Few simple steps to capture the beauty of the golden reflection of the Moon as it rises from the sea
From my personal point of view the Moon rising from the sea is one of the most beautiful shows that nature can exhibit us. If you are lucky enough to watch this event during the blue hour, for sure you will be dazzled from the palette of colors that paint the sky and the ocean from the blue hour turquoise to the golden orange of the Moon as it pass through the lower layer of the atmosphere. Unfortunately the camera sensor (CCD) is not always able to catch the whole range of colors in the same moment nor it is able to reproduce the way our brain splits apart every single shade. For this reason it is necessary to color correct the shot after it is made sometimes using a “White balance bracketing” directly from ACR (Adobe Camera Raw).
The original shot has been made with the following set-up:
Canon 7d, Tamron 17-50 f2.8 VC @45mm, f5.6, 20 sec, iso 200
In ACR the original white balance was determined by these vales of temperature and hues: T = 3250 °C e hue = +13.
Reading the color of the sea and the sky, far from the Moon reflection, we can say that the color is almost neutral apart from a tiny purple color cast (fig.1); in LAB: L = 5, a = 1, b = -1.
This almost neutral color is not what we expected from this landscape during the blue hour where the saturation in the cold colors should be higher.
Golden Ribbon as shot fig.1Golden Ribbon as shot; the shot with the original white balance
For this reason I decided to operate in ACR and to manual change twice the white balance creating two files one for the landscape and one for the Moon glare.
For the sea: T = 2000 °C e Hue +0.
For the reflection: T = 5250 °C e Hue +5.
The files have been merged in Photoshop (color space Lab) in the following way:
Golden Ribbon color adjustment mask fig.2Golden Ribbon color adjustment mask used to mix together the two different white balances
The final result can be seen in fig.3.
Golden Ribbon color adjustment fig.3Golden Ribbon color adjustment layered structure used to mix together the two different white balances
Next step is to selectively reduce the background noise:
In fig.5 it is possible to see a magnified detail of the background before and after the noise reduction (fig.5).
Golden Ribbon Noise reduction fig.4Golden Ribbon a comparison before - after applying the noise reduction filter
Golden Ribbon Noise reduction magnification fig.5Golden Ribbon a comparison before after applying the noise reduction filter
Boosting Color and creating color variations
Small adjustments have been made on the luminosity to completely close the shadows in the cliffs on the left lower corner. Nothing have been made in the lights that are already at the maximum useful value (in RGB one channel at 245-250). Neither I made any contrast increase not to create posterisation in the shades.
I decided instead to darken the glare and to preliminarily saturate the colors in the following way:
Golden Ribbon Lab multiply fig.6Golden Ribbon Lab multiply layer to increase saturation and contrast in the moon reflection
At this point the file was ready for the actions of Color Boost e MMM from Dan Margulis’s PPW panel after the selection of a reflection’s portion.
When the actions finished their job, I suggest the following adjustments:
Golden Ribbon MMM and CB Mask fig.7Golden Ribbon CB and MMM - the mask used in the layerd result from CB and MMM actions of PPW
In the end, the MMM+CB opacity was reduced from 100% to 40% (fig.8).
Golden Ribbon CB and MMM fig.8Golden Ribbon CB and MMM - the layerd result from CB and MMM actions of PPW
To improve the details:
Golden Ribbon USM fig.9Golden Ribbon unsharpening mask to increase the details of the moon's glare
To fine tune the image:
The final result can be seen in fig.10.
Golden Ribbon final adjustment fig.10Golden Ribbon Before - final adjustment to reflection's luminosity
From the photographic point of view, this final image is more interesting if compared with the original one as can be seen in fig.11 but it presents some limits: the cliffs are lacking of details, some strands of grass disturb the subject and there is lot of noise in the background due to the low signal to noise ratio of the original file. Nevertheless, we have defined a workflow to increase the contrast between the cold and warm shades that the nature offers during the twilight and the dawn and that can be applied to more interesting shots….and this, let me say, is an interesting result.
Golden Ribbon Before - After 2 fig.11Golden Ribbon Before - After color correction a la Dan Margulis. Starting point: a cold white balance; final Point a mix of cold and warm colors
Do not forget that even the best shot you can do will not compete with the nature show itself!!
If you think that this Tutorial could be useful to other astronomy and astrophotography amateurs, please feel free to share it!!
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