Nothing on my mind, 09 July 2009


I had intended to write up a nice, angry rant for today, but well. Today got away from me quite nicely, so here’s another photo.


The subject of this photo is (I believe) a tomato flower. [1] To capture this photo, I used a wide aperture and the macro setting on my digital camera. Since my digital camera does not indicate the focal length at a given zoom setting, I don’t know what the actual lens setting was; it was probably close to normal, or, at most, short telephoto (anywhere from 50mm up to probably around 70mm or thereabouts). Given the distance between the background elements and the flower itself, the wide aperture setting rendered the former entirely out of focus and blurry (yes, this was intentional). [2]

The original photo was captured in color; [3] to achieve the selected color effect, I duplicated the entire photo as an masking layer in Photoshop, then removed the color information from the latter. Since most of the background had a similar color (there’s a tree back there, though I challenge anyone to figure that out without knowing it!), I did a simple desaturate, then tweaked the contrast a little to bring out the highlights and shadows. Once the masking layer was finished, I used various sizes of erasers to remove the mask from the flower and the green parts immediately adjacent to it. [4] Typically, I start out with a fairly large brush eraser (relative to the subject being erased, that is) to take out the large areas, then progressively step down to smaller and smaller eraser sizes as I work my way to the edges. Once at the edges, I typically use an eraser of around 10 pixels or so, and take a very, very long time to carefully finish off the edges. I prefer using a brush eraser, since it has soft edges, which (I think) yields a smoother result. This particular photo did not take much time, since the flower itself is relatively small, and not very complicated, so it took about an hour to finish; for more complex color highlight photos, I’ve taken upwards of two or three hours to complete them. Afterwards, I adjusted the hue and saturation of the colored background; it actually made the rest of the scene look quite garish, but since the rest of the image is hidden by the masking layer, this wasn’t much of an issue. Finally, I cleaned up a few dust spots and an ant from the flower petals, [5] using the clone stamp, to give the flower a clean look. I think the effect works well, though I am also aware that some viewers do not like how “artificial” such images are. [6]

Regardless, enjoy (hopefully).


[1]: Okay, I think its a tomato flower, since it was attached to a vine that also had tomatoes on it; considering that I am not a horticulturalist/botanist/person who can grow any kind of plant, this is about as exact as I can get.

[2]: I hear tell that some photographers refer to this effect as “bokeh.” Apart from the foregoing reference, I refuse to use this word, and yes, I have a few reasons for doing so. The word itself is a loan-word from Japanese and while I have nothing against Japanese, I do have a problem with foreign language loan-words. In this case, the term itself is relatively obscure, and as such, requires explanation to those who do not know what it means (that would be most people, I suspect). The term also refers to a known effect, i.e., shallow depth of field, but in order for one to explain what the loan-word means, one would first have to explain depth of field, then its relationship to aperture settings, and then the difference between shallow and deep depth of field. In other words, one would have to explain everything about the effect just to explain what the term means; not bothering to explain the loan-word itself is actually more efficient (well, it is to me, that is)! Additionally, in my humble opinion, using obscure terms like this puts the user one step closer to being a pretentious douche (and I have enough trouble with that as it is, what with my anachronistic use of ancient cameras and out-dated technologies), and, pretentiousness aside, I just think the word sounds silly.

[3]: Even if I am absolutely certain that I will convert a given image to black and white in post processing, I still capture the photo in color. My rationale here is that I never know if I’ll need to adjust the color balance prior to conversion, so I prefer to have as much information at my disposal from the start.

[4]: See? I really don’t know much about plants and such.

[5]: Okay, I think it was an ant…it was a small black-ish blob on one of the petals. Whatever it was, I didn’t like how it looked, so I took it out.

[6]: In all fairness, though, photographs themselves are artificial, anyways!


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