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Picture at an Exhibition

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The opening of the Linden Hall Gallery’s Winter Show was on December 4th 2016, and as I was exhibiting I was also taking a few pics. A few of these I turned into a panorama (Pic 1), which the gallery used as a Christmas card which has attracted a fair bit of curiosity as to the techniques used, so the easiest way to answer questions is for me to blog.

The process involves pre-visualisation and the use of Photoshop ‘auto’ techniques, so is not complicated, if you have the software, but does involve an element of chance in the final outcome. However, using a blog in this way makes it difficult to use screenshots of the process, so this description may not hang together too well for non-Photoshop people, so I have also produced a pdf file of the process which I am happy to email to anybody to contacts me.

Firstly – taking the photographs to produce a panorama. There are a number of ways to go about this, and one of my earliest influences was David Hockney’s ‘Joiners’ (http://www.hockneypictures.com/works_photos.php). These usually very large montages were constructed with many Polaroid or small individual photographic prints, and I first came across them in an exhibition in London (I think in the Haywood Gallery in 1985). I was totally blown away by the use Hockney made of pictures of one scene but from multiple perpectives and depths – introducing notion of time and space into a composite picture. I had been photographing (a medium of two dimensions and momentary) dance (a medium that uses time and space) for a few years by then and was immediately intrigued.

As I was newly graduated and starting out as a freelance experimenting in this way was financially not an option. Over the next decade, as digital photography replaced analogue, other options became available. Rather than address the time element I started using panoramas when I didn’t have a wide enough angle lens for a scene, mainly in landscapes. These were multiple pictures taken from one position: some involved simply overlaying images in a (very) simplified version of Hockney’s joiners (Pics 2-3). As each image was taken from the same position the pointing of the camera in different directions was prone to produce perspective ‘issues’. In straight panoramas (pics 4-5) these can be addressed by simply taking more pictures with smaller changes of angle – and can be further reduced by shooting multiples in portrait format.

A little way down the line and Adobe introduced an ‘Photomerge’ process. At the time this was simply irritating, as I had spend a great deal of time working on a manual process that was now automated! However, it became clear very quickly that this both speeded up the process, and could produce some really interesting perspective effects: no longer ‘issues’.

So we finally come to the gallery montage. I took three pictures from a static position (pic 6), knowing that would produce perspective changes. Then in ©Photoshop I went to File>Automate>Photomerge,and from the resulting window I navigated to and selected the three files from my archive. Leaving settings at the default click on OK, and ©Photoshop will merge the images over three layers, using masks in each layer to blend them. This initial picture (Pic 7) looked a little too distorted, with figures left and right very stretched (fat). In order to reduce but not eliminate the distortion I Shift-Clicked on the three layers and flattened them (Layers>Merge Layers. This leaves me without a background canvas, so I created a new Layer from the Layers menu, placing it underneath the flattened pics Layers, and filled with white. The sides of the flattened picture can then be ‘pulled in’using Edit>Transform>Distort (pic 8).

Finally, create the ‘line drawing’ effect select the combined Layer and go Filter>Stylize>Find Edges (pic 1). The image can be further enhanced by adjusting contrast or mid-tones, sharpening or saturation. This technique of course can be applied to a single image, not just a joiner (pic 9).

AUTHOR - Tony Nandi

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