Sunday, March 14, 2010

It's All About The Screen

I have had more than a handful of enquiries over the last several weeks how I created that surreal look on the lichen and rock picture posted on 27 January.

I wish I could take claim to some great creative innovation, but I can’t. The inspiration, as mentioned in that post, belongs to Michael Orton. Whereas the Orton technique was developed on film, I have developed my own recipe in Photoshop to mimic the original ethereal look and feel that it creates.

Please bear in mind that the technique works on some images, and not at all on others. With Photoshop as your kitchen, here is my recipe:

1. Open image in Photoshop
2. Create a duplicate layer of the “Background” and call this new layer “Base Layer”
3. Create a duplicate layer of the Base Layer and call this new layer “Screen Layer”
4. With Screen Layer active, change Blend Mode to Screen
5. With Screen Layer active, select Merge Down
6. Create a duplicate layer of the Base Layer and call this new Layer “Blur Layer”
7. With the Blur Layer active, go to the Filter Menu and Gaussian Blur. Adjust the blur to the point that there is barely any detail visible in the image
8. With the Blur Layer active, change the Blending Mode to Multiply, and adjust the opacity and/or fill to attain the desired look
9. Flatten the Image, and adjust to taste.

This is the exact process I have used in the below image. I will confess this is not the greatest image for this technique, but it does show the effect.

Sugar Maple in Winter, Lynne Mtn., Colchester County, Nova Scotia

By comparison in the image below the multiply mode simply would not provide the desired ethereal look. Consequently, what I have done is used a “Hard Light” blending mode, and this allows the trees to be more, dare I say, avant-garde.

Beaver Dam in Winter, Thomson, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia

I have also found that many photographers today are experimenting with HDR and tonal mapping – whatever that really might be. Should one wish to be experimental with the above recipe, sans the blur layer, this technique will also add a lot of depth and tonal range to an image. Be forewarned, however, some layer masking will more than likely be necessary. With that having been said, you should be provided with a really pleasing histogram and very little opportunity for clipping to sneak in on either end.

Hope you have as much fun as I using this recipe. Now get cooking.