Stormy Weather

My best man’s son, who lives in Denver, got married in July, and I wanted to give him and his bride a framed print as a wedding present. I wanted to use the occasion as a spur to make a landscape image, and I wanted something that said “Illinois”; the idea of a thunderhead looming over a cornfield was the obvious way of satisfying both conditions.

August Thunderstorm, Champaign County, IL

This rather simple-looking image was anything but simple to assemble. Since I don’t own a camera or lens capable of tilt/shift movements, I could not carry focus simultaneously in the corn and clouds; an in-focus exposure had to be made for each one separately. The corn was also much lower-valued than the sky, so the corn-focus exposure would need to be “developed” accordingly, and it was windy on the evening I took the picture, so the silhouette of the corn did not match between the cloud-focus and corn-focus exposures.

I could not get sharp detailed corn cleanly bordering on sharp detailed sky in Lightroom alone. Layering two TIFFs, one “developed” from each candidate exposure, yielded masking and gradient artifacts on the lower cloud and corn edge. Ultimately, I had to layer three TIFFs:

  • The sky-focus exposure
  • A copy of the corn-focus exposure “developed” identically to the sky-focus exposure
  • A second copy of the corn-focus exposure “developed” for the corn

Using my trusty Wacom tablet in the GIMP, I then had to manually mask in the edge of the corn with a small soft-edged brush, taking care to leave no edge artifacts. This may be the single most tedious task I have ever undertaken. To prevent eye and hand strain, I had to break it up into multiple small chunks over the course of a few days rather than go for it in one marathon session. I consider the labor and patience well spent, though, as the result is far superior to any other method I attempted.

Many people say that rural Illinois is boring. Subtle it may be, but boring it is not, and I only wish I had more time to go out and make images that justify my opinion. Consider this one small step in that direction.

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One thought on “Stormy Weather

  1. Pingback: Visiting Warsaw (Sort Of) | Nicholas Haggin Photography

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