Lunchtime Photo

A few weeks ago I put up a picture of the Sacramento delta taken from an airplane window. As usual, I got queries from a couple of people asking how I get such good pictures when all they get is smudgy crap when they try taking photos from an airplane. Part of the answer is luck: a seat up front ahead of the wing; a window that’s not too scratched up; the sun in the right place; etc. But the bulk of the answer is Photoshop. Here’s a demonstration using a picture I took shortly after takeoff from John Wayne airport in Orange County. This is the original:

Not so good! First, let’s straighten the horizon line:

Then crop:

Now let’s fill in the blank spot on the left. Luckily, there’s nothing there but plain sky, so this is easy:

The next step is to dehaze the picture. This is one of the most frequently misused Photoshop filters, but that’s mainly because people—quite understandably—try to use it to reduce the haze in pictures. I find dehaze useful in modest amounts for many things, but not for removing real-life haze. In this case, however, the dirty airplane window basically acts like a uniform haze over the entire picture, and the dehaze filter does a pretty good job of removing it:

Thanks to the airplane window, the white balance of the picture is off, so let’s correct that:

Finally, we need to clean up the sky. There’s a window smudge on the right we need to get rid of, and some artifacts that are best dealt with by simply blurring the entire area. I’m also going to modify the color a bit to get rid of the yellowish haze on the horizon:

That was a little sloppy. Sorry. But it gives you a sense of what you can do with the sky if it’s not to your liking. The last step is to reduce the picture to fit on the blog and then sharpen it since the reduction process introduces some blur. Some pictures take sharpening well and some don’t, so this is a matter of taste. I’m showing it here so you can see the difference. And here it is:

October 10, 2019 — Newport Beach, California

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2021 demands.

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