Loire Valley Boathouse – Stressing the Focal Point in Photography

| October 30, 2011

Boathouse in the Loire Valley

What could be more perfect than a boat tied to a quaint little boathouse with flowers everywhere and no swing set in the back yard? The beautiful scene above is one we ran across while visiting Chateau Azay-le-Rideau in the Loire Valley. As I crossed the bridge, I was instantly drawn to the near perfect composition of elements. If you are attracted to a scene, there is probably a good reason. I highly recommend you stop for a second to try and figure out why. Once you do, the trick is to get the camera to see it the same way you do.

Along these lines, the original color photo (shown below) is almost too much. Although beautiful, the camera sees everything in the scene with the same intensity, which makes it a little overwhelming. It is like getting whacked over the head with a color sledgehammer. So, because I was originally attracted to the boathouse, I processed the photo in a way that would draw the most attention to it.

The original photograph

First, let’s address cropping. In my view, the boathouse fits nicely in the left third of the photograph. If you are not familiar with the Golden Ratio, you can read a quick primer that I wrote a while back HERE that my help. It is basically the rule of thirds with a little math thrown in for good measure. In addition to being able to position the subject near a third, it’s also nice that there are a number of converging lines that also draw our eyes to the subject.

After cropping with the concepts above in mind, I ran a black and white conversion on the photo with an Adobe Photoshop plugin called Silver Efex Pro. After the conversion was done, with a click of a button, I ended up with a new black and white layer on top of the original full color layer containing the original photo.

Showing the layers and painting with mask to bring back color

At that point, I used a layer mask in Photoshop (shown above) that allowed me to “paint” in the color from the layer below. The black/dark areas in the mask layer in the upper right of the layer palette are where the color is being let through from the photo below. Looks complicated but it really isn’t.

In much the same way I paint, I tried to focus the most color and detail around the subject. If you look at the final image at the top, the flowers are more saturated the more you move toward the boathouse. Also, the vignette mutes some of the peripheral detail so we can focus more easily on the subject. Photos like this can be processed a million different ways and it is great fun to experiment to try and achieve your artistic vision. Give it a go!

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Category: Fine Art and Painting, Photography, Travel, Tutorials

Comments (3)

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  1. LeavesOfCrimson says:

    It is a stunning photograph of a beautiful scene, Lee. I can see why you were drawn to it.

  2. A.Barlow says:

    OK man, I have to admit it. I usually HATE white vignette. Until this, I have yet to see an image I have even remotely liked that used it.

    However, my first reaction to seeing this image was that it was very beautiful scene. I could imagine being there relaxing by the boat. I didn’t even notice the vignette for maybe a good 10sec. You win sir. Good job!