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Spectral ship becomes the focal point

While emphasizing the rocks, I  missed the ghostly ship moored beyond! The Baths at Devil’s Bay, near Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

The Baths and grottos of Devil

Spectral Ship

It’s risky to take expensive camera equipment to the beach, especially when a swim from boat to shore is required followed by a long hike as the main event of the day. In this case I took a pocket Nikon S8100 in a waterproof bag. This was shot at f/3.5, 1/460 sec., ISO 160. Unfortunately, this little camera, with small size and weight as its big advantages (along with the same lovely cmos chip that Canon uses), doesn’t shoot raw images so after-the-fact jpeg editing options were limited compared to what can be done in raw format.

It was only after I printed the image while checking it with my loupe that I “discovered” the phantom ship perfectly framed in the background. And it begged to be enhanced enough to be discovered more easily. What to do?

Before printing I’d already enhanced saturation of the natural colors in the rocks, sharpened their textures ever so slightly, then somewhat darkened the foreground to separate it from a sun-blasted background. So now I re-opened Photoshop CS5 and took the magnetic lasso tool feathered at 15px from the toolbox to isolate the triangle of too bright light which secreted the sailboat. I added a 15px  quick selection tool to refine the shape and jumped it to a new layer (Command/Control-J), added a curves adjustment to affect only the blue color (clipped to just this one layer), and then dragged the curve downward just enough to define the sailboat.

There are always decisions to be made in creating or editing an image. Surely when I was standing among the rocks at Devil’s Bay I saw that sailboat and framed it deliberately in the triangle of rock. I could not have missed the perfect and serendipitous shape of rock mirroring the sailboat beyond. So I can’t really call it a lucky accident. But months later after processing thousands of images from two cameras following the shoot, I had totally forgotten it. Where my first edit was to make the rocks the only subject of the scene, now I saw a greater possibility in allowing others to discover as I did twice that there was more beyond!

I considered several things to draw the eye to the sailboat. Some I accepted and others ignored. But it was a self-aware process always focused on what I wanted the viewer to see. As a result of what I decided was most important, I recropped to put the sailboat at precise photo-center and slightly darkened the foreground rocks to emphasize the brighter triangle. Initially I darkened the sky above the rocks; but no matter how subtle that attempt it looked unnatural which ruled out a dark vignette as well. I did slightly frame a lighter edge across the rocks and foreground water, not enough to pull you out of the frame or distract from the central triangle but hopefully enough to build a tunnel of light to pull you further into the frame. The image is still about the rocks but the sailboat is there to be found.

Does it work for you? Use the “please add your comments” box  or link to Facebook to tell me.