I have tackled this exercise in two ways, the first was to use several images of the same subject to add detail to the sky and sea the second was to utterly restructure the image.

Here is our base Raw file:

step 1 base imageSo an image of Venice taken from the vaperetto, its a little dull and the sky is boring.

The first task was to take three images 2 stops apart so -2, 0 and +2

The Base HDR Images

HDR -2 HDR 0 HDR +2
-2 0 +2

 

In this example I have take three images separated by 2 stops so that every element of the image is in the dynamic range somewhere.

These images were then fed into my NiK HDR software to combine them in to one high dynamic range image:

Finished
The result is an image that is clearly an HDR image, it has some tell tail traits, I am not keen on the way there are halos and the treatment of structure. Some images work exceptionally well others don’t.

Method 2 Really Letting Go of All Limitations

Ok so if I now impose no limitation on what is allowed and what is not what can we do to this image?

Step 1 Remove the offending parts

Step 2 cut out land So I am thinking this could be a great image if it had a cool sky and the building was reflected in the water, problem is not enough water so lets go mad and swap everything in step 1 all I want from this image is the buildings:So in the first image I have masked and removed the sky and sea and changed the canvas size to accommodate the new image.

Step 2 Find some Sea

Step 4 Select new sea In Step 2 I found some water I liked that was a bit flatter so it would take a reflection and had some waves to add interest.I sized it cut it and adjusted the colour etc.

Step 3 Nice Sky

step 5 Select new sky One thing I do now all of the time is when I see a nice sky or cloud formation I take an image of it so that I build up a library of alternate sky’s. This one was taken in the English countryside far away from Venice.I sized and adjusted the contrast tone etc so that it almost fits with the image. Later I will make adjustments taht make everything fit together better.

Step 4 Joining Land and Sea and Sky

Step 6 Combine sea land and sky The three major elements are now all in one file, and layered in the right order. this is done by copying each layer to a single file.Its not bad but there is so much more to do.

Step 5 Add a reflection of the sky in the sea

step 7 add sky reflection To add more atmosphere I have added a reflection of the sky to the water, note I left a band at the top where the buildings would prevent this reflection.I copied the sky layer and flipped it upside down to create the reflection

Step 6 Reflect the buildings

step 8 add land reflection This step is really where this image edit is going to reflect the buildings in the water.I copied the building layer and flipped it again just like the sky then I aligned it with the bottom of the other layer. It needs to be a mirror reflection.

Now we are starting to get somewhere bye by reality hello imagination!

Step 7 De-saturate the Water

step 9 desaturate the water The water is now too bright for the image and the colour feels wrong so I added a hue / saturation adjustment layer and created this version of the image, to make the water look more real.

Step 8 Adjust levels and exposure

step 10 adjust levels and exposure Next I added two adjustment layers to correct the exposure and and levels and help the picture to pop more.

Step 9 The final image

Step 11 final touchIn the final image I used Vivasa which is one of the Nix tools for adjusting colour images, it allows you to stack a number of filters, fo this I added a colour contrast filter just to give the image more impact I was quite pleased with the final result.

Conclusion

I waded right out into the mainstream of photo interference here, no one can say the image reflects reality. I did an experiment with it to see how it was received by the public, I put it on Pixoto and Gurushots and entered several of the competitions, it got lots of votes it won lots of duels, so people obviously liked it. I cant tell if they think I was so lucky to be there on such a cloudy day with the perfect reflection, or if they think its a good bit of photoshop, I can tell I wonder what percentage of the population can.

In the end again I conclude it does not really matter if you like the image, at the end of the day we create images for people to enjoy, well some of us do some just want to shock and I suppose a great spectrum of other reasons.

I still have no moral dilemma Photoshopping the hell out of an image!