Here, to celebrate the gallery opening of an exhibit at a local art gatllery, appropriately named Bamboo Gallery, is this week’s Picture of the Moment. The picture has nothing at all to do with the details of nature as they’re depicted in the exhibit. But if you’re in Panama City, Panama in the Casco Viejo area, just go to the Bamboo Gallery. It’s next door to Galleria Indigina on Calle 1a at the very end of Avenida A, just before you get to the Bovedas tourist walk. The exhibit is called “The Details of Nature” and has nothing to do with this post.
The “picture of the moment” that is the subject of this post was taken during a break when I was ..While I was putting together the exhibit I was taking a break during a sudden burst of sunshine to do some necessary shopping in the next door neighborhood called Santana. While I was in the super, there was a sudden, huge cloudburst. It’s been raining so hard off and on for the past couple of weeks that they’ve had to close the Canal twice because the flooding was so severe that they couldn’t control the water in the locks. It also made putting the exhibit together quite an adventure. On my way back home, and approaching the oldest “soda” in Panama City, the rain stopped, the Sun was just setting, and the streets were covered with running water just as all the lights came on.
Thank heavens I now always have a 10MP camera that shoot RAW in my pocket. It’s the Canon s90 that I bought just one week before the s95 came out. It’s amazing, with a sensor that’s much larger than that in most compacts, in-lens image stabilization and f/2 lens and a sensor that’s significantly faster than that in most compacts. So it has a big advantage in that it can shoot pro-quality images that have lots of adjustment latitude and, even wide-open, the sensor that’s still relatively small compared to that in the typical DSLR APS-C size, means that the focal length of the lens makes for nearly infinite depth-of-field–even with the lens wide-open. Here’s the original shot, straight out of the camera. Note that there’s not a speck of noise grain and no motion blur despite a 1/25th second shutter speed at ISO 200.
Even though amazed by it’s quality, I really wanted to look a bit more like a night shot. So I darkened Lightroom 3.3’s Exposure slider, then made slight adjustments with the Recovery (for more highlight detail) slider, the Fill Light slider (for more shadow detail), and then made it “pop” a bit more with the Clarity and Vibrance sliders. I liked result (seen below) a lot and really didn’t feel the need to do anything more to it. I’ll be using that version for purposes that reaquire a photograph, rather than a painting. Here’s that version:
But I’m currently working up a collection of images that I’m going to research printing at very reasonable rates in either Columbia or San Salvador that can be sold as post-cards, small posters, and (eventually) calendars and (so far, at least) I’m turning them into digital photographs that look like paintings. I thought this photograph might just be an ideal candidate.
There are more ways than squirrels have babies to turn a digital image into something that looks hand-painted. Photoshop has filters (which only work in 8-bit mode. If you use the Artistic, Brush Strokes and Sketch filters you get an automatic effect and you can even use the filter gallery to mixseveral of these effects. Photoshop CS5 also has extensive new features that make it easier and more realistic than ever to make “natural media” looking brush strokes. When you get into doing that, BTW, using a pressure sensitive pen tablet (e.g. Wacom’s varied line) will make doing the work much easier and faster.
One tool that does work in 16-bit mode, does the job just as quickly, and that I really like is the Topaz plug-in filter called Simplify. Simplify gives you a dozen different painting styles that you can create at the click of a button. But WAIT! That’s only the barest beginning. There are then 12 artistic styles to choose from and each of those can be modified by three different panels that control Simplify, Adjust, and Edges. On top of that, like all the Topaz filters, you can just click on the “I Feel Lucky” button and stop when you see something that bowls you over. So, here’s what I ended up with that took me a bit less than a minute:
I then thought I could still get a bit more detail by just lowering the opacity of the layer to let some of the original image show through. You can get even more “effects” by playing with the layer blend modes, but I liked what I had. So here’s how it ended up:
One very helpful thing about turning photos into paintings is that you can create an illustration in which none of the people are recognizable, so you don’t have to worry about model releases, which would be near impossible to get in a “shoot from the hip” street scene like this one.
I’ve also been experimenting with Corel’s new Paint It program and getting some very nice results that we’ll talk about in the next POM. If you want to take this even further, you can use all the other programs, paste the results into the same Photoshop file as layers and use Photoshop’s masking, layer blend modes, and natural media brushes to produce just about any result imaginable. You don’t have to be a formally trained painter to be able to do it, either.