An altered orchid

For the last two months I have been itching to paint, especially after my return visit to cardiovascular rehabilitation that lasted till mid-December. Knowing that I would not be abe to paint for a few more weeks, I just had to satisfy my creative urges and so decided to the camera and photograph one of our blooming orchids. 

Alice's Workshop

After uploading the images and working on a select few in Photoshop, I decided to explore other options to its appearance. That same day when visiting my friend Christiane’s blog Ninifees DosiNews from Germany, she had posted samples of her recent work of image alterations she was working with, because she is taking part in Alice’s ‘Magic Light’ Workshop

Considering I was working on the following altered images, I was intrigued and after looking in on Alice’s blog, I also decided to participate and share my process.

Though Alice choose the theme a 'Winter Landscape' or a 'Winter Theme' for the pictures, I have little choice, living in Northern California where snow fall at my altitude is rare. For any snow covered landscape I would need to travel where the mountains are, five hours away from home. So I apologize to the other participants in this workshop with my offering of an orchid growing in our garden and hope that it will bring the viewer not only pleasure but also a sign that spring is not far off for them too.

RAW image

After the unprocessed RAW file has been has pre-treated in Photoshop (PS) it is saved and reimported into PS and given a new name. The next two steps are adjustments in LEVELS and CURVES, followed by COLOUR adjustments and CONTRAST if necessary. Regarding this image, COLOUR and CONTRAST changes were not needed.

The two images I am working with to create a third

Though I like the image of the orchids by itself, I desired to manipulate it only moderately, enhancing the photography by adding a textural overlay. I tried several textures before settling on this one. The process of selecting a texture is not taken lightly, as it will make or cause failure in the photographs final appearance.

The layers

One of the things I do routinely is to converted a photo to a Black/White, this allows me to evaluate the contrast range of an image. The settings for the Black/White Layer: ‘Normal’, ‘Opacity’ 100%; Red: 75; Yellow: 75; Green: 00; Cyan: 00; Blue: 00; Magenta: 00.

After doing this, another layer was added, a duotone tint composed of C030/M060/Y100/K020 to give the over all photo a tinted appearance. Reviewing the results, I tried a few combinations and then settled keeping the duotone but unselect the Black/White. 

Now I begin to fine-tune the percentages for the duotone so that there would be the right visual balance between the tint and the texture, while also permitting the orchid to achieve its optimum appearance.

Final version

Black/White conversion

Though I prefer the colour version of the picture, I still wanted to see it as a Black/White, not only to study the values but to see if it could stand on its own as a Black/White.

— — —

Part Two — The ground work

Image with only LAYERS and CURVES adjusted

Having taken several photographs that day, a number of exposures were in HDR and the following is a composite of three separate images with a variation of 1.7 f-stops between them. The lens was set to f-22 with an ISO of 200. All images in this presentation have a 300 dpi when worked in PS, including the previous demonstration.

The RAW files were first individually treated in PS before importing them into Photomatix Pro for the final assemblage. Re-imported into PS where adjustment in 'LEVLES' and "Curves' was made before adding any texture or colour tint layer.

Though this image differs technically from the previous non-HDR photograph, the following PS treatments however remain identical, other then that there are a couple of extra layers to demonstrate that by letting ones imagination wonder and experiment, we can achieve a variety of different results.

It was important for me to keep the same texture file and duotone tint, only adjusting the levels and percentages of both files and blurring both of the texture files so that its detail would not cause a conflict with the orchid or be seen as the same texture file used in the previous example.

The first layer in the manipulation is the C030/M060/Y100/K020 duotone tint; the layer is set to ‘Luminosity’ and the ‘Opacity’ to 25%.

This is followed with an overlay of the texture then applying Gaussian Blur, with a setting of radius 10.0 pixels; the layer to ‘Multiple’ and ‘Opacity’ to 75%, giving the image a grim appearance.

Wanting a little more of a grunge look, I experimented with another layer of blurred texture by simple duplicating the layer. The layers settings for texture #2 was changed to ‘Overlay’, with an ‘Opacity’ at 60% after achieving a desired effect for this stage of the process. 

