Category Archives: fine art

Logo in a light bulb

logo in a lightbulb
logo in a lightbulb

I posted this picture (well, not exactly this one, as you will discover) last week on a Facebook group for photographers and it proved to be very popular with 140 likes (as it stands). There were also lots of complimentary comments and one member said, “How did you do it, if you don’t mind telling. ”

I’m more than happy to tell, but I thought this might be better done by way of a blog as there are a few processes involved. In an ideal world I thought all I had to do was go back to Photoshop open the file and describe the process from there. It turns out this isn’t an ideal world. As I’d been experimenting with an idea I’d had, I hadn’t actually been alert enough to save the Photoshop file. In order to do this blog post, I had to go back an recreate the entire thing. That’ll teach me to be more alert about saving the experiments. In the end, I think this version is just a little more heavy-handed with the highlights but, as the main aim of this post is to explain the process, I wasn’t about to go back and re-edit.

So, here is how this image was created.

Stage 1 – electrifying the logo

This stage is all about making the logo look like an active filament in a light bulb.

I opened the white Hi-res version of my Photologo in Photoshop and, as usual, duplicated the layer. I do this to make sure that if anything goes wrong I can always get back to the original. I don’t work on the base layer.

Using the paint bucket tool, I filled the logo with orange (hex value f4a816). You need to be careful at this stage and make sure you only get the logo. I suggest zooming in for detail. Staying on the copy layer, I went down to the layer style (fx) and selected outer glow. In the layer style box I clicked on the solid colour box in the structure options and chose an orange colour. In this case the hex value is ff6c00. I then clicked OK on the colour. I set the opacity to 60% and made sure the blend mode was normal, set the size to 190 pixels then clicked OK on the layer style. The result is an orangey glow round the logo. I then duplicated the layer (CTRL+J). Then on the new duplicated layer, I edited the effect by double clicking it to open the dialogue box. I changed the colour to a lighter version (hex value f0962b), I increased the opacity to 100% and reduced the size to 65 pixels then clicked OK. The end result of those processes on the logo looks like this:

Next I wanted to add some highlights to the effect so opened a new layer and put that on top of all the others. I renamed that layer “highlights”. I find with multiple layers, it’s a good idea to rename them for ease of identification if I need to come back and re-edit. If you don’t know how to rename a layer simply roll your mouse onto the layer name and double click. That allows you to rename then confirm by hitting “enter”. On the new highlights layer, I set the blending mode to overlay. I selected a soft round brush and sized it to be just marginally thicker than the logo text. I reduced the opacity to 50% and then painted highlights where I thought they looked reasonable in giving the logo that electric activity. This stage is very much directed by eye and what you think looks “natural”.

Stage 2 – the bulb

Were I doing this other than experimentally, I’d have photographed a bulb myself but, in this instance, I chose a stock image. As my logo is wide, I wanted a bulb that was more oblong in shape.

Keeping the work on the logo open in Photoshop, I then opened the selected a photo of the light bulb. This opens as a new tab within Photoshop. The image I chose is pretty low res, so really wouldn’t stand up to enlargement and it also means the relative canvass sizes are very different between the bulb and my logo. I therefore checked the size of the bulb canvass which turned out to be 11.43 cm x 8.2 cm. This will become significant shortly. So, back to the logo tab in Photoshop. Selecting the top layer I made a new layer and then stamped visible into it by doing the following: hold down Shift, Ctrl, Alt, N to create the layer, then Shift, Ctrl, Alt, E to stamp the visible into it. This creates a new layer which has all the detail of the layers below and is the one I will copy to the light bulb image. First though, I changed the image size (please note NOT the canvas size) to 11.42cm x 8.2cm and in the dialogue box opted for auto resolution, which slightly changes the images dimensions.

Then I right clicked on the layer and select duplicate layer. This opens a dialogue box in which you choose the open file in which you want to open the duplicate layer and, for me, that’s the light bulb image. In the dialogue box there’s a drop down option for destination document. This is where I selected the light bulb image.

