The Making of ZEELAND BRIDGE ~ A Road To Fine Art

The Making of ZEELAND BRIDGE ~ A Road To Fine Art

I am thrilled to release a new fine art image taken during my extensive travels these past few months. Zeeland Bridge (Zeelandbrug in Dutch) is located in Zeeland Province, The Netherlands. It was completed in 1965 and was the longest bridge in Europe. Today it is the longest bridge in The Netherlands spanning 5,022 meters (wikipedia). I was fortunate to visit Zeeland Bridge with my friend  Joel Tjintjelaar, who arguably made the first long exposure black & white fine art image of the bridge. The pressure was on! All of my released images have special places throughout my catalog, but it is the long exposure black & white images that are the most gratifying. Simply put I change their visual reality without altering lines or volumes. Instead, I alter lights and darks, highlights and shadows. These images can take upwards of 80 hours to make and this undoubtably leads to the greater satisfaction I feel when they are complete. It is my goal that this tutorial will give you deeper understanding of my process.

~~ As a HUGE bonus and surprise for everyone, at the end of this tutorial you will find an incredibly artistic and polished video production of my post-processing method on making Zeeeland Bridge, created by Rizzo Media Factory. ~~

Zeeland bridge has been successfully photographer enumerable times. So it was important for me to do something different and not make the “same old” image.  I accomplished this through my post-processing, but my ability to make this image different is partly in how I made the original exposure. First, this is an infrared photograph, specifically 720nm. This means that the only light that my sensor recorded was from 720nm and above. This is important because approximately 95% of this image in NOT visible to the human eye. Second, I used a tilt shift lens (Canon TS-E 24mm f/3..5L) at 3/4 shift. This is important because when used correctly a tilt shift lens, specifically the shift, keeps your vertical lines straight with no geometric distortion. The human eye corrects for this automatically when looking at things which we know have straight lines, but traditional lenses to not. So in this shot, the lines and volumes of the bridge are exactly as they are in real life, just as if you were standing there. Third, this is a long exposure of approximately 192 seconds which smooths our the water and creates a sense of movement in the clouds in the sky. Lastly, I chose a 2:1 crop and gave the image a large amount of negative space. This enables the viewer to have a much greater understanding and appreciation of the environment in which the bridge exists.

Zeeland Bridge

The Final Image – Zeeland Bridge, May 2014, The Netherlands

The original infrared photograph is a far cry from the final image. It is lacking in almost all aspects of what I believe constitutes a fine art image. But that’s okay. This is straight-out-of-the-camera and I knew this exposure would be a great starting point because it is technically accurate with a pleasing composition.

You can even see at least one technical problem with the photograph — a light leak in the lower right hand corner. Lights leaks can be a huge problem in very long exposures, but this one was small enough to simply clone out. Overall the image is what you would expect from a RAW file, it’s flat and lacking contract. However, upon closer inspection see how the overall exposure is great. Highlights are not blown out and the shadows contain detail. Technical data: ISO 100, f/8, 192 seconds of exposure time,

Since this is infrared photography, a few extra steps are “required” before processing can begin. These are: cred and blue channel color swap in Photoshop, an and usually a pass through NIK’s Color Efex Pro 4 software to remove color casts, correct contract, and color balance the image.

Zeeland Bridge - color swap

At this point is time to make hard selection and luminosity selections. Hard selections, or precision selections, are made at 500%-700% zoom using the pen tool, converted into a selection, and saved as an alpha channel. They are exact, well-defined, and hard selections. They take time to make, so be patient and get them right the first time. In this image I felt I only needed to make three. One for the water and sky, one for the bridge, and one for the top edge of the bridge. Luminosity selections are made automatically in Photoshop and are based on light values, lights and darks. Using these selection in tandem, or individually, as masks gives me tremendous control over altering the light in the image, creating contrast, creating depth, and accentuating volumes.

Zeeland Bridge - Selections Zeeland Bridge - Selections Zeeland Bridge - seletionsZeeland Bridge - Selections Zeeland Bridge - Selections

Now the luminosity selections, which are all generated in Photoshop from the light values of the original image, after the fast processing in NIK Color Efex Pro 4  as described above.

Zeeland Bridge - Luminosity Zeeland Bridge - Luminosity Zeeland Bridge - Luminosity Zeeland Bridge - Luminosity Zeeland Bridge - Luminosity Zeeland Bridge - Luminosity Zeeland Bridge - Luminosity Zeeland Bridge - Luminosity Zeeland Bridge - Luminosity Zeeland Bridge - Luminosity Zeeland Bridge - Luminosity Zeeland Bridge - Luminosity Zeeland Bridge - Luminosity

In aggregate, these are all of the sections I used to make the image.
In the Channels window of Photoshop my selections are stacked like this…

Zeeland Bridge - Channels Window

These allow me total control over changing the shadows and highlights on any part of the image. They allow me the freedom to create depth, contrast, and focus the eye on specific parts of the image. This is complete zone range control which is one of the foremost aspects of black and white photography. However, to change the tonality, the tonal zones, through these selections and their accompanying masks, you need varying black and white versions of the image in which to mask in to your image. This is the iSGM 2.0 method as developed by Joel Tjintjelaar and explained in this book.

Let’s take a look at some of the key image changes I made during the entire post-production. For some perspective, this image took approximately 40 – 50 hours to process, with hundreds upon hundreds of small edits. So obviously this is a minute sample.

 Zeeland Bridge - StartingZeeland Bridge - Editing 2Zeeland Bridge - Editing 3

The primary tools you need to know within Photoshop are as follows:
(1) Creating and working with Layer Masks
(2) Using the gradient tool (linear and reflective)
(3) Making precise selections with the Pen Tool
(4) Creating and working with luminosity selections
(5) Using Adjustment Layers, such as Curves

READY TO HAVE YOUR MIND BENT! Well here’s the kicker for you…a stunning video on the making of Zeeland Bridge by Rizzo Media Factory, a great talent.

“Take in the post-processing workflow of Mabry Campbell’s infrared, tilt shift, long exposure image of Zeeland Bridge. The series of 56 images representing the key steps if the editing process are joined together creating a visual motion picture experience.”

I hope you have found this tutorial informative and exciting. As usual, please email me any specific question that you may have at or leave a comment below.

All the best! – Mabry


Image On Portfolio Website

Mabry Campbell Photography: Website ⎟ FacebookGoogle+ ⎟ LinkedInFlickr


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