Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Step by Step: Through the Cold

I have had quite a few people asking me how I came up with this image. During our trip to Seattle last month, I had a chance to play around with a program for the iPad called Snapseed. Snapseed is made by Nik, whose filters I use extensively in both Lightroom 4 and in Photoshop. They are second to NONE when it comes to making post production editing a breeze. Still not easy, but fun.

Snapseed came out with a PC version of their app and it came with a brief trial period. Since I had enjoyed playing with it on the iPad, I figured it would be worth goofing around with on my desktop. Sure enough, I was hooked. Lots of ways to add layers and colors and textures. Very fun, simple, easy. The downside was that there wasn't anywhere near enough control of the creative process. Once you exhausted their tiny handful of textures or colors, it all started to look the same. That just wouldn't do for my creative needs.

To that end, I returned to Photoshop and began building my images using this technique. Layer upon layer, changing the opacity and blending modes, over and over, adding salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, until it was soup. Mind you, much like recipes on the internet, there is nothing here that hasn't been done a thousand times before. It is nothing I invented. This is just a new way of making soup, for me. Here is my recipe:

Believe it or not, I started with this very flat, boring image. Yep. It sucked. Grey day, grey skies, no movement, cold, blah. Normally, I would just throw this sort of image out and go back and shoot again another day. Specifically a day where I wouldn't run the risk of hypothermia and frostbite.

Step one: create a layer over our main image. This texture was downloaded from DeviantArt.com and then modified slightly in Lightroom 4. It was necessary to change the layering property / blending mode to Hard Light.

Here, the Hard Light blending mode has been applied.

In this image, the opacity of the textured layer has been reduced to about 30%. That makes the color start to fade too, which can be a good thing or not, depending on your needs. In my case, I wanted it to feel as cold as I felt. That meant bringing in cold colors which could convey that frigid feeling. To that end, I put a SOLID dark blue layer over everything. 

Then I adjusted that layer with the Hard Light blending mode. Almost there! This was close to what I wanted, but the texture seemed a little over bearing. Seemed just a bit over the top.

In this final image, I adjusted the last BLUE layer's opacity to 30% which pulled the texture down a touch, and removed some of the harshness (and richness) of the color.

I hope this makes sense. I will be doing more of this sort of playing over the next few months. I have quite a few different ideas I want to experiment with. I spent the bulk of yesterday afternoon wandering around Corning photographing textures in back alleys. Never mind that it was freezing out. Never mind that I have bronchitis and should have been home in bed. I wanted to make use of the overcast glaring sky (very soft light) to capture the texture of the old brick buildings in the Corning downtown area. More on those textures in my next post.

I guess what I would like to know is how this approach to image making strikes you? Is this final image more compelling? How would you convey the idea of bone chilling cold? What ways have you used texture in your image creation?


  1. the creative process is creative by whatever tools are available to the artist - an organic process where the vision fuels the image and the image fuels the vision - a dog chasing it's tail. We are fortunate to live in a time when so much interesting technology is available to us common folk. Whee.

    1. very true. One of the things I keep toying with is the idea of going back to wet processing, backwards technologically, but artistically it would open up other avenues. So many choices!

  2. the most challenging aspect of commenting here is the garbled text test to weed out robots - I need a version for old tired eyes. Whee

  3. yeah, I wish there was some other way of confirming my identity, so I didnt have to jump through those identity hoops too. Biometrics seems like a great way to go!

  4. I am not a tech person but I know I like it.

    1. Thanks! This sort of thing can be so fun. Hard to know what to expect. I am still not sure what the general consensus is on this sort of image creation. Guess time will tell.