Phew, this shot took a while to work on and get something I was happy with!
It was taken at an underpass area in Central Park. On such a bright and sunny day I liked how the people walking towards steps on the far side were slightly silhouetted and thought that would make a nice shot. Once looking at the images I had taken in Lightroom the only thought I had was that I wanted it to be in black and white…and then the fun began.
I tried tonemapping three brackets a few times, starting several weeks ago and with a final attempt last night. Each attempt meant spending a lot of time on deghosting the images, but there was so much movement and so much variant in the light that this was never 100% successful; though the image looked fine in Photomatix it was never quite right when opening it up in Photoshop and looking at it in detail.
In the end I decided to use just one of the brackets with a few virtual copies set at different exposures, thus eliminating the need for deghosting.
I sharpened the image up a little and added a low key filter using Nik Color Efex Pro, then I opened it up in Perfect Effects by OnOne Software and applied the ‘Secret Formula’ black and white filter followed by ‘Kryptonite’ at around 85%.
Back in CS6 I found the process so far had blown out quite a lot of detail, especially in the patterns on the walls in the foreground. Quite a bit of burning here, and dodging there, I managed to get the levels back to something decent. I selected the two main characters in the images, saving the selection for ease of use, and blew out the steps in the background using a lens flare. Loading up the selection again I reintroduced the two characters into the image by masking through to the layer they were on, along with pulling back the two central columns that the flare had blown out. There was also a woman in the image that I didn’t like so I got rid of her, leaving in the three figures on the left and one girl on the right.
Finally I added a second low level filter from Nik Color Efex, brushing this in to really bring out the shadows, and followed this up with brushing in a dark vignette.
The original bracket I had is below, and feels like quite a difference. The essentials are converting to black and white, removing the figure on the left, and the removal of all of the people on the steps, and indeed the steps themselves, by completely blowing that area out.
As I say, I had some sort of silhouette scene in my mind when taking the shot – and feel I managed to achieve that. On such a busy day I had no real chance of getting the scene without people everywhere, and so waited until the couple came into the central view before taking it – the post processing did the rest. I am pretty happy with the result.