Category 'Behind the scenes'

It's been six whole weeks since I last released a photo which is probably more of a surprise to me than you. Back in November I photographed all the component pieces I needed for a photo that I hoped would be my biggest and best yet but I'm afraid to say that after weeks of work I became really disheartened with how it was turning out. I hear conceptual photographers say all the time that they had to abandon a project because they weren't happy with it but I've always believed I could make anything work. Until now. So I put it aside and started working on something new. Which didn't work out either. And then two others turned out to be a disappointment and I started to believe I'd lost it, whatever "it" is. It's a horrible feeling knowing something you've worked so hard at may have just been a passing phase. So I took some time out, worked on other things (including a new travel focused Instagram account at @hayleyrtravels) and thought a lot about what direction to take in the new year. But quite simply, creating photos is what I do and I wouldn't know how to get by without it. 'Run Red' was photographed at one of my favourite places, Yamba, NSW, Australia during a road trip I took after Christmas. The location was the beautiful Angourie Beach on a very busy and hot day. If you ever happen to go, there's a strange path by the blue pool that leads to a dense, dark forest and if you keep following it (after most turn back) you will find the place I shot this. I'm sure there were people walking down the path to the beach who spotted a flash of red in the forest below and weren't quite sure what they'd seen. [caption id="attachment_2786" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Angourie Blue Pool Angourie Blue Pool[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_2787" align="aligncenter" width="683"]Angourie forest path Angourie forest path[/caption]   The image is a seven shot pano and a frankenstein of different portraits. [gallery columns="4" link="file" size="medium" ids="2788,2790,2789,2791"]   My German Shepherd, Koda, needed MUCH coaxing to pose as the wolf. [caption id="attachment_2792" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Koda, wolf, woof Koda, wolf, woof[/caption]   It's not my best work but it is a work that worked which is exactly what I needed. And hopefully soon I'll be ready to retackle the pieces that WILL NOT DEFEAT ME!

'Wallflower' came into existence because I found this tutorial by Andrei Oprinca, which is a technique I've always wanted to try (mainly because of the shirt/wallpaper scene in Garden State) and also because I've been debating whether to do a tutorial on displacement masks. In a nutshell, displacement maps can be used to make a texture fit a shape (so if you apply a wood texture and displace it to a rose shape you can make it look like a wooden rose). I decided not to do a tutorial though because I'm not convinced the results are all that great and I don't want to teach a technique I don't 100% believe in (I think blend modes work better anyway). [caption id="attachment_2725" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Garden State[/caption]   To create Wallflower I first shot this pose of myself pressed against a wall and leaning back towards the camera. I then created a mask that only showed my arms, face and hair. Main 'Wallflower' pose   Then I shot this photo of myself wrapped in a plain fabric, making sure there were lots of ripples in the material. I did things slightly differently from the tutorial posted earlier but I basically removed all colour from the fabric and emphasised the contrast so the fabric ripples stood out even more. Fabric for 'Wallflower'   The floor was photographed at a friend's house and the texture I bought from Adobe Stock and made into a repeating pattern big enough to cover the wall so it looked like wallpaper. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2720,2719"]   I created a second layer of the wallpaper texture and placed it over the fabric. Then using a displacement map I tried to make the flower texture wrap to the folds of the fabric so the effect looked more realistic. This has worked in some places (towards the bottom) but not others (towards the top). Silly old me forgot to take a before image to show you what the displacement map did, but to be honest it wasn't that different. It has mainly distorted parts of the texture which I'm not really happy with. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2721,2722"]   Then I applied a whole bunch of textures over the top to make the wall look solid. The image only started to come to life when I added the window (shot in Venice), bird (shot in Paris) and the fallen rose (from Adobe Stock). Then I painted shadows under the girl, the window, the rose, and the dado rails to make them look like they belong in the scene. [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2724,2723"]   Full credit goes to my Mum for suggesting I remove a rose from the wallpaper to make it look like a flower has fallen to the floor. She's full of good ideas that one, and is also responsible for the name of the image, Wallflower.    

