I have been asked a lot lately about the creation of my Hidden Within thematic images. Let me share the major steps of the process with you.
To begin with, I took pictures of the bark of many California Sycamore trees. I looked for trees with colorful peeling patterns, and made sure, that my images were as sharp as possible.
After importing the raw images into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4, I made some changes: digitally sharpened them, enhanced the colors and reduced any noise. Finally, I cropped any part of the picture out that was not tack sharp. Due to the curvature of the trees, the images usually had a narrow unsharp part on the sides.
Next, I opened my cropped image in Adobe Photoshop CS6. I also opened a new document with the desired final image size and a transparent background. From the Sycamore image I cropped a part that was one fourth of my final image (half the length and half the height). This is a trial by error step, where you don’t know if you cropped at the right place until you move the piece into the final document, and see the result.
At this point, I moved this piece into my new document and dropped it in the top left corner. After flipping this quarter to the right, then flipping both to the bottom, I produced a double symmetrical image. My goal with the Hidden Within series was to create pictures with recognizable faces in them.
Sometimes, a face emerged right away. Other times, I found the eyes to be too far or too close to each other. In this case, I re-cropped the Sycamore image, and started the symmetry treatment again. Even a tiny little difference in the cropping made a huge difference in the image. Occasionally, instead of re-cropping, I just had to rotate the quarters by 90 or 180 degrees to arrive to a nice face.
When I was happy with the image, I enhanced it again with either built in or third party filters to bring out colors and textures, and to exaggerate the main subject of my image, the face.
The best part of the whole creation happened at the very end, when my almost nine year old daughter sat by me, and we started discovering lots of different faces and creatures in the new image together. I was also inspired to write brief stories about some of the characters living in my pictures. What a fun project!