Though I liked the golden effect that countered nicely with the grunge in the previous example, my next step is once again to see the contrast range by adding a Black/White conversion layer, which turned down the colour tones but only partially since the layers was set to 50%, making the flowers appear more faded. Settings for the first Black/White are: Layer: ‘Normal’, ‘Opacity’ 50%; Red: 60; Yellow: 60; Green: 40; Cyan: 60; Blue: 20; Magenta: 80.

With the second Black/White conversion layer added for the purpose of seeing it as a Black/White, I decided to play around with the settings after seeing it set to ‘Screen’, when the image became lighter, appearing having naturally faded over time. Settings for this second Black/White are: Layer: ‘Screen’, ‘Opacity’ 100%; Red: 60; Yellow: 60; Green: 40; Cyan: 60; Blue: 20; Magenta: 80.

I decided to pursue the progress by studying the image as a Black/White, which meant I would need to add a third Black/White conversion layer. After duplicating the layer, it was set to ‘Normal’, ‘Opacity’ 100%, with all the colour settings the same as in the previous two Black/White layers.

Since I personally like having most of my Black/White photographs as a duotone, this means adding another colour layer. I simple duplicated the tint layer of 030/M060/Y100/K020, with a layer setting to “Multiple’and ‘Opacity’ at 35%.

It was now time to experiment with the various combinations of layers I had created and see what would be possible. This would mean simple unchecking the active box of a layer and see what sort of results would be achieved. Only after a desired look would I consider playing with the percentages.

Part Three — The final steps and fine tuning

As you can see in the layer menu (bottom right hand of the image), we unchecked the top duotone layer, the Black/White conversion layer, and both textures. Now we are able to review the image as a faded photograph whose paper surface was not spoiled by dampness or age.

Adding back one of the second texture layer, I became really excited by the results that lay before me, however I cannot help but see what else is possible.

With the activation of the second duotone layer, I felt I finally achieved what I had set out to obtain. Now it was time to make myself a pot of green tea, clear my head by going for a walk in the garden until the tea had brewed.

Final version?

After I had a cup of tea, I under took one last serious critical observation of the image I had created, when after a few minutes I began to wonder if not all the tones were too muted and that the picture would need an airing, given a bit more life to it. By removing of the second layer of duotone, the photograph appeared was as if it had been cleaned by a conservator, retrieving some of the faded colours an removing decades of dirt.

The layers setting for the final version that follows

Final version

This truly was what I had pre-visualized, a picture post card whose age had been tempered by the decades of fluctuations in temperatures and moisture. A post card with softly faded colours that still had a story to tell.

What I hope you take away from this lesson, is that by keeping it simple and yet experimenting and trying various combinations of settings, we can achieve numerous versions from which to choose what pleases our senses and artistic interpretations. 

For me the final version reflects an image taken decades earlier, around the 1920’s and printed on post card stock for mailing. At that time the post card stock was mostly a warm buff colour, which over the years became darker and the single layer of duotone reflects this. Since time and moisture had altered the post card's paper, a single layer of texture was used to achieved this, while minimally changing the look of the orchid. The flowers faded colours keep us guessing as to if this was a colour photograph or a Black/White that had been hand colored, all of which only adding to the mystery of the image.

Before printing the file, another closer look is taken and any dust that was on the cameras image sensor, that now appears as little soft grey specks, is touched up and removed with the clone tool of PS.

Don’t you just love it when one's imagination just wonders freely?

— — —

* Please have a look at the other contributors in Alice's Workshop.

Thank you for your visit and comment,


Susan Deborah said...

Dear Egmont:

How happy I am to see a post from you. The transformation of that picture is amazing. I am glad that you were patient enough to take us through the various stages. The whole world knows the power of photoshop. All our celebrities make great use of it. On second thoughts, I think that photoshop became popular only after celebrities started using it excessively to heighten their charms.

Hope you have been well, dear Egmont.

Take good care.

Joy and peace,

Gina said...

