stark and dramatic change from the first to final image, even though it has seemingly mundane subject matter, and no real focus objective.  Hope you enjoyed this “Behind The Shot”.  More to come!


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