Smile – photowalk at Mahabalipuram


Today was a very productive Sunday. Unlike my other Sunday’s, this one started very early, at 4.15am. And at about 5, our gang of photostrophers started out for a really long drive to Mahabalipuram. This is small town about 100kms away from Chennai.

The main purpose of this photowalk was to capture sport action shots of the surfers. Some of the members who had gathered there caught some really awesome shots of the surfers.


I forgot to put the memory card in my L120. Can you believe that!?!? I had cleaned it up the previous night of the shoot and left it in the computer. I felt like kicking myself. However, the bright side was that I could take 20 shots which would be saved in the limited built-in memory of my camera. So had to carefully choose those 20 shots. Help did come a bit later. I’ll tell you more about it some other time. First, the first picture of the photowalk.


However a smile effects any one, it’s going to touch them in a positive way. I had taken less than 10 steps after I took out my gear and mounted it. That’s where I saw this lady. She was talking to some kids there. She had a pretty smile. I didn’t have any second thoughts to ask her to pose for me. I went up to her and asked for a picture. And she agreed, with a smile. I showed the picture, with a smile. She thanked me and said “romba cleara iruku (It’s so very clear)”, with a bigger smile. 😀

lady at mahabali puram beach irfan hussain thereddotman wordpress
The first shot of this photowalk. It’s the smile that made it the first one. Order a Limited Edition Print of this image.

And I couldn’t stop Just at that. I wanted to take a close-up shot of that pretty Smile. And she obliged for another shot. that’s when I got this one.

lady at mahabali puram beach2 irfan hussain thereddotman wordpress
A close-up shot of her. Order a Limited Edition Print of this image.


The original shots are not impressive at all. I shot them using my Nikon L120. But don’t blame the poor camera. It’s just that I don’t care much about iso, white balance, blah blah blah when I shot. And my street will not be patient with me every time when I want to change the exif. Their smiles might turn into frowns. I just shoot with my instinct. Rest of the magic happens during processing.

I had a hunch these will turn out well when I remove the colour. And so I did the black and white processing using my same old nik silver efex. I already have two tutorials here that describe my black and white processing. You can them out here and here. These tutorials show how exactly I use Nik Silver Efex to tact fully remove colour from my images. I’m going to go over this one real quick.


So here’s what I did

  1. The first thing I noticed after opening the image is the tilt. I fixed it using the straightening tool.
  2. Now to remove the colour, I started the nik silver efex plugin.
  3. I increased the structure to a 100 and that’s it at this point.
  4. This gave me a flat but a much detail image. The back ground is still too bright and is distracting the eye away from the user.
  5. I re opened it in Nik silver efex and this time I tweaked the layers and curves graph.
  6. This gave me an image with a darker back ground, but it even made the subject go dark.
  7. So at this point we have an image with the subject well exposed, and an image with the back ground well exposed. We are going to select the best parts of these two images and put them in one to get a better image. That’s where Layer masking comes in.
  8. Every time an image is processed in Nik, it gets loaded on to the previous image as a new layer. They all pile up in the layer mask panel. Layer mask the dark image on the bright image.
  9. Select the brush tool and set the brush opacity to 30%. And paint over the dark areas of the subject to brighten them up.

    The reason why the brush tool opacity is set to 30 % is it will help you gradually brighten up the spot rather than completely revealing the flat image underneath.
  10. At any point if you feel you over did the brushing, just erase it with the eraser tool, select brush again, and pick up from where you had left.
  11. When you are happy with masking, merge the two layers.
  12. Now open the Nik Colour Efex plugin and add the lens vignette filter. These are the settings I used.

    Hit the “ok” button at the botton right corer of the screen.


So there. Honestly, yet again, I have not even used 10% of what photoshop has to offer. Just the two Nik plugins and a bit of layer masking.

Final processing out put.

I have used the same technique on the second image as well. You should have guessed it by the out put of the image. The lighting conditions and the position in which I took the second is just the same. The only difference is I zoomed in for the close-up.


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