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Resurfacing in Paris

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On a recent Friday morning, I found it difficult to get out of bed. The alarm was disabled, and there was no impetus to jump into the shower, brush my teeth, shave, get dressed, walk the dog, meditate, eat breakfast, and warm up the car before heading off to work. Instead, I succumbed to the seduction of a plump pillow and warm comforter. 

I eventually arose, walked to the window, and pulled back the curtains. Instead of a view of my familiar suburb, I was welcomed by the streets of Paris in the early morning light. Twenty-four hours before, I was immersed in schedules, deadlines, researching, production, writing, interviews, and photographic assignments. A day later, those things were a distant memory. The morning promised the first of many days where anything, including absolutely nothing, could happen. I welcomed it. 

LAID-BACK 

We had survived a year of the pandemic, which included the postponement of our Parisian vacation. Mask wearing, social distancing, grocery deliveries, and endless Netflix binge sessions gave way to a tentative sense of normalcy. The reality of that change couldn’t have been more perfectly expressed than with the view from our hotel window. 

This trip was different not only because it occurred on the tail end of the pandemic but also because it had been a year of personal change. A year filled with loss, uncertainty, and health challenges provided a fresh perspective on my life and my priorities. I had been living a life that was perpetually in fourth gear with innumerable work and personal projects and a few unexpected family health issues. The inevitable adding of yet another task or obligation became par for the course. The option of saying no wasn’t even a consideration. 

Paris provided a needed break from that. Unlike previous trips, I didn’t bring work with me. I wasn’t writing another book or magazine article, and I wasn’t conducting interviews or working on the production of my podcast. My photography for this trip didn’t presuppose future publication. This trip was entirely about the experience. 

Though my camera was always on hand, I prioritized the experience of my moments in one of the most beautiful and intriguing cities in the world. Drinking a glass of Pinot noir at Café de Flore, gazing at a Caravaggio painting at the Louvre, or sitting with an old college friend under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower was important and precious, regardless of whether I produced a good image from it or not. It took a year of being locked up due to Covid to realize how I used vacations as a time to work on commitments and responsibilities. I hadn’t used the time as a respite from life’s obligations, chosen or not. 

CASUAL PHOTOGRAPHY 

My photography became the most casual it had ever been. Activities, destinations, and even the time of day for outings weren’t based on how conducive they were to my photography. If I responded to something visually, I made photographs without the burden of achieving some personal best or finding some practical use for them. I made photographs for the pleasure of seeing and making the photographs, but not at the expense of losing out on the moment’s experience. 

I made less than 1,000 exposures during those two weeks. All the photographs were encompassed on a single SD card, with backups stored on an external drive and in the cloud. I didn’t feel any sense of loss due to my lower frame count. I thought that the time I did dedicate to image making was focused, purposeful and, most importantly, fun. 

An early image of the view from our hotel window was a perfect launching moment for our time in Paris. I stood there at the window for a long time, taking in the scene with my naked eye before grabbing my Fujifilm X-Pro3 and making photographs. 

The lines and shapes of the buildings and streets provided strong graphics on which to build the composition. These were made stronger by the position of the sun, low on the horizon. It resulted in a contrast of light and shadow that provided a complementary graphic element to the scene. Though the RAW exposure of the scene was well composed and exposed, I knew that I needed to bring the image into Photoshop to create a photograph that reflected how I felt during that memorable morning. 

  Note: KelbyOne members can click here to download a lower-res DNG version of this image for practice purposes only and, even though we’re using Adobe Camera Raw in the following steps, you can just as easily follow along using Lightroom Classic. 

STEP ONE: Open the RAW image in Photoshop’s Camera Raw converter. Click on the Profile pop-out menu and select Adobe Landscape, which provides a warmer rendering of the scene, as well as a slight boost in contrast. 

STEP TWO: The image can benefit from a crop and a change in aspect ratio. Click on the Crop & Rotate tool (C) (Crop Overlay tool [R] in Lightroom Classic), and in the Aspect Ratio pop-out menu, select the 8.5×11 option. Correct for the slight tilt of the image by adjusting the Angle to –0.21. Press Enter to commit the crop. 

