Ribes Extraction

March 31, 2014 · 2 comments

This illustration of Ribes sanguineum is a photobotanic extraction.  An extraction from the natural world, from my garden.  Botanic illustrators have the advantage of drawing from nature, piecing together an ideal.  Photographers have Photoshop.

For as long as I have used PhotoBotanic to describe my business, I have considered botanic illustration as the height of my craft.  Most of the time my job has been to illustrate plants in gardens, to help gardeners understand how a plant fits into a garden.  A botanic illustration does not really help a gardener visualize a plant in a garden setting.  But I do love the plants in the garden, and do love the process of drawing out a photobotanic illustration directly from a garden photograph.


I think because of my eye troubles, because I now see in two dimensions instead of three,  I am increasingly drawn to illustration.  I see them readily now. In my January post Camellia ‘Tulip Time’ I began exploring these extractions in earnest and now I am stretching the limits of two dimensions,  trying to illustrate what I can no longer see.

The frames seem to add depth while isolating the exquisite detail, as in this extraction of my ‘Monica’ manzanita:

This Arctostaphylos manzanita was my first time playing with the window framing.  Wanting to get maximum depth of field, this was a stack of 7 frames before I even began the cut out silhouette process.

It was so much fun doing this print, I vowed to do extractions of all my native shrubs.

As I watched my Ribes come into peak bloom I assumed I would make a stack series too.  I watched and waited, loving every opportunity to watch her unfold, always wondering which view would reveal a branch with multiple trusses.

As it turns out, when I found the best angle on the day when I decided to shoot, and then set up my camera and tripod, a stack of images gave me too much depth of field.  All I really want to illustrate is one branch, not the whole shrub.

So this one frame (dead center of the wide view above), using my 100mm macro lens at f:25 gave me plenty of depth.

Then the work began.  To make the cutout silhouette I used a variety of selection and masking tools in Photoshop to cutout the background.  It is exceedingly tedious as there is so much detail in between the tiny flower blossoms.  I keep looking for shortcuts with the selection tools but nothing short of working at 600% magnification seems to work.  I want the final print, at 20×30,  to be as clean as an illustrator’s drawing, with no unnatural edges on the petals or leaves.

Once the branch was finally cut out I made 2 Photoshop masks of the result, both a positive and negative version so I could control how much of the background I could fade out.  I assumed I would do the same dark border treatment as the Arctostaphylos but there were too many highlights in the garden beyond.  A much lighter border seemed more appropriate.

I enlarged the overall canvass with an off white “paper” so I could show how the print looks to a buyer.

I print these in a signed limited giclée edition of 5 on large sheets of watercolor paper.  Unsigned prints and cards are available on photo paper from Fine Art America.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

commonweeder April 4, 2014 at 10:52 am

All your photographs are beautiful and I love these photobotanic extractions. I don’t welcome physical challenges, but it is inspiring to see the way you have met this challenge and given us something beautiful, and instructive.

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blogadmin April 4, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Thanks for dropping by. I think I am going to stop talking about the eye troubles. Some, like you, will know part of the background, but by now, I simply want to produce new and interesting work.

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