Eleven and a Half Feet

Eleven and a Half Feet
Eleven and a Half Feet, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

Here is another view of the Kurtz' Mill Bridge in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania that was taken this past November (three years after this one was taken).  It is a dual exposure HDR image in order to be able to show the bridge from the outside as well as the internal structure.

Occasionally when I post a photo I will share the tools used. Something I have found interesting in frequenting Ron Martinsen's Blog and new forum is how he and others will also include details such as camera settings and screenshots of the Lightroom and Photoshop UIs. I thought I might try that here.

First things first, this is what one of the original shots looked like:

Definitely a little flat.

In Lightroom 3 I enabled the lens correction options, cropped and rotated the image and applied some noise reduction. Both files were then exported to Photomatix 4 for some HDR work.

When it comes to HDR, I prefer a more natural look. "Halos" usually turn me of as do most not-so-subtle results. I do like some of the more extreme interpretations, but I aim for something a little less obvious most of the time. Once I thought I had a good range of tones, I brought things into Photoshop CS5 for some final tweaking.

Here is a shot of my layers palette:

Starting from the bottom and working our way up, the breakdown is as follows:
  • A touch of Topaz Denoise 5. HDR processing seems to work a little noise back into things even with the light noise reduction I performed in Lightroom 3 and the noise reduction that Photomatix does.
  • Created a lens blur effect on the bottom and sides to add a little depth.
  • A curves adjustment to fix the white balance.
  • Another curves adjustment that was masked to brighten up the white/lightly painted areas around the bridge opening and roofline.
  • Topaz Adjust 4 to tweak the exposure and color.
  • Topaz Detail 2 for sharpening. This was masked to apply to just the bridge itself while excluding the internal crossbeams at the top and the side supports. These areas, when sharpened, generated some very obvious noise.
  • Added a vignette (which is no doubt overused, but that I still find attractive). 
  • There was a car parked on the road that could just be seen through the trees on the right. I used the burn tool to make it less obvious.
You would think that's enough, but then I noticed a touch of chromatic aberration in spots. Namely a blue halo around some of the tree branches. So...
  • The blues were desaturated by just a bit.
  • I applied a warming filter while masking out from the center.
  • I applied a cooling filter to just the center.
  • I boosted the shadows while masking out the center.
  • Then bumped up the exposure, ever so slightly, right in the middle.
If you are still awake after all of that, I congratulate you!

As always, I would love to hear from you. Find me on Twitter at @tomgehrke or on Flickr. And, of course, you are always free to leave comments here.