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To get between work and home I regularly drive a busy highway and as those who drive highways know, the traffic can often stop for reasons unknown. During one of these particular ‘jams I was daydreaming about what could be the cause of the trouble ahead and I started imagining an oversized girl lying on the road. This is going to sound really weird, but when I was young I used to have recurring nightmares where I would forget the size of things; so big things would become small and small, big, and I’d get upset because I couldn’t remember the ‘right’ size of things. Because of this I think about wrongly sized things probably more than is normal. If any shrinks care to weigh in on what this might mean I’d be interested to hear just how crazy I am.
I was quite taken with the idea of this gigantic girl so to create the image I literally took to the streets, photographing all kinds of roads, but being an annoying perfectionist I couldn’t find any that matched the vision in my head. So eventually I coaxed Mum into driving me up and down (and up and down) the highway while I took photos of the road. I love the random and weird experiences I have when creating images.
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I shot the self-portrait twice because the angle wasn’t right. The second time was on a windy day and the backdrop kept falling over and smacking me in the stomach (so maybe not all the weird experiences are fun). I think the official term for this is “suffering for your art”. Especially since I never ended up using those second shoot images anyway.
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The roadside trees were also photographed on my highway drive but as we were moving they are slightly blurred and were really hard to cut out, so I ended up layering many trees from different photos behind them to disguise the masking issues and give the image depth.
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The mountains are created from different European scenes, while the sky and stars are overlays I purchased from Jessica Drossin.
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Now, to that all important meaning behind the photo … I am obsessed with the stars and have been known to wish on a star or two (hundred) in my time. Some years ago I even started writing a novel about a man whose wishes on stars started coming true (which was also titled ‘The Luminaries’). But I eventually learned that the only person in charge of your destiny is you. If you want something to happen only you can take the steps to make it so. Perhaps the stars can align for you but you’ve got to already be pursuing your dreams to be able to seize the opportunity. So for this image I wanted it to be ambiguous – is she the kind of person who catches stars or the kind of person who creates them? (I‘ll leave the mystery of her largeness up to you.)
And a quote I love featured in a photo posted recently by Damien Echols.
As part of my current gallery exhibition I had to create didactics, which are wall panels that describe your art. Being primarily left-brained I focused on the technical because 'how' an image is created is the most interesting part of the process for me and is the entire driving force behind my 'Exposing Illusions' brand. So it was a shock when the gallery curator flat out said I was doing it wrong. (Apparently art has some right and wrongs - who knew?) She said that when I write about my art I need to talk about the 'why', because that's what people relate to. The thing is, I don't know why my art comes about and so often my final images resemble nothing of my initial concept.
It's ironic because in high school my favourite subject was art history and theory so I know how to analyse and write about other people's art, but have absolutely no clue how to write about my own. When you go into a large municipal gallery the didactics are almost always written by someone other than the artist and are an interpretation of what the art might mean based on an analysis of what was happening in the artist's life at the time. Can't someone do that for me?
Anyway, Metamorphosis came about because our obligatory pastime for celebrating Australia Day is to spend 8 hours at the beach (Scarborough Point to be exact) and I'm incapable of spending 8 hours anywhere without doing SOMETHING with my camera. Whenever I go out for the day I chuck a bunch of props and costumes into my car and usually choose whatever items contrast best with my surroundings. Being a murky grey/blue day I reached for something pink and I vaguely wanted to create a weird, faceless deity rising from the water. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.
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After photographing myself in the water I threw about the pink dressing gown in case I wanted to use the fabric in the image.
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In the editing process I blurred the water to give it a fantasy feel and after some experimentation decided to create wings out of the fabric. This notion of flight inspired me to add some birds. I then spent a lot of time perfecting the blurry water and the reflections of the fabric, none of which you can actually see in the final image.
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As for the pink flames, I honestly couldn't tell you what I was thinking about when I added them. I just sampled various colours from the image and painted them in at different opacities using a cloud shaped brush.
[caption id="attachment_2861" align="aligncenter" width="297"] Painted fire[/caption]
But what does it all mean?!
