29 Oct 14. We'll harken back to the days of yore when you were required to actually put out in class to earn that "C" grade. When that was what 70% of the class actually earned and it took some effort to do so. Back in the days when you thought you really had mastered something only to have the instructor say something along the lines of " . . . . have you ever thought of doing . . . ." I think those days followed me all the way through graduate school and are still around to haunt me. After working many months trying to achieve what I felt was a fairly decent approach to working up these images, I was confronted earlier this week with yet a different way, and I might suggest simpler way, of achieving the same or even better result. So for today I'm providing a stacked image showing the results of doing things two ways, the new way above and my old way below. Your job is to tell me which you like better. I've worked very carefully to keep the images basically the same, but the means of achieving such were very different. The top image is comprised of three layers total while the bottom one has 6; the first three layers in each version are identical. Now here is what I did. My "tried and true" approach has been to start with the background layer (the original image), add a gradient map in black in white, and then a curves layer which is used to set both the black and white points to maximize contrast. That is the first three layers. Then I run a color zone routine to adjust each color individually, followed by a clarity enhancement layer of my choosing, then a layer, if needed, to adjust overall contrast. [ I make the b&w + creative versions from this, but they don't count for this discussion. ] The new approach uses just the first three steps, but sets the blending mode of the third layer to luminosity. The second and third layers in this approach could be joined into a single layer and the result would be the same. Look carefully at the two images as the differences are subtle, but the work required is more than doubled between the two. Much more can be easily accomplished in the new approach, giving even more control for the outcome, and it can be done in two steps by incorporating third party plug-ins such as Black ad White Effects 2 or Silver Efex Pro 2. But for today, to keep the playing field level, I've not used either of those plug-in even though I have them available. Nikon D300s; 18 - 200; Aperture Priority; ISO 200;1/320 sec @ f /14.