Tuesday, June 10, 2008

We've Got Feathers

This one will be short. As I recall, no two of the feathers that show on the final product came from the same photo. I went through and picked out what looked like some of the best feathers and then did the same thing to them to get rid of the background as I did to the photos of Myrna. One of the things about feathers is that they are so wispy that you can almost see through them, so I set them at an opacity of about 96% and then I added just the tiniest touch of color. You may not be able to see it on the original photo of the finished cover that I posted but you should be able to see it on the actual DVD cover when you get it. I also shrunk them down and in most cases turned them to different angles to get to the final results. If you click here or on the word "original" above it will take you to the finished cover photo that we have been talking about all along. Thanks for looking and please feel free to leave any comments or questions by clicking on the word "comments" below.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Don’t Read This One Myrna

If you know Myrna you probably noticed she’s lost weight lately. She was never heavy, at least as long as I’ve known her, but she’s gone from thin to skinny. The problem with losing weight, even when you’re already thin is you tend to have a little extra skin . . . hey maybe that’s where the term “skinny” comes from. I digress. When you have a little extra skin and you put yourself in unusual positions, such as turning your wrist back as far as it will go, or puckering your lips or stretching out your neck, that extra skin tends to show more than even normal. This first photo shows Myrna once I had removed all the background. The second one shows the areas where the pushing and pulling of the muscles was not as attractive as she really is.

You may want to click on each photo to enlarge it and see a little better detail.

By using a tool in Photo shop called the blur tool and carefully blurring those areas I was able to soften the effects quite dramatically and still maintain a natural look as shown below.

Tomorrow we’ll talk more about the feathers and wrap it up.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Peeling the Potato

I’m not even going to spend any time talking about the photo of the quilt other than to tell you that the actual quilt sample that it is taken from is only about 10 inches square. So I just zoomed in on it selected the area that looked the best, and put it on layer 1 in the background. Now for the next part ~ Myrna.

Before I could put Myrna in there I had to clean up the background. Photoshop has some cool tools for that. Behind every photo Photoshop is invisible, or no image at all. You just have to remove the stuff you don’t want. Who was the great sculptor that was supposed to have said they just take a piece of rock and cut away everything that doesn’t look like whatever it is they are trying to sculpt? Anyway, all I needed to do was to take away everything that wasn’t part of Myrna. Fortunately for me that is a lot easier with Photoshop and a photo that it is with a big rock and a chisel. So first I cut away the bulk of the background using the Lasso tool.

This photo shows what I started with.

And here is a photo where I have selected most of the background and moved it off out of the way. Of course in reality I would simply have deleted it, but I wanted to show you how I cut her out of the rest of it. In this photo the background is white, but if I selected Myrna and drug her into another image all of the nonselected area would simply be nonexistent or invisible.

Now it gets a little more delicate, because I have to remove as much of the background as possible up close to her without removing any of her. It’s like peeling a potato and leaving as much potato as possible. This I did with a tool called the Magic Wand. When you select the Magic Wand you can set a tolerance for how much of the image it will select based on how close the colors are to the selected one. If you select a low tolerance such as 5 or 10 you will only get a few pixels because of very slight color tolerances that you can’t see with your naked eye. This photo shows a Magic Wand selection with only a tolerance of 10. I have clicked on a pixel near her left shoulder and moved the resultant selected area over a little so you can see how much good I did.

On the other hand, you don’t want to select too high of a tolerance (in this case “100”) or you will get results like this.

As you can see, it not only selected the grey of the background but also part of her shirt. It should go without saying that it is important to get as plain a background as possible and one that is quite different from the part of the photo you want to keep when setting up for this type of photo.

Using a tolerance of 40 I was able to select the most background without “peeling into the potato”.

This example shows just a couple of slices I was able to select and remove with the Magic Wand set with a tolerance of 40. As you can see there is still quite a bit of cleanup to do. I’ll do some with the eraser tool and some more with the magic wand.

