But I Digress… Campy Photo Art

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Buckeye, Arizona

It all started with an empty wall in our family room. With no drapes and only a cellular shade, the empty wall on either side of the window started to irritate me with its emptiness. A couple of photographs, one on either side of the window might be nice. I have a large number of photos… But what to choose? I’ve got natural landscape photos throughout the house. This should be something different. Remembering a multiple image photo set that I saw somewhere, I explored the notion of splitting a landscape (horizontal format) photo into two portrait (vertical format) photos. While browsing through my images, I hit the folders that contain automobile images taken at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale Auto Auctions. The idea jelled… now it became a matter of simply finding the right image. From my collection, I selected a mid-20th century Buick

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It’s a safe assumption on my part that those of you who follow my blog regularly are generally into photography. This digression is being shared with you in case you’d like to experiment with some photo art.

This article will NOT be a tutorial on using any of the tools, just some notes on what I did. I leave it to you, dear reader, to use or modify my process as you see fit. The original photo was taken with a D5100 Nikon. My original notion would split the landscape orientation into two images, a left and right vertical orientation to be printed each on its own 20×30 canvas. The two images would find themselves on either side of the window.

Using Lightroom, I created two separate images cropped right down the middle.

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That was easy. Looking at the two images, however, I realized the other cars on either side distracted from the image, especially the blue car on the right. It would be nice if they weren’t there. Though I do most of my photo editing in Lightroom, I keep Photoshop Elements 12 around for those times when I want to do a little more photo magic. It occurred to me that I could use a mask to adjust the exposure of the vehicles in the background, darkening them and converting them to black-and-white. I haven’t used masks much, but I have found they can be useful. My first experiment with masking was several years ago and involved an image taken on a tropical island about 2000 miles south of Hawaii. As our cruise tender went past a sunken wreck in the coral lagoon, I snapped a photo. At that point the gray sky would be the only background available.

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Following a tutorial I read online somewhere, I went outside and captured an image of a partly cloudy sky. Using Photoshop’s masking capabilities; I merged the two images resulting in the composite final.

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There are several tutorials online about using Photoshop for masking. I leave it to the reader to find a better step-by-step if my example lacks clarity.  The process on the two halves of the original followed these basic steps.

  1. Create a duplicate layer, a copy of the original image on its own layer.
  2. Convert that layer to black-and-white and lower exposure level, manipulating the brightness, contrast and other controls to effectively darken the background layer.
  3. Create a mask and using a small brush tool, “paint” over the black and white image in the area where the Buick is depicted. Wherever the brush paints, the color image shows through.

It’s tedious and careful work around the edge of the Buick, but eventually, I ended up with these two images.

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I brought them back into Lightroom for export in their final size to create a test print. Before committing an image to canvas, I usually print an 8×10 on paper just to check for color and errors. An 8×10 is less than $2 USD and can be picked up in an hour or so. Since there was so much detail work around the edges of the mask, I decided to spend an extra $2 USD per print to get them in 12×18 instead of 8×10. It would make judging my masking lines easier on the larger image. That turned out to be a lucky change. I discovered that a 20×30 image on either side of the window would be too large. Placing the 12×18 on the wall next to the window confirmed that I didn’t need to go any bigger.

At first I was disappointed in the color rendition on the final prints. The bright Buick finish came out much toned down in the prints. The final image tone looked to be almost sepia, yet there was color in the reflections of the blue car to the right in the chrome of the right bumper. As I looked at the images, the new, softer tone grew on me. Instead of canvas, I decided to purchase some really cheap poster frames with Plexiglas instead of real glass and cheap plastic frame instead of frameless canvas. I found a couple of $5 USD poster frames and at $4 USD each for the two prints; the project came in at a bit over $20 USD. The two 20×30 canvas prints would have cost me considerably more than that.

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Since the 16×20 frame is slightly larger than the 12×18 image, I simply reversed the printed label that came with the frame exposing the label’s white backside. I carefully centered my image on the white “mat” and fastened it with a removable adhesive strip that’s photo friendly. Moments later, the two prints found themselves framed and hanging on the wall on either side of the window.

John Steiner

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2 thoughts on “But I Digress… Campy Photo Art

  1. Good job describing your process , John. I am experimenting with holographic prints on silk. Will email a pic or two. Just at the baby stage but it is quite exciting!

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