I nearly passed right by it

This is an image that I nearly missed.  I was scanning old film from a road trip in Southern California from a few years back when I came across a slough of images from the Altamont Pass Wind Farm.  It seems I'd shot most of a roll out the window as we drove by, I still get excited about windmills.  Most of them were what you'd expect, crap, not very interesting lighting,  terrible angles, cars in the way, or just boring image, but I was following my rule of scanning every frame.  As I was looking through the images, and I kind of felt like I was wasting my time I noticed this one:


Step one was to get rid of the power lines and any dust, using content aware fill and the healing brush respectively.  

Then I used a blank layer set to Soft Light and painted at a very low opacity(5%-11%) with white to bring back detail in the shadows.  

I opened up the foreground more using a Curves layer set to Screen that's masking out the background.  This is an interesting technique, you don't actually change the curves layer, just the blending mode and then adjust the opacity. I also darkened the sky a bit and lightened the whole scene just a little.

Probably the most important thing I did with this image was brightening up the blades at the end, it really makes them pop from the background and the entire image, without the contrast there this image really doesn't work.  

Lastly, using a Black and White adjustment layer I used the blues in the image to brighten everything up and really bring out the three planes in this image.

Here's a before and after.  Something that I love about working with film is you can often find detail in shadows that would never be there in digital.  Even with a RAW image those shadows would have looked like noisy garbage, but with all the work I did here the grain that comes through is just lovely.  Hope this shows how you can pull a really great image out of a seemingly worthless scan.



My name's Spensr, and I'm a professional retoucher who loves shooting film and toy cameras.  I'm going to use this blog to share work and show how retouching can and should be used with an analog to digital workflow.

I hope it goes well.