Virtual Murals

Virtual Murals

Recently a loyal reader remarked on A Trip to Texas City without Birds:

"I'd love to know what goes through your mind sometimes to think "oh I'll just put the cow on the side of the building"!! But it looks like it has been there forever! :-)

Cow from Galveston Island added to abandoned house in Texas City

Cow from Galveston Island added to abandoned house in Texas City

This is the image in case you missed it or forgot. Not a Ben and Jerry's ad, but a photoshopped ... virtual mural. 

So, her comment got me thinking...  I do have all these nice bird photos that need homes. And other photos that might look good in a new location. 

As requested, I am going to share what goes through my mind :-) Now, that is a scary thought! And I am going to show you how it is done.

Going back through my photos of the Katy Rice Mill, I found a photo of this little forgotten corner. I don't even remember why I took it, except maybe the faded, crackling paint on the lower part of the wall. We were all over the building, shooting whatever looked interesting. Shapes, shadows, colors. It was part of a 5-image HDR set, but here I just chose one that looked nicely exposed. 

Katy Rice Mill detail Sony A77 II with DT 16-50mm 1/50 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200 HDR

Katy Rice Mill detail

Sony A77 II with DT 16-50mm 1/50 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200 HDR

Now. What can we do with this? First, we can get rid of that big tube and pipe support on the far left; they are interfering with my creative process. I am not too crazy about that block of concrete laying on the ground either. And that short pipe on the lower right can go, too. And brighten it up just a tad. 

I am thinking about that gray lower wall. It is a natural division ... and .... I need a ship.

You must realize by now I have thousands and thousands of photos. I have them organized by years and locations and dates. The area folders are divided into first and last half of the year or the directory tree just gets too long. So, I knew looking in Texas City or Brazoria Loop or even Galveston would turn up some ships. It took longer than I expected because I am not diligent in applying my keywords. 

But, eventually I did turn up a ship I liked. It had to be straightened a bit so the horizon is level. And to blend the ship into the white wall, I used NIK Color Effects Pro to put some fog on the top half of the ship image. 

And then put them together. 

Diamond Orchid ship on a journey back in time

Diamond Orchid ship on a journey back in time

After blending the layers and erasing the parts that didn't need to be there, I used a bit of Photoshop Oil Paint and Fractalius to make it look even older. That is the trial and error part, sometimes it is just too much and you have to scale back. 

Old Comet Rice mill

Old Comet Rice mill

This is part of another abandoned rice mill, but on the east side of town. Obviously we aren't growing as much rice in the area as in the past. Maybe the production process doesn't require large scale rice mills now. I do know the drought has affected such a water-dependent crop as rice. Reservoir water that used to go to farmers for irrigation now goes to city dwellers to drink. And it is a huge political fight I wasn't even aware of.

I started thinking about rice. I buy Jasmine Rice now; do we even grow that kind here? And OMG it has a higher glycemic index than pure glucose. I will have to think about this!

So, back to the subject. This towering part got skewed and straightened and the sky was toned down from that overpowering solid blue we get in the summers. And an Osprey with his fish from Surfside is now part of the scenery. 

I am building up a collection of what are called "clips". These are objects, mostly birds but other animals that I carefully cut out of photos and save on a transparent background. Then they can be placed on other photos; resized, flipped or otherwise manipulated. That is how the Osprey got on the building above. 

Sometimes I have a clip I want to put on a building, but other times I have the building and it ... needs something. Mostly it is just a process of experimentation.

This one is a bit different. I love those old brick buildings and recently found that Fractalius makes them look ... dreamy and ethereal. So.. technically this isn't a mural, but a composite with post-processing.

Always on the lookout....

Always on the lookout....

This is a kitteh from Texas City Dike transported to the east side of Houston. Keeping watch out of a hundred-year plus old building.

Foreshadowing the future

Foreshadowing the future

This old building is on the east side of downtown Houston; we were out in the street taking photos when the manager came out just to check that we were OK. Maybe he thought we were industrial spies or at the least, troublemakers. That happens sometimes and it helps that I have cards for my blog. You can take all the photos you want (except the port and some railroad concerns) from the public street, but you may be asked to leave if you are on private property. That is how we got politely asked to leave from the sidewalk at the Chevron (formerly known as the Enron) building downtown. I know, the sidewalk is probably in the street right-of-way but it is best not to be hard-headed about these things.

But, this manager was fine with us taking photos; he even told us about the business and how this old building is only used for storage since it isn't up to code for manufacturing. Bill took a kazillion photos of the front; I liked the details on the back.

Wonder what the original inhabitants of the building would think about the downtown skyline of today? It is only a mile or two away.  For this one I combined the two images, skewed and changed the perspective a bit on the skyline and then erased away the parts I didn't want to show. And a bit of tone mapping with NIK Color Effex Pro and a finish of Fractalius.

Here is a Tri-colored Heron on a wall on the outskirts of downtown Houston. I like how he is walking down the street. This is one of the clips I told you about and it is really tricky to get the perspective just right. I need more old, white walls to practice on.

Now, that wasn't too frightening was it? I love taking photos, but the creative side of making art is just as much fun. These kinds of virtual murals are not destructive and can be just as effective as the real thing.

Related adventures: Spring Cleaning; Time Traveling; Seeing Double and Triple

Do you like street art? Are you inspired to paint something on your garage door? Is there a place in your town that desperately needs a virtual mural? Let me know in the comments; I think they are working in all browsers now.

Ignoring the Rain

Ignoring the Rain

Rush to Spring

Rush to Spring