by Joe Bridwell
Well before dawn, rain’s patter on the tent’s tarp seemed endless. But water was so precious in the dry sparse desert. I thought no more – sleeping on. Next morning’s wonder – rain drops formed a delicious reflection pool.
Not just any bland pool, but one whose still, glassy sheen repeated a prominent soliloquy of red and white sandstone. Mother Nature, conspiring with water and ancient sand, had capriciously melded red and white sandstones in a piquant spire – a candy snow cone. The shadowed gray companion seemed pale in comparison. Yet its contorted shape added mystery. She also knew a photographer would innately respond to such dramatic beauty.
This transient scene lasted several hours before the last drop of water fed that thirsty sand. The lone spire, now bereft of reflecting cohort, stood in elegant majesty – as it had for millennia…
Tony Kuyper’s Triple Play Luminosity Masks
As if Eye Candy were not enough paradise, Tony Kuyper’s luminosity masks crowned its glory.
You may ask, “Joe, do you always use superlatives?”
I’ve had Eye Candy for several years. I worked on it in Lightroom and Photoshop. Yet, it never seemed to quite work out. I could get the snow cone; but getting shadows and dark layers both behind and in the reflection were hard.
Enter luminosity masks. The finesse and precision of using every single pixel in a complex mask cannot be overstated. Most notably, being able to feather edges with no halo topped the list.
Here’s a setup view for luminosity masks with TK_Actions panel open. Because of image complexity, I elected to focus on Tony’s Triple Play action.
After setting levels and reducing cyan in the sky, I chose to use 2 masks in the darks with a 30 pixel blur (super darks and ultra darks layers) to add background tone. I added a super darks layer without a blur to counteract processing.
The next luminosity mask was an HSL layer. I wanted red a little more saturated in the candy snow cone. And, the sky was way too blue! I chose HSL vice Color Balance because of a singular diversity in tools.
Luminosity Mask Workspace
As you work with luminosity masks, setting up its own workspace simplifies each task. Place channels panel at the top. Put Layers at the base.
In the panel containing actions, put Properties above TK_Actions.
With this workspace, you can view each step in preparing a luminosity layer with max ease…
TAT and HSL Color Cast Control
The Targeted Assessment Tool (TAT) works in the Properties panel on a Curves layer. TAT is one of the most powerful tools in Photoshop. Click on it, then click on something you want to change. Drag it left or right to increase or decrease saturation. It saves laborious efforts finding the right color in Color Balance, then doing the same thing again.
The top layer, an Expanded Mid Tones luminosity layer, shows the Curves Property layer. The TAT tool is a hand with an up and down arrow in the left hand column. I added this layer because Eye Candy was a little too bright. I modified the position of both black point and white point in the Curves layer. Then, I pulled the Curves layer down at mid-point to darken Eye Candy for its final step.
With practice, an intermediate to advanced Photoshop user would take about 30 minutes for this dramatic processing. Once you see the fantastic utility of luminosity masks, they’re going to become your favorite go-to-buddy.
But it’s use of Triple Play where you can really shine! Brightness, contrast, and detailed definition – Tony put so many diverse variables as one. Couple those details with an effect on every pixel in the image and edge definition. You become a true Creator of Fine Art Magic.
As for me, I’ve got an entire cache of favorites and award-winning images. Looks like it’s time to get busy! Find the original images (mostly HDR), apply Triple Play, then apply added luminosity mask magic.
In written tutorials, Tony makes it abundantly clear. There’s really no given workflow. He urges you to try out diverse routes. As your skills increase, so do finesse and intricacy of your luminosity masks in Creating Fine Art Magic…
©2013 Chopawamsic LC, google.com/+JoeBridwell, firstname.lastname@example.org