And the Winner Is....

During my recently concluded Charleston workshop I offered a challenge to my clients. There was a fountain in the downtown area that looked extremely hard to shoot-many walked right past it. The shot was difficult at best and I knew that if I made it a challenge most of the participants would put forth a greater effort. As the complaints kept coming in- that the scene was hard and it wasn’t interesting…I started telling them that the prize would be huge, never letting them know just how huge it was, until everyone was finished shooting the fountain. I then announced that I was offering a free spot on my upcoming Olympic Peninsula workshop (TBA -soon) for the winning image.

To be honest, on my workshops when I offer prizes for shooting challenges, they are never this big, but I wanted them to dig deep and really try; I also wanted to tell them all about my upcoming workshop since I was busting at the seams. I can’t wait to get out there next month and scout. I am giving a presentation to the Olympic Peaks Camera Club, Sequim, WA . I know a few of the members; everyone is welcoming me to the area with open arms and they will be assisting me in my scout-since some of the members know the area like the back of their hand.

Back to the contest, Scott Young (the winner) really tried both in the capture and in post processing, I was rewarding the effort more than the image but they did not know this and are probably just now finding that out. My thoughts are this: If you are going to take a photo-it should always be your very best, or there is no reason to even take it. Every image should be your best foot forward—-always!!!

Some of the workshop participants were not inspired by the subject and did not enter and that is ok. You need to be inspired. My challenge inspired some of the clients to look harder, work longer, dig deeper—and that is what it was all about.

Scott shares his post processing steps for anyone that is interested. The before and after image are included below. He did a great job! Click on each image to see the full version.


1. Initially, I had no idea how to approach the assignment, which seemed impossible to me. My first inclination was to try to do a zoom blur with the fountain at center but those looked terrible. I was lucky to find an angle where I could use the iron "fence" and vines to frame the fountain and leave most of it showing through. It bugged me that I could only get substantial leaves on one side but, because of the angle, there was no way to get around that without a lot of messy cloning. 

2. I did normal processing on the single raw frame in PS Camera Raw. 

(The next steps I have mostly learned from Denise's e-books and lectures and some trial and error)

3. Next I applied Topaz Simplify (BuzzSim preset) at 40% opacity to "soften" the feel of the fountain, vines, and iron fence.

4. Then I applied Topaz Impression (Davinci Sketch I) to the image to isolate the fountain and vines from the distracting elements around them.  

  • I have found that using the "Masking" controls within the preset,  I can tweak the coverage of the vignetting effect of Davinci so I used that to include more of the vines at top and bottom. 

  • Using the preset "Color" controls I changed the "Overall Saturation" slider from -1.0 to +.15 to bring back the colors in the central area of the image (fountain and vines)

  • Once back in PS, I used a layer mask to further tweak the coverage of the Davinci effect and to emphasize the fountain/vines in the center. I applied the Davinci effect at 100% opacity except for the masked areas. 

5.  In the original image the rising sun caused the fountain to have a "peach" color cast, which I liked, but I thought it was better to have the color of the fountain match the color of the vines so I used the Image-Autocolor control to return the fountain to the natural gray tones. I hated to give up that peach color, though!

6. The last thing I did was to add a "Levels" adjustment layer, brightened the image, and then used an inverted layer mask to only increase the highlights of the white water cascading and pooling in the fountain base. 

In reading back over this it sounds like a lot but I use these particular filters, pre-sets, and masks frequently so I can do them pretty quickly.  

To see more of Scott Young’s images from Charleston, check out his gallery HERE.