Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Create A Background That Wasn't Really THere

I guess it's time to start getting "serious" about making some images.  Those who know me will understand why the word "serious" is in quotes.  Today's image is a result of a "Fun Trail Ride and Obstacle Course" at the 2nd Governor's Horse Guard in Newtown Connecticut over the past weekend.  I'm not sure if there was a fee for the riders, but "spectators" were welcomed and treated royally.  There was a Major in charge of the day and we were invited into the barn area to watch the unit's horses brought in after their workout and being brushed down and groomed.  Flashes were not allowed, so the I had to crank up the sensor sensitivity pretty far.  When we got back outside the trail riders were just getting back and starting the obstacle course.  Most riders used English style riding hat (helmets) and didn't give the look I was looking for.  Then came along the "Marlboro Man" in today's image.  So I had the right horse, the right guy and still had a pretty crappy background.  Possibly because of the cold spring or maybe just because it was the first weekend of May the trees in the background were just a bunch of sticks.  To me, my cowboy looked like he'd been out riding the range and had just come down from the mountains.  I decided that was the setting he "needed" to be in.  To check out how he got there, hit the "Read More".

First, let me say that anything from the fence to the front is real.  Anything beyond the fence is phony as heck.  The sky, the mountains, the trees, the clouds and anything else you think you might see is all trickery.  The reality of the background was just some leafless trees and a nothing sky. 

One of the big tricks to doing something like today's image is to put everything on a separate Layer.  Because of that need, Adobe Photoshop [PS] (whatever number you have) or Adobe Photoshop Elements [PSE] needs to be employed.  As usual, some basic adjustments had been made in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom [LR] (again, whatever number you have) before bringing the basic image over to PS.  Because things (the background) were going to be replaced, Layers were needed.  If you're new to PS, the biggest recommendation I can make is to use Layers.  Lots of Layers.  Every time you change Brushes, switch colors, use a Gradient, add components, use a Layer.  It just makes life easier down the road.  If something on a Layer gets too messed up and you can't figure out how to get yourself out of the jam you've put yourself in, just dump the Layer and replace it with a new one.  You'll only be replacing one set of clouds, or one tree, or one "thing" you've added.  If you're a more advanced user and have the use of Layers down pat the big tip would be to use Smart Objects.  Lots of Smart Objects.  Again, it's all about making life easier.  Smart Objects are wonderful devices.  If you are far enough along with learning PS, make sure Smart Objects are on your list of must use "tools".

Hopefully, whenever there are pretty clouds in the sky, you shoot clouds to add to a "cloud collection".  Grab a cloud that looks good and make a brush out of it.  See my post on making your own brushes .  Color the clouds green (a couple different shades [on different Layers]) and make the base of the mountain.  Twist and turn the cloud Brushes (use the Brush engine) to create form and texture.  On a new layer, use a new cloud Brush with brown colors to make the area above the tree line.  Another new Layer, more cloud Brushes and use off white colors to make the snowcap.
Another set of cloud Brushes.  This time don't do any twisting and turning.  Use several different clouds, again with off colors and put in some big puffy "Bob Ross" clouds.
The final touch is only available in Photoshop CC, so it's obviously optional.  In PS CC there a new option in the Fill dialog box (Edit/Fill).  Under Contents/Use select Pattern.  An extension will be added to the dialog box that's titled Scripted Patterns.  Use that dropdown to find "Trees".  Pick the tree you want.  Define it's parameters and you'll have a tree.  Make sure it's on its own Layer.  Resize and position the tree where you want it.  Becasue it's on its own Layer, any Adjustment Layers can be applied to make it look like it belongs in the environment.