Behind the shot: Mills Lake flowers

I don’t often do a lot of blending in PS (Photoshop) of my photographs, but when I was out recently in Rocky Mountain National Park I knew I would need to.

My goal in shooting this stream (shortly before sunrise) was to have both milky smooth water and sharp flowers. Since the former requires a longer exposure, the flowers are unlikely to stay perfectly still. Even on a very calm morning (which it was), the flow of the water itself would create a little breeze.

So, I took one longer exposure for the water and a shorter one for the flowers. I composed it to keep the flowers out of the water to make blending easier later.My original plan was to leave the aperture set between the two and only change ISO (so higher ISO for faster shutter speed and lower for the slower one). Long story short, I ended up using two different apertures to capture it to get the water the way I wanted it as well as getting sharp enough flowers (and not going too high on the ISO for noise).

I did basic adjustments in LR (lens correction and minor exposure adjustment) to one file then synced it with the other. Then opened as layers in Photoshop, aligned, and applied a mask to remove the top layer to reveal the bottom. I worked between 50-100% opacity on the brush to blend. Back in LR, make a few more adjustments such as clarity, white point, and vignetting.

Anyway, the biggest challenge was having two different depths of field via the different apertures. Because the depth of field was less on the flower frame, the immediate background is blurry, while it wasn’t in the frame for the water. Look closely, and you’ll see sharp flowers, blurry rock/immediate background, then sharper background around the water. I think I balanced it ok, but in the future I’ll think twice before using two different apertures and go with a neutral density filter to lower the light and therefore increase the exposure.)

Just below Mills Lake, RMNP, CO

Two shots: Flowers f/5.6 @1/6 and Water f/8 @1.0s; Pentax K-5, Sigma 10-20 mm Lens at 20mm, ISO 800

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