Textural contrast establishes areas rich in detail

Sample 1:
Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road. Taken at dawn on a windy morning. The rough seas were smoothed out with a long exposure, which created a misty feel at the base of the rocks. A long lens brings a more intimate atmosphere to the scene. Canon EOS 6D, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L II lens,
63.0s f/11, IS0100. Benro tripod, cable release, ND filter. Colour, local contrast, `orton’ effect done in Adobe Photoshop CC. Image by David Lee.

Textural contrast
Textural contrast establishes areas rich in detail which are accentuated by other areas of the image that are relatively smooth or lacking texture. This can be achieved through field techniques such as shooting for long exposure water cascading around textured mossy rocks. Similarly, long exposure skies (clouds) flying past a stationary building with texture also gives this effect. In terms of post processing, two possible methods of introducing this type of contrast are to either ‘soften’ certain parts of the image or to selectively sharpen various parts of the image to different degrees. One of the common ways of introducing a soft or glowing appearance to an image is to use what is termed the `orton effect’. Below is one (of many) methods used to achieve this effect.

Step 1: Duplicate your working layer twice (the background layer usually) and disable the top layer by clicking off the ‘eye’ icon.

Step 2: On the middle layer, introduce a very heavy Gaussian blur of approximately 20-40 pixels. Slide the opacity of the layer to approximately 10-30% depending on how much of the blur effect you would like. Increase the brightness and contrast until the bright parts of the image appear ‘glowing’.

Step 3: Select a ‘bright’ luminosity mask from your panel/ channels palette and create Slayer mask on this blurred layer. You can modify this mask manually by painting with a black brush to remove the effect, or a white brush to re-include the effect on dark areas. You now have an image which
is blurry and glowing, but lacking in detail. It’s time to bring back some of that detail.

Step 4: On the top layer, create a high-pass filter and adjust the radius until you start to see details of the original unblurred image show through. This is best done while the image blend mode is ‘normal’. Once you can see the appropriate amount of detail, change the blend mode of that layer to soft light for a mild effect or overlay for a more prominent effect. The result should be an image that is both soft yet retains details.