I recently spent several days in the small town of Lonoke, which is about 30 minutes east of Little Rock. On my first day there, I noticed a wall that was beginning to deteriorate and had begun to crumble. I was especially intrigued by its rough texture and the jagged outline it made against the cloudy sky. I didn’t have my camera with me, so I made a mental note to come back on the weekend and get the shot. The weather forecast was predicting clouds all week, so I figured I would be able to get just the picture I had in mind – the texture of the crumbling wall highlighted against the texture of the overhead clouds. Unfortunately, by the time the weekend finally arrived, I was presented with less than the ideal situation I wanted as the sky had pretty much cleared. I wanted the sky to provide a dramatic background, and a bright blue sky just wouldn’t have that feel. But, since I was already there, I took the shot.
When I got home and opened the picture on my computer, it was exactly as I had imagined it would be. The wall itself was well captured, but the sky was just a solid blue expanse that, to me, made for a very boring photograph. After processing the image in Lightroom, I then opened the picture in Photoshop and did two things that, in my mind, make this a very compelling photograph.
First, I replaced the background sky with a picture of dark stormy clouds by selecting the entire background with Photoshop’s magic wand tool, expanding and feathering the selection by one pixel to eliminate any tell-tale line from the old background, pasting an appropriate sky image from my files into the selected area, and then positioning the new sky exactly like I wanted it.
The second thing I did after I had replaced the original sky background with a new background was to convert the image to black and white. There are several ways to do this, but I usually use Nik’s Silver Efex Pro to make the conversion. This plug-in has a number of presets that I will often use as a starting point and then make whatever adjustments I need to make to get just the look I’m wanting. Converting this image to black and white enhanced the texture of the wall and clouds and increased the sense of drama in the final picture.
Settings: Canon 5D Mk II, 200mm, 0.8 sec, f/22