This will give our image a nice tone. The next step is — select the sky layer and go to Curves again, create a small point at the bottom and drag the RGB channel’s curve down, to make the sky dramatically darker.
Yet we got a much better toned canvas but still it is very well visible that the image consists from 2 different pieces, even if these pieces match way better in color than before.
We will be using a very old trick to merge the horizon lines of both layers. Simply create a new layer and using a big, soft brush (we are working with Brush Tool, in case I didn’t make myself clear), chose a black color and paste over the horizon line including the sand area outside the fence.
After you have brushes over that area, set this layer to”Soft Light” and you will have a much darker illusion as the view gets farther…
Next, we want to create an extremely mild HDR effect for the wood, so what we will do is create a new layer above the rest of the files, but below the dark layer we brushed with black color. Please pay attention because the sequence is important. We will not be working with masked layers at all throughout this tutorial.
Once that layer is created, click on the little “black and white” icon at the end of your layers palettes, the one that allows you to create a new fill or layer adjustment. Select “Exposure” settings. You will have a new layer with exposure settings created:
Using the “white” droplet, drag the Gamma Correction up to 0.82. See how the wood looks now, as if it’s been exposed to moon light! isn’t it beautiful?
To accompany that bright path we have in the middle, create a new layer and using your Brush Tool, white color and very big soft brush (say, 300 pixels), create a spot in the middle.
This spot should be placed above all the other layers and with blending mode set to Overlay:
Next, take out your stock photo with flying balloons, and crop them out. Don’t worry if cropping isn’t perfect, because once you placed them on your canvas, we will resize them to much small size and any imperfections will be blurred naturally.
Once they are on the canvas, you will notice that they look terribly misplaced, and they need something that will blen them in nicely. The easiest solution (and please bear in mind that our tutorial is targetted at beginners) is to add clouds, that will “cover” the balloons, easily blending them into the composition.
So, create a new layer and go to Filter >> Render >> Clouds. With your background color set to Black and your foreground set to White (this is important!) — create clouds..