Thursday, 31 July 2014

Technique - Rush Hour North Carlton

A couple of people have asked how I put together the digital picture “Rush Hour”.

Here is a step-by-step guide, using Photoshop cc.  You can probably do this with a lot of other photo-manipulation programs, provide they have similar tools.

1: I worked out what I wanted to get across and the format.  Melbourne is a pretty nice place.  But no city is nice in rush hour, and Melbourne is no exception.  Melbourne also uses trams.  This complicates those roads where there are trams in two ways.

Firstly, the trams run in the centre of the roads with lots of tram infrastructure at tram-stops. Secondly, the sky above trams is full of tram wires – a bit like being in a spider web.  Melbourne has some interesting buildings – the CBD has a couple of distinct towers and the shopping centres have interesting road based buildings.  So I drove around trying to get shots that incorporated trams, cars, CBD buildings, a tram stop and a shopping centre. 

2: I got lucky in North Carlton.  I parked and took a series of pictures trying to catch a tram at the station.  I tried to keep as much of the background in focus: ISO 100, f/5.0 and 1/200 sec worked on the day with a fairly cheap 75-300 Canon zoom.  Elements that I got lucky with were the car brake and the traffic stop lights - they both became important in the final composition.

3: I then moved the image into Photoshop cc 2014 – making sure I made a copy of the image I was going to work on.  I duplicated the background layer (Layer>Duplicate Layer) and renamed the new layer “Layer 1”.  I made sure that “Layer 1” was at the top of the list and was highlighted for editing (the default).  I then created a layer emphasising the sharp lines by adopting a filter (Filter>Stylize>Find Edges).  

4. At this stage – if you want to emphasise the lines, you can boost them in a couple of different ways, or sharpen them – but for now we will not do either. Go to the Layers panel (by default it should be on the lower right side of your panel, and change the opacity of the “Layer 1” to 60%.  This will allow a hit of the colours to shine into your line drawing.  When you are happy, combine the layers into a final picture (Layer>Flatten Image). 

5.  Now you can start making chooses about the final form of the picture.  I chose to retain the landmark buildings, the trams and the stop light as the new centre of the picture.  I was a bit sorry to lose the KEEP LEFT sign but the action was all over the other side. So I used the crop tool to select the final picture.

6. For some pictures, this might be enough – don’t think you have to go on – the next step actually distorts the picture. To finish the picture at this point - you probably want to adjust tone - or boost black/white levels.

7. I wanted to distort the picture further to emphasise the feeling of being trapped in the roadway.  This involved emphasising the known landmarks, tunnelling into the detail in the centre of the picture (following the line of shops on the road) and trimming the picture to a portrait output. 

6. Photoshop cc has a useful tool to help you distort elements of the picture.  Before you touch it, work out what you are aiming for.  I wanted to caricature the landmark building by making them bigger and prouder than they already are.   I also wanted to tunnel out the centre of the picture - de-emphasising the poor trees and squashing and distorting the foreground vehicles.  Go to Filter>Liquify and start using a large brush and gentle movements to tease the picture into the shape you want.  Work on the entire picture – if you concentrate on just one element at a time, you will end up with a disjointed mess (that might work too J ).

7. Finally, I increased the levels to give greater definition to end up with the picture shown at the top.

Peter Quinton
July 2014

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