Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Combining Images to Tell a Story

They (whoever "they" are!) say a picture is worth a thousand words and this is true. But two images combined together may just create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts and form one image that is worth ten thousand words.

It may also simply tell the story you intend to tell more effectively or simply capture the imagination of the viewer in a more powerful way.
The picture at the right begins to tell a story, but the people standing in the background . . . well they don't really capture the human side of the story very well.

I was in the city of Calibar, Nigeria with Kip Bates and in our exploration we came upon a beautiful grove of rubber trees through which stretched a dirt path traveled by children fetching water for their families in the village nearby.

I was intrigued by the rubber tree taps and the colorful nature of the tree where it is slashed to allow the sap to drip into the bucket. I was equally intrigued by the sight of the children walking through the grove on their way home. I took quite a few images of both but found myself unsatisfied with all of them as "stand alone" images that told a story.

So I set about to create a Mindscape tellling a story using a combination of images. Mindscape is my term for a manipulated image that captures a story or takes a step beyond the simple image.

The first step was to isolate the tapped rubber tree and to emphasize the colors of the tree where it had been slashed. This was done by first using the Extract function of Photoshop to remove the unwanted people from the image. Having done that, I then used the saturation filter to bring out the color a bit more, without changing it. The resulting image you see below.

Then, I chose about 6 different images to experiment with as my base image. Dropping the tapped tree over them and making a judgement about whether they worked aesthetically first and secondarily if they told a story in a more powerful way. In other words: was the "whole" (the combined image) greater than the sum of the parts?

With three of the images, my answer was almost immediately "No". Not because the combined images didn't work at all, but because the final result did not hold the promise of the other three images.

Once I had picked the three to use, I then worked on each image to improve the blending of the two images. This involved using the cloning tool, the paint tool and in the case of the final image below, I went so far as to mute the background using both gaussian blur and desaturation followed by full restoration of the colors central to the image but only partial restoration of the background colors.

The results can be seen below:

Rubber Tree Mindscape

Walking Through Rubber Trees

Children of the Rubber Forest

No comments:

Skunk Cabbage - Sweet as Spring

My first trip into the woods after snowmelt this Spring was at that moment when only the Skunk Cabbage had pushed its way toward the light....