Here's what I think ... to me the water suggests a baptism and the flames and wings suggest a phoenix so it's about some kind of new beginning or metamorphosis. When I created this image it was almost exactly a year since I started my art photography business and a year was the deadline I gave myself to either make something of it or give it up and pursue a different career path entirely. Some goals I failed but others I hit out of the ballpark and they were the ones that made me think I might be able to make a future out of my art. So it was created at a time when I was transitioning from 'can I?' to 'I can!' and the change of mindset that goes along with that.
As for the mask, and the faceless aspect of the image ... 18 months ago I wholeheartedly believed there was nothing creative about me. Today I am an artist with a solo exhibition in a space in the largest gallery in my region. This has made me a very firm believer in how, with hard work, ANYONE can reinvent themselves and so I want this piece to act as an inspiration for those who dream of being something different or better. It's all possible.
Unfortunately that's way too wordy to fit on a didactic.
Now I'm interested to know, which part of this blog did you enjoy the most? The 'how' or the 'why'? ;)
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[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2787" align="aligncenter" width="683"] Angourie forest path[/caption]
The image is a seven shot pano and a frankenstein of different portraits.
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My German Shepherd, Koda, needed MUCH coaxing to pose as the wolf.
[caption id="attachment_2792" align="aligncenter" width="300"] 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.
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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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:
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"] 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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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.
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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.
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. :)
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On Thursday 1 October I exhibited my work for the very first time at RAW Brisbane's MERGE showcase. After months of planning, buying things for my display and organising prints it was wonderful to finally have everything come together. There was a great response to my work with lots of positive feedback and people spent a long time looking at and discussing all my prints. A few artists expressed an interest in collaborating - one guy was so keen he gave me his daughter's business card twice!
I am really grateful to all my friends and family who came along for support. I had a fun night and I couldn't have done it without you all! Congratulations to all my fellow artists on a successful night.
If you're considering having a RAW exhibition of your own, they hold showcases worldwide and it's a fantastic experience I'd recommend to all artists.
Photos courtesy of Noel Roberts and Elliot Tonks of Live Exposure.
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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.
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How long I’ve wanted to shoot underwater! When girls in pretty dresses are combined with the weightlessness of water the results are elegant and ethereal. But shooting underwater is costly as it requires expensive purpose-built camera housing (around $2k) or an underwater point and shoot, which is cheaper (around $500) but offers less control. You can hire equipment but I’ve heard too many horror stories and the one rental company I spoke to said they couldn’t afford the insurance. It’s also a very physically demanding experience for both the model and photographer. All this AND I’m the only person on my street without a pool (which I sadly discovered while browsing Google Earth). So I’d love to do an underwater shoot some day but for now my options are limited to Photoshop.
Please keep in mind this is an advanced tutorial.
How to photograph a fake underwater photo
First, find a blank background to photograph your model against so it’s easy to cut them out in Photoshop. I set up a black sheet because I knew this would roughly match the colour of the water I’d be compositing myself into. Light underwater is unpredictable but it definitely won’t have bright sun spots so shoot your model in diffuse light. I shot in my backyard in a shaded area as the sun was going down.
[caption id="attachment_2242" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Testing the camera looking mighty impressed[/caption]
Set your aperture narrow enough to have all of your model in focus (you can blur them later if need be) and choose a shutter speed that gives the tiniest amount of motion blur, but not too much or your person will be hard to cut out. (My settings were 1/160 sec at f/9, ISO 800.)
Resist any temptation to wet your model unless part of them will be out of the water and then only wet the exposed part.
For my pose I first started out by leaning back on a chair in the same way I would pose for a levitation photo but it wasn’t until I tried jumping and posing mid-air that I started to like the shots because the movement was similar to floating. I also separately shot hair and dress flicks that I didn’t end up using but I wanted to have the option available for compositing.
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For the water you have a few options including creating it in post or using stock, but I wanted to photograph my own elements. I again set up a black backdrop so it would be easy to separate the bubbles using a blend mode, half-filled a vase with water making sure the vase’s surface wasn’t reflecting too much light and photographed the water line and then the bubbles as I poured more water into the vase.