Every September my city (Brisbane, Australia) turns purple when the Jacaranda trees begin to bloom. The purple flowers are feared by students because it signifies exams are about to start and relished by locals and tourists because they're such a beautiful sight. For me it means packing up my camera and heading out on numerous day trips to capture the trees in all their glory. Of course I had to create a conceptual image featuring the iconic tree and so I've been traipsing all over the city trying to find the best location. Jacarandas can be viewed practically everywhere and if you can manage it I highly recommend flying over the city when it has turned purple, but if you're stuck on the ground my favourite locations are here:

New Farm Park

[gallery link="file" size="large" ids="2631,2632,2633"]  

The lakes and surrounds, The University of Queensland

[gallery size="large" link="file" ids="2634,2636,2637,2638,2639,2640,2635"]

 

Roma Street Parklands - where you can see the rare white Jacaranda, although the trees are still only small

[gallery columns="4" size="large" link="file" ids="2641,2642,2644,2643"]

 

Evan Marginson Park, Goodna - which holds its very own Jacaranda festival

[gallery size="large" link="file" ids="2645,2648,2646,2649,2651,2647"]  

Anzac Park, Jacaranda Avenue, Logan Central (Thanks Jeff for the recommendation!)

[gallery link="file" size="medium" ids="2652,2653,2658,2656,2654"]  

Other recommended locations which I'm yet to explore:

City Botanic Gardens Brisbane River and Wilson's Outlook, Kangaroo Point Jacaranda Park, Yeronga The biggest problem in photographing jacarandas is that for some unknown reason there's always signs or poles or buildings or other photographers in the way. The location I chose for my image this week which I found by accident and I *think* might be Guyatt Park in St. Lucia had a bride and groom being photographed to the left and a guy photographing his girlfriend jumping up at the trees on the right. The base photo is created from a stitched panorama of three different images. [caption id="attachment_2660" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Brisbane, UQ, University of Queensland Original location for Dance with the Jacarandas[/caption]   Thanks to the magic of Photoshop I was able to replace the distracting elements in the original image with a new background of Jacaranda shots taken at other locations. Using the same tactic I also covered the ground with fallen petals. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2662,2661"]   I photographed myself in my backyard in a $5 dress I picked up at a theatre costume sale the weekend before. I had to be careful with posing because I was surrounded by dog poo and mushrooms. I added a different arm, a fuller skirt, and more hair, all toned to match the background image. Then I blended some real Jacaranda petals over my dress. [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2664,2667,2666"]   To finish off I added some more Jacaranda branches behind the trees on the top left to block out the sky a bit more. I also added some falling petals by using a photo of a single Jacaranda flower to create a Photoshop brush and using that with a motion blur to paint in falling flowers. [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="2665,2668,2663"]   If you know where I can find other great Jacaranda locations in Brisbane, please let me know!

