Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Heaven's Gate

Milky Way through a gated fence at Triangle-X Ranch, Grand Teton N.P. ~ © Royce Bair
This is one of the "NightScapes" I orchestrated for our Grand Teton workshop group three weeks ago. It's the Milky Way through a gated fence at Triangle-X Ranch, Grand Teton National Park. I think it a wonderful symbol of the Old West and our cowboy heritage. The fence and gate were lit with a Coleman-style lantern placed about 75 feet (23 m.) away, and to the left. The coyotes didn't like the light, and started howling! It was taken with the Canon 5D Mark III, using a Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 lens @ f/2.0, 13 sec., ISO 6400.

L-R: Original, after "S"-Curve contrast, perspective correction, final image ~ © Royce Bair (click to enlarge)
Post-processing:  1) Unprocessed image. 2) Sky selected and my typical "S" contrast curve added in an adjustment layer. Most of the color saturation comes naturally, just by increasing the contrast. I then inverted the selection (now selecting the gate and foreground), and added more warmth to the gated fence. 3) Perspective was changed to reduce keystone-ing on the gated fence (some magazine photo editors do not like the tension that keystone distortion causes, especially on a cover): Edit > Transform > Distort. I prefer "Distort" over "Skew" or "Perspective" because it offers more control 4) The fence was extended using the cloning tool, and the night sky was added to the black triangles using "content-aware" fill. This is done by selecting the black areas, and going to the Edit menu > Fill > and choosing "Content-Aware" in the "Contents / Use:" drop-down menu. Blend with the Normal mode, at 100% opacity.

The hardest part of the process was selecting the sky (over one hour), in order to save this as a channel for the rest of the process. But the time spent selecting all the sky and stars above and inside the gate is key to one's success. Photoshop's "Magic Wand Tool" will select about 90% of the sky and small stars for you (keep the "Tolerance" down to about "10", and just keep clicking with the shift key held down to add more sky). The real work comes when you have to take the Lasso Tool and manually add those stars and areas close to the gate that you were not able to get with the Magic Wand!


  1. Fantastic shot (as usual) thanks for the details on the PP!

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