Photo Art and Image Manipulation

Photo Art and Image Manipulation

June 8, 2018 ~ I am always playing with my images trying to make them better or do something new and different. And with this permanent partly-cloudy-but-really-too-sunny weather we have been having... I am at the computer a lot more.  

Fenced in

I think this cowlet was from ... well, I don't exactly remember. I do know the fence is that square wire fence across a small canal on 8 1/2 Mile Road in Galveston. And the textures are from the metal shoring along Rollover Pass. Blended and filtered with Photoshop Plug-ins. 

City bird...

Well, a Roseate Spoonbill could fly over downtown Houston, but it is unlikely. You mind labels this as fantasy but appreciates the color contrast and the irony of the bird ignoring the traffic sign. You know it is a manipulation but you don't care.

At least I hope you don't mind. If you are one of those SOOC purists then maybe you should stop right here so you don't get offended. We have had that discussion before. 

All the pretty egrets...

And sometimes you just go on a feeling. A trip to High Island to see the Great Egrets at Smith Oaks feels like they are coming at your from all directions. This is the same bird resized and turned and flipped and repeated. I like the stylized look, almost like wallpaper.

Patriotic Osprey

Once in a while someone comments on FB on my or Bill's photo "oh, I thought you never shot during blue-sky conditions". Well. We do favor overcast days but there are lots of ways to achieve a bright sunny day with puffy clouds. 

This is so over-the-top with an Osprey standing in for an Eagle I expect to hear the Stars Spangled Banner. I added the blue sky with clouds as a layer on top of the Osprey (who was on his own layer with a plain milk-white sky) and then erased any cloud that appeared on the bird or post. Flattened the layers and gave it a 20% dose of Topaz Glow, reduced to 1500 px on the long side and then SmartSharpend in Photoshop. Do you care that it has been... manipulated? Is it a bird photo or bird art? 

  Foot of a Coot

Foot of a Coot

What about when you aren't sure if it has been... manipulated? This goes beyond getting rid of a piece of trash or distracting branch. I loved this Coot image with his foot sticking out. They have amazing feet and I have seen plenty of images with them standing on pavement or even in clear water. But.. he was holding it out to the side... like a prize! The problem was the background was so messy and cluttered it didn't show up at all. 

What to do? Well, when you try these extreme measures it either works or you give up. But no harm in trying. The Poor Little Coot was selected along with some of the reeds in the foreground and saved to a layer. The original image duplicated, blurred and then subjected to a gradient to make the foggy background. And then it was reassembled. 

Black-necked Stilt at Surfside

Nice little female Black-necked Stilt also had a busy background. Some times you can put some distance between the subject and the background to get a nice bokeh affect, but other times the bird is right at the edge of the reeds/brush. So this one was selected including the water as a new layer; the original background was blurred and then the new layer was carefully blended into the old.

If you are just starting to use Photoshop the words "selection" and "layers" are kinda scary. But mastering those two skills will open up worlds of editing possibilities. Basically you use different tools to cut out parts you want to keep or discard from an image. Each piece you select is on its own layer and you can then manipulate and change those pieces separate from the original image. All of my images are RAW files; I save them as .psd and the editing process doesn't affect the originals. 

Bunny clip opened in Photoshop

Here is a nice little bunny I ran across in my archives this week. Photoshop CC 2018 has a cool new feature called Select Subject that does 90% of the work for you. Watch this tutorial here if you still need convincing. You Lightroom guys are missing a whole lot of functionality; you have Photoshop with your subcription. 

I selected the bunny out of his habitat and saved it on a transparent background. I have a whole folder of these called "Clips" just waiting to be used. 

Oh, I have moved a lot of the panels and toolbars in Photoshop if that looks strange to you. More on that later. 

Bunny and the bush...

And... then I added him to this nice bush image I had been wanting to do something with. I tried a Clapper Rail and the baby Willet chick from last week but.. the bunny was best. If you have a selection you saved on a transparent background like I did, you "place" the image on the background layer and then you can move it, reverse it, resize or any number of other actions. It is on its own layer until you flatten the image. 

I think I tried this three times before I was happy with the results. The bunny was too big in the first one, the second one I thought could be better and even this last one I wonder if I should done more to the bush to isolate it ... 

Doing all this Photo Art has been much more fun since I got my Wacom 27QHD graphic tablet. As soon as we set it up, it looked so .... familiar. I spent a good portion of my life leaning over a drafting board; the angle looked perfect. I love using the pen to work directly on the image instead of clicking a mouse. It is still a learning experience; I moved a lot of panels/toolbars in Photoshop to the bottom of the screen for ease of use and my keyboard is now in a tray. The second monitor is on an arm and out of the way.  And you can still use the tablet like a monitor with keyboard and mouse; in fact I am writing my blog on it right now! This is a really pretty video of the tablet and its features. I did not get the Touch version (reviews were NOT good) and my stand was defective but it was replaced. 

And yes, Bill got one, too :-) It seems like we are at the very end of a production cycle and Wacom is not making the 27" tablet any more. They have a 24" and soon-to-be-released 32" both in 4K. There are a lot of tablets out there now that you can draw directly one instead of that weird eye-hand-coordination trick from before. 

Green Heron in new habitat and enhanced with Topaz Glow and Photoshop Oil Paint

The Green Heron above is from last year's effort at Cullinan Park. Of course he wasn't standing in that particular jungle but it was fun finding him a new home. I think I want to learn a bit more about painting and using the various brushes in Photoshop. And if this summer heat keeps up, I will have plenty of time on my hands! I am looking at Henri Rousseau for inspiration and we need to plan a trip to the Cockrell Butterfly Center for some more backgrounds. 

I asked on my FB page if you liked editing photos and most said the editing can be fun, relaxing and creative. All agreed culling and categorizing sucked. A few found it a necessary evil and minimized the efforts. If you like the process and creative side then don't dismiss the tablets. Have you ever used a tablet for editing? Do you think you would enjoy it? Let me know in the comments below.

Awesome Anhingas

Awesome Anhingas

A Black-crowned Night Heron

A Black-crowned Night Heron