60 Hour Post-Processing Challenge #596 - Closed, Winners Announced

Hendrik

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Hendrik
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The image could easily have been exposed one stop brighter - my bad. Consequently, the E-M5 was well out of its comfort zone. Still, playing with fire in a sea of dark pixels can be fun if it helps the story. In this case, I don't think it does. For me, a lot of the story lies in the shadows and coaxing some sense out of the noise is the challenge. It won’t surprise some of you that I tended to prefer the lighter versions. As I was enjoying looking at all the entries, some of the concerns I jotted down were color truth, the balance of the colors themselves, noise, detail/modeling, and straightening. As I continued to look, my thinking started to coalesce around the word lively. No one put the whole package together and I doubt I have, either. Anyway, great effort all and my heartfelt thanks for your entries. My picks are:

Second runner-up @Rob Rider - lively, indeed, held back by the noise.
First runner-up @relic for #2 - altering the balance of sky with the balloon made all the difference even though I notice some faint banding in the sky.
Winner @WhidbeyLVR for #2 - nicely done, Lyle. You’re on.

I played along and what follows is my version. My approach was to process the sky independently of the rest of the image. (I use Photoshop for the challenges but any program that allows the use of layers and masks would be capable of this. In fact, you will hardly ever find an easier image on which to perform the suggested selection. If you’re afraid of layers and masks, feel free to practice on this file.) This allowed me to darken the sky and lighten the foreground. (I could have chosen to lighten the sky a little and lighten the foreground a lot. It’s all to taste.) I also straightened the image after recognizing that the balloons are simply gigantic plumb bobs. Then the noise. This I handled in Topaz Denoise AI. A version with relatively heavy noise reduction worked for the sky and balloons but I was disappointed by the way the background lost detail, as if it had been painted by an Impressionist. I prepared a much less heavily processed layer that retained a good deal of the gradations in the background. I was willing to use the noise as a proxy for detail on the rock faces, much as one might introduce grain. Soil has an almost infinite ability to absorb noise. A layer mask allowed me to blend the two together. I did some brushwork to emphasize the modeling on the balloon panels closest to the brighter part of the sky (on the right.) Finally, the crop. Removing the distraction of the balloons on the right was intended to make it easier to notice the ground vehicles and figures and the discrepancy of scale with the gigantic balloons.

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relic

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I have a full day tomorrow, so the earliest I could post a new challenge would be Friday. I would be quite happy to let @relic take the helm for #597. If relic isn't able, then I will put something up on Friday.
Thank you, but I hope you'll forgive me for not taking you up on your offer. Unfortunately it would take me at least as long to find something even semi-suitable if at all.
 
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