Next I selected the light bulb image tab in Photoshop to switch to it which now showed my copied logo layer above the light bulb. Having adjusted the image size in the logo, it is now an easier job to set about aligning it. The imported layer comes in as layer 1 which I renamed to logo. Making sure I had the logo layer selected I used the move tool to align the logo across the centre and in line with the existing bulb filament like this:

Lining up the logo and bulb

Still on the logo layer, I went to edit and selected free transform. To see the handles I hit Ctrl 0 on the keyboard (see below). Now the task is to align the logo within the bulb so that it connects to the ends where the actual filaments connect. I did this by adjusting the handles on the free transform box but held down the shift key to retain perspectives and prevent skewing the logo.

free transform handles

Next I made a copy of the background layer and moved it to the top of the layers stack. I then created a new fill layer (filling it with black) and put that below the logo layer. Then I applied a mask to the background copy layer (top) and with the foreground colour set to black and background to white, I selected a soft brush and painted to reveal the logo. This then needed some adjustments back and forth setting different brush opacities to  get to a final look that I was happy with.

final layers

I hope you’ve found this interesting and helpful in terms of Photoshop technique. There may well be better ways to achieve this effect, but this is how I ended up doing it. I think it’s a technique I might employ again at some time.

Before I close, let me give a shout out to Photologo. I got my logo from them and am using it not only as a watermark on photos that I publish online, but also as my business logo. They’ve not asked me to give them and mention and have certainly not paid me for doing so. I just think they are worth knowing about if you are a photographer who wants to do something to help protect your images and add a stylish signature to your work.

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Mr Bass Man

Mr Bass Man

Mr Bass Man

I took this photograph back in 2011 at a graduation concert. This was no studio shot but the stage lighting lent itself to this low-key treatment. The shot was taken with my camera mounted on a mono pod for some extra stability. The exposure was 1/125 sec at f5.6 with an ISO of 1600.

I wanted a fast enough exposure to minimise camera shake with a focal length of 105mm and I also wanted a shallow depth of field, hence the high ISO. This necessarily introduced some “noise” to the image. I’m not against that per se, but at times it just needs to be managed if it’s distracting. So, here’s a summary of how I processed this image.

As usual I opted to remove chromatic aberration and enable profile corrections under the Lens Corrections tab in Lightroom. After that, I proceeded with as light a touch as I needed to create the final effect I wanted.

In the basic panel I brought the highlights down a touch then lightened the whites and darkened the blacks to just short of the clipping point.I also slightly increased clarity and vibrance, just enough to add a little punch to the colours.

In the HSL panel I made very slight adjustments to the hue, saturation and luminance of the red and orange channels.

Sharpening required more careful attention. Holding down the Alt key to guide myself with the black and white rendering, I increased the masking until I was only going to affect the edges with sharpening. This entailed masking being at 93. I then applied some sharpening (32) with the radius at 0.5 and the detail at 10. Working by eye I increased the noise reduction for luminance until I was happy with how it looked. This ended up at a setting of 24. There was some noticeable colour noise on the bass man’s right forearm so I increased the noise reduction on that until I was happy with the appearance. That resulted in a setting of 27.

And that was it – those are the only adjustments I made to the image that came out of the camera.

This shot is one of my personal favourites as I feel the lighting captures the mood so well.

Sometimes it’s worth turning around

The Kelpies

The Kelpies

These are magnificant stainless steel clad sculptures standing around 30 metres tall located by the Forth & Clyde canal at Falkirk. Since they were opened to the public in 2013 they have become a favourite subject for photographers. As you can tell, I am no exception. Mostly they are photographed in a couple of ways: relatively close up and showing their context beside the canal, and also at dusk or night when they are illuminated.

I’ve been a couple of times to take some photographs and have done the “usual” thing with them, so nothing too different really apart from a couple of very tight close-ups which show only parts of the sculptures. On one occasion, I had taken all the shots I wanted and was heading back to the car when I turned round and was met by this view. I immediately liked it. I was drawn to the way the fading light from the setting sun was lighting the Kelpies and how they were contrasted against the sky. I also really liked the dusting of snow on the Ochil Hills in the distance. There is something appealing in the contrast between the softness of the snow and the hardness of the steel Kelpies. I also liked that this view set them in a context not usually represented in photographs. It also felt like the one with its head down was grazing on the trees rising from just below the ridge. That seemed to me such a natural thing that it almost brought the Kelpies to life.

