I’ve been playing with the image “Pavement Patterns” on and off for a couple days now and every time I look at it, I see ways to improve it. Instead of sitting around and wondering if this a sign of a weak or a strong image, I decided that I’ll show the various steps that I’ve gone through.
Here is what the original from the camera looks like. I took this image at 8:30 am on a cloudy day, so the lighting is quite flat and uninteresting.
In the raw processor and adjusted the white and black points, then the brightness and the contrast. Since there was not much color to begin with, I thought of a black-and-white conversion. I set the saturation to -100, then backed down to -80. I then played some with the white-balance till I got to that nice and subtle brown tone and then cropped to a 3:4 aspect ratio. A slight bump in the curve for brighter highlights finished off the first round of editing:
Quite a bit better, don’t you think? The next step was to open the image in Photoshop and paint away any dirt or other irregularities.
Now I was done with the easy parts and had to ask myself “What is this image about?”. My answer was “The pattern of the broken-up asphalt and the four different pavement materials” so I had to find a way to draw attention to these elements. My first idea was to darken the lower edges of the image and to lighten it in the middle. For further emphasis I sharpened the parts of the image that I had lightened and blurred those that I’d darkened. There — that was not bad at all, so out came the second version.
Next I decided to darken all of the asphalt in the upper left as it was drawing attention away from the middle. While I was at it, I played some more with the lower corners, which all of a sudden looked too dark. Good that I was doing all this dodging and burning on a separate layer, so I didn’t have to start from scratch every time! This was version three, and I thought I was done:
But a day or so later the bright cobble-stones started bothering me. I tried more dodging and burning, but since the stones were already so bright, burning didn’t work. I went back to the raw image again, made a copy of it and processed it so that the cobble-stones looked right. I then inserted this new image as a layer in my Photoshop document and masked all but the stripe with the cobble-stones. Now everything was looking very good! Well, almost everything — the cracks between the cobble-stones had become too dark, so I dodged these till I got most of the details back. The final image is here, and you can click on it to see a larger version.
Phew! This was a long process, but “no pain, no gain”, right?