Experimenting with Image Blending

ERJ 170 vapor MHTI am generally very much opposed to deceptive image manipulation and consider it “altering history”. On So Many Aircraft, photographs are considered a historical record, thus editing has to be limited to minimal corrections of the original photograph (straightening the horizon, fixing exposure, etc.). See this blog post on more information about the importance of accurate captioning of photographs.

That said, I recently decided to see if I could learn some more advanced editing techniques. Since I use the Adobe Creative Cloud tools, it was time take my skills with Adobe Photoshop CC to the next level. I actually fairly seldom use Photoshop, since I find that the kind of editing I need can all be done with Adobe Lightroom Classic CC.

20190419-061430
Interesting atmospheric phenomena on the wings of Boeing 737-7H4 (N465WN, c/n 33829) of Southwest Airlines (at KMHT on 2019-04-19).

I was at the Manchester-Boston regional airport last Friday, early in the morning, and the atmospheric conditions were great for some interesting photography. Early morning fog was still there, starting to lift, but aircraft taking off showed interesting vapor effects over their wings.

I took a sequence of photographs of a Republic Airways’ ERJ 175 taking off, and looking at the photographs I realized that I could arrange them without any breaks or gaps in the background; I used the shapes of the trees and clouds as my guide. I used Photoshop’s “Place Embedded” command to create five layers, one for each image. This is what the result looked like:

initial-arrangement

I then added a “layer mask” to the top four layers. A layer mask allows you to apply blending options selectively to only a part of the image. In my case, I merely removed parts of the images to let the image below show through. The mask is applied with the brush tool, and when you use a “soft brush” (i.e., by reducing the hardness of the brush), you get soft, “feathered” edges. Here’s what layer #3 looks like with the mask applied:

layer-3-with-mask

ERJ 170 vapor MHT originalAfter completing the masks I still had to selectively adjust the exposure of the individual images to make sure the edges between the images would not show. On the right you can see the final result, before cropping. The whole process, including learning about the techniques, took me about one hour.

Emboldened by my success I created another blended image, this time from two pictures of a Southwest 737 taking off. Same technique, and this time it took me only about 15 minutes to create. What do you think?

737 sunny MHT
Are you seeing double? Boeing 737-76N (N7708E, c/n 32652) of Southwest Airlines taking off at KMHT on 2016-03-12.

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