I’d been shooting on a tripod but this was such an opportunity in the fading light that I just went hand-held and aimed to get a shot before the light was gone. I was also cold and keen to be back in the car. For those interested in such things, this was shot at 1/1000sec at f8 on an ISO of 400 and at a focal length of 55mm (there must have been more light than I remember). The image was shot in RAW (as per usual) and initially processed (for all the usual things) in Lightroom. I then used Photoshop to remove some distractions which included power lines and some random birds which were really doing nothing to add to the image.

The Kelpies are well worth a visit. They were designed by sculptor Andy Scott and the name Kelpies was chosen by Scottish Canals. Kelpies come from Scottish myth and legend and are  said to be shape-changing spirits of waterways. There’s some thought that the name may come from the Scottish Gaelic words ‘cailpeach’ or ‘colpach’, meaning heifer or colt. Kelpies are said to haunt rivers and streams typically appearing in the shape of  horses. Of course, horses were also a feature of canals when they were used to pull barges. This makes these magnificent sculptures so appropriate to sit by the canal.

This image is available as a Fine Art print on my website along with another couple of more “usual” shots of the Kelpies.

 

Tree of knowledge

Tree of Knowledge

Tree of Knowledge

There’s a story behind this one.

It begins in October 2014 when I visited Westonbirt, The National Arboretum in Gloucestershire. The plan was to get some photographs of trees in autumnal colours and during the visit I took a number of photographs, some of which were OK but none were real stand-outs. Some months later I was experimenting with masking in Photoshop and had the idea of shaping a tree in a human profile. Among the shots from Westonbirt was the one below.

Tree, leaves, shadows, bark, tree, textures, colours, nature

 

I felt this offered an opportunity to be creative with a profile mask so set about working in Photoshop with two profiles I had sourced. One was clearly male and the other clearly female. I tried edits with both and, for some reason, I found the female profile worked better in aligning with the tree. I worked with it and cropped in to make the effect more evident and saved the work in a folder along with other experiments gathering e-dust, you might say.

Recently I was working on some other creative effects and adaptations and recalled this one so was keen to revisit it. Coming back to it after a reasonably lengthy absence was quite refreshing and I decided that I rather liked it but felt it needed a title. As I’d shaped it into the profile of a human head I got to thinking about what we contain in there – everything we know, our feelings, thoughts and memories. I was leaning towards the title of Tree of Knowledge which, of course, has direct resonance in the story in Genesis: The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,  but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Then later, So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. At this point I found it curious that I had chosen the female silhouette for the profile shape as, in the Genesis story, it was the woman who first ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil.

If there’s a moral to this little tale of mine it’s that we, as human beings, know the difference between good and evil and we have a choice as to how we behave in the light of that knowledge and that just about anything can be used for good or harm.

I find this image of the Tree of Knowledge, to be a reminder to use my photography for good.

If you wish, you can buy a print of the Tree of Knowledge here and have it on your wall as a reminder to yourself.

Thanks for reading and for following this blog.

Falls of Bruar

The Falls of Bruar, Perthshire

Falls of Bruar

Last week I was in Perthshire for a break featuring some rest and relaxation and time to read. Of course, a photographer is never really taking a break from capturing images but I was there with no fixed plan only my gear and a loose intention to get any images on an opportunistic basis. Most days were wet and more conducive to reading than photography.

On this day, however, my wife and I decided to head to Killicrankie where I thought I might get a shot or two, which I did. After that, however, we decided to head a little north to the House of Bruar for some refreshment. I remembered there were signs to the falls of Bruar so we set off up the path with the dog and I got a couple of images I like, including this one.

I know these long exposure shots of waterfalls are something of a cliché but what captured my attention here was the swirling water at the pool below the waterfall and I thought that might make for an interesting feature. The late autumn colours were vibrant and the very diffused daylight was giving them something of a gentle glow.

I chose to shoot this at f11 to provide a decent depth of field but stay close to the sweet spot of the lens. I wanted a long exposure, so from there I opted for an ISO of 100 and added an ND filter giving me a final exposure time of eight seconds. That’s been long enough to soften the cascade and capture the swirl in the lower pool. I’m pleased with the contrast between the softness of the water and the sharp detail in the rock. There’s also a glow in the water to the top of the pool which reveals the clear but peaty-brown nature of the water. I’m almost back there.

