Sixteen years ago this month I was traveling the US photographing weddings from coast to coast and having the time of my life. I love traveling and helping create memories for clients that will be cherished for a lifetime. It’s hard work but rewarding if you enjoy the challenges of long hours, rental cars, unfamiliar cities and airport check-in lines. I did and still do. One particular spring wedding found me in Seattle with a delightful opportunity to photograph on a boat in the bay. It was an evening wedding which provided a beautiful view of Seattle’s skyline and the city lights as dusk turned to dark. During a short lull in the reception I found a quick moment to capture a few images of the view, and although far from perfect, filed them away for future contemplation and creative consideration. Some months later I pulled up the image files to see what I might do with them. Out of the few that I captured that evening I settled on the one below.
As previously mentioned the photo was far from perfect. At that time I was capturing images with Nikkor glass mated to a Fuji FinePix S2Pro body. The EXIF data reveals that the ISO was set at 200 with an aperture of f2.8 and a shutter speed of ½ second. It’s clear that the motion of the boat in the water affected the sharpness of the image by introducing camera movement. This was way before the newer imaging platforms that would have allowed me to increase my ISO to 12800 and my shutter speed to 1/125th of a second. The best I could have hoped for was a barely usable ISO 1600 at 1/30th of a second, resulting in a very noisy image at best. Technically it would have been as disappointing as the motion blur in the image I had taken. Despite its technical shortcomings though I decided I would play around with the file and see if it could be salvaged in some way.
I’d played around with the filters in Adobe Photoshop a bit and found the effects to be interesting. However when I was introduced to a software program called Topaz by a fellow photographer who used it to artistically enhance select wedding photos I knew that I had to give it a try. I was also familiar with the work of Karen Sperling who uses Corel Painter to achieve painting like effects in her photographs which I found appealing but never seemed to have the time to experiment with myself. I finally decided to take my work to a higher creative level and this image was one of my first forays into the art and craft of digital art enhancement. Below is a selection of iterations from this one image to give you and idea of my creative transition. My go to workhorse software solution was Topaz and the preset effects that are available in that program. If you’re not familiar with the more robust software programs like Topaz and Corel Painter but perhaps have delved into the apps that are prolific in either the Apple or Android software stores you have an idea of what you can do, or rather, what the programmed or AI algorithms can create for you. That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the options and creative opportunities found in both Topaz and Corel. Unlike the basic phone apps the learning curve for either of the two aforementioned programs can be as simple or steep as you wish them to be. It takes time and some trial and error to find what you need in order to create the look you like. I won’t get into those specifics in this post but suffice it to say that there are a LOT of variables for adjusting an image so it’s not as simple as pushing a button or moving a half dozen sliders in a phone application. Not that they don’t give you some fun and interesting results. They just don’t give you the level of control that Topaz Studio and Corel Painter will. My first step was to create a simple canned effect to see what would result, which you can view below.
The effect was nice and pretty exciting actually when it rendered the skyline into a painting-like image. But I wanted to see what else I could come up with. I wasn’t satisfied with the composition, a standard 2 to 3 ratio, and felt that it need a narrower horizontal crop to enhance the skyline and eliminate the unneeded space top and bottom. So it was back to square one and a crop that was more satisfying to my eye.
With the cropping done I could now concentrate on creating a more artistic digitally enhanced piece. This was my second go and I muted the colors a bit to be more like the original image which I preferred to eye popping cartoonish color of the first artistic rendering.
With the first image above I decided to really go wild and do my Elvis impression. That’s what I call this particular rendering which reminds me of those Elvis Presley paintings on black velvet material that were sold to tourists everywhere from Tijuana to Tennessee back in the day. Hey, I was having fun discovering this new creative outlet and why not?
After that little artistic indiscretion I upped my game and got serious again which resulted in the very impressionist version of the Seattle Skyline below. By this time I was hooked.
I began to experiment more with texture and not only shape and clarity with this next rendering. It gave me the opportunity to spread some digital paint without messing up my clothes, floor or computer!
My final foray into this new found art opportunity was an artist’s chalk like crayon look for the skyline. What I discovered through this exercise is that I tend towards the more abstract look and feel in my Pel Maché pieces. In this piece I like the way the sky and water become almost the same shade of blue, leaving the lights to become a ribbon between the two. Anyone who knows and appreciates the skyline of Seattle can apply their own imagination to this piece and not only see, but hopefully feel, the rhythm of this Northwest city.
So there you have it! An example of how I worked my way through figuring out how to make what I created the name for and call Pel Maché. The term literally means to chew up pixels. Think of paper maché but involving digital images and you get the idea. I’d love If you have questions about this hybrid art of Pel Maché and it’s place in creative self expression contact me at the email below. I’d love to connect with others who are interested in or currently creating digital art through the hybrid combination of digital photography and computer art creation software. Seeing beyond seeing. It’s more than meets the eye. Discover the how and the why at the The Photo Forum where image creation is only part of the story. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on learning to open both eyes and heart to endless creative possibilities. © 2022 Michael D. Davis All Rights Reserved - If you’d like to chat about using this article as curated material or interviewing me for your blog or podcast please be in touch. I’d love to collaborate! Tags: creativity purpose Vision creativeconfidence mddaphotoforum youpic seeingbeyondseeing photography art digitalart pelmaché corelpainter topazadjust