Greg Benz Photography » Minneapolis based cityscape and landscape photographer; luminosity masking fiend

It may be a super cliche angle on Seattle, but I never get tired of the view from Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill. I stitched together several images from my Nikon D810 to turn this into a 130 megapixel pano. You can’t see it here on the web, but I love exploring all the little details around the image.

cloudy downtown Seattle skyline from Kerry Park - Queen Anne Hill

We’ve all taken those shots when the sunset looked spectacular, but the image just didn’t live up to our memories of night.  Or shot just past the peak color.  Or maybe just wanted to punch up the color for dramatic effect.  Whether you want to add a little color to get back to reality or a lot to be dramatic, luminosity masks are an awesome tool to get the job done.  In the video below, I show how I use solid fill layers and luminosity masks to add back pink color back into the sky.

My basic approach (using my free luminosity masks) is:

  1. Create the channel masks
  2. Add a solid fill layer, set to the desired hue, with brightness and saturation maxed out at 100
  3. Change the solid fill layer to “soft light” blend mode
  4. Add a black mask to the solid fill layer
  5. Load the appropriate lights mask as a selection (to get a good selection of the clouds, but not the buildings)
  6. Paint through the luminosity selection with a white brush to create a luminosity mask in the targeted clouds/sky
  7. Optional:  Duplicate the solid fill layer if needed for extra color, or reduce its opacity for less
  8. Delete the channel masks

My basic approach (using Lumenzia) is:

  1. Select the sky with the “quick mask” tool in Photoshop
  2. Click on the desired luminosity mask in Lumenzia
  3. Click “color” to load a solid fill layer via Lumenzia (this will automatically set the blend mode and apply the luminosity mask in the selected area with a feather to ensure a smooth/natural look)
  4. Optional:  Duplicate the solid fill layer if needed for extra color, or reduce its opacity for less

Note that you could also use the same technique described above (painting with a white brush through a selection) with Lumenzia, but it is often much faster and easier to just use a simple selection with Lumenzia to determine where the luminosity mask will be applied.  I do sometime use that painting approach however, as it can be used for extremely fine control over how the mask is applied locally, or for situations where you might want to paint through multiple selections to deal with a complex image.

Check out the video below to see a full demo of both of these techniques, as well as a quick review of the other Camera RAW and Lumenzia adjustments I applied to the image.  And be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel to be notified whenever I post more tutorials.



The Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, Washington is about as wet as it gets… 13 ft (4m) a year wet.  Which means it’s also about green as it gets and teaming with life.  While I was there, there were all these little mushrooms sprouting through the green forest floor.  One of the photogs with me turned out to be a walking encyclopedia of mushroom knowledge (which raises its own questions).  Apparently these little guys basically grow from nothing to full size almost overnight.  Who knew?  Oh, and I still couldn’t tell you if eating this one would fall into the category of tasty, fun, or not fun.

Mushroom and green clover in Hoh Rainforest

As long as I keep my mouth shut, I tend to blend in decently in Western Europe.   Most people approach me speaking the local language.  Maybe it’s because I tend to wear fairly generic clothing that doesn’t scream “American”.  And with my German “Benz” genes and less tourism in Eastern Germany, absolutely everyone approached me speaking German while I was in Leipzig.  Whatever it is, I appreciate feeling a bit less like a tourist, especially when I’m carrying an obnoxious tripod and backpack with me.  Granted, I can’t speak a word of German beyond ordering a beer and couldn’t possibly pronounce the name of this place,  Völkerschlachtdenkmal (“Monument to the Battle of the Nations”).  It  commemorates Napoleon’s defeat at Leipzig and, ironically,  was completed the year before World War I started.

Monument to the Battle of the Nations in Leipzig

I’m just going to come right out and say it, Zurich is painfully boring.  I’m sure it’s a great place to live, full of wonderful people and all.  But visually, it’s, (or  There is one really stunning building, the University library, but they shooed my camera bag and I out of there in about 5 seconds.  Between that and the high cost of everything…. I’d keep on moving, the Swiss Alps are right nearby.  That said, I did like this composition on the riverfront and I found an awesome German restaurant called Zeughauskeller for dinner.   And with names like Grossmünster and Münsterbrücke, I could at least make up stories about a gross monster who lives under this water to entertain myself while waiting for the light.

I shot this with my shiny new Sony a7Rii.  I made one mistake, I forgot to turn off the Steady Shot (vibration reduction).  I’m so used to just flipping a switch on the barrel of my Nikon lenses that I forgot to go into the settings and turn it off.  As a result, a few of my images were a little blurry (where the camera tried to correct some non-existent vibration).  Hopefully someday Sony will just add an algorithm that automatically turns off Steady Shot if the camera hasn’t been moving (ie, is on a tripod), but until then, be sure to turn it off to consistently get maximum sharpness with a tripod.  For a full list of the settings I recommend for the a7Rii, click here.

Zurich skyline at sunset