Tuesday, June 21, 2011

OK.....I Suck!!!!

I realize titling a post in such a disparaging way might seem kind of ......odd?....self absorbed?....depressing?  Whatever term you might decide or add for yourself the point is this, however good an intention I might have for staying consistent with my posts here, I continually seem to fall WAY short.  It has been over 3 months since my last post?   Aaaaaaagh!  Really?  Please accept my apologies....especially if you are (trying) to be a regular follower.   Hopefully I can make up for it a bit.  :)

I had a lot of response from people regarding having more step by step information of how I do what I do.  While I hadn't really intended for this blog to be devote to exact "step by step" posts, I can understand how some of my theorizing posts might have been less helpful and more frustrating if you are just beginning with textures or post processing in general.  So, I'm going to be about as detailed as I can with this one.

WARNING!!!!  My methods are VERY time consuming.  But, I have grown to embrace the time as well as the process I have developed for acquiring the look I have.  It is something of a journey where discoveries are made all along the way.  Each new layer brings me closer to that place where I look at the image and finally say to myself...."that's it....I like what this one is expressing."

So let's get to it...
This is an image I took while on a shoot in Arches National Park in Utah.  The view is from an area known as The Devil's Garden.  This is a JEPG of the original, untouched, RAW file.  I took the shot because of the varying angles of cloud, rock formations, and terrain.  Also, I am not one of those who will only go out and shoot in the very early morning hours or late evening.  Life is not like that....and just as my explorations are done at all times of the day, I want my images to express the same.  I absolutely believe in the understanding of capturing the magic of the quality of light.  But I have also come to believe that magical quality can be as much created as it is captured. (I will try and explain some of that as we go along.)

One of the first things I will do when working on an image is create an HDR (high dynamic range).  Using PS Bridge, I create 3 exposures, usually no more than +/- 1 stop.  Using Photomatix software, I then create either an exposure fusion of the 3 images or true HDR.....it just depends on which I like the look of more once it has been done as to which one I keep.  The reason for this step is because it helps to bring out details and dimension in the scene that can sometimes get lost in the texturing process.

The next step is to make a duplicate, run a level 6 noise reduction, and then flatten the layers.   I then like using one of a variety of  photo actions on the image to begin a bit of recoloring and adjustments in some of the contrasts.  Apples and Sisters has some marvelous actions that I find brilliant for this part of the process.  Below is the results of this portions of the process along with the image cropped into a square.

Now is time to begin texturing.  One of the reasons I decided to do this post is because I wanted to share with you one of the "tricks" I utilize with textures....that is doubling...or sometimes tripling a texture. These are the three textures I utilized for the finale image, however, they were used a total of 8times.  The idea can be applied to any texture layer, you just have to experiment.  I collect textures from all over....flickr friends, CG Textures,  HRT, Texture Lovers....etc.   There are tons of sources out there.  Just try and get the highest resolution possible.

The first thing I did was apply a layer of old film stock (middle one) to the image with a setting of Overlay at 100/50.  (btw...the number system I show here with the "/" is referring to both Opacity and Fill levels)  I will always adjust the Fill level first, as it tends to remove the "bulk" of a texture, while the Opacity levels tend to remove the "details" of a texture.

This is how the image changed......

Notice it has brought a bit of de-saturating of the "reds" in the image, a little more pale green tones and some vertical texture elements have begun to show up.

Next, I doubled this layer using a setting of "Linear Light" at a level of 50/50.  Which gave the image this look.....

Now the vertical elements of the texture are really coming out in the image along with a faded/glary quality to the light and coloring.  In my opinion, this helping to add to both the feeling of age and of height.
TIP!  One important thing I have found helpful is to always add textures from the bottom up....or just above the original image.  This way you get a truer idea of the interaction between layers than when adding them from the top.

Next I added the "scratchy" texture.  Now, I hope I can explain this in a way that is understandable.  First, I applied the texture to the image and "married" the sides like normally would.  I duplicated that layer but then pulled the sides out slightly wider than the original image and then used Clipping Mask" to the first one.  I then duplicated that layer repeating the process again of stretching and clipping.  Each of these was set to Color Burn at a level of 30/30 and then merged together.  However this time I did move it to the top of the stack.  Here is the result......

This has now added the faint scratchy texture to the sky area that extends across the total sky instead of being so concentrated.  Also, using Color Burn in the texture, bumps up some of the contrast in the shadow areas.

Next, I used the old paper texture.  I applied the texture first as an Overlay at 50/50.   But then I once again doubled the texture and clipped it, again with Overlay, but with a level of 100/50.  However, to the second layer I applied a B/W layer with a level of 100/50.  By doing this, it helps to pull down some of the over-concentration of the yellow/orange coloring of the texture that can come from the duplication.  

I then applied a third layer of the same original old paper texture....but this time with out clipping it to the other two layers.  I then flipped the layer vertically and stretched it to the left until the inner crease lined up with the outer crease.  I set it to Overlay with a level of 60/50.  This has two effects, it brings up the coloring and light of the old paper while de-empathizing the creases of the old paper. 

Here is the effect of all of this.....

The textures of the shot were now at a place I was happy with so it was now time for a finale bit of "tweaking" to the color and contrast.  After flattening the image, I duplicate it once more and ran another layer of Noise Reduction at a level 6.  After all, there has been a huge amount of noise re-introduced to the image and it needs to be calmed down a bit.  I then sharpen that layer and then flatten.  By sharpening at this level, the "softening" to the textures that comes from the noise reduction along with the sharper elements of the original image, all become sharper at the same level.....make the sharpness of the image feel more joined naturally.

I then applied an antique b/w layer at 50/50 and a minor curves adjustment to pull down the yellow saturation a bit more while bumping up the whites of the clouds.  

Here is the finale version......

Now then.....wasn't that easy?  Yea right.  But that is basically the kind of things I do with each and every shot.  I told you it was time consuming....and you got the shortened version to boot without all the experimentation.  Mostly, what I wanted to share was how many ways you could use the same texture but create a different effect to the overall image.

I hope you have enjoyed this "little" exercise.  Now go give it a try for yourself.  Enjoy!


  1. thanks for this post john -- never thought of using the same texture multiple times. would love sometime to see a list of links to some of your favorite texture sources.

  2. I love your photos and the tecnic! tks for your information!
    Regards from Argentina

  3. Hi John!

    Came across you on flickr & adding you to my sidebar for photography. Wonderful work, really beautiful and inspiring. Enjoy how you process your images!