Ice beach method

Ice beach method

This is a photoshop technique to enhance colours and contrasts in a landscape photograph. The technique uses luminosity masks similar to Tony Kuyper’s technique. Different goals are achieved through blending modes such as; screen, soft-light and multiply. Masking limits the effects of the blending mode to particular areas of the image.  Using the power of photoshop with the flexibility of luminosity masks, you can really push the limits of what can be done with a colourful landscape image. The systematic stacking of layers with various blending modes can create a speedy and reliable workflow.  The results are rich and dynamic mid-tones without detriment to the highlights and shadows, because the masking protects the highlights and shadows from all the dramatic adjustments.

Luminosity masks

These are created by holding Ctrl+Alt+2. Hold the shift key to add to the selection. (PC only – but similar commands exist on MAC.)

A typical layer stack with have the following blending layers:

  • Base layer – low contrast file created in lightroom
  • Screen layer – to raise the levels of the mid-tones and highlights – mask to protect the original shadows
  • Soft-light – to increase contrast in the mid-tones – mask to protect the shadows
  • Multiply 1 – to bring back colour in the highlights – mask to protect mid-tones and shadows
  • Multiply 2 – to saturate the high highlights – mask to protect everything else.

Small Group Ice Caving

Gaussian blur

A blur is added to the masks. Although luminosity masks are self-feathering, using the screen and multiply blending modes will affect the image clarity. A Gaussian blur is added to restore clarity in the photograph.

Tutorial video

The following video was part of a Landscape photography talk at the Adobe Center in San Jose, California. The original audio was lost and the talk was around 90 minutes. So this is just an extract demonstrating the Ice beach method with subtext and voice over.

Images produced with the Ice beach method