Egmont ...

growth, out of the depths (of?)... is what i think of when i see this .. i love the lost and found edges, the push pull... lovely

it is indeed so lovely to see a post from you ... >>>Gina

Studio Sylvia said...

The orchid has undergone a wondrous transformation Egmont. Maybe an analogy of your improving health? Best wishes.

Maggie Neale said...

Dear Egmont, I'm always pleased to see a post from also. The orchids are lovely and your treatment of them works well. It is quite a lesson you have patiently given us. More than I can digest right now because I have anew post idea burning. Take care of your self; you are valuable.

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Greetings dear Susan,

Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. I know it has been far too long and we are trying our best to change this in 2011.

Photoshop is a very powerful tool and I feel like I am only scratching the surface of it, but I also believe in minimal purity when using it.

Wishing you all the best,

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Greetings dear Gina,

Thank you for dropping by and sharing with us your observations.

Last year there were too many distractions and though there is still much to catch up on, we are making a concerted effort to get into some kind of routine.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend,

kathrin said...

how nice that flower is, have a

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Dear Sylvia,

What a wonderful surprise to see that you have dropped by for a visit. I had thought you had left us when you closed your blog last year and sent us a farewell message. So to see you have decided to return is in deed a joyous moment.

Last year for me was a big distraction from everything I loved doing and though all the cardiovascular rehabilitation, the improvements were marginal and I am told it will take time. Not weeks or months but another year or two.

Since I am no longer in the program, I promised myself to do the best I can and let my health issues dominate 2011, as I try to be more creative and especially attentive to my friends.

Warmest regards,

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Dear Maggie,

It is a pleasure to see you grace my blog with your presence and I appreciate your kind words.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend,

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Liebe Katrin,

Es war wirklich schön, deine Anwesenheit hier zu sehen. Ich mag sehr dein neues Porträt und das Hut ist ja ganz toll.

Alles gute

Alice said...

Dear Egmont,

I´m really speechless. So much work in so short time. Your description is exactly and will be a great help and inspiration for all your interested followers.
The voting will be open till the 18. february. I hope there will attend also from your readership a lot of readers .
Here's a hug from me :))))

Your Alice

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Liebe Alice,

Vielen Dank für deinen Besuch und Kommentar. Auch ich war überrascht das ich das Projekt innerhalb des Zeitrahmens abzuschließen konnte. Ursprünglich wollte ich nur den ersten Teil anzeigen, aber seit dem ich mehr als fünf Monate weg war, da dachte ich, das ich sollte mehr tun.

Ich freue mich zu teilnehmen in dein 'Magic Light' workshop und vielen dank für das folgen.

Liebe Grüße aus Kalifornia,

La Dolce Vita said...

My Dear Egmont,

How nice to see an art post from you. What a lot of stages to this work, I can really appreciate all the steps and the final version is beautiful. I am so hopeful for your complete recovery and know that you are thriving. I am sending you hugs and hoping that you are finding time for art. Yes I do love it when ones imagination wanders freely.

From my heart to yours, richest blessings...


Zuzana said...

Nice to see a post from you pop up on my sidebar. And what a beuatiful and detailed PS tutorial.;)
I love that software although I definitely use it only to its - at the best - 5% potential. But I am trying to learn more.;)
The end product is stunning!
Have a lovely Sunday,

Ian Foster said...

Great work Egmont, I imagine this will be well received in Alice's magic light workshop. Have you ever used the 'Topaz adjust' software? Except in the few cases where the dynamic range of the subject demands the use of HDR I prefer it to 'Photomatix'.

Christiane said...

Ich finde es faszinierend, was man aus einem Foto machen kann. Wie man dem, was die Kamera gesehen hat, das zufügen und verstärken kann, was man in dem Motiv sieht oder sehen möchte. Eine Interpretation der Wirklichkeit.
Mir gefallen beide Versionen, die Du erstellt hast. Das zweite noch etwas besser, weil ich diesen altmodischen Touch mag. Mit der Dokumentation hast Du Dir sehr viel Mühe gegeben. Und wenn ich mir den Weg, den Dein zweiter Entwurf genommen hat so anschaue, spricht mich auch die schwarz/weiß Version an. Danke, dass wir einen Einblick in Deine Arbeitsweise haben durften.
liebe Grüße

Four Seasons in a Life said...

