With the basic photographs of the section of bandaged tree and myself in a gas mask taken and the selection of my background done. The next step was assembling the image in Photoshop.
For some steps such as the processing of the RAW files I used Photoshop elements 11, but to create the fully bandaged tree I used CS6. Simple procedures are easier in Elements where as the more complicated processes are better undertaken in CS6.
Selection of background images, some taken by me others downloaded from the internet
The background image (Yellowstone park image taken by me in 2006) had already been adapted to include a chemical processing plant and an un-bandaged tree. My temporary character was also on his own layer and by turning off the layer removed him from view.
The next step was choosing the best pose from all the shots I took of myself wearing a gas mask. For this I was looking for something that ‘balanced’ the image. The technique I use is simple enough. I make a rough cut out of each of the best poses and then paste them into the image each on a separate layer one by one. By turning on and off each layer, each pose can be considered ‘ in situ’.
Once selected the task of the fine cut out of the selected pose began. For this I zoom in on the edge to a point where I can just make out the pixels then using a graphic tablet and pen I use the smallest eraser tool and work my way along the edge.
Using the same technique I isolated the bandaged section of the tree from the image and removed the background then over laid this cut out onto the lone tree as a new layer. Copying this layer and using the move tool I could reposition the bandaged trunk to give the impression that more of the trunk was covered. Using the ‘distort’ tool the new bandaged section could be altered in dimensions to closely match the trunk. To ensure a good fit I used the transparency tool so that the tree and the new bandaged area could both be seen at the same time, reverting the bandaged section back to 100 opacity once I was happy that this new layer mask match the dimensions of the tree on the layer beneath. Repeating this process several times resulted in the tree being covered in bandages, merging the layers left me with a single file to cut and paste into position.
Adding these two new image sections progressed the final image more towards what I was after. Deleting a couple of spindly tree trucks behind the head of my figure and adjusting some of the smoke / mist improved things.
To offer a sense of a 360 degree disaster zone I decided that there should be reflections mirroring the industrial landscape in the eye pieces of the gas mask. This would give an impression of what my figure was looking at. Going back over my artist influences for this piece I found a circular image created by Peter Kennard showing large cooling towers. Carefully cutting these images from their black background I positioned the first one over the gas mask eye piece and reduced the transparency by 50%. Duplicating this layer I moved the copy over the second eye piece and distorted its shape to match the slight oblique angle of this lens.
To add more realism to the image I used a brush from the ‘dry media’ selection to lightly dust the figure’s coat.
Adding a mustard colour wash to the whole print using the paint tool on a new layer then selecting ‘color’ to make the block colour transparent added to the ‘chemical hell’ I was trying to create. Adding a black distorted frame I feel adds to the ‘grunge’ look.
Taking the below image to my tutors their feedback prompted a few minor changes.
The amended image is presented below
Image: Paradise Lost
This performance self portrait offers a chilling view of a future world devoid of life and makes a clear statement on the price of progress on the environment. Created in the style of a Science Fiction movie poster the piece draws inspiration from the protest montage images created by Peter Kennard. The bandage tree symbolises the token efforts man has made to repair the damage to the planet, a gesture in triage as trees are still being destroyed faster than re growth. The breathing apparatus symbolises the ultimate fate for all life on the planet should we continue on our present path of progress and destruction.