Peeling Bark

December 31, 2012 · 14 comments

Detail from Manzanita – Peeling Bark

I see what I see, even if I can’t show it very well on a blog.  Here, the peeling bark of a Manzanita (Arctostaphylos densiflora) has been transformed into elegant orange, rust, and mahogany brush strokes with the Topaz Simplify3 filter.  It looks great in the print but it is hard to convey the effect in a small blog post.

Of course the filter itself is not the point.  The image stands on its own.  In fact the filter is only the last step after cropping the original photo, tweaking highlights, and enhancing colors.  But the filter is what gives the photo an illustrative look as it smooths out details and blends colors.

This is the full frame of the print, where here in the blog, you can’t really see the effect of the filter.

Manzanita – Peeling Bark

I am really pleased how the curling skin blisters away from the smooth surface of the branch while the filter preserves the sinewy, taut ripples of the underlying structure in a bubbling stew of warm color.  It doesn’t matter that you can’t see why it works.

Except I showed you in that first detail shot ….

This is the full frame of the original photo before I cropped it as a horizontal.

I worked a good while at the shoot to find a branch and light it with reflectors to get a full frame of these curls and textures. Here is the Manzanita I was working with, a beautifully pruned California native shrub in The Melissa Garden in Sonoma County.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

sharon December 31, 2012 at 10:58 pm

very interesting shots


Saxon January 1, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Thanks Sharon – peeling bark is an amazing phenomenon and fun to find photo abstractions


patty jelley January 1, 2013 at 11:31 am

Love this photo! Great way for me to start 2013!

Looking forward to more of your inspirations!


Saxon January 1, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Thanks Patty ! I was thinking of it as a way to finish 2012 but I’m inspired to move my explorations into 2013.


patty jelley January 1, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Definitely……continue exploring these abstractions…..and color!


Philip January 1, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Happy New Year Saxon!

Really glad you are recovered from the ladder fall etc. – Hope 2013 is an accident free year – no more scaling three legged ladders . . .

I find this a very interesting shot. The cropping was essential to simplify, what otherwise would be a busy picture. Your composition and choice of area to crop is excellent, however, I do find your blog version, the tightly cropped detail version the most dynamic and pleasing – with some fine tuning I could see that as the wall print, there’s just the right amount of elements and their placement could be just right amount of tension.


Saxon January 1, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Phil – Thanks for the comments and nice to know you appreciated the cropping on the detail. It does stand alone as its own image but would need some serious interpolation to make it work as a wall print. I am finding the various Photoshop filters (and plug-ins like Topaz) need to be viewed at 100% to appreciate the effects. The point of this post is to point out how a blog size photo can not possibly show the filter’s real life affect.

That detail photo only looks good at 600 pixels. Unlike a high res digital photo, there is no way to make it bigger. Once a filter has been applied to a specific resolution to get the specific effect, the image becomes a fixed size. For this particular manzanita photo, in order to get the affect I wanted on the main photo, I resized it to 2700 pixels before using the filter.

I do like certain filter affects at small sizes (like the detail here) and wish there were a way to make them vector graphic that could be upsized.


HB January 1, 2013 at 6:48 pm

That filter creates a wonderful painterly effect, and what a beautiful Manzanita!


Saxon January 2, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Thanks Hoover – I’m still learning these filters and which photos can use how much of how many. Fun…


Donna January 1, 2013 at 7:00 pm

The bark on this tree is very beautiful, and makes a stunning composition. I can readily see the texture and detail of your filtered image. It turned out great. I love filters for artistic expression. I mostly use Nik but maybe using Topaz a bit more. They made so many improvements in the last year to the app.


Saxon January 2, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Thanks Donna – I have not yet used the Nik filters but know their reputation. Each filter (including of course the Photoshop ones themselves) has so many permutations I am still learning and wish I had more time to become more proficient. New Year’s resolution ?
Happy New Year to ya !


Lori January 2, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Wow!! I love everything about this, from the tree itself to your cropped and filtered closeup! BTW, what is this Melissa Garden, private or public?


Saxon January 2, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Thanks for dropping by Lori, and of course for the compliments. The Melissa Garden is a private garden honeybee sanctuary in Sonoma County designed by Kate Frey. Melissa is for lemon balm Melissa officinalis a great insectary plant. There are occasional tours and classes:


Lori January 2, 2013 at 6:54 pm

What a cool place, thanks for the link!


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