Painting with Waves… An Experiment

21 09 2007

I had a brainwave during the week about a new technique I thought of. A while ago I read with interest about a technique called painting with light. Basically if you have a partially cloudy day, you take a picture of an image under cloud, then without moving the camera you take another image in full sunlight. Then later in photoshop you can use masks to “Paint in the sunlight” in the areas you want.

Anyway… I thought “Why not do that with waves”! So here’s my first crack at it. Step by Step. Here’s the finished that I will be building.

Water Painting # 1

How Did I Do This?
The sequence below shows you the detailed steps to complete the final image. If you click on the small images, you will be see the full-size screen capture.

The finished image is actually a composite of 3 images. First I selected my base image. I looked for one that had a pretty good ocean texture all over.

Then I looked through some of the other shots that I took from the same camera position and I found the shot below quite interesting. I really loved the foreground wave blurring and motion, but I didn’t like the big wave that was distracting in the background.

The third image in my composite was a bracketed image taken at -2ev which correctly exposed the sky.

So I did a RAW conversion on all three images, and opened them in Photoshop, applied a RAW pre-sharpen to the images (using Nik Sharpener’s raw pre-sharpen setting).

The first thing I set about working on was to blend in the new sky. I layered it on top of the base image and used my tablet to paint over the sky…. I must prefer making masks with a tablet because you don’t have to be overly precise and with the pressure sensitivity of a tablet you can blend the images pretty seamlessly. Before I bought the tablet I used to spend hours trying to get masks right.. now it’s literally a couple of minutes.

The next step (below) shows the “Painting with water), I overlayed the lovely blurred water image and created a new mask… and inverted it so that it was totally black… then I used my tablet to paint in the new blurred water… If I go to far I just paint with black on the mask to hide it again.

The next step is some dodging and burning. I like to use the soft-light method for doding and burning because it is non-destructive. Simply add a new layer, change the blend mode to soft light and then paint with black to burn and white to dodge….. pretty simple.

After that I applied a very subtle colour balance to the water (using a tablet-created mask) to make the water slightly aqua in appearance.

I then applied a vignette… I do this different ways depending on the image, but for this one I used the levels…. I applied a level adjustment layer and then grabbed the grey slider and moved it over to the right until the value was 50. Then I invert the mask (so that it is black) and use my table to paint in the vignette effect… if it is too strong I use opacity slider to back it off.

I wanted the rocks to have a bit more punch, so I used Alien Skin Exposure and did a Provia conversion (if you haven’t used Alien Skin, check out the free eval… I love this product) and just applied it to the rocks to give them a bit more kick (I wanted to leave the ocean to be very subtle and not work it too much).

A small final level adjustment to bring up the white levels.

Finally I do a standard preparation for the web…
Duplicate & Flatten
Resize (to about 12oo px wide)
Convert to 8 bit
Convert to sRGB profile
Apply final sharpenting (I use Nik Sharpener – display mode).
Save as JPG.

Happy painting with waves!!!!



3 responses

16 10 2007
Pi Production

Great tuto, thanks to share ur PP

1 09 2008
Hero's Cousin

fascinating. i would never have thought of doing this! thanks for sharing your secrets!
-Nikki Trexel

1 09 2008
Brent Pearson

Hey Nikki

Thanks for your comment. Did you check out the shutter blending posting… kind of takes this technique to the next level.


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