Here's an example of the way my process can start with the visualisation of a finished, composite image during the moments of seeing and capturing its raw materials in the field.
(Untitled)Silhouetted on sticks. Superb fairy-wren.
1. I captured this image before leaving Lighthouse Beach.
A female superb fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) celebrates the morning from a twiggy vantage point. I'm below her and shooting up. She's backlit and silhouetted against a clear sky. Usually I would regret the lack of detail but I have an idea for the use of the silhouette.
Because of the pale, homogeneous background, the bird and twigs will be easily blended with other images using one of the Photoshop blend modes (e.g. multiply, overlay, or soft light). Alternatively, the magic wand tool could be used to select the pale background and mask it out. I know, however, that this method is apt to leave pale fringing that will need cosmetic surgery.
At the time of shooting this frame I had it penciled in for a role in a composite image.
(Untitled)Discovered while lens was hunting focus. Be more aware of such potential in the future. The camera can see what you cannot with the naked eye.
2. While walking the track from the beach to Matthew Flinders Drive, I captured this image that I shared yesterday in the blog post Discovery and camera seeing. If you read the previous blog you'll know that this semi abstract was a serendipitous capture. Nevertheless, with this one on the camera's card, I started to imagine how it might work with the fairy-wren as I walked home.
Over breakfast and Lightroom, I studied the two images and devised a plan. It would need the services of Photoshop.
Chromaria #1An imagined scene.
3. This is what emerged after a few minutes, and the treatment I applied to the component images:
The blurred semi-abstract background
Global contrast and saturation boost in Lightroom.
Opened in Photoshop and converted to a smart object.
Mild dose of Gaussian blur (radius 9 pixels) all over except on the sharp twigs (masked out). This created a blur vignette effect
Flipped horizontally and layered above the background image with multiply blend mode.
Duplicated a small part of the wren's gape (the bit with the orange, backlit soft tissue), and put it on top of the layer stack, with normal blend mode. I wanted to preserve the flash of colour.
Masked the lower portions of the silhouetted twigs to fade them into transparency at the base of the image. I didn't like the way they interacted with the lower border of the image when they were solid.
I studied the result for a while and mused that it might benefit from the addition of another element, some texture and lines to play against the twigs and background light show. For better or worse? Nothing ventured, nothing learned.
4. Three days previously, in overcast light, I had spent my morning walk time photographing textures: the disintegrating concrete of a path near the lighthouse; and various rock details around The Backwash.
The overcast light was the decider for me to hunt textures that day. I like the directionless light because it makes the textures softer and more malleable if I want to alter their contrast during post-processing.
This is one of the concrete photographs. It contains a mix of interesting lines and gritty texture, with some clear spaces between the cracks that will be handy as windows through which other image components can be revealed. Having plenty of high (bright) values, it, too, will respond well to the Photoshop blend modes mentioned above.
I added this image to the layer stack, between the wren and the background, rotated it 180° counter-clockwise, changed the blend mode to overlay and reduced its opacity to 70%.
5. The image below is where my thinking is at present. As with all such productions, it will sit for a while. I'll return to it with a critical eye and eventually settle on a version that satisfies my visualisation—a representation of the elusive, tiny wren with the incisive voice in its habitat that is characterised by heath and thicket.
Now this one I like. The bird silouhetted against the brightest part of the image immediately grabs my attention and its positioning makes a rather pleasing composition with a peaceful tranquil feel. I am transported into the bush. Birds chirping outside my window as I tap away on my keyboard are adding another dimension. A bonus for me.
Thank you so much for the comments...
• Tom, one of the uses I find for the metadata recording ability of Lightroom is to save inspirational comments in the 'caption' field for an image. When I experience periods of stagnation or self doubt, it buoys me to read through some of the encouragement that dots my collection. Recharge! This one of yours is going straight to the pool room. 'Alchemy' is an evocative word to use in titling. I have incorporated it before i images that have a mystical (and mist-ical!) sense of movement. Thank you.
• Anne, lovely to hear from you after so long. I hope that you are enjoying your photography when you have the time to spare. You have a sensitive eye.
• Peter, it is good to create or solve a puzzle. With a library of images at one's disposal the possibilities are limitless. ®
Isn't it funny the way pieces of the puzzle come together. I'm sure our brains digest these moments as time goes by and applies the result to our conscious mind at the appropriate moments. Perhaps creative block is this background info failing to reach the right place at the right time. Excellent end result Rob
A beautiful example of the total being greater than the sum of its parts. Only an artist can assemble such a result. I prefer the title "Alchemy" for this.