Underground waterfall retouching Photoshop expert advice needed please!

Growltiger

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Here is a photo I took of an unusual underground waterfall. it was pitch dark so I had to use flash. The problem was that the little specks of water caught the light from the flash making bright circles.

I know this will never be a great photo, but if only I could reduce the impact of all those circles it would be a good record shot.

Don't worry about the bright rocks in the top corners - I can deal with those.

I think there might be some way to make a second layer, then filter it to entirely remove the brightest parts only, or something like that? Is it totally impossible? (Nothing seems impossible in Photoshop!)

Many thanks for any suggestions - I'm quite experienced with Photoshop but I can't see a solution.

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That is some major backscatter you've got there!

I've got quite a few underwater shots that were ruined by the little flash on my point and shoot lighting up the particulates in the water between the lens and the subject. Only a few of the really backscatter infested shots were worth the effort to clean up and I wouldn't have bothered with one like yours. I'm not saying it couldn't be made *better* but it probably won't ever be satisfactory. (Hopefully my comment will be seen as an added incentive for someone to spend a couple of hours to prove me wrong.)

Of course the fix is to get the flash off of the camera. Your D300 pop-up could have been set to command your off camera hand held SB-800 without adding any on axis fill (that is what gives you the backscatter.) You would still have lit up the water droplets but they would have been droplets and not cotton balls. :biggrin:

Any chance of going back to the scene of the crime for a re-do?
 

Growltiger

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No, I can't go back, it is a long way away, up in Yorkshire. I tried a lot of shots and this was the best!

You are quite right about needing to get the flash away from the camera. I didn't have the right equipment with me. It would be even better to have the camera on a tripod and illuminate different bits of cave with multiple flashes. The conditions there are not very easy, I was standing in the stream.

I still think there must be a way to reduce brightness above a set threshold and then paint that in with a brush and a mask, but I can't quite see how to do it.
 
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what you need to do is not use flash at all, if its underground set the camera on a tripod and then use a torch to paint in the scene, this will reduce the terrible water spots and allow for smooth water flow, unfortunatly using flash with water jut wont work, that image is beyond recovery to make it a decent image no offence intended here is an idea of what I mean, different situation (its a sewer waterfall) but the water looks smooth going over the top:
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It isn't just a matter correcting brightness...

I still think there must be a way to reduce brightness above a set threshold and then paint that in with a brush and a mask, but I can't quite see how to do it.
I gave it several goes trying something similar to that but it doesn't work since the detail behind the cotten balls is missing. .
 

Growltiger

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Many thanks everyone. You are right, there is no easy answer with this one.
I just had a go at it using conventional Photoshop tools and this is my best effort. It is still a lousy photo but I really wanted a record of this amazing waterfall.

The light at the top is attached to a person who is descending on a rope, which must be fun. There is no natural light in there at all.

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Growltiger

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About an hour. I had to use all the tools I don't like: clone, blur, burn etc.

Normally my post processing consists only of some of the following: cropping, shadow/highlights, levels, PTLens, sharpening (often selective using a mask). Typical time is 2 minutes or less.

The end result is quite realistic, this is much more what it looked like.
 
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