[caption id="attachment_2245" align="aligncenter" width="200"] Bubbles[/caption]
How to edit a fake underwater photo in Photoshop
Before getting started I studied many underwater photos so I could try and replicate the look in Photoshop. The elements I decided I needed were these:
A water line / top of the water
A reflection of the girl
Shimmers of light on her clothes and skin
Blue toning and matted highlights
Textures to give depth to the water
The following process is an amalgamation of tips from this video, other underwater tutorials found online and my own experimentation in Photoshop.
Create the background. To do this I found an underwater photo with colours that I liked and opened it into my main document. Hit g to activate the gradient tool and click on the gradient bar. In the Gradient Options select the first preset ‘Foregound to Background’ and then double click the left bottom tab (‘stop’) to bring up the colour picker. Alt/Opt click on a highlight colour in the sample photo to select it and press OK, then double click the right bottom tab and sample a shadow colour. Keep pressing OK until you exit the Gradient Editor then draw a vertical line downwards over your canvas so that the lighter colour is at the top. (Make sure the 'reverse' box isn't ticked if you find this isn't the case.)
Next you’ll need to create the top of the water. You can do this using stock photos (for example, waves at a beach) by going to Edit>Transform>Distort and playing around with the perspective handles, but I’d found a tutorial on how to create water from scratch that I wanted to try.
To do this create a new layer and draw a rectangle with your marquee tool (m) about 2/3 the size of your main document. Press d so that your colour swatch is set to default colours and go to Filter>Render>Clouds. Press Ctrl/Cmd t to bring up your free transform handles and drag the edges of the box to the edges of your document.
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Now go to Filter>Filter Gallery>Artistic>Plastic Wrap (if the Filter Gallery is greyed out you may first need to change your image from 16 to 8 bit with Image>Mode and choose 8 Bits/Channel) and set your sliders to 14, 3 and 11. Click OK. Then go to Edit>Transform> Distort and pull your handles into place as shown. Change the blend mode to Linear Dodge. Add a mask to the layer and use a soft brush to remove the harsh edges. Add a curves adjustment layer above your water line layer and clip them together by pressing Alt/Opt and clicking between the two layers. Use curves to darken the layer to match your background.
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Convert your water effect layer to a smart object (right click the layer in a blank area and choose 'Convert to Smart Object') and then go to Filter>Render>Lighting Effects and add a small spotlight to a section of the water. Play with the sliders to get an effect you like and the handles of your light to shape it. Press OK when you're finished. It's sometimes hard to get an idea of what the final effect will look like until it's applied which is why it's a good idea to apply lighting effects as a smart filter so you can keep changing the effect until you like it.
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At this point I made sure my subject was perfectly cut out and placed her above these effects.
Create rays of light by making a new layer and using your marquee tool to select the top half of the image. Press d to set your colour swatch to default and then go to Filter>Render>Clouds once again. Next go to Image>Adjustments>Threshold and use the default setting, press OK. Press Ctrl/Cmd D to get rid of the selection. Now go to Filter>Blur>Radial Blur. Take your amount to 100. Choose Zoom and Best and drag the centre point to the top of the box. Click OK. Press Ctrl/Cmd F a few times to repeat the effect. Change the blend mode to soft light and the opacity to about 50%. Use Ctrl/Cmd T and move your rays so they look like they’re coming from the spot light you created earlier. Add a mask and use a soft brush to paint out the rays wherever you don’t want them.
I had no clue how to create the girl’s reflection so I created some tricks of my own. First I duplicated my subject layer and converted it to a Smart Object with Filter>Convert for Smart Filters. I then went to Edit>Transform>Flip Vertical and used Edit>Transform to move the reflection where I wanted it and dragged the top middle handle to make it quite squat. After playing around with all Photoshop’s filters I found I got the best result with Filter>Distort>Wave and played around with the sliders until I got a result I liked. Because I applied this as a Smart Filter I was able to apply and change the results as much as I liked.
