Forgotten Fortress

Forgotten Fortress

Brian Auer | 08/04/2007 | Santa Monica, CA | 157mm * f/2.8 * 1/30s * ISO400
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This one was taken on the beach at Santa Monica in the summer of 2007 during a group Photowalk. The light of day was fading, and the beach was fairly empty. I saw this little sand fortress (complete with swimming pool) and the bucket that was used to make it. The scene kind of struck me as interesting because of the bucket laying there abandoned and the handle detached off in the background. It had a solemn mood about it, so I snapped a few shots as I made my way down the beach.

Forgotten Fortress Post-Processing

  1. In-Camera JPEG
    As you can see, the bright green bucket is probably what first caught my eye.
  2. Processed RAW
    This is unusual for me, but I did a ton of processing in Adobe Camera Raw. I converted to black and white, adjusted my exposure options, adjusted my curves, added a warming tone, and finally added vignette. I’m not sure if I like this method of processing because it leaves me back at ground zero if I want to make some tweaks. Maybe I should start saving the XMP settings for each file… Or is there an easier way to do this?
  3. Curves Adjustment
    Once in Photoshop, I just applied a curves adjustment layer with an “S” curve to bump the contrast and give it a bit more saturation.
  4. Sharpening
    I sharpened the lightness channel in LAB mode using the unsharp mask at 75%, 1.5 pixels, and a threshold of 0.


11 thoughts on “Forgotten Fortress

  1. inspirationbit

    huh, I absolutely love what you did with this picture, Brian. Looks it was shot on the surface of Moon. I’m curious if you had an idea in mind as to what you want to do with the image before experimenting with curves and sharpening?

  2. Brian Auer Post author

    Thanks Vivien! I didn’t really have any premonitions about this one, but I loved how it started to look after converting to b/w. As I toyed with the exposure, I felt like something was still missing. So I added a bit of a sepia tone, and BANG! I knew that was it. The curves adjustment just drove it home even further, and the sharpening gave it some bite.

  3. My Camera World


    With Camera Raw there are 2 features I like.
    1st the settings you use remain in effect when you re-open the RAW file and therefore you should not have to re-tweak form the beginning but only from your last changes.

    You can also, which I do sometimes when I think that a photo might need to be several iterations of editing, save the settings.

    The 2nd and main feature I like is to load RAW as a smart layer if you have Photoshop CS3. This allows you to adjust the RAW setting within the Photoshop file. There are several times I will drop the same file in as a smart object RAW file each with its own settings and therefore I can go back and forth between versions to determine which one I like best. In fact most of the destructive enhancements such as sharpening can be placed in a smart object so you can change the settings. The down side is these files get really large quick.

    I like the image as it has a late evening golden dream-like quality to it that brings back our childhood memories. Life was so simple then. The darken edges remind a bit of the lomo effect. For my own taste the edges may be just a tad dark and if I could suggest just a bit of darkening on the very top edge as there is a tendency with the lightness to take you eye out of scene. As I think the top edge should be a little darker, not much, than the top edge around the pond (lol) just before it darkens at the cliff of the pond.

    Niels Henriksen

  4. Daniel

    Greetings from Santa Monica!

    I like the processed image better also. It jumps out at me more than the JPEG. I agree with Niels about the top edge of to image needing to be a little darker. My eyes tend to float upwards and out of the image.

  5. libeco

    It’s a nice picture, just two things that bother me a bit, first is the blown highlight in the puddle of water, which is a little distracting. Secondly I think the vignetting is a little too dark. Perhaps letting the vignetting go inside more and reduce the opacity is better? Overall nice picture though.

    It took some time to view the picture though, the first thing I saw on the page was the amazon advertisement: Satin Landing Strip G-string, ONE SIZE, RED, LOVEFIFI, New $12.50, Best $12.50. I don’t know how that ad system works, but is that related to photography in metatags somehow? LOL!

  6. Brian Auer Post author

    Niels, Thanks for the info! I’ve been meaning to try out those smart layers, but I haven’t done so yet. I think that would be ideal for me. I don’t think my RAW settings are being saved in the information file because I tend to open my raw files into photoshop as a copy so I can preserve the camera settings. Though I don’t know why I’ve been doing this because the camera settings usually stink. I’ll have to try some things out and see what works best.

    For this image, I see what you guys all mean by “too light” at the top of the frame. It is a bit bright, so I’ll have to toy around with some burning to see if I can bring it down a bit.

    Libeco, I think I’ve seen that ad pop up every once in a while too. I don’t know what the deal is with that one. I’ll have to look into having it blocked or something — it’s kind of off topic.

  7. Ben Bailey

    RAW files should always “remember” the original settings since ACR leaves the original file alone and saves all of it’s setting in XMP files. This is why you can always reset a raw file to it’s original settings and why if you copy just the raw file to a different location, none of the changes you made will show up if you open it. You can of course also save the XMP settings, which comes in handy, especially if you plan on applying the same tweaks to multiple files.

    You could also save the finished RAW file as a dng or other format directly from camera raw, IIRC.

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