Continuing the discussion of layer masks, let’s look at an application for landscapes. Below, you see a shot of Lake Sardis in Southeast Oklahoma. As you’ve probably noticed, the sky is nothing but blue. It was perfect weather for a road trip, but perhaps not so much for taking photos. The sky could, after all, be more interesting.
The second shot you see was taken months later in a field in North Texas. The sky was just right for taking photos, but though there is a nice silhouette, the landscape could have been more interesting.
Fortunately, I can offer you the perfect solution. We can combine the images and get the best of both worlds! We’ll of course want load both images into the editor. Let’s start the process with the sky shot.
It’s all in black and white:
Creating a duplicate layer, we can now create a layer mask as shown in a previous post. Afterwards, we can use the marquee tool to select everything from the top of the tree line down. From there, we can use ‘edit,’ and ‘fill selection.’ Be sure that the color you’re using is solid black.
Next we can invert the selection and use ‘fill selection’ again, this time with solid white. We then copy and paste the duplicate layer that we just filled into the layer mask. Disabling the duplicate and selecting the freshly masked layer, we now have a sky newly freed from the landscape.
Now it’s time to place the sky layer on top of the lake photo. The ‘move’ tool can be used to move and position the sky exactly were we want it. There will be a little spill over, but that’s something we’ll deal with later. Once the sky is positioned just right, we can switch over to the the lake layer, and make the sky layer invisible. On the lake layer, we’ll now need to select the landscape. The easiest way to do this is to use the quick selection tool on the sky, and again, invert the selection. After that’s done, we can switch back to the sky layer.
If you’re confused about this process, see the post on advanced layer masking.
What happens on the selected layer stays on the selected layer.
Some of the sky layer will spill over, which is the reason that it was necessary to make the previously mentioned selection. If we have the sky layer as being editable, we can use the ‘eraser’ tool to eliminate spill over. We don’t need a lot of precision here. The selection will keep the erasure in bounds, and the tool will only affect the selected layer.
Didn’t mean to!
Of course, there is still a problem. These photos were taken with the camera held at different angles. Combining them wasn’t my intention when taking them. So that means we have to make them fit. The solution is, however, quite simple. A quick crop will do the trick!
One final correction needs to be made! Sometimes a faint aura occurs over edges when combining layers. In this instance, it occurred along the tree line. Again, the solution is fortunately quite simple. By zooming in close to the said edge and using a small brush size with the clone tool, we can easily clean the problem up with realistic results, even if it’s a bit tedious.
And! The results are in.
It wasn’t a difficult effect to achieve. The layer masking, the selection, the erasure of the overspill, the cropping; none of it should give you any difficulty. The most difficult part of the process was of course using the clone tool to erase the aura along the edge of the tree line, but that was again more tedious than anything else. Just have a little patience, and you’ll get the process down in no time.