Magic Mushroom

To produce the mushroom image for the 52 Week theme of “Post-Apocalyptic”, I started off with a couple of shots of the sun over a small slice of land. This is the initial shot (SooC) that gave me the idea for an explosion.

Base large

Then I took another, exposing for the sky;

base small

Once I’d got the shots for the light I needed to find something for the foreground, and something to make the mushroom cloud from.  I remembered that I had taken some b/w pictures of a cornfield on the way home from work back in August and one of these shots was perfect for both the foreground and the cloud.


So I simply added the cornfield shot along with the two sun shots into layers in Photoshop. The critical thing here was choosing a blend mode of Colour Burn for the field to give contrast and drama. I then took a second version of the cornfield and cropped it to only leave the clouds – this was going to be the mushroom.

It was obvious that there was a bright spot in the middle of the sky that would be the centre of the mushroom so I used the liquefy filter and pushed and enlarged areas around the centre to make a suitable cloud shape. I didn’t want it to look too engineered but at the same time it had to be clearly a mushroom cloud. It took a couple of attempts before I got something I was happy with and then I copied it into a new layer in the main picture.

The only real problem then, was that the field and cloud were b/w images and this showed up in the composite. There are several ways to fix this, but I settled for simple colour adjustment layers clipped to the cloud and field layers as this allowed me to adjust the colour hue and saturation until I got something that looked good.

I also added a mask to the field colour layer to locally adjust the effect.


The final job was a bit of dodging and burning. I recommend you do this non-destructively by creating a 50% grey layer with an Overlay blend mode set. You can then ‘burn’ by painting onto this layer with a black brush and ‘dodge’ using a white brush. If you don’t like something you’ve done just paint over it with a 50% grey brush and the effect goes away.

Again, I tried to make the dodge and burn look realistic – it’s easy to over-do it, which I did a couple of times and had to ‘erase’ what I’d done.


In the end I’m happy with the result

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