Dehazing the Summer Palace

On our recent trip to China, my wife and I visited the beautiful Summer Palace in the outer suburbs of Beijing. Trouble was, our photos didn’t reflect the beauty of our memory. Dehaze (et al) to the rescue.

China is a beautiful place full of modern and ancient wonders for you to explore. Some of the modern wonders, like the enormous population and tremendous pollution make capturing the beauty of the ancient wonders a little more challenging.

Take this picture Foxiangge pagoda as an example. This is a truly impressive structure and it dominates the grounds of the Summer Palace. There are limited number of places you can go in the grounds without having this in sight.

This was a regular October day in Beijing, the mass migration of the National Holidays had not yet started but Beijing’s ever present pollution meant that even the polarizer on the front of my lens could do little to help with the haze.

Adding a Camera Raw Filter, its easy to go to far with the Dehaze slider in an effort to bust that haze out. (oh, them spots!)

Backing off the dehaze accelerator just a touch and masking out the parts where the haze had little impact (sky/water) gave a better effect.

At this point I began adding numerous adjustment layers to correct the contrast and colour of the pagoda complex, paying attention to mask as carefully as possible, the forest and the complex itself for independent adjustments. as well as a few touches for the water, and the polarizer vignette in the top corners.

The results at this point were pretty good. The selective colour layer ended up being one of the most important. Using this and adjusting the blacks up allowed some of the harsher contrasts of the dehaze filter to be undone.

You could argue and you might not be wrong, that I should have stopped here. But I wanted to pull a little more detail out of the photo, so I threw it into Nik Color Efex and applied the Detail Extractor and added just a little Brilliance/Warmth. I concede that I’ve probably overdone the warmth.

This is another one for our photobook and before it goes to print I’ll probably pull down the saturation on the reds/yellows in the building complex. But comparing the original hazy photo to this. I’m pretty happy.


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