To create the shimmers of light I created a new layer and filled it with black. Then I went to Filter>Noise>Add Noise. I chose Gaussian and Monochromatic and set the amount to about 35%. Now I went to Filter>Pixelate>Crystallize and made the Cell Size 160. This is similar to how we created snow last tutorial. Now go to Filter>Stylize>Find Edges. Press Ctrl/Cmd i to invert the layer. Choose Filter>Distort>Ripple and make it about 300. Then Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and just apply a little to make the edges less severe. Change the blend mode to screen. Zoom right out of your document and pres Ctrl/Cmd T and make this layer larger. Clip this layer to the subject, change the opacity to 60% and mask it out where you don't want it.
I used a few curves layers clipped to the girl layer to introduce some bluey green toning and then darkened the bottom of her body. I also desaturated her skin tones and dragged the highlights down to dull them slightly. A good trick I learnt recently from Glyn Dewis is to make the opacity of your subject layer 95% so the background shows through ever so slightly and tones your subject to match the scene.
Adding textures is optional but I thought the scene looked too flat without them. I added various bokeh textures and overall colour toning to give depth to the water.
[caption id="attachment_2286" align="aligncenter" width="297"] Final toning and textures[/caption]
And we're done! It's definitely a lot of work but the more effort you put into it the more realistic your final result. And not a single camera was harmed.
About ‘Rosewater’ and ‘I Tried to Drown my Sorrows’
The poses for both photos were photographed in my backyard wearing a $10 dress I found through a Facebook “garage sale”. Little known fact, I studied six different types of dance as a child and I finally got to use some of this training in my photos. Unfortunately my body is no longer primed for this kind of activity and my legs hurt for days.
In Photoshop I was hoping to recreate the particular look used in this Adam Attoun photo.
'I Tried to Drown my Sorrows' started out with this in mind but by a happy accident when I opened a vase photo to use the bubbles I noticed how great the girl looked inside the glass, so this image took on a life of its own and was very quick to complete.
To create 'Rosewater', I began by following along with the video tutorial posted earlier to see if I’d like the result which I did, so she ended up being in a bluey/green scene rather than black because the colours grew on me. I always planned to have flowers floating in the water so I shot some miniature roses in a vase and was most annoyed to discover that roses float so I had to poke them into the water with a gardening fork. Despite being miniature the roses still look way too big for the scene, ruining all my convincing underwater scene building but I like how they look and am happy with the final photo regardless.
While it’s currently the height of summer in the only hemisphere that (supposedly) matters, where I live in Australia it’s so cold that the state I live in saw snow for the first time in 30 years. When faced with the prospect of driving 2.5 hours to photograph said snow OR hibernating under blankets, I decided to stay in the warmth of my home and research how to make my own snow. Problem being that no two tutorials use the same method to add snow and some weren’t even convincing so after much experimentation I bring to you the Photoshop-snow-makin’-machine that I like best.
Note: This was the exact workflow I used in my image this week but to demonstrate some of the steps for creating snow I’ve used a forest image from Graphic Stock so it’s easier to see the results.
How to add settled snow
For my image, 'Rest Stop in Winterglen' I needed to replace the floorboards and snow was the obvious choice to add to the winter wonderland scene so I downloaded a bunch of snow images from Graphic Stock to use as ground cover. I get that not everyone is comfortable using stock images, just as not everyone is comfortable driving over two hours to photograph their own stock so when you’re weighing up your options sometimes there’s no other alternative. When you’ve found snowy stock that fits your scene, you can mask it in and colour correct to make it fit. And if necessary use Edit>Transform>Perspective or Edit>Transform>Warp to make your stock match the angle of your scene.
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Channels are brilliant at creating selections and I personally need to use them more in my workflow. So here’s how to use them …
In your layer’s panel you should see a tab labelled ‘Channels’ but if you don’t you can access it with Window>Channels. Now you need to look at each of the colour channels to see which has the most white showing in the areas where you want your snow. Do this by clicking the eye next to Red and Green so only Blue is showing, then turn on Green and turn off Blue etc, etc. When you’ve chosen the channel you wish to work with drag it to the new layer button at the bottom of the layer’s panel to duplicate the channel. If you want to get fancy you can add a curves (Ctrl/Cmd M) or a levels (Ctrl/Cmd L) adjustment to the channel to create more or less white in your image.
