Show and Tell – Dallas Arts in the Rain

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What do most people do when it’s a cold and wet night a few days before Christmas? Well, if they have finished their Christmas shopping, and they have any sense at all, they’re home by the fire. What do Photographers do? Well they drive downtown looking for reflections to shoot. And that’s exactly how I found myself with another photographer friend outside the Windspear Opera House in the Dallas Arts District in late 2017. We got chased under cover a couple times by stronger downpours of rain, but in between, we managed to work the reflections of the surrounding buildings in the wet pavement.

Date DecĀ 19, 2017
Location Windspear Opera House, Dallas Texas
Camera Canon EOS 6D
Lens Rokinon SP 14mm f/2.4
ISO 100
Exposure 8.0 sec
Aperture f/14
Focal Length 14mm
Exposure Program Aperture priority
File Id _MG_7315

The Shot

In the last decade or so the Dallas Arts District has seen a huge transformation. Where before only the Meyerson Symphony Center stood, now there is an entire complex of performing arts centers, an around it new high-rise buildings are also springing into the air. For this shot, I decided not to focus on the Windspear itself, which was directly behind me, but on the colorful display of the coffee house in the foreground and the building behind it. Positioning my camera down as low as I could with my tripod, the 14mm wide angle lens did an amazing job of capturing the entire reflection of the scene. But as you’ll see in the version taken from Lightroom into Photoshop, it did too good of a job at getting everything in the area in frame – including a section of the Windspear’s large grid-like overhang. I’ll discuss how I got rid of that down in the processing section below.

Both the building in the background and the coffee house closer in the foreground both have rotating colors of lights and displays. I was most interested in getting a finished image that was largely comprised of complimentary colors of blues and golds. Ultimately it would take two separate shots to get the right collection of colors for both the foreground and background lights, blended together in Photoshop. both were taken with the same settings, only a few moments apart. Even with the light rain continually getting spots on the large front element of the Rokinon 14mm, I kept my aperture stopped down a fair bit to get those great sun star effects that you see in the lights around the shop. I just kept an absorbent microfiber cloth in my pocket to keep it cleaned off between shots.


Out of Lightroom Version – starting point for Photoshop Edit

The above image shows how the main image came into Photoshop. The second photo mentioned above was used primarily to light up the right/center part of the frame in a brighter gold color of a second frame, as well bring in a bit more light/color on the far left. Basically just working to balance the exposure across the image so that the detail in the foreground would not be lost. After getting the blend where I wanted it, I took a stamp-visible version of that blend into Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in where I added a Skylight and Photo-Stylizer filter to get a lot of pop from all of the colors and light in the image. When working in Nik, I have started taking the approach of going a little overboard with the intended affect and either reducing the opacity of the layer entirely, using a mask to bring the effect only into the areas of the image I want them, or often, both. In this case I just reduced the opacity of the entire layer down to 70% of full strength. The next step in my edit was a ‘Soft Orton’ effect which I picked up from Mark Metternich. His style of Orton effect is much more subdued than many I’ve seen, using a much higher blur radius (I usually am in the range of 120px) and the Blend-If layer tools. It is an effect that I use very often to impart contrast and color into many of my edits, be it of landscapes, or night city shots like this. The remaining layers in the edit (see the full stack of layers in the images below) focused on cleaning up the image of distracting elements (including that overhanging corner of the Windspear) and doing dodge/burn work to accentuate areas of the image I wanted to either make pop more or push back some to help lead the eye through the frame. The overhang was done in 2 steps, first a content-aware healing brush pass to get the majority of the dark steel beams removed, but that left some noticeable dark regions and patterns. Thanks to the extremely overcast skies that lacked any details already, I just duplicated the layer, blurred it enough to erase the patterns left by content aware fill, and just masked in the area I needed to fix.


I hope you enjoyed this look behind one of my recent favorites. If you are interested in the techniques I used in this edit or any of my other Show and Tell articles, make sure you check out all the other categories here in the Learning Center. I also offer one on one tutorials on a wide range of topics from general and landscape photography to Lightroom and Photoshop introduction and advanced subjects. Contact me today to discuss how I can help improve your photography.

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