AI helped me capture a Frosty SouthLand - Queenstown Photography Tours :: Remarkable Imagery Photo Tours

AI helped me capture a Frosty SouthLand

AI helped me capture a Frosty SouthLand


(ABOVE) Stitched panorama. Vehicles composited from the same shoot. Extra information was added to both sides to widen the aspect ratio.

We also encountered spectacularly frosty conditions as we drove through Southland this last weekend on our way from Kingston on the lake to Tairi Mouth on the coast, just south of Dunedin. The South Island was in its first real cold snap of the winter, with temperatures in places like Mackenzie High country below -10C.

I knew many of my photographer friends would be out around the Ruatinawha Ponds at Twizel chasing down white frost-laden trees reflected in glacial, blue waters. If not in Twizel, they would be exploring the frost-encrusted expanses of the Maniototo, the remote high country between the Southern Lakes and the coast. To be honest, I wished I too, could be out there, but Shawn and I were set on spending a relaxing weekend in a coastal crib, reading and listening to the crash of waves.

(ABOVE) After adjustments in Adobe Lightroom, this image was imported into Photoshop Beta. Generative AI was used to add a frosty coating to the grass foreground.

So it was a surprise, as we traversed the long straight roads east of Lumsden, to encounter long fog banks, road temps of -2C, and farmland clothed in white frost. Southland is lush, flat, dairy and sheep farming country dotted with farmsteads and windbreaks - long lines of tall trees; poplar, bluegum, macrocarpa, and Douglas fir. Many of these trees grow very tall and are trimmed with massive, mobile, arm-mounted saws to wrangle them into giant hedges, up to 30 metres in height. Encrusted with white frost, these hedges towered like giant walls along the roadside.

As often happens when traveling with someone who doesn’t have my passion for landscapes, opportunities to stop were limited and I had to work quickly when we did.

(ABOVE) This is a panorama stitched in Adobe Lightroom from four HDR images, each one blended in Lightroom from 3 bracketed images to cover the wide dynamic range of this very bright scene. More adjustments were made in Adobe Lightroom before the image was imported into Photoshop Beta. Generative AI was then used to add a frosty foreground and then close the gap in the pines in the background.

Nobody could be unaware, in this last year, of the rise of Artificial Intelligence and its impact on the creation of content. The technology has been making its way into photography software products like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, with an expanding range of neural filters and recently, the addition of AI-based noise reduction and enhancement. This last month saw the release of yet another version of these two programs, and with them, Artificial Intelligence Generative Fill. 

When we gained the ability to easily select skies in Photoshop and replace them with something more impressive, some people were excited at the new possibilities. Others balked at the potential for creating images that blur the line between reality and something else. Truly, many people, myself included have been manipulating photos - removing things, warping and reshaping, and compositing, for some time now. This new tool allows us to remove large parts of an image and have them replaced with AI-generated content. It sounds somewhat scary, but I found it immediately useful for changing the aspect ratio of images - adding extra to the sides, top, or bottom to make the image the shape I want. The software’s ability to create additional content that looks exactly like part of the scene is uncanny.

This new capability could also be perfect in situations where there isn’t time to find the perfect composition. This was such a situation. I was struck by a sinewy willow standing in front of a line of massive pines. Its branches were delicately draped with frost, creating a stunning contrast against the dark green of the pines. 

(ABOVE LEFT) Original image adjusted in Adobe Lightroom (ABOVE RIGHT) Generative AI tool in Photoshop used to add frosty foreground.

There wasn’t time to work the scene, exploring all the angles to create perfect in-camera compositions.

I quickly took a few shots, making sure to capture the details of the frost on the willow and the towering pines. Later, when I had the chance to sit down with my editing software, I opened the image in Photoshop and selected the AI Generative Fill tool.

Using the tool was straightforward. I simply drew a rough outline around distracting elements such as grasses that cut across the willow and a big gap in the wall of pines behind. I clicked on the "Generate Fill" button. Almost instantly, the software analyzed the surrounding area and seamlessly filled in the selected region with AI-generated content that blended perfectly with the original scene.

(ABOVE LEFT) Original image. (ABOVE RIGHT) The Generative AI tool in Photoshop was used to remove selected grass and fill in the middle of the tree. 

I am always amazed at the results this tool achieves. The distracting elements were gone, and the composition worked in the way I imagined. The added content looked so natural that it was nearly impossible to distinguish it from the original scene. 

Of course, I understand the concerns some people have about the potential misuse of such technology. It raises questions about the authenticity of images and the boundaries of manipulation. However, as a photographer, I see it as another powerful tool in my creative arsenal. It allows me to refine my compositions, enhance the visual impact of my images, and bring my artistic vision to life.

In the end, it's up to each individual photographer to use this technology responsibly and ethically. Personally, I believe that as long as we are transparent about the modifications we make and uphold the integrity of the original scene, AI-enhanced tools can be a valuable asset in pushing the boundaries of photography and artistic expression.

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