…and a tripod was pretty essential.

If you think this photo would brighten up a wall in your home or office it’s available as a fine art print from my website. Go on, treat yourself or someone else…

Thanks for reading – if you like this, please let me know.

Relaxing in to autumn

green cast iron seat covered in and surrounded by autumn leaves

Autumn seat

Autumn is my favourite season and this photo rather sums it up for me.

At this time of year as the sun sinks lower in the sky and the atmosphere cools the light becomes richer and the possibility of ethereal mists can add a dreamy quality to landscape scenes. This is the time of year to get out there with the camera and make the most of the conditions.

This photo was taken in the walled garden at Kellie Castle in Fife which is relatively local to me and was taken on a sunny autumn day when I simply decided to get out and about. It shows that we don’t need to go far to capture intriguing photos. I went out with no clear plan, other than a determination to capture some images. There is a walled garden at Kellie Castle and I went in there aware of the surrounding trees and hopeful of perhaps getting a shot of the castle surrounded by the colours of autumn. There were one or two options for that which, of course, I captured but as I then walked round the garden this seat caught my attention.

The colour of the seat stands out well against the backdrop of the leaves which offer up an impression of a soft patchwork blanket. The leaves on the seat also suggest a soft cushion contrasting with the hardness of the seat itself.

There is something about autumn which encourages me to slow down and relax into the season. I think this photo captures that sense of the desire to sit down and appreciate the beauty that is all around.

If you would like to keep a sense of the relaxation the autumn inspires why not hang a print of this image on your wall, at work or at home. You can buy a print here.

 

 

A personal project

Here we are behind the scenes at an outdoor photo shot for a personal project which I intend will result in a set of themed images. A little more on that later, let me first tell you about the planning and the shoot.

It’s easy to think of photography as just pointing a camera at a subject and taking a photo. Of course, if you’ve done more serious photography you know about the need to compose the shot, decide on your camera settings, desired depth of field and all that stuff. When it comes to realising an idea the amount of time behind the camera becomes such a small part of the whole process.

For a while I have been thinking about a concept for a series of images. At the moment I have no idea how many that might stretch to as it all depends on how creative I can be in exploring and illustrating the theme. A few months ago I had one very definite image I wanted to create and that was the driver for this photo shoot. I was clear in my own mind what I wanted to express in the image, how the composition would look, where it should be shot and what the general look of the image would be. To make that happen, I needed several things to come together:

  • some assistance
  • a couple of models
  • the right props – a card table, two chairs, a deck of cards, the relevant costumes a picture frame
  • and not least, a low or receding tide coinciding with either sunrise or sunset

This took weeks of planning through the summer and I realised that August was probably going to be the prime time to get the shot. During the planning, I developed another couple of ideas on the same theme, which meant that I could aim to create three or four images out of the one shoot.

While negotiating with friends, aiming to persuade them to help/model for me, I set about looking at tide charts and comparing those with times for sunrise and sunset to find the optimum dates on which to get the shoot done. A narrow window of opportunity appeared and a shoot time was set for 8pm on Tuesday 9 August. Sunset was due at 9pm and the tide would be receding, leaving me the wet sand I was looking for.

After a very dry summer, the days leading up the shoot were overcast and wet – it was entirely possible that the shoot would need to be abandoned if the weather didn’t improve. On the day of the shoot, the morning was wet and windy but the forecast showed this passing with sunny intervals appearing from around 7pm and, thankfully, the forecast was right.

So we set out a tarpaulin on the beach (sand and salty water are no friends to photographic equipment) in order to keep all the important things as well protected as possible.

And now, I am warmly sat before my computer doing the post-shoot editing and processing. This is definitely going to take longer that the shoot, but hopefully I will end up with some inspiring themed images which will be available as fine art prints.

The theme, I will tell you, is an exploration of the concept of absence. Perhaps my next blog post will be something about the creative process for this and maybe something on the editing work – what would you like? Please let me know by leaving a comment, or feel free to ask a question and I’ll do my best to pick those up in a future post.

Meantime I am grateful to my friend, Abbie Nelson, for the behind the scenes photos (above) and for helping me in bringing the shoot to reality.