I have had Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud for Photographers for a little over two years now. For me, the $9.99 per month ($7.99 from this Amazon link) is a bargain. A buddy of mine is a 3D artist and has always been my go-to resource for getting help in Photoshop, but back when I was using Photoshop Elements (a program I was getting every year for the latest features) I would always stumble into something where Rob would try explaining something to me only to find that those commands / feature wasn’t available in Elements.
I know I’ve said it here before but I’ll say it again and a thousand times more. I wish I wrote stuff down while I was in the parks or followed a checklist. I knew exactly what shot I wanted to get of Symphony of the Stars. I knew that the lights along the Hollywood Boulevard would be dimmed during the fireworks, so I was going to need a “plate” image when the lights were still on. I knew that’s what I wanted to do, but I was still too dumb the first time I shot the fireworks to shoot a bracket of the image you see above. What in the world was I thinking? I was set up in my spot (just before the Sunset Boulevard intersection) thirty minutes before the show started and had plenty of time. I just completely spaced it out. Anyway, I was able to get a decent plate image (shown below).
I brought the raw image into Photoshop and made all of the adjustments I wanted. Then I shot the fireworks as normal. Remember when you are shooting a plate like this, you need to keep the camera in exactly the same spot without moving. This is a concept I can completely understand. But do you see those really tall, really skinny trees lining Hollywood Boulevard? Those things are going to move on you, and sometimes they are going to move too much for this kind of merge technique to work. It was pretty windy that night so they moved a lot on me. Luckily there were several shots that things worked out ok.
So the above image is one of the fireworks shots. Again, I opened it up in Photoshop and made all of my adjustments. Then I selected Layer -> Duplicate Layer and told Photoshop to add it to the original image as a new layer. And when you look at the combined image, initially it looks EXACTLY the image above. But wait, there’s more Photoshop trickery to be had! To get the image at the top of the post you have to change the blend mode for the layers. There are a lot of choices, but what we want is Lighten.
And Bam! You get the image like the one at the top of the article or this other one here below. I wish I had shot a bracket for my plate (and then I could merge it into an HDR image). But such is life, maybe next time.