Traveling through Dimensions

Inter-dimensional pull

The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge provides the theme of Out of this World, which opened up a rather large dimensional portal for me…

The hard part is to decide on the images that I want to connect with this theme, as there are many!  For today, I’m going to one from my Surreal Tales series.  This series looks to expand imagery beyond what we may perceive with our eyes and rather look to unlock what we may find through our third eye.  A significant portion of my abstract work is focused on this topic, as careful examination of all our senses may reveal something entirely new.

This image was one that hit me square in the chest when I looked into the room where I shot the main parts of the image….

Resisting Escape

As I said, the moment that I saw this old bathroom, I knew exactly what the image had to be; I felt the pull through the ceiling and where that pull might lead.  The trans-dimensional rift is pulling at the fabric of our space-time continuum, and the stresses created by it overcome our normal gravitational inhibitions.

Hope you enjoy this image and have a wonderful day!

TTT – Creating composite images – pt 2

Some simple tricks to get us there

In last week’s post about Creating composite images (pt 1), I went over visualization, development of a story, planning the shoot and capturing the images needed to create a composite image.  This post will address some of the post-processing steps to achieve a final result, such as this:

Searching for Answers

Creating the background image

The first step is to put together the background image from the variety of shots that were taken to to get the entire scene, as shown in the prior post.  Depending on the amount of real estate that is covered in these images, there may have to be a bit of fancy processing to be done in your favorite image editing software; I use Photoshop, but there are many other capable software packages available.

Master Image
Image Layers

You see the finished background image here, but it is actually made up of components of a number of shots, as can see in the screen grab of the Image Layers.  The base image is opened to show the 7 different shots that were used to create the background.

Additionally, I did a bit of warping on some components of the base image to get them to stitch together more perfectly, and you can see that I use masks to control what is visible from each image.

Of course, if I had used a wider angle lens than the 85mm f/1.2L, it would have been easier, but then I would have to deal with not getting the benefit of a telephoto, which gives more of a sense of looking into the scene than a wider angle lens would (if it were possible, I would have shot from a larger distance, but I was already in a corner of the library).

In later shoots, I have often been able to get the entire background image in a single shot, trusting the pixel quality of my camera.

After the background or master image is complete, it is time to put our model into the image and have her float ethereally in front of the bookshelves.

The Main Subject

Our wonderful model will now make entrance into the image.

Steph on the ladder

It is rather straightforward to get Steph into the image while she stands on the ladder.

We simply add the image of Steph on the ladder as a layer and, voila, she is there!

Note how this image also changed the breezy curtains to Steph’s left, as the moved curtain was not in her main image.  It is layered on top of the master image, so we need to make some corrections.

You guessed it!  It’s time for another layer mask, which is your friend in Photoshop.

Masking out the Steps shows each of the components that create the overall look coming together with their individual layer masks.

Masking out the steps

A quick note on masking and selections in general.  A common mistake that many people make when first starting with masks and selections is that they try to be very precise, which leads to artificially sharp boundaries. When our eyes see those sharp edges, our brain immediately screams: Photoshop!

In order to avoid this, you’ll want to feather your edges by a couple of pixels.  This causes the foreground and background image to blend rather than delineate sharply.  Too much feathering looks fuzzy, but a couple of pixels usually will get the look that you want to achieve.

So let’s take a look at what we have created in the image thus far.

Steph is floating

Final touches

We’ve got a pretty good image, but there were a couple of details that I wanted to address:

  • The book – it became too translucent, when I reduced the opacity of our ethereal being to give her some translucence.  My fix for this was to put another copy of the book on top, which obscured her right thumb, which I then put on top of the new book.  Part of the reason for taking this extra step is that I wanted to throw some additional light on the book, so that the eye would go there naturally.
  • The floor – it’s just way too bright, which draws the eye to it, for which I used a curves adjustment with a mask.

At that point, I was pretty happy with my first truly composite image.  Over time, I have found flaws in it, which I will edit at some point.  Part of the issue is that I have learned more over the past couple of years, which has made my eye more observant and thus critical of earlier work.  Regardless, I’m still pretty happy with it.

I’m looking forward to hearing from those of you who have taken on similar projects or are thinking about them, and I hope that you enjoyed these posts.

TTT – Creating composite images – pt 1

Revealing the magic…

In this past Sunday’s Shot of the Week blog post, I floated the idea of putting together a post or two on the technical elements that go into creating an image along the lines of ‘Searching for Answers‘.

Searching for Answers


The first step in the process should focus on visualizing the image that you are trying to create.

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The Library

When I walked into this mansion’s classically adorned library, it was rather brightly lit through the magnificent windows off to the left in this image.  After taking a look around there were a couple of items that stood out to me about this scene:

  • Red curtains
  • Old books
  • Classic woodwork

This gave me a couple of mental and visual cues to start the process of putting together a storyline for the image.

A Story for the Image

As this type of image is all about telling a story, it is critical to start with the story.  Having a library full of books, the first thing that came to my mind was that the books might contain answers to questions that may have troubled someone in their life.  What if they never had access to these books during their lifetime?  Could they come to visit the library as an ethereal presence, so that they could search for answers to those questions?

20130419-Searching for Answers-_MG_6033
A Base Image

As you can tell, the imagination quickly adds some details to put context together for the shoot.  A quick check of the available wardrobe confirmed that we had a flowing red dress available, so that the color red could be used as a thematic cue.

Planning the Shoot

When creating a composite image, the most important thing is to have a plan.  Ideally, you shoot all the components for the image at the same time, so that lighting is consistent, which will make the final image much more believable.

At the very least, create a mental checklist that ensures all the bases are covered to put the final image together in post processing, particularly when shooting a square composition.  Here are some things to keep in mind:

20130419-Searching for Answers-_MG_6027
  • Make sure that you shoot extra width and height for the image; other than the obvious reason, you may decide later to adjust the exact positioning of your subject
  • Make sure that you have a complete base image for the entire scene (you can see the central portion of the base image above)
  • Give yourself options by playing with some of the elements in the shot, such as the curtains or books, even when you’re not sure you will need them; you might end up throwing some shots away, or end up using one of them in a way you just didn’t expect.

Equipment Notes

Although there are many ways that good shots can be achieved, here are a couple of equipment notes that will make the process a little easier:

  • Always have your camera on a tripod; if you have a tripod that allows for smooth rotation that is ideal for aligning for additional width to your shot.
  • A fixed focal length, prime lens is ideal, but a zoom lens is workable.
  • A remote trigger for your camera makes your shoot a lot easier (see ‘Positioning’ image)
  • Use manual settings on your camera, including manual focus.

Shooting the Key Element(s)

The most important element of this image is the ethereal presence floating in front of the bookshelves, in search of answers in the many volumes stored there.  The next image gives away some of the magic, as you see the model, Steph, standing on a ladder rather than being suspended through unseen forces of levitation.

20130419-Searching for Answers-_MG_6029
Ethereal Presence

Keen observers will also note that that is my thumb holding her dress in a more floating position.  Even keener observers might see that her head position doesn’t match that of the image at the beginning of this post; you are correct, as I used her upper body from one of the other images.

Next week, we’ll go over the details and the process of editing in your favorite image manipulation program, which is not quite as difficult, as you might think.  I’ll leave you with some of the other shots that went into creating the resultant image, as a bit of a behind the scenes view.

I hope you enjoyed this brief introduction.