Seeing as Back to the Future day is now in our past and even I, a committed fan, am quite done hearing about it for the time being, I no longer want to dwell on why I made this tribute image. But I do want to talk about how I made it and what I learnt in the process. The easy solution would have been to Photoshop Michael J Fox out of the original image and replace him with myself but that'd be cheating! Instead I wanted to photograph myself and my Lego DeLorean and then recreate the scene using stock, which ended up being a fantastic exercise because I had to analyse every little piece of the image, figure out what stock I could use to replicate it and then draw on various Photoshop techniques for the effects. I wouldn't normally recommend copying someone else's image and releasing it to the world but this is an exercise I firmly believe every budding Photoshop artist should try to really hone those skillz. Back to the Future poster   I first had to figure out what I could wear to look like Marty. This ended up being a pair of my jeans, one of my dad's shirts, a red tunic with the sleeves and buttons removed in Photoshop (I had nothing else resembling a puffy red vest), a pair of 12 year old white sneakers that were literally crumbling whenever I walked, a denim jacket, a black Fitbit and my every day sunglasses (I didn't have mirrored ones). I used a stepladder to rest my foot on and I had a Speedlite set to full power facing up from about waist height to mimic the bright light from the car. I shot the image back to front and flipped it because I don't like the left side of my face. I also learnt that underlighting turns me into Seinfeld's girlfriend from 'The Strike' (the one who looked okay in certain light and bloody terrible in others) and all of these images will soon get deleted so I never have to see them again. To get the pose and camera angle right I had to keep running between the garage where I shot it and the living room where my computer was to reference the original image and it was hot in all those clothes and uncomfortable in those flaky shoes. Why I didn't just print out the image is a mystery for the ages. I shot the pose both with and without the tunic so I could easily remove the sleeves in Photoshop and still see the jacket below. Original pose   In Photoshop I smoothed the line of the jeans, replaced my watch hand (because I was holding the remote in it), replaced the shoe that got cut off, fixed the tunic and my messy hair, retouched my face and changed my eyes because they weren't open enough which explains why I look like I've had a botched facelift in the final image. Body fixes   I photographed the Lego DeLorean on my kitchen bench, trying to keep it in as much focus as possible, particularly in the area where I knew I would be standing. I had to shoot it down low to get the angle right and my mum shone a torch on the inside of the car where the bright light would be coming from. I then liquified the front of the car in Photoshop to make it look like its melting. Lego DeLorean   To create the scene I bought an image of a road from Adobe Stock because none of my pictures of roads had the right angle. Despite actually buying the image (I promise!) I somehow ended up with the low res preview version in the final image - oops! Road from Adobe Stock   I used my own photo of dark blue clouds for the sky and then overlaid a bunch of other cloud photos to get the billowing smoke effect. The pink and orange sky came from a sunrise photo I took in Edinburgh. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="file" ids="2580,2581"]   The light rays came from a band photo I took of the Presets, which was duplicated over and over and moved to match the ray positions. I used this image of a streetlight for the lights and a Graphic Stock image of a flare for the light itself which was added with the 'Lighten' blend mode. The mountain was shot out of a car window in Malaysia which I then blurred heaps so the trees weren't so detailed. [gallery columns="4" link="file" size="medium" ids="2585,2584,2582,2583"]   The fire is made up of about 6 different stock images purchased from Graphic Stock and Adobe Stock that I also blurred a bunch. I added a noise layer over the background and the car to get the really grainy look of the original. Finally I added a yellow outer glow around my body, drew in the shadows and bright light, and then toned the colour and lighting using about 50 different adjustment layers. Fire from Adobe Stock   The funny thing is there's a lot wrong with the original image - why the weird blue spot over the car on the left? why is there a bright white square on the road bottom right? why is Marty brightest on his right side when the light is coming from the rays on the left and the fire below? why are the shadows on his face and arms really red? why did they make the DeLorean look like it was melting? why are the fire tracks a weird angle and shape? Anyway! It was not up to me to wonder why, but how. And hopefully my image is more of an 'homage' than an insult to the world's greatest film franchise. :)   [gallery columns="2" size="large" link="file" ids="2575,2587"]

When I photographed last week's shadow image I also shot a few other concepts; the tree girl being one of them. She sat open on my computer for a week, with her tree arms on a plain background, and I kept staring at her thinking there was nothing I could do to make her interesting. Tree girl base shot   I looked through my Lightroom catalogue at photos of potential locations but nothing felt right so I decided to build a scene from scratch. I started with grass because where else would a tree girl be? Grass   This is the exact same field I used in my shoot two weeks ago, it's just that the flowers are a bit further up. Then I added a blue solid color layer and used the gradient tool to draw in a sky. I added a flower texture (from Graphic Stock) and some clouds to give the 'sky' depth. Simple steps that took no longer than an hour (mostly to find textures) but straight away the image came to life. Flower texture   Her cherry blossom arm was photographed during the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers at the botanical gardens. Her bare branch arm was photographed at a beach somewhere (I forget which one.) Branches for tree girl   I used curves and solid color layers set to 'soft light' to tone her. Some of my past photos have been overly complicated so I've been experimenting lately with creating simpler images. What do you think of this new direction?  

