I have found my original concept for a series of photos featuring a subject floating on a black background, removed from context has mutated into several sub-series: one is of old vehicles, with a hint of their story reflected in their windshield (I see it in their eyes…); another is from mother nature where the organism takes on the shape of the object it grows on so much so that the object need not be there to be seen; yet another is a collection of cogs and sprockets, connected and working to some unknown purpose. I have added to all of these and will continue to do so for a while. For the moment they are all presented as a part of the “Out Of Context” album in my portfolio.
Well actually that’s not quite true. I used my trusty (if a little ancient) 8 Megapixel Canon 20D to shoot a series of five shots of a tall waterfall and then stitched them together in Photoshop. Voila, a 40 Mp photo! This was not just an exercise aimed at killing the free space on my hard drive… I wanted to print this photo large, so I needed all the detail I could get in the initial capture. I printed it today on canvas at 16 inches by 44 inches. I am pretty pleased with the result.
I was originally going to title this post “Painting With Light”, but the reality is that what I am going to talk about is really painting with darkness in photoshop to create the illusion of light.
Think of it this way: to simulate a beam of light in your photo, you could lighten the area you want to appear “lit”, but you could achieve the same effect by darkening the area all around it instead. An added benefit is the moodiness you can impart to your photo by doing it this way. I took the idea for this from Hollywood, where they shoot night scenes in daylight and darken it in post. Here is an example, to show how I use this:
Quite a change, yes? So what have I done? In my raw image I pumped up my colour saturation a bit and my contrast, then took the image to photoshop. In photoshop I duplicated the background layer and applied filters/adjustments to darken the duplicate layer, desaturate it somewhat (less saturation at night), blur it a bit (nightvision again) and reduce contrast. Then I use a mask to gently (soft brush, 15% opacity) mask off the parts of this darker layer where I want the lighter, more saturated, sharper background layer to show through.
Here is a more urban example of the same technique: