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Photo Manipulation: The Green Mountain Land

the-green-mountain-land-cutout-style

Today I wanted to try something very different, I wanted to try photo manipulation again. I know how to use Photoshop to do basic and a bit of advanced photo editing, but I am not that good in photo manipulation. There are far better artists out there, but I find this very interesting and sometimes I like to try this too and the first image in this post is what I could come up with today.

I was inspired by one of the photos in my library that I shot in Reinfeld, a landscape photo of a green field. I thought the photo would make a great base image, mainly because of the straight horizon. I thought it would make it easier to add something else above the horizon. I came up with the idea to place mountains behind the fields, but since I don’t have mountains in my area, I also don’t have my own mountain photos. I got the idea to look for public domain images, and I found a nice mountain image for my project on Pixabay.

I basically worked with two layers in Photoshop, and I applied a layer mask to one of the images. If you never heard about a layer mask, imagine you print two landscape photos on paper and you put one above the other. If they both have a straight horizon, and if you cut the top images right at the horizon, what would be the result? Right, you would end up with a totally different background because the cut out part of the photo behind the top one becomes visible. You would now have a composed photo (composite), you created a totally different scene. This is what you can do in Photoshop too, and instead of paper and scissor, you have layers, layer masks. If you have layer mask applied to one image, you can paint on the mask with black to erase parts, and with white you can recover the areas.

The result I got was already cool, but I disliked the sky in the public domain mountain picture, and I decided to take a look at my personal photo library. That’s where I found a sky photo that I used for the Weekly Photo Challenge some time ago. I liked the fact that the heaven in my photo looked much more dramatic. But now there was a problem, the green field together with the mountain would not give me a perfectly straight horizon, I would now have to cut out around the mountains. This is where I still have problems, because I didn’t find the right technique to come up with very clean results, but I tried my best.

Now I had a green field landscape with mountains and a very dramatic looking sky. There was this pond in the foreground of my green field image, and I thought if I would replace it with different water, it could make the land in the image look like an island. I looked for an image that had a bit more water movement, and I decided for a photo that I shot at the river in our city. Playing with the layer mask was a bit easier again, doing this with the mountains was more difficult. I was not sure if the water would fit to the image, but at the end I decided that it would be ok. Apart from the public domain mountain image, here are my own photos that I used for this project…

I thought the result was quite interesting, but I think I have to improve my technique with layer masks, because the result still looked sloppy at corners and edges, especially visible at the mountains. That means, I was not too happy with the photo. I wondered if I should hide my sloppy work, I came up with the idea to add a photo filter. There is especially one Photoshop filter that I really love, you can find this in the “Artistic” filter tab, and the style is called “Cutout”. The filter reminds me a bit of the art found in some older computer games, or it reminds me of the digital painting art in adventure games from the past. Not only does this effect looks nice in my opinion, it’s also a great filter to hide my sloppy way to work with layer masks. But I am fair and show you the result without filter anyway…

the-green-mountain-land

It’s actually not too bad, but you can see that I really need to improve my technique and learn a bit more about photo manipulation. The first image in this post is the one with the filter applied, that makes my sloppy work less visible. That, and the fact that the filter makes the image look like a digital art painting or fantasy image, are the reasons why I prefer the first image in this article. What do you think about my project? Do you like the result?

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5 Comments »

  1. I think that would have been a very interesting project to try. The first photo looks like a screenshot from a game I think. i haven’t tried this but I think it would be interesting to do so. I don’t have Photoshop but do have an older version of Photoshop Elements. I’ve never really understood how masks work so your explanation helped.

    • I first wondered if I should write a detailed tutorial, but in this case it would have been a very confusing long post since I used too many photos and layers or work steps. I might do this some day with a much simpler project that has just two photos. There are some cool things you can do with layer masks, not only for photo manipulation but also for basic photo editing. The same concept of layers and layer masks works with different things too…

      Here is another example, that might make you understand what kind of things you can do with layer masks. You can also add vignette effects with a layer mask (although it’s much easier with a pure photographers tool like Lightroom). Back then I usually did it with Photoshop. I used two layers, one with a photo, and one completely filled with black color. The one with the black color on top. Then I added a circular gradual filter in the layer that is filled with black, the gradual filter would range from black (outside of the circle) to white (inside of the circle)…. since white acts as transparent in the layer mask, you would get the typical vignette effect (outer areas black, photo visible in the middle). It’s good to understand these techniques, but that’s the only reason why it would make sense to add vignette with Photoshop, because other tools have special features that make it much easier to add vignette….. but it’s still good to understand how this is working under the hood 🙂 If you ever added a vignette effect to your photos, under the hood there was basically a black layer mask applied with a white to black gradual filter circle 🙂

      Talking about Photoshop again, layer masks also acts as a non-destructive feature since you don’t really apply any changed to the photo but to a layer with a layer mask. That’s what I like about it too.

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