The Story Behind My #PSW Winning Image

My Winning Composite

My wife and I got to Las Vegas on Saturday, September 3, 2011.  We were too early to check into the hotel, so we took a drive to Valley of Fire State Park about 50 miles or so north of Las Vegas.  There really were two reasons we went there.  I found out there were some slot canyons in the White Dome area, and I knew there petroglyphs there that Jennifer had never seen.  I had seen the petroglyphs last year at Photoshop World on the Photo Safari with Moose Peterson and Joe McNally, and found out there were the slot canyons about a month before our trip.  To me, this was a win, win situation.  Both of us got to see something we had never seen before. 

One of the Petroglyph photos

We hiked around the area with the slot canyons, and I, of course took pictures of them.  We stopped several places on the way back out of the park making sure we stopped where the petroglyphs were so I could show Jennifer & get a few pictures of that area as well.  It is excellent that these things are still there since some really inconsiderate people have scratched their names in the rocks next to them over the years.  I call these people idiots.  The next couple of days were spent mainly being a married couple enjoying each other’s company doing fun things. 

VoF Slot Canyon

On Wednesday, September 7, 2011, I had qualified to be one of the Shoot it First Contestants with the models that F.J. Westcott company had put together.  I was one of several people who were able to enter the Expo floor one hour before everyone else to photograph these models.  Quite frankly, I just stood there and took images just like everyone else did even though the guys helping us kept telling us to talk to them because they run out of ideas to move fairly quickly. 

Key Note Address

The particular shot I used of (This will probably be spelled wrong) Uall was one in which I did tell him to look sort of into the light with a look of concern on his face because I wanted to get a close up of him.  I did speak a very little bit to the other models, but again mostly just aimed and shot. 

Just a photo of Uall not a composite

After the hour was up and the rest of the people at Photoshop World came into the area to shoot, I stayed a bit but quickly lost interest and went to look at the rest of the Expo.  Once I left the expo, I went to the room to upload the images to my computer not knowing what I was going to do for my entry.  I had now idea that I was going to use the image I chose until I sat through Joel Grimes’ class at 8:15 on Thursday morning titled “The Art of Compositing.”  Joel said “A photograph is not reality. At best, it is an illusion of reality.”  He went on to say that “You are selling a fake, so it either works or it doesn’t.”  These two quotes really hit home to me since my mind was going through all the images I had taken on the trip to date.  Then I remembered the petroglyph images and knew exactly what I needed to do. 

Mandalay Bay

I, thankfully, had bought Matt Kloskowski’s new book about Compositing Secrets when it first came out and had gone through about half of it by then.  I was glad I had done the work and listened to Joel because this really gave me a path to follow.  Once I had selected the image of Uall out, I worked on the layer mask for a while to get it to a stage where I felt I could use and then put the petroglyph background in behind him.  That alone didn’t really work for me.  The light on him was whiter than the light on the rocks so I had to put a warming filter adjustment layer so the warmth of the rocks would blend up to him.

Once that was complete the amount of light on the rock was not quite right.  I copied the rock layer, changed the blending mode to screen and then added a gradient mask to one side so the amount of light on the model, would match the light on the rocks.  I also copied the layer of the model, filled it to black, blurred it, and lowered the opacity to give him a slight shadow too.  Last but not least I added a slight outer glow to him just to help him blend into the background.

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