Week 03 – One with Nature Pt. I

While I was sitting the meditation course this summer, I spent a lot of time enjoying the beauty of nature that surrounded me. It’s amazing what you’ll see when you allow yourself to take the time to just sit and witness. I especially loved watching the trees, I would spend hours just laying in the grass and staring up at the tall, incredibly strong trees swaying in the wind. I was quite infatuated with this, and during those 10 days I envisioned a lot of neat photography ideas related to what I saw. I plan to build upon this first photo and continue with the One with Nature theme during this Project 52, and I’m really excited about it!!

On to the details…

First off, I’m introducing a new stage of BTS, and that is the sketch. Let me warn you ahead of time (although your eyes probably went straight to it) that I am awful at sketching. I will probably get better over time, but honestly, I don’t really need to. The point of sketching is to get a ROUGH idea down of the picture you have in your head, and this was my idea –

There it is, the simple idea of my body and the tree bark molded in to one. As I’ve mentioned before, I love the way the sun pokes through the trees in the mornings and evenings, so I decided to do this shoot all natural. Lighting (ambient) is as follows –

That big circle behind me is the tree (there was no icon for that) and the sun was coming from camera left (my right side).

It doesn’t get easier than that. The main idea was to take a photo of the tree by itself, and then to take a photo of me pressed up against the tree (the awkward stance was unintentional), and to make some magic happen in Photoshop. You have to be quick this early in the morning, because the sun moves really fast!

Originally, I thought it would be cool to have the tree bark creeping up my stomach/chest (like my illustration) while my arms, shoulders, and head were out, but then it looked a bit like a tube top which I wasn’t crazy about. I played around with a few variations until I finally settled on this version which gave it a Tarzan-like feel.

In photoshop, I layered the bark photo on top, created a layer mask to have the bark appear only where I wanted, added some shadows in certain places to make it look like I was actually coming out of the tree, liquified some areas of the bark to give it some depth (like it was wrapping around me), and added a dark bark area on the ends to make it look like the bark was chipped off.

I also cropped it in quite a bit to give the focus more to the tree (and myself) rather than it’s surroundings. As much as I liked seeing the ground and the bottom of the tree trunk, it was a bit distracting to the eye (which I’m becoming more aware of when editing photos).

Not quite what I first envisioned, or the route I thought I’d take editing-wise, but I definitely learned a ton and had a lot of fun creating this one!!

-Rob Rice

4 thoughts on “Week 03 – One with Nature Pt. I

  1. Rob,

    Overall, this is very cool. The tree, lighting, color temp, composition and concept are great. This is similar to come composited pieces I’ve worked on and I can sympathize with the challenges you faced. Although the composition came together nicely, the one thing that’s bothering me (and this can be labeled as merely a personal opinion) is how the edges of the bark are so sharpely defined against your skin. It looks more like a bark blanket just layed over you, rather than you actually being part of the tree and the bark growing out of your skin. In my mind, some additional blending between you and the bark would improve the end result.

    But still . . . . . very nicely done.

    1. Mark,

      First off, thank you so much for commenting, I really do appreciate and welcome (encourage) feedback and opinions!

      I completely agree with you! I was hoping for a smoother transition between the tree and skin, and I couldn’t quite figure out how!! Not necessarily in photoshop, but moreso that I couldn’t visualize it myself, and it’s hard to create what you can’t picture or imagine.

      I would like to go back and work on this one some more, I pretty much did it in one day and wasn’t happy with it that night, but then came back the next day and said “Wow, it’s actually kind of cool”, did a few more edits, and settled on it… But I would love to come back to it now that I’m envisioning the idea a bit more.

      Thanks so much again, and let me know if you want me to send you the PSD to see what you can come up with!

  2. Hey Rob,

    I don’t know what to tell you about improving the skin/bark transition. In all honesty, I would say you’re already a bit beyond my compositing skills, so while I can look at this shot and suggest that it could be improved, I can’t offer much for ideas on how to go about it. If you think about it, most other people will think it’s fantastic. It’s guys like you and me who keep thinking it could be better. lol Which is good actually. It means you’re always trying to get better.

  3. Haha, perfectionists unite!! Yeah, it can be good and bad, I never know when I’m done! Having this weekly due date helps quite a bit with that, because there is a deadline, but I can always come back and play with it more if I need to.

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