Trail of Orange

It’s funny how many times you take a photo with all expectations of creating a masterpiece… only to find out that it’s not at all usable or to your liking. For some reason it looked better through the viewfinder than it did on your computer screen. Then there are the times that you take a photo with no high hopes of creating that gallery worthy photo, but it turns out pretty darn good. This one is more the latter than the former. It’s not my best, but it turned out a lot better than I thought it would. A first glance at the original, and I was ready to forget about it.

I took this photo while I was exploring parts of the Delaware Water Gap on the New Jersey side. There are several trails follow various creeks and rivers feeding into the Delaware. I was hiking up one such trail, mostly taking photos of the small waterfalls, when I noticed a fallen tree with some orange fungus growing on it. I noticed it because I was using it as a base for my mini tripod while shooting a nearby waterfall. So I stepped back and took a few shots of the tree and it’s fungus, varying my angles and compositions. The photo shown here probably turned out the best because of the strong diagonal impression from the tree trunk.

If I could go back and do it again, I would have done one of two things: used a smaller aperture to get a better DOF and/or focused closer to the foreground to bring the front of the picture into focus and let the background fade off into a blur. You can see here that the foreground and background are both out of focus, but this is a difficult type of shot to deal with DOF in because I was so close to the tree in the foreground — I might have even had my shoulder against it as I laid on the ground to get the shot. Next time I get the chance for a shot like this, I’ll be sure to experiment with the DOF a little more.

Trail of Orange

The original JPEG (1) on this photo was a bit blown out in the highlights while being clipped in the shadows at the same time. The shadows didn’t bother me so much, but the highlights looked pretty bad — plus the white balance was a bit warm. The RAW file had better dynamic range, so the highlights were preserved much better. After editing the RAW with ACR (2), the exposure and white balance looked a lot better. I fiddled around with this one for a while, and I eventually settled on going black & white (3) using the channel mixer in Adobe Photoshop. This looked… okay… but it wasn’t getting me excited. So I punched some holes in the black & white conversion with a layer mask and let the trail of little orange fungi shine through (4). Now we’re talking! The final steps (5) included a color burn and color dodge layer blend at low opacity to boost the contrast and add depth to the texture of the tree, followed by a bit of sharpening.

The real key to this photo was the selective coloring step using the layer mask. By selecting only the orange items to be shown in color, I’ve added a little something extra to the black & white photo. It works in this photo because the orange isn’t terribly overpowering in comparison to the rest of the image.

Orange Fungus Trail

Photo by Brian Auer
10/07/06 Delaware Water Gap, NJ
Trail of Orange
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
90mm equiv * f/10 * 1/13s * ISO400

This entry was posted in PhotoBlog on by .

About Brian Auer

a photography enthusiast from North Idaho. He's also the guy behind the Epic Edits Weblog. As a hobbyist photographer since 2003, his passion has been to constantly improve his photography skill set, to share his own knowledge with others, and to become an integral part of the photographic community.

11 thoughts on “Trail of Orange

  1. Brian Auer Post author

    Thanks Jenni. The layer blends that make up my step 5 are a pretty common method I’ve seen when working with black & white. It’s interesting how it affects the photo differently than a curves adjustment would. I know it’s a little hard to tell the difference in the small photos I’ve provided, but those layer blends made a pretty good change in the full sized image.

  2. Jenni

    Hey Brian, I just tried it and it really made a difference in the image. Thanks for the tip :) I’m still learning how to deal with photoshop.

  3. Brian Auer Post author

    It’s a serious program. I probably don’t know more than I do when it comes to Photoshop. There are so many little tips and techniques out there, it’s hard to keep track of them sometimes.

    And don’t even get me started on the Photoshop pros. I usually have to cry myself to sleep after watching them use the software. There’s something superhuman about them… it’s not right.

  4. Jenni

    Definitely. Sometimes I wonder if even the people at Adobe still know all tricks there are and what stuff can be done with Photoshop. Somehow I doubt it.

    If you are interested in the picture I was working on, I linked to a page with the picture before today and after today from my Blog. Looking at it now, I might have to do some more work on it, it became to bright.

  5. Brian Auer Post author

    Actually, it doesn’t look too bright. But if you want to darken the highlights, just decrease the opacity on the color burn layer copy (or whatever blend you used to brighten). Or you can always add another curves adjustment on top of everything and do it there.

    The one leaf is a little brighter than the rest of the black & white parts, so you could do some selective dodging with a curves adjustment layer, a mask, and a soft brush. The flowers seemed to have lost a bit of their pinkness too, but you should be able to just mask them out on the color burn adjustment layer to get their color back.

    That’s a good photo for selective coloring, though. Without it, the flowers might not stand out as much in the black & white image. The color image doesn’t look too shabby either — it looks like you have some nice reds and greens to play with in there.

    I like the new blog you’re doing. I’ve already subscribed to the feed. I look forward to seeing more of your work.

  6. mike

    I never try this before and really don’t know how till now. I can make everything black and white with photoshop but was never able to select a specific color to stand out. Going to try this with my old winter photos.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>