Tuesday, July 14, 2009

One Step Farther

In the past couple of weeks I've taken a look at Motif #1 as a digital "Kodalith" and how to use the "Blend If" settings as a "Layer Style" setting. Today we're going to explore "Blend If" a little more. With the Kodalith version it was pretty simple to just move a slider and switch the white, blown out, sky with a nice rich black. The black with "reflected" in the water, but appeared natural (as natural as a Kodalith might get) in the finished image. With today's image, the blank sky has been replaced with a cloud filled sky. If it were left that way there would be something missing. Water is the lower half of the image and water reflects. If there are clouds in the sky there should be clouds reflected in the water. The sky is easy. A couple of sliders and we're done. It's a simple replacement of one thing with another. The water is a little trickier. We have to be able to see that there is water plus the reflection. We can't just plop some clouds in and hope people will understand what's supposed to be there. We can't have clouds resting on glass still water, 'cause water just don't sit still. Therefore, we have to have clouds. We have to have water. We have to have ripples in the water. We have to have a gradual fading of the sky into the water. As you can see, instead of one function like the Kodalith had, we now have multiple issues to deal with. What has to be done is follow a set of steps to get where we want to go.

First thing we'll need is two copies of our cloudy sky. One will be the easy part, just some "Blend If" slider action and we're good to go with that piece of the puzzle. First thing we need to do with the second copy is flip it vertically. No problem, simply hit CTRL T to get to the Free Transform, right click and select "Flip Vertical". At this point we're going to need a second copy of the main image. Just a simple CTRL J will do the trick. Give it a mask and make the mask black on the top half of the image. (We will need an opposite mask applied to the original copy of the image. Can there be such a thing? An original copy?) The original needs a mask applied opposite of what we just did on the "copy of the original copy" (???). Hold down the ALT key and drag a copy of the, already made, mask to the image layer. With the mask selected you should be able to hit CTRL "I" to invert the black & white portions of the makes. When making the mask, try to hide it in the rocks under the barn.
We're at the point where we can again play with the "Blend If" sliders. This time blend the clouds with the water. You may have to clean it up a tad by splitting the sliders and doing a little "air brushing" of the split to get it to be a more natural transition. Now we should have the inverted clouds blending with the water. At some point the water is going to get so strong as to completely fade the sky and you'll only have water. The problem is still that we have flat water. Not to worry, we can handle that.
We'll need a new blank layer. On the layer we want to put in our own "clouds". Select Filter/Render/Clouds. Does that look sucky or what. Reduce the size of your image on the screen by hitting the CTRL - (Minus) keys several times. Get to the "Free Transform" area by selecting the CTRL "T" keys. Take the vertical middle handles and pull them way out to the left and right. By "way out" I mean the area constrained by the transform should look like a very wide, thin pano. You'll see that the "clouds" are less blotchy and have taken on a look of waves (or ripples). You can't "see" the extent of the "clouds" that hang out to each side of the image but it is there. If you want to test it, take the Move Tool and slider the clouds left or right. You'll see that the rest of the clouds that were transformed are still there. We need to get rid of them. In order to control the size of the file we'll need to "crop" the image back to the original size. The last little bit should be playing with the Layer Blending Modes and the Layer Opacity. For a Blending Mode you'd probably want to start out with Overlay or Soft Light. Use the up and down arrows to run through the stack, but you will most likely come back to Overlay or Soft Light. If the 'waves" appear too strong, reduce the layer Opacity.

That should be about it. Take a shot at it.