Tag Archives: filter

Using Filters to Create Art from a Simple Photograph.

This dramatic walkway through a dense palm forest looks as if it is a pencil sketch.   Much to the surprise of some, I did not use the pencil sketch filter in Photoshop to create it.   Instead,  this photograph is a result of high definition processing, black cherry colored red filters and the liberal addition of both abstraction blurriness and heavy vignettes.

This work started out as something different. Originally, I desired to take several photographs of palm trees. Walking through parks in the state of Florida one would almost naturally suspect that palm trees would be both abundant and easily photographed.   Realistically, only half that equation works out.

Finding palm tress in Florida is like finding a mosquito in a swamp.  They are everywhere. There are thousands of styles and varieties, yet to this day, I have found only a handful worthy of the effort involved in lifting camera to eye.   The difficulty is not their shape or size, no, rather their blandness. Palms are just not very colorful in their own right. You have either a dark brown with green foliage or a long trunk of sandy grey.

So, when I partook of the adventure to capture a cluster of palms for my next piece, I was ever the optimist hoping that today would be the day that I could capture that elusive photogenic palm.

Walk Among the Palms
Walk Among the Palms

The scene itself had all the particulars I look for.  It had the palms, of course, a nice sidewalk style walkway and plenty of atmosphere.   However, when started the process of selecting works for further enhancement, I was markedly disappointed by the original results.   It was too brown, too exposed, and the natural lines in the photograph created by the trees were all wrong, at least for me.   Still, I had that hidden impression that this shot was worth something. There was an unexplainable artistic feeling I had about it.

That is when my muse hit.   That magical feeling of “what if I do this over here?” started to guide my senses and my hands. I started attacking the problems with filters, until I found the hidden picture within the picture.  When you use filters in the production phase of your art work you invariably end up painting with light a great deal.  A nip here and a tuck there, along with darkening a particular tree while enhancing another gives you varied results until finally your mind settles on the answer you were looking for.

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The Potential of This Photograph is Awesome

Last week we started off with a picture of a strange-looking flower blooming off the side of a palm tree. The starting unfiltered picture is typical of what you find on the Internet. It’s certainly not a bad picture per se, but it does have issues that we will need to contend with before one can look at it and unabashedly call it a work of art.

What is the potential?
What is the potential?

One of the biggest difficulties in the picture is the heavy dose of sunlight affecting the overall image and is robbing us of detail that would enhance the picture. This has everything to do with the time day I took the picture.  In this case it’s a trade-off between technique and artistic imagery.  If I were to take the picture at an earlier or later time so that the lighting is perfect, the sun would not be at an angle in the sky to flow directly on the flower. Lighting is what gives an image its dramatic power.

So, one of the first things to do is to rebalance the image reduce the sunlight glare from blowing out our image. Once we mange that, both on the camera through a lens filter and then again in Photoshop, we pull out more detail and move on to any color issues.

The picture is green predominately green and white. It’s a plant so that is to be expected, but I want to enhance that drama we were talking about earlier. I do this by simply changing the image to a black and white one. The advantage is that the white will remain but the greens will turn into varying shades of blacks and grays thus not only preserving our drama but enhancing it.

After this transformation I work with the contrast and brightness and make sure that there is an area of pure white and pure black in the image for aesthetic reasons.

I then move on towards working with a modern day version of dodging and burning the picture to further enhance both the dark areas and the dramatic white. The last step is to make sure that no digital noise has crept in the photograph robbing the image of a silky smooth look. So I use a denoise filter designed to take the noise out .

You may ask why I’m not giving specific details about the exact settings I use in Photoshop or how many filters I may apply. It’s not that my answers are full of trade secrets. Rather, the reason is that there are no set hard fast rules for applying filters and using dodge and burn on your images. Some images may require 3 filters, some 13. It is dependent upon your artistic eye and the individual image.

Thus I am left with the enhanced image below.

 

Palm Flower
Palm Flower

Hope you enjoyed this look at a simplified version of taking and image and working it step by step and filter by filter into a work of art.

 

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Girders : Man vs Nature

The third installment from our recent visit to the Greenhill School campus is the work “Girders”. As the construction on campus of the new fine art building continued, there was a brief opportunity to see the skeletal insides of the towering building. I wanted to capture this moment before they installed the walls and fleshed out this monstrosity of campus expansion.

What I discovered was a series of right angles and geometric shapes as the girders of the red steel frame stood against the sky. The day was cloudy with low rumbling storm like clouds that spoke of rain. As these billows of dark nature swirled past the girders it created a strange otherworldly ambience.

Upon reflection of what I was seeing, I decided that a heavy red and green tinted filter was just the thing to bring the ominous feelings of the clouds to the viewer’s attention.

Girders
Girders

The red in the girders only became a deeper hue and a strange idea of the basic conflict of nature vs. man became prevalent to the picture’s theme. The girders representing the indomitable will of man to build, while his hubris produces an angry response from nature. All is in place to remind man though the building may continue, the victory is false for in the end nature and the ravages of time will eventually overcome.

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A Haunted Picture of The Emily Morgan

It’s Halloween!  Time to get dressed up in your costumes and go to various masquerades and fun events. So, to get you in the mood, I took a shot of the Emily Morgan hotel in San Antonio.

The Emily Morgan Hotel sits on land right next to the famous Alamo in San Antonio Texas.  But what makes it really famous is the hotel is known to be among the most haunted hotels in Texas.

Emily Morgan Haunted
The Haunted Emily Morgan

So,  how did I make the picture look like it’s haunted?

First, I took the picture just after the tower lights came on at dusk.  Second, I had to find the right angle to get the shot I wanted.  While the tower itself is a great piece of Gothic imagery, I wanted to include the roof because of the lines and exquisite detail.  Third, I put the image through a high contrast red filter.

The results are quite spooky.  The clouds suddenly took on this ominous haunted look, while the tower with its lighting really added a ghostly glow to the ornamental sides.

So, enjoy your Halloween, Dias de Muertos, All Saints Day , or just your weekend.  Have fun.

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