Tag Archives: Potomac River

Using Selective White Balance to Fix Problem Photos

I thought about going to Orlando Wetlands Park on Saturday before it closes for the winter (in mid-November), but the weather was quite bad. This morning, I wanted to get up early in search of a sunrise but instead had to deal with a migraine headache (I need to be much more careful about restaurant MSG). So anyway, no new shots to post this weekend.

Instead, let’s go over a technique that can be quite useful in certain situations. Normally I shoot in RAW format and use Lightroom to adjust color balance globally over the whole photograph. This works well in most situations, but sometimes a photograph can be improved substantially by correcting white balance selectively.

How do you do this? The way I do it is to open the photo in Photoshop, duplicate the image in a second layer, and adjust the white balance globally in each layer, but for different areas of the photo. So in layer 1 the sky may look good, but the ground may be off – while in layer two the opposite is true. Then I blend the two layers together using a layer mask, taking the best portions of each. If you don’t already use layers and layer masks in Photoshop, you should really learn about them. They provide a very useful tool in many situations and the ability to paint in (and erase) from one layer to the other gives you a great deal of flexibility and control over the results.

In this first example, I initially used a “day light” color balance and this brought out the sunset colors in the clouds, but the clear sky and terrain are a little too warm.

Neighborhood Sunset – before selective white balance adjustment

In Photoshop, I left the color balance as is in one layer, and in the second layer, I made it much more neutral. I then painted the clouds from the first into the second.

Neighborhood Sunset
Neighborhood Sunset – after selective white balance adjustment

This second example is even more dramatic than the first. The scene included both the pre-dawn sky and artificial lights along the far shore of the river. No matter what I did with the global white balance adjustment, I couldn’t get it to look right.

The pre-dawn Potomac River – initial white balance

Again, duplicating the image into a second layer and blending with layer masks allowed me to neutralize the color balance of the lighting on the far shore and still make the sky and water more natural looking.

The pre-dawn Potomac River, Georgetown,  and Washington DC from the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Rosslyn, Virgina
The pre-dawn Potomac River – after selective white balance adjustment

You owe it to yourself and your photography to try this technique. It some situations it can save a photo.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Washington DC

I’ve written about photography on business trips before (for instance here). If you’re willing to put up with the hassle of carrying your photo equipment (or you can travel “photo light”), and if you have an opportunity to leave early or stay late, then you may be able to enjoy some of the photo ops at your destination.

The pre-dawn Potomac River, Georgetown,  and Washington DC from the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Rosslyn, Virgina

The pre-dawn Potomac River, Georgetown, and Washington DC from the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Rosslyn, Virgina: Getting up at 5:30am and leaving my warm, cozy room to walk down to the river with my tripod and camera in the cold and dark wasn’t easy. Timing the 4 – 8 second exposures between vibrations from passing cars was also a bit difficult. But I like the result.

I had a business trip to Washington DC this week and needed to be there first thing on Monday.  Instead of flying in Sunday night, I made arrangements to get out on the first flight Sunday morning (whew, that was an early alarm!).  This gave me few hours in DC to act like a tourist.  The weather was cloudy with some rain, but that actually turned out to be an advantage for some of the things I photographed and I did manage to make some images that I like in two or three different places while I was there.  Washington is a target rich environment for photo ops – where to start?

At the first place, birds sang as I walked paths through the area.  Looking up and searching for them, I could see trees beginning to bud out with leaves and flowers, signaling the start of Spring and triggering many thoughts about nature.  As I continued, my eyes were drawn back to earth where the sight of graves triggered thoughts about sacrifice by many brave people.  I also thought about predictions of the decline of the USA, and it occurred to me that these don’t take into account the power of our belief system.  Our economy is large, and we are creative — but our true strength is that so many believe in our rights and freedoms and are willing to defend them with their lives.

Tomb of the unknowns, Arlington National Cemetary

Tomb of the unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery: I’d never been to Arlington before last Sunday. As a US Navy Veteran and a patriot, I have to admit it made a huge impression on me.

Arlington National Cemetery is located on a hill across the Potomac from Washington DC.  It’s the former home of Robert E. Lee and was taken over by the Union when the Lee family failed to pay taxes.  Arlington house (his former manor) is surrounded by grave sites of union soldiers so that if he ever tried to return, he’d have to cross that line of soldiers to enter his home.  [4/16 update:  Here is a good article about Arlington house:  http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2011/04/arlington-house-home-robert-e-lee7966]There’s a good view of downtown DC and the country’s power base from up there.  I hope that Congress glances up at Arlington occasionally before it makes decisions that may result in more grave sites.  Arlington is only a few minutes from downtown Washington, and close to Reagan airport.  There’s plenty of info on their web site for visitors.

After Arlington, I drove into downtown DC. Since it was Sunday and raining, there weren’t many people around and I was able to park about two blocks from the Lincoln Memorial and walk over for a few photos. Unfortunately, there is a lot of construction going on right now – the reflecting pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument was drained, and this limited the compositions available.

The Lincoln Memorial and me

The Lincoln Memorial and me: Last Sunday in Washington DC was cloudy with a bit of rain, so there weren’t too many people out and about in the city. I circled around to the south west side and set up my tripod for this shot. I think it’s pretty rare that you get a chance to capture an image of the Lincoln Memorial without people in the photo.

The view of the Lincoln Memorial above is a multi-shot panorama / HDR using 27 individual photos.  The full resolution result is about 45 Mega-pixels in size.  The power of the software we have available today always amazes me.

Take advantage of your travel opportunities.  Turn them into photo ops.  You might like the result.

If you click on the photos above you can see larger versions on Flickr.  You can also see these photos and a few others from this trip in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by, now go make some photos!

© 2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.