Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Stacking and blending

This post contains details of two different constructions from the same three images.

1. The Old Track
The Old Track is a stacked and hand blended image.

2. Heartbeat
A couple of days later I came back to create a second 3D composition called Heatbeat, re-separating the in-focus elements and creating small movement.

A. The original images
The three images were taken using a soft zoom into the sun set, focusing on far, mid and near elements. se are the three original images.

1. The Old Track
The Old Track is a stacked and hand blended image.

This type of result cannot be obtained using the automatic functions in Photoshop, as good as they are. There are two immediate problems: firstly the clouds in the background are moving too fast to stack and secondly the foreground shot contains too few points to allow automatic scene placement.  So I have blended these by hand, using layers.

I use Photoshop cc. 
i. I opened the three images and then moved them into a single images with three layers using File>Automate>Photomerge (Blend Images Together Off, Add Open Files). This process only stacked two of the three images - I stacked the third manually - and then cropped the result to size.
ii. I worked on each layer in turn. With the background layer I used the clone tool to eliminate any sign of the tree or foreground.

iii. With the tree layer, I eliminated the background and foreground elements. I did this using a select function: Select>Color Range and selecting part of the tree color. I selected the inverse and then used the rubber to delete the background. I deselected and used the rubber function to manually clean up the cloud elements that remained. Tedious, but this also creates a long term asset.

I repeated this process for the grass layer. 

The combination ran into a couple of problems. 
Firstly, my right arm is in a sling. 
Secondly, I was not happy with the loss of color from the original, so bled some of the hues from the original into the composition. This worked great in restoring color and created a soft misty effect, but had two negative effects. The tree line is washed out in the composition, and takes on the appearance of nearby ground detail. Finally, the bottom branches of the tree became quite murky.

2. Heatbeat
Heatbeat is a variation on the above image but built as a pulsating GIF image.

I created a timeline in Photoshop cc and added the first image, with all layers selected. I created a second element, moving just the grass layer one pixel to the left. With the third element I moved the grass layer and the tree layer one pixel to the left and with the remaining two elements moved the layers back to there start position. I then timed the cycle to 60 per minute, my heart rate when walking.

Unlike the first composition, I did not bleed hue elements back into the GIF - choosing to keep it stark, an inevitable result perhaps using a GIF, where you have a very limited color palette.

In describing this to +Chris Sutton, who asked about the composition, I had to think for a moment. I finally said that "It occurred to me tonight while walking that even when I am still, watching the horizon, I move slightly from breathing or heartbeat." 

Peter Quinton
May 2015

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