Hot Ice And Snow

Quick Fix This column is about how to use the digital darkroom to transform a straight-out-of-the-camera shot into the image you envisioned when you pressed the shutter-release button. First, I’ll share some techniques for working in a high-contrast situation—getting an image to appear how it actually looked to our eyes when we initially took the picture. That’s mainly my objective when working with image files in Photoshop. Then we’ll see how we can bring a fanciful idea to reality to create an out-of-this-world image! As an example, I’ll use a picture I took in one of the bedrooms at the Ice Hotel in Québec, Canada.

Here’s the original image. First, I’ll use some basic Photoshop Elements techniques (also available in Photoshop) on the image. Then, I’ll switch to Photoshop because the feature I’ll use isn’t available in Elements. Hey, I try to make everyone happy here in my column!

As you can see, the lights in the ice planters for the trees are grossly overexposed. I fixed that by choosing the Clone Stamp tool on the toolbar and then cloning the surrounding areas of ice and pasting them over the overexposed areas.

When I was on site, that bedspread looked cozy to my eyes, but I couldn’t see it clearly in my image. I fixed that by creating a Levels adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer). I moved the highlight slider in the Levels dialog box almost halfway to the left, which substantially lightened the entire image.

At this point, this is how my image looked. Yuck! But I expected that result. I knew that the automatically created Layer Mask would come to the rescue.

To get the rest of the image (everything except the bedspread) back to its original state, I set the Foreground Color (at the bottom of the toolbar) to black and selected the Brush tool. In the Layers dialog box, I clicked on the Layer Mask (on the right on the top layer) and painted over all the areas except the bedspread.

I was much more pleased with my image, but I wanted the snow on the walls to be lighter. I flattened the image so that I could apply effects to the entire image area.

Then I went to Enhance > Adjust Color > Variations and clicked on Lighter. That made the planters a bit washed out, however, so I used the Burn tool on the toolbar to reduce their brightness level.

The picture still looked somewhat flat to me. So I went to Enhance > Lighting > Brightness/Contrast and increased the Contrast a bit.

Now the image started to look like the original scene as I viewed it with my eyes.

I felt as though I was in an igloo when I took this picture. That gave me the idea to create a fun, inside-an-igloo effect. Opening the image in Photoshop CS3, I went to Edit > Transform > Warp. I pulled in the anchor points at the top of the image to create the effect.

Photoshop is amazing. It gives you ideas without even knowing it. Looking at the image, I thought that a nighttime, X-ray image of the bedroom might look cool-especially if it was snowing outside.

I filled in the white areas with black by first selecting them with the Magic Wand tool on the toolbar and then by going to Edit > Fill > Fill with Black. Next, I created a duplicate layer (Layer > Duplicate Layer). I clicked on the bottom layer and went to Window > Actions and applied the Blizzard Action (an Image Effect Action you need to load by pressing the small fly-out arrow on the left side of the Actions dialog box). Finally, I went back to the top layer. I selected the back areas of the image and went to Edit > Cut to reveal the nighttime snowstorm on the lower layer. After flattening the layers (Layer > Flatten Layer), I applied the Unsharp Mask filter because all images originally captured as RAW files need at least a little sharpening.

Quick Fix All this hard work and good fun paid off for me, so remember: always try to envision the end result at the time of exposure!

Rick Sammon’s recent books include Idea to Image, Rick Sammon’s Complete Guide to Digital Photography 2.0, Rick Sammon’s Travel and Nature Photography and Rick Sammon’s Digital Imaging Workshops. He has produced a DVD for Photoshop Elements users, 3-Minute Digital Makeover, and DVDs for Photoshop CS users, Awaken the Artist Within, Close Encounters with Camera Raw and Photoshop CS2 for the Outdoor and Travel Photographer. Visit

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