Monday, July 15, 2013

Blurring flowers for interesting effects

At this time of the year the flowers are out in full swing, parading their colourful blooms in a grand display of sprightly vibrancy and sparkling vigour. There are some of course, who insist it’s just showing off, that it’s nothing to at all to do with pollination and propagation. They even go so far as to bewail the ‘pomp and bravura’ as nothing more than pure ostentatious narcissism.

These people are idiots.

It’s true, there are some species that skirt the line of good taste, but somehow manage to pull it off, and of course there are always going to be those that, frankly, take the piss, but generally, I believe as a group, they are good eggs.

In fact I was out in the garden taking some pictures of flowers only the other evening, and while I admit, they did occasionally play up for the camera in an unseemly fashion, they are, for all their highfalutin ways, generally very modest, I would even say humble. So let’s put that to rest once and for all.

Once all the picture taking was done I headed back indoors to sort through the images. I picked out a couple of pink rose photos, that looked quite nice in the evening shade. But I also had a selection of other flowers to hand, and I decided to do something a bit different with those.

I wanted to create something using the vibrant hues from the flowers, but without necessarily keeping the form of the plant intact. So I decided to make use of a couple of the blur filters that Photoshop carries to see what effects I could get.

Starting with the original image, it was important to use something with a bit of contrast between the flower and the background, in this case a shallow depth of field was used to render the background out of focus, and the camera exposure was stopped down, which underexposed an already dark backdrop.

I ran the image through Topaz Adjust to darken the overall tone of the image and fairly aggressively bring out the contrast of the flower itself. This could also have been done in Photoshop using Curves/Levels and some masking, it was just quicker to use the Topaz plug-in at this stage.

Next, using Levels, I darkened the image, making most of the background solid black before painting onto the layer mask to make sure the adjustment didn’t affect the roses themselves.

As mentioned before, I wanted to use the Blur filters, but because using the filters is destructive, which means it changes the pixels of the image, I had to have the original to fall back on, in case further on down the line I wasn't happy with the results.

Pressing Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E created a Stamp Visible layer, which is basically a composite of all the visible layers in the document (in this case, the base layer and the Levels layer) onto a new layer, so I was free to experiment with the filters, knowing I could go back to the unaltered image any time I liked.

Opening up the Filter menu, I went to Blur – Radial Blur, making sure the Blur Method was set to Spin, I selected an Amount of 25 and hit OK. This is where setting up a strong contrast on the flower paid off, as it gave some texture to the blur, instead of it all being a uniform tone.

Next up I was going to use the Zoom Blur, but I didn’t want to apply this to the Spin layer, as I wanted them to interact with each other using blend modes. So I turned off the Spin layer, using the eye icon to the right of its layer in the layer stack, then created another Stamp Visible layer. (Which of course did not include the Spin layer, because it was not visible.)

Then back into the Filter menu, and again to Blur – Radial Blur, this time making sure to set the Blur Method to Zoom, and selecting an amount of 70, hitting OK and then in the Layers Pallette, changing the Blend Mode of the Zoom layer to Lighter Colour and turning the visibility of the Spin layer back on.

By comparing the values for all channels in both layers, then displaying the brightest values only, this Blend Mode allows the lighter elements of the underlying Spin Layer to show through and in this instance gives an interesting cross hatched effect.

Finally, because the image is by its very nature quite dark, I used a strong Levels Layer to lighten up the image and bring out the details.

With this image you can still see the original forms of the three roses, even though the transformation
has pushed them towards abstraction. 
I used the same technique with the rest of these images, the only variations being the type of blur used and how much of it was applied.

This was created using two passes of the Radial Blur filter on a low setting and applied to two identical layers
 of this rose, then blending the two layers with the Soft Light Blend mode and slightly rotating the upper layer.
Using the Radial/Zoom technique works quite well on this close up of some nettles, as it gives the sharp, prickly effect
that represents the plant itself.
Using the same technique as above has rendered this photo of cow parsley into something like a Catherine Wheel,
showering sparks as it rotates.
This was an image of two rose buds, one closer to the the camera than the other, and has had only the
Spin Blur filter applied.
These three roses were photographed against a light coloured wall, which made it very difficult to reduce the background to
pure black, as you can see the Spin Blur filter was on a low setting, but the Zoom filter was aggressively applied.
This picture of cow parsley and purple irises has been blurred to total abstraction through the use of the Spin Blur filter.
The filter was applied several times by hitting Ctrl+F until I was happy with the results.
A group of petunias with some strong contrast adjustment to really bring out the highlights.
This image of a single rose, which is also the one here, has extensive Spin Blur applied,
giving it a galactic sort of feel, as if it's a planet floating deep in space. 
So while these images are not what you would call traditional floral images, I like the effect that has been created through the use of some very simple filter adjustments, and a little bit of experimentation.

No comments:

Post a Comment