Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Shhhh, Don't Tell Anyone This Is A Composite.

Ya know, you could stand in front of a scene like today’s image and snap away and have a very nice shot of a marina.  You’d have to be at a different marina, ‘cause the sign and the docks don’t line up at Deep River Landing the way it appears in the shot.  The sign is over by the entrance, a couple hundred yards to the right of the mooring area and the line of sight is such that you could get a lovely shot of the maintenance buildings just inside the gate.  The basic idea behind doing a convincing composite is to make it look like it’s not a composite.  It would be the photographic equivalent of trompe l’oeil in the art world.  Trompe l’oeil is a French term meaning “deceive the eye”.  There are all sorts of examples of the technique that can be found by doing a “Google” search.  Some are very clever, totally impossible scenes, some are so realistic you think the artwork is actually three dimensional and some just make you ask yourself the question “is that real?”  The people running Deep River Landing could take today’s image and put it on their business cards.  People would think it was a great spot and possibly visit.  They’d be scratching their heads when they arrived and find things not as they appeared, but that’s what might be called poetic license rather than an attempt at deception.  There’s more than meets the eye in what had to be done to create today’s image.  To find out what, hit the “read more”.

The backdrop for the sign is a small grove a trees, with one or two branches overhanging the sign. The first thing that was done was making a selection using the Quick Selection Tool (W). A sweep over the sign did a reasonable job of differentiating the sign from the background. For anyone using Adobe Photoshop CS5 (or any recent version) the first thing to do, once you’ve refined the selection should be (in my opinion) to right click on the selection and choose Save Selection. Give the selection a name, and you’ll have it anytime you might need it while working on your image. If you’ve spent any time making a selection you shouldn’t want to remake the same selection several steps down the workflow path. With the selection saved as an Alpha Channel, it’ll be available as long as you own the image (if you save it out as a PSD file. Saving your selections is a great habit to get into and the reward of not doing the same task over and over again is priceless. It really doesn’t matter if you save the sign selection or if you save the background as the selection. As soon as you call it up as an Alpha Channel you can flip it (CTRL I [eye]) to provide whichever positive or negative mask you require.
One of the interesting side notes of today’s image was that I, apparently, held the camera on an angle one way for the sign image and the opposite way for the scene image. Once the two were composited and masked it looked a tad strange. Land tilting one direction and the sign with the opposite cant. The good news is that Free Transform (CTRL T) works independently based on the Layer being fiddled with. So, the scene got a little clockwise nudge and the sign got a bump counterclockwise. When both were finished it looked considerably more natural.

There’s a little touchup on the sign to remove the overhanging foliage, but other than that it’s a reasonably straight forward composite.