Is it real or is it Photoshop?

castle-finishedI’ve been messing around with Photoshop this afternoon…

I started out with an image I’ve used before – Hadleigh Castle, shot fairly early on a summer morning – and tried to make something a bit more dramatic out of it. I dug through my archives and found an old shot of Stonehenge that had a suitable sky and replaced the original sky with part of that one. I then did a bit of work to bring the colours a little closer and darken down the castle, before topping it off with a couple of bolts of lightning made entirely from scratch.

castle-originalIt’s extremely rough and ready. The lightning bolts don’t really look that good, in my opinion. The one on the right is a bit better, but the technique requires some randomness and is a bit hit and miss. They probably need a bit of fading to simulate the atmospheric perspective that would make them less sharp in reality. The colour matching is still off. The clouds should have a bit of colour in them from the same light that’s hitting the castle.

I was just playing with techniques, and I’m learning this kind of advanced photo manipulation for some projects I’ve got in mind. This was just practice.

There’s a huge amount to think about when making this kind of composite, and getting something convincing requires expert Photoshop skill and a good understand of how light works.

stonehengeThere’s nothing new in manipulating photos like this. I remember seeing an exhibition that featured a 19th century photo that had been made up of about half a dozen different glass plates, and you’d never guess to look at it. It’s just easier to do now.

For the most part, I won’t be using these techniques on this site – this is for straight photos, with just the basic adjustments. My rule of thumb is that if it can be done in Lightroom it’s “developing the RAW file” rather than photo manipulation.

Just remember you can never truly trust a photo!


Project cows. Yes, cows.

119Every now and then it’s good to set yourself a little project. It can be a good way to get out of the photographic doldrums and find an excuse to get out with your camera. As I’ve been suffering a little with the photographic blues, and it’s a wet Sunday afternoon, I found myself leafing through my virtual archives thinking about some of my previous projects.

One of them was to photograph the Cow Parade in Edinburgh. If you haven’t seen it before, the concept of the cow parade is quite simple. For a few weeks, life sized models of cows are put on display around a city.

Each cow is painted with a unique design which sometimes, but not necessarily, reflects the location in which it’s displayed. There is usually a guide produced showing the location of each cow. Sometimes, as these pictures show, you have to keep your eyes open to find them and be prepared to look up – those cows can get into some unusual spots. Read More…

Trying different things

59This post was prompted in part by a thread on Purestorm in which a photographer posted a link to some photos with the comment that he wished he’d thought of that. The first couple of responses were fairly negative, pointing out that it had all been done before.

Of course it has. Almost nothing is new in art. I think that’s missing the point. The photographer in question may well have seen similar images and wanted to try it for himself, or he may have had the idea independently. That doesn’t matter. The thing is he’s experimenting, trying different things.

He’s 16, and it made me think back to when I first became seriously interested in photography. I got my first SLR at the age of 17. Even though I was shooting on film, and every frame cost money, I think I experimented more then than I do now. It was new to me and I wanted to try it all – sports, macro photography, landscapes, people. After a while I settled into landscapes, and eventually, many years later, started shooting models. Seeing these photos of the marbles was a reminder to keep trying new things and experimenting with different styles. Attempting something completely different can be a great way to get out of a creative rut, even if it doesn’t lead anywhere.

I know this is all well and good in theory, but the proof will be in the action – whether this really does inspire me to try new things. I’ll be thinking of some new things to shoot, and in the meantime will dig out my old prints to see whether I’m actually right about my younger self. Perhaps he just wasted a lot of film on nothing!