Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sabre Rattling And Rolling - My F-86 Sabre Image

One of my birthday presents from me to me was shooting some of the aircraft at the Valiant Air Command's Warbird Museum this past weekend. A second present was carving out some time to process some of the images the way I thought they should look and try to give some of the aircraft a different look than just a straight up image. So, I've been trying different things and what you will see here is the product of this exercise.

The image above is of an F-86 Sabre Jet, one of the coolest looking aircraft, at least in my mind. This guy was the U.S.'s first swept wing jet built to counter the Soviet Union's Mig-15 and cut it's teeth in the Korean War. Unfortunately, my only chance to shoot this aircraft was inside a hangar, parked amidst other aircraft on display. I wanted to create an image which did justice to this beauty and a static, conventionally processed image with other plane's wings, signs, etc. in the image just didn't cut it for me. So I set out to do a combination of +Tim Wallace and  +Joel Grimes thing with it.

First, the Tim Wallace "one flash" technique. For a more detailed description of this technique, go to this post on my Blog.

I started out by taking a "base" image shot of the plane with the camera on a tripod using only the available light. Camera settings were ISO 200, f5.6 @1/30th second. You can see all the distracting stuff in the background along with the hangar beams and ceiling. I could have just processed this image and come up with an OK image but as I said, I wanted more.

The next step was taking multiple flash exposures of the plane using one flash for each exposure. I walked around the plane and triggered both the camera and the strobe remotely. I used a paint roller extension pole with the strobe mounted on the end to allow me the ability of extending the flash as high or as low as I wanted, lighting up different parts of the plane.

Next, I created a layered image of the plane by using several of the flash images on top of the "base" image and brushing in those parts of the plane that I illuminated with the flash. I probably took 30 different flash images but used 7 or so to highlight certain areas to my taste. I saved that as a PSD file and moved on to getting the plane onto a different background that would do it justice.

Being the tacky, gaudy kind of person I am, I couldn't go with a plain vanilla background. I searched around and finally settled on the image above. After some manipulation in Photoshop (brightness, contrast, color adjustments, etc., then added blank canvas and stretched the image vertically to give me more room into which to drop the plane), I continued by "selecting" the plane from its image using the Quick Selection Tool.

After spending some time trying to get the basic airframe within the selection, I used the Refine Edge feature to get a better selection and saved the image as a New Layer with Mask (above). As you can see if you enlarge the image, you can only do so much with these tools in terms of getting clean edges and selecting only what you want. But that's why you using the New Layer with Mask option - after selecting this option, you can use the brush tool on the mask and really fine tune the selection. Depending upon whether you brush in or brush out, you can bring bits of the image back in that were inadvertently left out and you can remove bits of extraneous stuff that you don't want. If you take your time and enlarge the image while you work with the brush and play with the brush size, opacity and softness/hardness, you end up with....

 ...a much better, cleaner cutout. Joel Grimes will tell you not to sweat the tiny little details but I guess I'm just too anal and have an inner need to go through the selection with a fine tooth comb, removing any little tidbit of crap and bringing back in any teeny little detail that is missing. It's way more time consuming (it took me 3 hours to get to a point where I was satisfied) but that's just me.

 I was finally ready to drop the cutout plane into the background and with the "Move" tool I brought the plane layer into the background layer. After moving it around some and using the Transform Tool's rotate, warp, skew, perspective and distort features to arrive at the final appearance of the plane, I flattened the layers. Then came some final tweaks with the burn tool (highlights, midtones and shadows along the bottom and on the plane's wheels to blend it in to the background a little better and make it appear to be parked on a dark tarmac.

Last but not least, I added the Joel Grimes' signature light streaks by using the dodge tool with the highlights and midtones. I started with a soft brush outside the image and brought it in towards the plane three times on each side to give the appearance of floodlights illuminating the plane as it sat.

The final image of the F-86 is a far cry from the way it looked sitting in the hangar. I really like the way the plane looks against the dark yet colorful background and in the end, I accomplished what I set out to do - take the plane out of its hangar and create something different. Happy Birthday from me to me.

1 comment:

Ronnie said...

That is way cool Mike!!