Finding great composition in St. Augustine Florida is an easy task as one drives along the shores of the Atlantic or the inter-coastal waterway. When I found the “perfect shot” earlier this month, it was from a roadway bridge. As is generally the case, bridge shots typically involve having to deal with the obtrusive power lines passing through the image. For some reason, FP&L does seem to perefer placing their power poles and lines on the most photogenic side of a roadway. Normally, these obstructions are sufficiently awful to discourage all but the most hopeful photographer from considering the shot. But, the light and composition this morning was an offering that I did not want pass up. I figured that I would come up with a way to remove any power lines in post processing if the images were as strong as I thought they would be. I think they were!
I should note that I did try to capture the image from several alternate locations along the bridge and shore, but none offered the composition that I found on the bridge itself.
Removing a defect like a power lines without leaving any blemishes to show up on the print is a challenging task. The proper solution for these images required a little creative thinking and several different approaches. Here is the raw image with the power lines as they were captured.
Initially, I tried several strait forward approaches to removing the power lines, starting with the “lasso tool” and “fill” with “content aware.” Normally that works, however because of the subtile range of color hues in this morning sky, that approach left telltale halos. Also, neither the “clone stamp” tool nor the “spot healing” tool delivered a consistent result across the full image.
Like many of the problems in life, several solutions came to me in the middle of the night. I eagerly awaited for the 5:30 am alarm to arise and try my dream solution.
Here was the problem: I needed a way to allow for the replacement of the power lines and immediately attached sky with a closely matching sky color. The best match would come from a location very close to lines being removed. That initially led me to the failed attempt with the “clone stamp” tool. A real test of how well you match colors and texture with such replacment in a cloudless sky like this is to switch to a B&W filter. Then, the flaws in color and texture pop up clearly.
The final solution that I came up with might work for you some day. It required working with a duplicate layer and mask.
The duplicate layer was moved up about 1/4″ upwards on the original image. Then I created a black mask of the duplicate and applied the “clone stamp tool” to remove the portion of the mask that covered the power lines in the original image. This technique resulted in the color of the sky and power line being replaced from an adjacent area, and made for a near perfect match. The image below shows a screen shot of the original and duplicate layer with a mask at 50% opacity — note, the correction will require 100% opacity. The darker lines of the obstructions that are shown in the image are the lines that will be replaced with an area on the duplicate layer.
I did try to make theses corrections using just the spot healing tool and the clone stamp tool without a duplicate layer, but could not avoid halos in the colors that prominently popped up in the prints. There may be other solutions, but my final solution worked very quickly — I always prefer a simple solution that allows for the least alterations. This tends to produce a cleaner final print.
The shrouds on the sailboats – these are the wires that angle up to the mast — required use of the “clone stamp “tool moving up along the shrouds to eliminate the power line that crossed these lines.
Below is the final image with proper color balance and exposure. I was fortunate that I did not have to deal with a reflection of the lines in the water. I avoided that problem in setting up the shot from the bridge.
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