White Easter

Most of my Malaysian friends have been waiting for it to snow because they have never seen it snow before. Many were disappointed when the promised snow did not come yesterday. But their wishes have been granted today, on Easter Sunday.

I woke up this morning to see a nice blanket of snow covering everything in sight. I contemplated what to do with the snow. Every year that I’ve been here, I’ve gone out to take photos of things covered in snow. Snow photos are interesting because everything just looks white. So, in accordance to tradition, I picked up my trusty SLR and braved the cold, to get a few good shots. As I was living just by Midsummer’s Common, I decided to just go down to the green to see what I could find.

Although the results were quite good, I decided to try a bit of experimentation with Gimp. A good photograph is a wonderful base for creating something a bit more interesting. I spent the rest of the morning tinkering around with things until I found a combination of processes that would produce something that resembled art. The results are all in my Picasa gallery. You can see the slideshow on top. There aren’t that many photos because I only put up the best ones. Me personal favourite of the set is the “objects in snow” because of the stark colour contrast and how it is a very believable painting.

Some people may not like what I’ve done to the photos because I’ve made them less real. Well, that was the point in the first place. I did not want to just showcase a photograph of people and objects in the snow. I wanted to make it look like art. I’ve started playing around with this concept when I started this new blog. I needed a nice graphic to put into the header. So, I found a good photo that I took last year, of the Cambridge skyline at sunset. That’s why you can see John’s Chapel tower and King’s Chapel spires in a pink sky.

I will try to briefly describe my process here:

  1. Take a good photograph with exposure compensation set to a high value, around +1.0EV.
  2. Open it up with Gimp.
  3. Make a copy of the original layer and apply a Sobel edge detect filter to it. Then, desaturate the image into a grey scale image. Copy this image and use it as the layer mask for this layer. Finally, invert the original grey scale image.
  4. Make a copy of the original layer and apply white balance and colour enhancement to it.
  5. Make a copy of this enhanced layer and sandwich the Sobel later between the two.
  6. Then, apply burn and dodge layer processes to enhance the colours. There’s a tutorial here on what dodge and burn does.
  7. Create extra layer masks for each layer if necessary, using either the layer, or layer mask, from the Sobel layer.

That’s it! Not too difficult, but it took me a while to figure it out through experimentation. I’m starting to like post-processing photographs a lot. Good thing is that Gimp is a solid tool for performing the job. Now, I need to find some time to go out at night, with my tripod, to take some really good night shots that I can play around with HDR.

Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered/Professional Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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