Fire In The Sky

Quick Fix: Fire In The SkyWe all love watching sunsets, looking at pictures of sunsets and, of course, photographing sunsets! The warm colors—deep shades of red, orange and yellow—evoke feelings of peace and tranquility and a sense of awe at nature’s wonders.

In this column, I’ll share with you a few Photoshop Elements techniques for improving on Mother Nature’s colorful daily finale. You can apply similar enhancements in most other photo software and, of course, in Photoshop CS2/CS3.

In Photoshop, the dialog boxes and the menu commands will be slightly different than described and shown here, but you’ll be able to achieve the same end result. Let’s start the fun-and the creative process!

Step One Step One Here’s my straight-out-of-the camera image—not the greatest sunset I’ve seen in my life.

Step Two Step Two To intensify the colors in the scene, I went to Enhance > Adjust Color > Adjust Hue/Saturation and boosted the Saturation by moving the triangle on the Saturation slider to the right.

Step Three Step Three Next, I wanted to see how a color variation of the scene could enhance my picture, so, you guessed it, I went to Enhance > Adjust Color > Color Variations. In the Color Variations window, with Midtones selected, I clicked on Increase Blue because I wanted a deeper shade of blue in the sky.

Step Four Step Four As you can see, after increasing the saturation and blue tones in the scene, my picture looks more dramatic.

Step FiveStep Five When you’re in the Variations window, you can click on an option more than once for a more or less intense effect. You also can undo your choice(s) by clicking on Undo until you’re back to where you started. In the variation shown, I clicked on Decrease Blue twice and Increase Red twice, which gave me a golden sunset-a dramatic effect, indeed. However, I preferred my first, more natural-looking variations, and I wanted to see what else I could do with my sunset image, so I kept playing.

Step Six Step Six We’re not talking about “technically accurate” adjustments here. We’re talking about having fun with an image and creating, perhaps, a more artistic image.

I thought it might be interesting to create the look of a wide panorama. In the Image Size window (Image > Resize > Image Size), I unchecked the Constrain Proportions box and doubled the width of my file from its original five inches to 10 inches. Then I cropped off the top and bottom of the frame.

Step Seven Step Seven Here’s my “stretched” image. If you like panoramas, try this technique with some of your landscapes as well as seascapes. Just don’t overdo it (that is, stretch your image too long) or your subjects will look too unnatural.

Then the idea of the sunset reflected in a still pond popped into my mind, so I thought I’d try the mirror effect on my image, which is actually quite easy to create. Here’s how to do it.

Step Eight Step Eight The first step is to make a reflected image. Go to Select > All and then to Edit > Copy. Now, go to File > New Document. A new document will be created exactly the same size of your copied image; when you copy something in Photoshop and then immediately create a new file, the dimensions of the new file will be sized to fit what you copied. Go to File > Paste and your image will be pasted into the new document.

The next step is to flip the image. That’s done by going to Image > Rotate > Flip Vertically. Take a deep breath-you’re almost done! Move your upside-down image out of the way on your monitor and return to your original image.

Step Nine Step Nine Click on your original image and go to Image > Resize > Canvas Size and check the top/middle box. Double the height of the image. I changed the height from five inches to 10 inches simply by typing in 10 in the Height window.

Step Ten Step Ten After increasing the Canvas Size, your document will look like this. (I added the black border so you can easily see the expanded canvas area.)

Final Step Eleven Now all you have to do is drag the mirror image into the expanded canvas area and line up the images. Voilá! You have a beautiful sunset reflected in a calm lake.

For a more realistic image, darken the mirror image by selecting that layer and going to Enhance > Adjust Lighting > Adjust Levels and moving the shadow triangle (on the left side of the slider) a bit to the right.

Rick Sammon has published 27 books, including Idea to Image, R
ick Sammon’s Complete Guide to Digital Photography 2.0, Rick Sammon’s Travel and Nature Photography
and Rick Sammon’s Digital Imaging Workshops. Visit for more information and meet up with Rick at one of the PCPhoto/Outdoor Photographer workshops.


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