Have you ever had a project that just didn’t go as planned? They are usually the projects you are most excited about. You get everything together, models scheduled, props purchased and when you arrive you find you have miscalculated everything and all you have to work with is a pile of squat. This shoot right here was a big fat honking goose egg. When you are first planning conceptual shoots you will find this happening a lot, because you are still learning what is possible and what is not possible. However, I have never had a shoot I couldn’t salvage. I’ve had a LOT not turn out as planned but I’ve never had one I couldn’t end up using in some way. My first tip: Don’t throw out the images! Just sit and marinate on them.
The Super Moon
Last summer my daughter and I heard about the 2014 Super Moon event. It was touted to be the largest moon you will ever see in your lifetime. The news sites are posting these jaw dropping images of the moon on the horizon and it was HUGE! Like, bigger than national landmarks. My daughter and I look at each other and squealed! We have GOT to make an image out of that. We had seen those really cool images where it looks as if someone is holding the moon, leaning on the moon, etc… so we decided that is what we wanted to try. It was just for fun so why not? The day came and we had it all planned. We invited my Mom along. It was going to be a fun excursion. As sunset was taking over we were looking all over the sky for this moon. WE COULDN’T FIND IT. It was a little overcast so I figured it was behind the clouds. That’s fine we decided to scout our location and get ready for it when it appeared. We looked on the phone app that tells you where the moon is going to rise and we headed in that direction. Our goal was to find a hillside high enough so we could get somewhat close to it. As we were driving around the moon finally popped out from behind the clouds. It was not huge by any stretch of the imagination. We found out we were on the wrong side of the world for it to show up huge. BAH! Okay. That’s fine. We can still get some shots of her interacting with it. We just need to find a clear hillside. We drove all over creation looking for a hill she could stand on so she could at least get closer to it. Nope. Didn’t happen. We couldn’t find one and it was getting higher and smaller by the minute. So finally I threw up my hands, pulled over next to a field and I said “Linda Gail, get on the roof!” You can imagine this thrilled my 9-year old. HA! She scrambled up to the top of the roof and I said, “Reach up.” Here’s what we got…
As you can see, if the exposure is correctly set for her, the detail on the moon is completely blown out. I tried a couple of other poses and by this time we were getting eaten alive with bugs. So we headed home. I realized I never got a good exposed image of the moon, so I stood in the front yard and captured this.
That is as close as I could get with my little zoom lens. I was happy I at least got the detail I was after.
Today, I was going through some old images and I ran across this shoot and decided to take another stab at it. I opened everything up in Photoshop and started messing around. I was looking at the image with the shadows of grass at the bottom and really liked it. That gave me an idea. Why don’t I create my own hilltop? Here’s how I did it.
I started out with the image of her standing on the roof of the van…
I then masked out the sky and replaced it with the other shot of the moon and clouds.
I then started drawing in the “hill”. I created a new layer and used a soft black brush to begin drawing it in, using the image with the shadows of the grass as a reference.
Next, I used a grass brush with the color set to black to draw in the individual blades of grass. You can find free grass brushes all over the web. I think I found this particular set on DeviantArt.com
I then used a Gaussian blur to create more realistic shadows. My goal was to have a shadow of the grass. I didn’t want it to be detailed. I layered different grasses and used Gaussian blur to create shadow depth.
Once I got the grass detail the way I wanted it, I began working on the moon. As you can see, the detail of the moon is completely blown out. I pulled in my stock image of the properly exposed moon and layered it over the moon from original image and changed the blending mode to “Multiply”. This enabled me to keep the glow but get back some of the detail that was lost due to over exposure.
Next, I began working on the over all tone of the image. I wanted to really play up the cool blue tones. This step was just trial and error, dodging and burning, shifting hues and saturation. Trust your eye. You will know when you have hit it.
I sat back and looked at the image and it just seemed blah… It was okay, but it felt like it was missing something. I started doing an internet search for star brushes and I ran across this set on DevienatArt.com. Thank you Scully7491! (Note: These brushes can only be used for personal artworks.) I love how this looked! However the brush was created from a .jpg and when you size the brush as large as the canvas, it began to pixilate just like a low resolution .jpg would.
I really like the size and placement of the stars but the blurring jagged pixelation around them looked awful. In order to get rid of it I used the tool called “surface blur” and played around with the settings until the pixelation was smoothed out. I then masked off the stars appearing in front of the model.
The only thing left to do is tweak the lighting! I used curves and masks to get every thing just perfect. I am so glad I didn’t throw these images out! Hold on to your images. You never know what you may be inspired to do with them later on!
Keep learning and keep #SharingItForward!
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Want to contribute? Shoot me an email! firstname.lastname@example.org – I’m always looking for like-minded artists who are willing to share what they have learned. If it is something we have not covered before I will share it on this blog, with a link back to your portfolio, website and social media! Up-Coming Workshops & Speaking Engagements: Conceptual Portraiture Workshop | Nashville, TN | June 20-21, 2015