At Saturday’s South Pasadena Track & Field Winter Championship Qualifier, Rich Gonzales from PrepCalTrack.com asked me how long my action composite process took. My response? It depends. 🙂 And since I wasn’t very happy with that answer, here’s a longer one.
The process overview looks like this: First, I select from the RAW images to be used in Adobe LightRoom. Next, I export each series of images into their own folder in 16-bit ProPhoto RGB Tiff file format. I do this to retain as much of the RAW photo information as possible. Each of the images is over 25o megabytes each at this point. Then, I import them into Adobe Photoshop by stacking the images and letting Photoshop do the heavy lifting of attempting to align the layers.
Depending on the angle of the shot, this alignment may still require quite a bit of work. An example from Saturday is shown above. The crew had stacked long jump covers next to the pit, which meant a new angle was calling my name. I hopped up and snapped images just a few feet away from the pit and from above the action. Merging images shot that close to the action creates considerable distortion.
Once the images are in layers in Photoshop, the manual process of matching color and light between the layers, editing away overlapping areas, including where body parts touch, and manually transforming and aligning misformed layers begins. If it’s a sunny day and light is hitting the athletes at the wrong angle, shadows can also be a major impediment to the process.
After I’ve finished the manual editing in Photoshop, I export the composite image in ProPhoto RGB Tiff format again and import it back into Adobe LightRoom for further color editing, overall distortion correction, final cropping, and export out into the final JPEG file for upload. The final versions of the example above are shown below.
Since I like doing both black & white and color treatments of these shots, the final step for the black and white category is an additional edit in Silver Efex Pro 3.
If I include the selection and color correction processes, this single composite image took between 35 and 50 minutes. (A non-composite image takes less than a minute.) The same is true of the one below, though I wish I’d taken a few more minutes to double-check and correct a few poorly executed sky & fence edits before exporting from Photoshop. The photoshop files are several gigabytes in size, so I don’t save them. Triple jump and pole vault composites take longer. And high jump is a real challenge. There just isn’t enough travel, until you get to world-class jumpers like Vashti Cunningham. I hope that better answers your question, Rich. 🙂
I have a special album of these composites: Track And Field Action Composites. Reminder: 100% of all photo sales go to support local youth track and field programs!
100% OF PROFITS FROM PHOTO SALES ARE DONATED TO YOUTH TRACK & FIELD PROGRAMS!
EXIF Data Below Applies Only To The Featured Photo In This Post