There's a starting point to every image. It's not necessary that the final image look anything like the original. Today's image is an example of just such a final image. The title honors the space agency and their recent accomplishment of land a roving probe on Mars. The image is called "Curiosity Approaching Mars". As you may have guessed, I wasn't following along behind the craft, snapping pix as Curiosity neared the planet. I also don't have a long enough lens to have taken the shot from my back yard. (That would have been a really long lens.) I do think it looks reasonably possible, but what was used to create the image and how were the pieces changed? To find out, hit the "Read More".
Well, the biggest piece of the image is "Mars", so we might as well start there. Got any thoughts on what the original image looked like? It was a shot of a field of sunflowers. Interesting, making a planet out of something called sunflowers. In Adobe Photoshop CS6 (CS6) the first stop was the Polar Coordinates Filter (Filter/Distort/Polar Coordinates) and the Rectangular to Polar option checked. To eliminate the match line that typically appears when this is done the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) was used to Select the half of the image that didn't have the line. That half was put up on its own Layer (CTRL J). Then Free Transform (CTRL T) was used to flip the Layer Vertically. The Move Tool (V) was used to slide the hemisphere up into place. That Layer got a Layer Mask and the match line was blurred using a big soft Brush (B). The Layers were then flattened (CTRL E). At that point it was a green and yellow ball. The sunflowers were still discernible so the image took a little trip to the Oil Paint Filter (Filter/Oil Paint [in CS6 only]) The sliders were slapped around randomly until maximum distortion was achieved. Still too recognizable. Time to crank up the Blur Filter (Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur) to a point where there was nothing left to the sunflower field. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was put on the Layer and the Hue and the Saturation sliders played with until a mottled reddish ball formed. That became the start of Mars.
Mars is know for a couple features. One is the polar ice caps. Another looks to be swirling clouds racing across the surface. The "planet" also needed a shadow on the side away from the Sun. To give some life to those features, the Dodge and Burn Tools (O) were used. A large, soft Burn Tool was swept across the left side of the planet. A smaller, not quite as soft Dodge Tool was used to create the southern polar icecap. The clouds seen across the planet are actually (wait for it) ... clouds. To one of my stash of images of clouds about a half dozen Black to Transparent Gradients were applied to soften the edges of the original cloud image. The soft cloud image was applied over the planet and a Layer Mask used to trim around the planet's edge. That's about it on the making of Mars. The spacecraft on the other hand...
It's an outdated tomato soup can with the paper cover removed. I just set it down on a coffee table and shot it using a 70 - 300 lens. After extracting the can from its background the first trip was to Free Transform (CTRL T) Right clicking inside the selection presents several options. The can was modified using the Distort, Skew and Perspective option found in Free Transform. It also had several Layer Styles applied (Double click in the name area of the Layer in the Layers Panel). It has Drop Shadow, Outer Glow, Inner Glow and Bevel & Emboss Styles applied.
The other components are fairly standard. The Sun is a Lens Flare Filter (Filter/Render/Lens Flare, as is the twin spiral galaxies and the moons orbiting the planet. The star field is three black Layers with Noise (Filter/Noise/Add Noise) applied. The Levels (Image/Adjustments/Levels) were moved to eliminate most of the Noise on each of three Layers. Two of the three Layers were altered in size using Free Transform (CTRL T) to change the size of each Layer to create different sized stars.It actually took longer to write this post than it did to create the final image.