STEP THREE: To enhance the warmth of the light, go to the Basic panel and set the White Balance Temperature to 6600K.

STEP FOUR: To create a punchier look by boosting contrast, adjust Exposure to –0.10, Contrast to +15, Highlights to –6, Shadows to –10, and Whites to +25. 

STEP FIVE: Increase the midtone contrast by adjusting Texture to +10, Clarity to +5, and Dehaze to +5. 

STEP SIX: To boost colors while maintaining a natural quality, set the Vibrance to +20 and Saturation to –8. 

STEP SEVEN: The image is still a little flat. So, using the Parametric Curves tool in the Curve panel (Tone Curve panel in Lightroom Classic), adjust the Highlights to –2, Lights to +15, Darks to –8, and Shadows to –1. 

STEP EIGHT: To darken the prominent building in the composition, go to the Color Mixer panel, select Color in the Adjust pop-out menu and, with the Orange color selected, decrease the Luminance to –17. (In Lightroom Classic, click on Color in the header of the HSL/Color panel.) 

STEP NINE: Next, adjust the look of the sky by choosing the Blue color in the Color Mixer and setting the Hue to –3, Saturation to +5, and Luminance to +21.

STEP 10: To add a slight cool color cast to the shadow area, go to the Color Grading panel and click on the word “Shadows” so you only see that controller. Click the disclosure triangle below the bottom right of the color wheel to reveal the Hue and Saturation sliders. Set the Hue to 225, the Saturation to 65, and the Balance to +28. 

STEP 11: Emphasize the center of the frame by applying a subtle vignette. In the Effects panel, set the Vignetting control to –8, and then expand its settings. Click on the Style pop-out menu, and select Color Priority. Then adjust the Midpoint to 29, Roundness to +19, and Feather to 84. 

STEP 12: A smudge on the camera’s image sensor is evident in the center of the sky, just above the bird. To eliminate this, select the Spot Removal tool (B) (Q in Lightroom Classic) and, in the Type pop-out menu, select Heal. Then adjust the brush by setting its Size to 55 and Feather to 45. Click on the area with the streak to apply the effect. 

STEP 13: You can now click Open to open the image in Photoshop. Tip: If you hold the Shift-key in Camera Raw, the Open button will change to Open Object, which will open the layer as a smart object in Photoshop that you can double-click at any time to return to Camera Raw. (If you’re working in Lightroom Classic, Right-click on the image, and select Edit In>Edit In Adobe Photoshop 2021.) 

To add a bit of red to the color rendering of the architecture, click on the Create New Adjustment Layer icon (half-black, half-white circle) at the bottom of the Layers panel, and select Photo Filter. 

STEP 14: In the Properties panel (Window>Properties), click on the Filter pop-out menu and select Red. Set the Density to 14, and make sure that Preserve Luminosity is checked on.

STEP 15: Click on the layer mask thumbnail for the Photo Filter adjustment layer, and then press Command-I (PC: I) to invert it from white to black, which will hide the effect of the adjustment layer. 

STEP 16: Choose the Brush tool (B), make sure the layer mask thumbnail is still active in the Layers panel, and press X until your Foreground color is set to white. In the Options Bar, adjust the brush Opacity to 50%, Flow to 50%, and Smoothing to 10%, and then paint on the building to reveal the Photo Filter effect where you want it to appear. Because the Opacity and Flow are set to 50%, you can build up the effect with multiple strokes. Tip: Use the Bracket keys on your keyboard to quickly change the size of the brush. 

STEP 17: Create a sharpening layer by pressing Shift-Option-Command-E (PC: Shift-Alt-Ctrl-E) on your keyboard. This will create a new merged stamped layer that includes the Background layer and adjustment layer.

STEP 18: Go to the Filter menu and select Sharpen>Smart Sharpening. Set the Amount to 160%, Radius to 1.5 px, and Reduce Noise to 5%. Click OK and you’re done! If you started in Camera Raw, go to File>Save As, and save it as a PSD file. If you came from Lightroom Classic, go to File>Save, close the document, and then return to Lightroom Classic where you’ll find the Photoshop edited version of your file.

 

ALL IMAGES BY IBARIONEX PERELLO