This is the time of year to see trees – to really see them, in their naked glory. I love to see the branch patterns silhouetted against the sky like pen and ink drawings.

Panorama of Quercus kelloggii, California Black trees in winter silhouette branches against foggy sky at ridgeline on Pinheiro Fire Road, Rush Creek Open Space, Marin County

Across the street from my studio is a wonderful open space, the Rush Creek Open Space, and on the ridge above the Creek and marshland is an undisturbed California native habitat dominated by black oaks, Quercus kelloggii. My previous post, Oaks Inspire Art, was inspired by a rainy day walk and a sense that the earth is coming alive now that the rains have arrived.

Our summer-dry climate may have begun its rejuvenation, but the trees say winter has started. The deciduous Oaks have lost their leaves and the branch patterns are a delight to study.

I was having trouble bringing out all the fine detail in the branches in my normal post production work in Adobe Camera Raw when I got back to the studio. The bright highlight areas of the sky overpower the small details, washing them out even when using the highlight recovery tools. I tried it to darken the exposure overall but I was able to see the small branches but it made the whole photograph too dark.

 Before and After Slider

So I turned to Photoshop and created a new layer for the Image > Adjustment tool > Shadows/Highlights that seems like magic, as so many of these computer tools seem to be. The branches are recovered, the “drawing” seems complete.

Screenshot - highlight recovery, oak branches, file 970

The tool offers user-defined settings and I used as much highlight recovery Amount as I could, 100%, but set the Total Width fairly low, at 32%, which is about as high as I could go to pull out the small branches without affecting the range of tones in the orange leaves.

The realization of how wonderful this work with the bare branches made me do the same with this pattern of leaves against the sky.

 Before and After Slider

The photo seems so much more full with its little branches, the little details, back into place.

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