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Now stay with me here ... Ctrl/Cmd click on the channel to turn it into a selection and then switch back to your Layers tab. Create a new layer. Click on the top square of the colour swatch in your tools palette and choose a colour a little under white. Click OK. Go to Edit>Fill and choose Foreground Color. Ctrl/Cmd D to get rid of the selection. Pretty magical right?
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If you aren’t entirely happy with the result you can continue to create more snow by pressing Ctrl/Cmd J to duplicate the layer or follow this process again with different colour channels. You can also mask in some snow in areas that you feel need more.
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How to create falling snow
There’s two ways to create falling snow – the automated method and the brush method – and to get the best results I recommend a combination of the two.
Create a new layer at the top of your layer stack and Edit>Fill with black. Go to Filter>Noise>Add Noise. Make the amount somewhere between 80 and 100%. Choose Gaussian and Monochromatic and click OK.
[caption id="attachment_2198" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Add noise[/caption]
Add a Threshold adjustment layer and drag the slider until you get a nice spacing between your snowflakes. Clip the threshold layer to the noise layer (by alt clicking between the two layers).
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With the noise layer selected go to Filters>Pixelate>Crystallize and move the slider to 10. Press OK. Change the blending mode of the layer to Screen to get rid of the black background.
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Add some movement to the snowflakes with Filter>Blur>Motion Blur and adjust the angle and the amount to taste. Pull down the opacity of the layer a touch. Done! This gives a nice snowfall to use in the background of your image but it’s all the same size so we don’t want to stop there.
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I created my own snowflake brush which I considered offering for download but what would you learn then? So let’s do it together! First you'll want to create two new layers. One will be for medium sized snowflakes and the other will be for large snowflakes to signify snow close to camera. Name your layers ‘medium snowflakes’ and ‘large snowflakes’.
Highlight the medium snowflakes layer, hit b on your keyboard to activate the brush tool and select Photoshop’s standard soft round brush. Press F5 to bring up the brush settings.
[caption id="attachment_2207" align="aligncenter" width="203"] Photoshop's soft brush in brush settings panel[/caption]
Under Brush Tip Shape start off with a brush about the size of a grain of rice. Make your hardness 0 and your spacing around 230. Under Shape Dynamics, change your Size Jitter to 100%, your Angle Jitter to 10% and your Roundness Jitter to 35%. Under Scattering tick the Both Axes box and take your Scatter all the way up and make your Count about 10. Under Transfer take your Opacity and Flow Jitter sliders all the way up.
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Now start to paint in your medium snow using a few clicks because it’s easier to control than dragging your mouse around.
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On your large snowflake layer make your brush about the size of a small coin and just dot in some large snowflakes. Save this as a brush preset if you wish to use it for future use by clicking the menu icon at the top right of your brush settings panel and choosing ‘New Brush Preset’.
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If you have people in your scene spend some time brushing snow into their hair and clothes. Using the same brush we created, set the size to 25 pixels, scattering to 60 and with this you can draw little piles of snow. It’s time consuming but will really help make your scene convincing.
Lastly, depending on the original colour of the image it might help to add some bluish toning. I chose to add a solid color layer filled with blue, set the blend mode to Hue and reduced the opacity slightly.
Let it snow! Let it snow. Let it snoooow.
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About 'Rest Stop in Winterglen'
Every Christmas in Brisbane, Australia a magical world appears called Lollipop Land. The keepers of Lollipop Land, Jule Barten (visual designer) and Chris Boston (doll designer) were kind enough to let me photograph there after hours last January but I haven’t had the right project for the photos (until now).
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I chose to work with their gorgeous Enchanted Forest scene, posing myself on the unicorn (supplied by Natureworks) and taking a 25 shot panorama. I composited in snow and hedges to cover the wooden floor. I added icicles (from Graphic Stock) to the roof and and an ice cave (from DeviantArt) to cover the ceiling. The trees outside of the ice cave are also from Graphic Stock. The dragon was photographed in another area of Lollipop Land but moved into the scene. My favourite part is that the unicorn has a seat built into him so I had to composite in a real horse’s “ass” for realism. I added snow using all the methods above and spent days colour toning the image (only to later delete three-quarters of what I'd done). Lollipop Land is a magical place to spend time (their high teas are great fun) so do visit if you get the chance.
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