My dear Caterina,

Thank you for popping in, leaving a thoughtful comment and well wishes.

I hope to be doing art real soon, not that photography is not real art, but there is something very different when working with paint, unlike a computer mouse.

Sending hugs and kisses to a very special person,

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Dear Zuzana,

It brings me great pleasure to see you here visiting and commenting. I know it has been far too long since I have been active and we are trying to make a change in 2011.
I am sure you are still snowed under in Denmark, while we are enjoying bits of sunshine now and then.

Wishing you all the very best,

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Dear Ian,

Thank you for visiting and sharing with me some of your thought about software. Personally I have not heard of 'Topaz' and will see what I can find out.

Photomatix I use simply to combine all the images but any pre-work is done to the middle image in Photoshop and then applied to all other images without making any changes. Then imported into Photomatix and back to Photoshop when all the fine tuning begins.

Wishing you all the best,

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Meine liebe Christiane,

Es brachte mir viel Freude dieses Tutorial zusammen zu bringen. Die Stunden waren lange, Wie Du Wolte ich alles perfekt haben, denn nichts anderes zählt.

Ich kann nur hoffen, dass genug Leser werden es sehen.

Alles gute zu einer neuen Woche,

Demoiselle Libellule said...

Lieber Egmont, vielen Dank für deinen Kommentar auf meinem Blog. Es war spannend zu sehen, in welchen Schritten du deine Orchidee langsam transformiert hast! Das Ergebnis ist sehr schön geworden!

Liebe Grüße aus München


Four Seasons in a Life said...

Guten tag Demoiselle Libellule,

Vielen dank für dein besuch und Kommentar. Es war sehr schön dein Beispiel zu sehen.

Liebe Grüße von Kalifornia,

JJ said...

A fascinating post that is much appreciated. Have a great Valentine's Day!

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Greetings JJ,

Thank you for the compliment regarding the tutorial. I plan to do others, especially on the HDR workflow.

Here in California it has been raining all night and day. Now that we are heading back into the night, the rains have slowed. NEver the less, I consider this type of weather romantic and perfect for Valentine Day.

Wishing you a wonderful Valentine Day too.

Warmest regards,

Dianne Poinski said...

Absolutely love what you did with the orchid image! Thank you so much for sharing the steps too. It really is a great feeling when an image turns out the way you envisioned it. Can't wait for you to share more......

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Dear Dianne,

Thank you for your comment and especially encouraging me to do another tutorial. I m contemplating one on the HDR work flow.

Warmest regards,

Sophie Munns said...

I am stunned Egmont!
Your patience and exacting nature knows no bounds!
I would fail your class but I would be tremendously impressed ... maybe you could pass me for that... it certainly would not be for application!
I feel i wold be a cheeky student and would be in trouble a lot. OR... does it just look incredibly clever and really is very simple?
Somehow I think it is very clever.
here's to many more postings and all kinds of poetic discoveries in your studio Egmont,
Sophia x

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Dear Sophie,

Your comment brought a big smile to my face. I loved your humour. You would make a great student and the secret with this tutorial is that it is very simple. It is all about experimenting and letting the mind roam free and seeing what comes of it. In the end it may seem all very clever.

I am planning another on on HDR work flow but it is several weeks away as I started painting again and its stage will be revealed upon completion.

Wishing you all the best,

Marlynn said...

Hello my friend, your orchid and the process took my breath away! You are truly one talented artist. Wishing you the best of health, M

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Dear Marlynn,

It was a great pleasure to see you stopped by for a visit and thank you also for your comment.

Enjoy your three day weekend,

LauraX said...

fantastic Egmont...I loved viewing your process here.

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Greeting Laura,

Thank you for stopping by for a visit and commenting. I am glad you enjoyed the tutorial.

Wishing you a wonderful day,