We’ll start out Monday with the results of all my clean up. Then we’ll start a just a little retouching.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

I Wish I Had That and He Had a Feather

When we were young, friends and I, we’d see a guy with a really hot car or something and we’d say “I wish I had that Corvette and he had a feather . . . We’d both be tickled”. Okay, I’ll come clean, it wasn’t just when we were young. I’ll bet my wife has heard me say it a hundred times or more and maybe as recently as a few weeks ago. Well, I had good pictures of Myrna, and good pictures of some quilt samples, what I needed now was some good pictures of feathers. What do you do when you need anything in the world now days? Well, duh. . . you Google it. So that’s what I did, I went to Google and looked for pictures of feathers. Try it, you’ll see. Just go to Google and select images and type in “feathers”. According to the results info it found over 1,300,000 images relating to feathers. Some of them were very pretty, but with the different style’s, different backgrounds, straight on, flat images, etc. I could quickly see that this wasn’t going to work. I admit I didn’t look at all 1,300,000 images, I doubt if I looked at over 100. I put my thinking cap on. Where could I get feathers? It was obvious I was going to have to take the photos myself, so I started thinking. My wife’s real good friend’s husband has a few chickens. I could put out a plea on “freecycle”. . . . Then something finally clicked, oh yea, my son has a pen full of rolling pigeons, probably close to 30 of them just sitting there producing feathers and most of them white. Oh, and he lives about ¾ of a mile away. We gave him a call and jumped in the car and headed over. He already had our grandson out gathering them when we arrived. Cody brought in 10 or more beautiful long white feathers, we were happy and on our way. After a closer look, however, I decided I needed smaller, fluffier, less perfect feathers. My wife suggested we check out Robert’s Crafts. With fear and trepidation we headed over there and the lady at the front register directed me to where I'd find the feathers. There in a bag on a hook was a small bag of soft white feathers for the awesome sum of about $1.79. A few day’s later I hung up a black, light absorbing, piece of material on the wall, set up some lights, laid a fan on the floor blowing upwards, cut some of the feathers down to even smaller size and talked my wife into helping me get the feathers over the fan while I rapidly shot photo after photo, then we’d pick them up and do it again. All totaled somewhere over the 60 photos mark. Most of them worthless. Some with no feathers, or one. Some with clumps of feathers and so on. Here are a couple samples of what we got.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Finding the Best Background

Fortunately, Myrna was headed off to another quilt show and to give classes on Feathers after leaving this one, so she brought several samples along. All I had to do was spread those out on the cement and wait for the wind to die down so they wouldn’t blow away and start snapping. What’s so nice is that Myrna does such beautiful feathers in so many varieties that I had no trouble getting plenty of good samples. The bad part was picking one but I think the one I finally decided on worked perfectly. Especially with the colors in the top she was wearing that day. Here are some of the other feather photos I captured that day.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

It’s Never as Easy as it Should Be

There are actually several photos combined to make the end result, though I’m sure you had already figured that out. I’ll start with the photos of Myrna. The problem is, Myrna lives over 300 miles from me, and since the ideas for the name and the image of her blowing the feathers came after I had been to her studio doing the taping I didn’t have any photos of her blowing. Fortunately, she came to a big quilt show that was only about 50 miles away and so I was able to go there and meet her to get some appropriate photos. I took over 20 of her with various lighting, angles and distances. In this case I had her standing just a few inches from a very large tinted window at the convention center where the quilt show was being held. I needed a fairly simple background because I knew I’d be clearing the background away to make room for something else . . . I hadn’t decided what yet. I also knew I would have to insert the feathers later, though I hadn’t figured out where I would get them yet either.

Here are a couple of the photos I got of her down there. As you can see, they do not include the one I used. You’ll see more of that later.

Monday, June 02, 2008

As Promised

A promise is a promise and I said I would show you some fun I had with Photoshop. As you may know I have been doing some training videos for a quilter friend. She has been teaching “Long Arm Quilting” classes in US and Europe for several years and she does a beautiful job. . .both quilting and teaching. As part of my services for her I also create the DVD case cover and the DVD disc label. I am going to show you the cover photo for the fourth video. Even though I have used Photoshop for all of the previous ones, I think this is by far the best looking cover of them all. A little background: In quilting there is a design they call “feathers”. If you look at the background of the photo you will see what it looks like. Although it is infinitely variable. She came up with the name “Fowlproof feathers” because it rolls of the tongue easily and has a double meaning. A friend of hers suggested something with her blowing feathers.

A week ago I gave you a little teaser and said you would understand it better a little later.

Today’s photo shows the end results. Come back tomorrow and for the next several days to see how we got there.

NOTE: Click on photo to enlarge

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