Since the Exposing Illusions tutorial blog is now a fortnightly affair I've decided to fill the off-weeks with other bits and pieces I've been working on. Recently I'd been thinking about doing a lifestyle shoot to add to my portfolio with the stock agency, Arcangel. While driving around my suburb with my mum looking for locations we found this field that happened to be full of wild flowers and a few days later we returned at sunset loaded with costumes, wigs and props. It was good timing as the field was mowed a few days later. We didn't have a lot of time so I struck a few poses and came home with about 100 images. I challenged myself to spend no more than half an hour per image working on colour and tone, which I mostly did using Lightroom presets so no fancy Photoshop trickery here. Here's some of the results. [gallery columns="1" link="file" size="large" ids="2382,2391,2386,2389,2388,2387,2383,2385,2384,2390"]

Although this isn't a tutorial week I got a bit carried away with the underwater theme after last week's tutorial and wanted to try filling half a room with water which is how 'The Blue Girl' came about. I photographed myself against a blank wall in my living room with a floor to ceiling window diagonally to my left for light. Isn't window light beautiful? [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="medium" ids="2296,2297"]   In Photoshop I duplicated photos of the blank wall and skewed them to make the wall look like a room. Room created in Photoshop   The water and water line came from this shot of otters (aw, otters!) that I shot at some zoo or other. Otters   The tears were eye drops applied by my assistant (Mum). The Blue Girl fake tears   The ship and the birds were from my own stock collection. The Blue Girl stock   The rain came from Jessica Drossin's 'Force of Nature' weather effects pack. Various textures were used to give the image a stormy feel. And that's how I became the saddest girl in the room!      

17
Jan

Run Red, and some musings about failure

It’s been six whole weeks since I last released a photo which is probably more of a surprise to me than you. Back in November I photographed all the component pieces I needed for a photo that I hoped would be my biggest and best yet but I’m afraid to say that after weeks of work I […]

29
Nov

Wallflower

‘Wallflower’ came into existence because I found this tutorial by Andrei Oprinca, which is a technique I’ve always wanted to try (mainly because of the shirt/wallpaper scene in Garden State) and also because I’ve been debating whether to do a tutorial on displacement masks. In a nutshell, displacement maps can be used to make a texture fit a […]

8
Nov

Jacaranda season

Every September my city (Brisbane, Australia) turns purple when the Jacaranda trees begin to bloom. The purple flowers are feared by students because it signifies exams are about to start and relished by locals and tourists because they’re such a beautiful sight. For me it means packing up my camera and heading out on numerous day […]

25
Oct

Back to the Future

Seeing as Back to the Future day is now in our past and even I, a committed fan, am quite done hearing about it for the time being, I no longer want to dwell on why I made this tribute image. But I do want to talk about how I made it and what I […]

27
Sep

Tree Change

When I photographed last week’s shadow image I also shot a few other concepts; the tree girl being one of them. She sat open on my computer for a week, with her tree arms on a plain background, and I kept staring at her thinking there was nothing I could do to make her interesting.   I looked through […]

13
Sep

Lifestyle shoot in a field

Since the Exposing Illusions tutorial blog is now a fortnightly affair I’ve decided to fill the off-weeks with other bits and pieces I’ve been working on. Recently I’d been thinking about doing a lifestyle shoot to add to my portfolio with the stock agency, Arcangel. While driving around my suburb with my mum looking for locations we […]

30
Aug

The Blue Girl

Although this isn’t a tutorial week I got a bit carried away with the underwater theme after last week’s tutorial and wanted to try filling half a room with water which is how ‘The Blue Girl’ came about. I photographed myself against a blank wall in my living room with a floor to ceiling window diagonally to my left for light. […]