In part one of this article, I showed how I capture and pre-process files in Adobe Camera Raw.  Then I show the assembly of a two row panoramic capture using Photomerge. Now, it’s time to tweak the resulting files using Photoshop and the Adobe Camera Raw filter.

Processing after Adobe Camera Raw

My first stop was to get the sky straight. I selected a section of the center sky, and put it on its own layer. That selection was dragged to the side and the Mode was changed to Darken. The layer was copied using CMD/Ctrl + J and flipped with Free Transform so I could move it to the opposite side of the sky.

Darken Mode on these layers made the lighter pixels disappear without making selections.
Right-click on a layer, and select Convert to Smart Object.

Convert to a Smart Object

I selected the sky and placed it on its own layer. Convert the layer to a Smart Object so settings can be massaged even after accepting them. You can do that by Crtl + Click (Mac) or by right clicking on the layer to invoke a dialog box that shows Convert to Smart Object. Shortcuts not your thing? Go to Filter > Convert for Smart Filters.

Select Color dialog.

When using Color Range, go to Select > Sampled Colors. Click the + eyedropper and add to the colors you are choosing. The selection can be tweaked by using the Fuzziness slider.

Screen shot of surface blur dialog.

With the sky layer selected go to Filter > Blur > Surface Blur. Settings are dependent upon image file size. In this case, Radius was set to 48 and Threshold to 15. You will want to work on this by eye. This should take care of the issue. If there is still a little banding the rest can be taken care of with the addition of a little noise.

Adding noise

Add Noise dialog box.

Create a New Layer. Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + N. In the New Layer dialog, check the box labeled Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask.

Choose Overlay Mode and select Fill with Overlay-neutral Color (50% gray). Then go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Set Monochromatic and play with distribution. Depending upon the banding, either Uniform or Gaussian may work better. Add as little Noise as possible to remove the final banding. After adding noise you may want to add just a tiny bit of Gaussian Blur with a setting of about .8 to lessen final banding.

Final tweaks

Screen Shot of Layers after the image went through initial processing.

Then I merged the layers. To do this, click the top layer before using the shortcut keys Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + Opt/Alt + E. I then made a Marquee selection, including the canyon, and exported it to Luminar for some selective sharpening, Orton Effect and Glow.

When the result was retuned, I added a black mask. Painting on the mask with white at a 50% opacity, I was able to selectively get the result I was looking for in the canyon portion of the image.

Almost done; the canyon needed some extra love and attention.

Especially in an image such as this, additional depth and dimension can be added by dodging and burning. Darkening shadow areas just a bit while lighting slightly brighter areas makes the image feel stronger. I use a layer set to Soft Light. Set the brush at 5–10% opacity while gently painting with black and white.

Final image

Here’s my final image. I stayed realistic in this process. For my art clients I would probably enhance the sky with some birds in the distance on the right side of the sky to balance the tree.

The result of these merged files turned into an almost 13,000-by-6,400 pixel image. That equates to a 21-by-43 inch image at 300 DPI. When printing to canvas this photo can easily be printed 42-by-86 inches without up-sizing the file. This also works to have plenty of file to crop into a 20-by-30 inch at 300 DPI as well.

A 20-by-30 inch crop of the image still has plenty of information to create a large print from a crop.

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob