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Friday, June 6, 2014

Framing "Sunlit Iris"

And it's back to photo editing this week...

A few weeks ago I got a lovely shot of an iris while visiting a local park. It was getting on into early evening and camera in hand, I was disappointed to find nearly everything in shadow—I have a strong preference for shooting subjects in sunlight as there's so much more hidden color that can be brought out with editing. I was wandering about enjoying the spring weather when I came across this iris, magnificently back lit with filtered sunbeams. I took around a dozen shots of it, but as often turns out, the first was the best, even capturing some of the crepuscular rays.

Iris photo with sunbeams

Later that weekend, my fellow blogger Firebonnet ran a feature she calls "Random Moments of Delight," a beautifully self-explanitory theme. She invites her readers to share theirs as well and I shared this iris saying I might yet do some artistic editing on it. This week I pulled it out to start playing with it, and here is the result, "Sunlit Iris":

"Sunlit Iris" artistically edited iris photo

This one went through a great many steps to reach it's final appearance, including multiple filters, masks and a subtle texture all blended together.

"Sunlit Iris" (closeup) artistically edited iris photo

What I'll share here is how I experimented on the masked border.

In removing the edges of this image I could have erased them, but that would be a permanent change to the image, and if I didn't like how it was turning out, there would be a great deal of backtracking to start over.

Instead, I used a layer mask. Clicking the icon that looks like a gray rectangle with a circle on it above (or below, depending on your version of Photoshop) the layers palette adds the mask to the selected layer. When it's all white, it makes no change to the image, but wherever you put some black, the image disappears. It's very easy to adjust or start over by re-adding white.

A solid layer can be placed beneath the image to show through where the edges are removed, but if you want to save that layer to print without any background, be sure to make it not visible and save the image as a .png file.

"Sunlit Iris" mask layers

With my iris picture, I started first with a larger soft brush, but not happy with the result, went over the edges again with a more jagged shape. That ended up looking too sharp, so I tried applying a blur to the mask, and ended up with a torn edge appearance that pleased me.

While working on this project I was reminded of the time I had the privilege of viewing Van Gogh's Irises, up close and personal. In the early 1990's I was on a visit to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles (the old one in Malibu) when I turned a corner and there it was directly in front of me. The surprise took my breath away and I lingered before it in awe for quite some time. I always admired the simplicity with which it had been displayed, and while I would have enjoyed seeing it just as much had I waited in line to view it from behind velvet roping, the experience I did have made an emotional impact that lets me relive that experience over and over. Somehow I think Vincent would have appreciated that.

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Thanks for visiting and please come again!


  1. Your edits turned out beautifully!!!! And thank you so much for the shout out. :D I also appreciate the lesson on masking. Learning Photoshop is one of my goals this year. All the stuff I've done so far in PS has been luck! lol This work really is reminiscent of Impressionists' work.

    1. Thanks for the compliment, and the shout-out is well-deserved. You've worked hard and created an amazing blog.