It is very difficult to get backlit photos accepted here without the proper motivation. The best thing for you to do is wait for better conditions (i.e. clear skies and sun at your back), and then try again. We can worry about sharpening at that time. I don't think any editing will help you save the photo above.
teopilot From Italy, joined Jul 2010, 528 posts, RR: 1 Reply 18, posted (1 year 3 months 2 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 6820 times:
I agree with what Dana said... (and how can he be wrong?! LOL)
You've applied too much USM, thus probably ending up into grain (because I don't know if the picture was already grainy by itself, but the USM usually make things worse...).
Also, I see some grain in the sky, probably due to the fact that you didn't use the USM selectively (there's a quick how-to-do guide for this on A.net photo editing guide)
A general rule: exceeding never pays off... and, also in this case, by exceeding with the USM you have got a picture that seems quite "unreal" to me, because of its excessive sharpening.
I'll give you a word of advice, basing on my experience: generally I apply USM three times...
1. 200%, 0.2, 0
2. 200%, 0.2, 0
3. 100%, 0.2, 0
This technique works almost perfectly for my combos, both 70-200L and 15-85 on my 450D.
But there are not general rules when it comes to sharpening... you can be given advice, but you have to try and try until you find the perfect settings.
But what I think you're missing too is a quick pass with NR tool: USM generally makes some grain come out... with a "soft" NR pass, you can benefit a lot (at least, this works with me!).
I can see lots of jaggies on your last picture too.
It's better to apply USM on a duplicated layer and then to use the eraser tool to erase them. (Jaggies are those "white lines" that came to be noticeable with strong USM passes).
teopilot From Italy, joined Jul 2010, 528 posts, RR: 1 Reply 20, posted (1 year 3 months 2 weeks ago) and read 6792 times:
Well, to be honest, I see it better if compared to the previous one.
But it is still soft to my eye... I'd go with several further USM passes. Don't be harsh in applying it... and use the same method: duplicate layer, select the aircraft, USM, eraser tool, Noise reducion and flatten image.