White Sky Blues

Fixing Those Boring White Skies

As discussed elsewhere on this site (see my article titledDigital Manipulations) I rarely use digital image processing for anything other than basic corrections. I am not a big fan of using the digital process to create artificial realities. But, since I have no problem using filters in the field to darken the sky, accentuate foliage or produce other image enhancing and pleasing effects, I similarly have no compunctions about doing so with the computer.

Monument Valley Sunset, 1999

This photograph, taken in Monument Valley, AZ in April 1999 is quite pleasing, in a postcard kind of way. But, the sky is a total bore, being just shy of plain white. In fact, plain white skies are the bane of every photographer’s existence. We use polarizers, tinted grad filters, red and yellow filters when shooting monochrome…. anything to get rid of those boring clear white skies.

Here’s a simple technique using Photoshop to fix those white sky blues.

Double click on theMagic Wand Tooland make sure thatAntialiasingis selected and thatTolerancesis set to about 50. Then, chooseSelect / Color Rangeand then use theMagic Wandto click on the clear sky area. Adjust theFuzzinessslider so that just the sky is selected, probably around setting 50. Click on the foreground color square and choose a shade of blue that you find appropriate for the sky.

Now, click on theLine Gradient Tool, selectNormal,Foreground to Background. Using the tool, draw a line from one part of the sky (say top right) to another (bottom left). You’ll now have a shaded blue sky. If you select a background color of yellow, such as I did here, you can have the blue sky fade to a light yellow in the left hand side of the image, simulating the glow of sunset.

Monument Valley Sunset, 1999 – With Sky Correction (D)

There’s a great deal of experimentation needed to get a pleasing and convincing effect. The basic steps just take seconds, but in this case, for example, I spent close to an hour getting the colours, shading and transitions just the way I wanted them. Use ofUndoand theHistory Palettemake this fun and instructive. Well worth the effort.

Four Seasons —A Must-Have PhotoShop Plug-in

While the simple technique described above is available to anyone with a decent image processing program there is an inexpensive PhotoShop plug-in program calledFour Seasonsthat is worth your attention. In fact it’s virtually a must for anyone doing landscape work who uses digital image processing. Have a look at myFour Seasons reviewand decide for yourself.

If you are interested in reading other articles on digital imaging have a look atDigital Manipulations,A Digital Printing Class,Gaussian Blur Overlays, andAn Introduction to Digital Imaging. If you’d like to read about my current digital image processing gear, look atDigital Processing.