Camellia ‘Tulip Time’

January 25, 2014 · 5 comments

I am finding great satisfaction exploring these botanic illustrations, that I call PhotoBotanic illustrations.  Not only do my eyes see these two dimensional views more readily these days, I get to explore Photoshop.

Here, I am trying new background techniques with layer masks as I “extract” my illustration from the garden.  I have done several now where I use various selection tools in Photoshop to cutout the image and put the image on white or pale ivory.  Having always loved botanical drawings, the ability to do this now as a photographer using computer tools, is thrilling.

But equally important to me, now that my eyes have changed so much, is finding ways to express what I see.  With one good eye and one that sees an odd piece of the world, I see slices of things.  When I concentrate on something like a flower, the background tends to go blurry, so in this study of ‘Tulip Time’ I have tried something new – leaving part of the background in the photo.

Here is the straight shot.

First I make a selection of the flower and its small branch.

Then it is pretty easy to simply add a ivory background to get a fairly standard illustration.

But I want to see some remnant of the garden to prove to a viewer that this is an extraction, that the illustration is garden plant and is not simply a specimen that an illustrator took into the studio.  Not only that, but this remnant is the way I see it anyway.  So how to convey this ?  Layer Masks.

A layer mask is a Photoshop technique that allows the photographer to separate out elements of an image and make adjustments to only that one area, that one layer.  In this photo I created a layer mask of the background so I could make changes to it and leave the flower untouched.

Using the same mask on several layers I first darkened and desaturated the background.  Then I used the colored pencil filter to fragment the area, and finally a blur tool at 2/3 opacity to blend it all together and make it even more ephemeral.  The blur tool left a bit of a magenta cast I am not thrilled about … but it only gives me something else to learn.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

TC January 26, 2014 at 8:54 am

This is a technique I’m definitely going to try.

Thanks for the explanation.


Saxon January 26, 2014 at 12:52 pm

If you only have an older version of Photoshop the selection process tools can be particularly tedious, especially with garden “extractions” that tend to have soft focus areas (like some of the leaves in this on of ‘Tulip Time’), and low contrast color gradations. But it IS fun and if you apply any of the art filters for the sake of creative license … the possibilities are endless.


Donna February 16, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Hi Saxon, I finally am getting around to commenting here. I did see this post previously and wanted to say I like your technique. It makes such a nice presentation and art piece.


Saxon February 17, 2014 at 9:37 am

Thanks Donna – I look forward to your comments. More PhotoBotanic illustrations coming soon .


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