Masking a Luminosity Mask for Local Curves Adjustment

by Joe Bridwell

When Jack Houser first looked at my LastEoL image, he made a comment, “Reflections in a pond are always darker than the sky!” Time has clearly taught me; when Jack makes a color or textural remark, I’d really better pay heed…
So here’s the workflow I devised for modifying luminosity masks to darken the pond. Before I could make any progress, I had to study Sean Bagshaw’s luminosity mask tutorials regarding local adjustments, based on Tony Kuyper’s luminosity mask work.
Beyond that, I faced this fact; skies had been color coordinated over time lapse of these photos. So I had to be quite careful to make similar darken pond ranges in luminosity and texture. Here’s the workflow to create that subtle difference…
Bagshaw defines both Custom Masks and Local Adjustments. His videos carefully work you through each workflow step. Under custom masks, he covers magic mid tones, increasing tonal separation, burn or Dodge a mask, and painting on an enhanced mask. For localized adjustments, he covers painting a mask, masking the mask, and luminosity painting. Here, we create a Local Adjustments mask atop a luminosity mask.

Preliminary Steps to Create an Expanded Mid Tone Mask of the Pond

Preliminary Steps to Create an Expanded Mid Tone Mask of the Pond

Preliminary Steps to Create an Expanded Mid Tone Mask of the Pond

1.    Open TK_Actions to Basic panel.
2.    Click on the channels button beside all mid tone masks.
a.    This loads 5 masks in the channels.
b.    Control click on each successive mask to see which mask best covers the pond.
c.    Here, it was Expanded Mid Tones.
3.    Click control H to remove magic ants

 Making a Localized Adjustment-Painting a Mask
4.    Choose the Expanded Mid Tones mask.
5.    Put it in a Layer Group.
a.    Add a black mask to the Layer Group.
6.    Choose a white brush at opacity of 90%.

Making a Localized Adjustment - Painting a Mask

Making a Localized Adjustment – Painting a Mask

Now, Darken the Pond
7.    Choose Expanded Mid Tones layer in the Layer Group.
8.    Make the brush roughly pond size with no hardness.
a.    Choose the mask.
b.    Paint white on image.
c.    Reduce brush size to paint on image edges.
d.    Reduced opacity to 50%.
e.    Paint around the edges…
9.    Click on Curves Properties symbol left of the mask.
10.    Set the black and white points of the pond.
a.    Pick curve midpoint and pull it down to add pond darkness.

Now, Darken the Pond

Now, Darken the Pond

Now that wasn’t so hard was it?

Red Mountain 1 - Dark Pond

Red Mountain 1 – Dark Pond

Our final result is not flamboyant. Rather, the mountain reflection is slightly more saturated and pond water is bluer… but, balanced just right against strong direct sun light of early morning.
And, the Edge of Light is sharp; as it should be at 12000’ with little haze!

This seems like a pretty simple workflow.
Yet, it contains all the inherent superiority of luminosity masks. The pond‘s darkening area is again grayscale, ranging from black to white. And the edges of pond reflections are feathered to add clarity and detail distinction.
If you’re familiar with curves, then you’ve got an incredibly powerful work toolset. Here, we reset the black and white points and darken the curve with a few simple slider changes.
Of course, the real, subtle strength lies between a Curves property and a properly adjusted custom Luminosity Mask!

©2013 Chopawamsic LC,,

About Joe 

Photographer, author, teacher with enhanced skill creating Award-Winning Photos. Joe uses Luminosity Masking and CFAM-Creating Fine Art Magic for his work!