Fast, Filmless Photo Collages

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Digital cameras still can't quite match film's image quality when it comes to high-end photography, but they do offer distinct advantages when it comes to the artistic process. With a digital camera, you don't have to interrupt your creative momentum by sending out film for processing. Instead, you can immediately dive into the results of photo sessions and begin creating.

San Franciscobased photographer John Lund, though schooled in traditional film-based techniques, discovered digital imaging eight years ago and has never looked back. He likes to use a digital camera so he can begin work on his photo art only moments after shooting.

For this Magritte-like photo collage, Blinders , Lund shot most of the elements–the train, the umbrella-toting man, and the blinders (composed of a belt and a wallet)–in his studio with a digital camera. This piece is typical of the surreal artwork he creates for his many clients, including Federal Express, IBM, Kodak, and UPS (you can view more of his art at ).

Digital artists tend to rely exclusively on Adobe Photoshop for digital-image editing, but Lund says that many artists–including him–prefer Live Picture. He finds its brush-based tools more efficient and precise than Photoshop's filters for mixing the different photographic elements in his work.

Lund shoots images in his studio using a Leaf DCB I digital camera with 2,048-by-2,048-pixel resolution. He then imports them onto a DayStar Genesis Mac clone with four 200MHz processors. In addition to Live Picture 2.5.1, he uses Photoshop 4 and 5.

See the sidebar ("Building this Image")

Full Steam Ahead The completed Live Picture collage included 51 layers. Lund finished by rendering the image as a TIFF file and then bringing it into Photoshop to touch up any remaining stray pixels. He also adjusted the Hue/Saturation controls in Photoshop to give the piece its sepia coloring. The resulting image is a surreal and startling juxtaposition of photo elements that required no trips to FotoMat.

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1) Lund started by photographing a miniature model train in his studio. After importing the digital photo into Photoshop, he duplicated the file and applied the Zoom Blur filter to create a version of the train that conveyed a sense of speed. Then in Live Picture he painted parts of the blurred version on top of the original image, so he could depict the illusion of motion while keeping some of the trains details sharp.


2) For the smoke and steam, Lund used stock photos of an oil refinery and processing plant. He painted parts of the photos into the image in Live Picture using a large brush with very soft edges to keep the softness of the smoke and steam intact. Then he added a few more sharpen and blur effects in Live Picture to complete the background.


3) Lund shot the image of the man with the bowler hat and umbrella in his studio with a digital camera. He brought the image into Photoshop and masked it from the background using the pen tool. Then Lund imported the image and its alpha-channel mask into the Live Picture filecontaining the train, smoke, and steam.


4) Next, Lund built the blinders on the mans face by photographing a belt and a wallet separately. He photographed the belt wrapped around the models face so it would have the right shape when added to the collage. In Live Picture, he painted strips of dark color beneath the belt sections to create subtle shadowing on the mans face, and added an extra layer of color atop the wallet to giveitamore wrinkled look.

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