Creating composite images are an endless source of joy for me. After discovering the work of +Joel Grimes, a whole new world opened up for me. I do not pretend to possess the photography talent or Photoshop skills of Joel so my images don't compare to those that Joel creates but I try to get better with every image and with every concept I dream up.
Until this morning, I hadn't even processed the image and it remained stored in the bowels of my external hard drives in RAW format. Last night, I came up with the idea of creating a composite with one of the 1940's Stearman biplane images I took this past weekend at the Valiant Air Command's Warbird Museum and remembered the shoot with the model I have renamed "Camelia Dareheart". She was perfect for a composite involving the Stearman so I searched through the hard drives and found the folder with her images. After going through the various poses and images, I decided to use the 3/4 shot of her in the pose you see above left, which is straight out of the camera before any processing.
After running her through Photoshop with some basic processing, I used the Quick Selection tool to roughly create a selection of just her followed by some fine tuning with the Refine Edge feature (Right). I saved the image as a New Layer With Mask so I could further refine the edges and bring back any bits of detail inadvertently omitted and take out any bits of detail that didn't belong by using the brush on the mask. I couldn't resist following this up by running her through Perfect Portrait to smooth her skin a bit.
Next came the background. While at the Warbird Museum, the owner of the Stearman towed the plane out onto the tarmac for some engine maintenance and while I was setting up to shoot a B-25J Mitchell, I heard the Stearman's engine fire up. I grabbed my tripod mounted camera and ran outside the hangar, set up the camera (which fortunately already had a 17-35mm lens attached), composed the image quickly, and fired the shutter. When I realized the engine was going to run for a bit, I took multiple exposures at 3-stop intervals under and over the metered exposure. The mechanic working on the engine was leaning on the right wing of the plane the whole time but I remembered +Moose Peterson's words of wisdom - don't sweat people getting in your frame as Photoshop's "Fill - Content Aware" will remove them. It did - sort of. I had to also spend some time with the clone tool to clean up what Fill didn't get or didn't get right but no big deal. But I'm getting ahead of myself because first I had to open the series of images in Photomatix Pro and create an HDR image from the various exposures. Opening up five of the exposures in Photomatix Pro and using the "Creative" preset yielded the image above. I removed the mechanic and moved on to the next step - removing the hangar and nose of a jet on the right side of the background and then resizing/cropping the background for insertion of Camelia.
In order to make it as easy as possible to eliminate the unwanted portions of the background, I enlarged the canvas (above) and selected the right part of the image (starting with a full height vertical line halfway between the hangar and the spinning prop and then drawing the rectangle box to the right just beyond the vertical edge of the image). Using the Transform tool's "Scale" adjustment, I stretched the image to the right until the hangar was outside the canvas. I then used the Rectangle Marquee tool to do the same thing on the left side of the image as I needed room to drop Camelia in. I started the vertical edge of the left side selection to the left of the left wingtip and extended the rectangle to the left until I was just outside the left vertical edge of the background. I then repeated the stretching process I used on the right side.
Because I wanted to position the plane lower in the final image from a composition standpoint, I used the Free Transform feature to enlarge the image upward and fill the remaining part of the blank canvas. Last but not least, I cropped the image to remove some of the bottom area from the background which effectively moved the plane downward in the image.
Now that the background was sized the way I wanted and with both image layers opened in Photoshop (Camelia & the background), I used the Move tool to grab Camelia and drop her into the background (above). Then I had a decision to make - was I happy with the final image in color, would I go with Black & White, would I desaturate the background and leave her in fully saturated color, or would I try something else? I knew I had to do something else with her as the background had an HDR effect and she was clean. My gut told me that the image screamed for a vintage look/feel so I decided to run her layer through my Perfect Black & White plug-in to give her a sepia-ish tone. Then I ran her through Perfect Effects and applied an HDR effect along with tonal contrast and the Grunge Goddess preset (Left image above). I had to be careful with these effects as with women, adding a lot of "grunge" can make them look pretty nasty and that is not what I wanted. I did, however, want a sharp, edgy look so I adjusted the opacity of each effect downward to various degrees. The last step (Above, Right) was to add the "Amazing Detail" preset to the mix. That gave her crisp edges that dovetailed nicely with the crispness of the HDR background.
Now that she had a sepia tone, I had to go back to the background layer and do the same to it. Sending the background to Perfect B&W and then into Perfect Effects for some minor adjustments yielded the final image which leads off this post and is re-posted below. My Camelia Dareheart composite. Not a Joel Grimes worthy image but not too shabby.