Painting with ice

Natural textures tend to be similar, so using ice textures to change a sky is not as odd as it might seem

Although Photoshop can now generate organic noise and texture, back in the day we had to use our own. Even now, I find photographing my own textures, and using them instead of synthetic textures is much better. One of my favorite sources is ice.

A few days ago, I was wandering about the garden with not much to do. I came across the wheelbarrow. Not much to look at…

A boring wheelbarrow
A boring wheelbarrow

It contained  leaves covered by iced water. I pulled out the ice to drain away the water and was about to walk away, when the sun came out. Never mind the mundane subject: I could only see the wonderful textures the light had suddenly created. I ran for my camera.

Textures 1
Textures 1

The photos here have not been re-colored in any way: I just waited until the side of the wheelbarrow was in full sun.

The photos have an ‘alien sunset’ feel to them. This is the sort of thing that comes in very useful in Photoshop, when you want to layer textures over an image to give it a more painterly or grungy effect. Using colored textures such as these, rather than just solid color filter values) is also useful when you want to add warmth or coolness to your photos.

Layering the ice texture onto a sky
Layering the ice texture onto a sky

Here’s what happens when I layer my alien sky over a simple and initially boring tree line.

I took some more photos…

Texture 2
Texture 2

Using a macro, I now zoomed into the ice surface.

Texture 3
Texture 3

1 to 1 pixel closeup of ice
1 to 1 pixel closeup of ice

All the images are taken with my 24MP Sony Alpha A77 at ISO 64. Looking at an actual size section above, you can see that there is zero noise, and lots of lovely organic texture (and as you can see, ice is rarely white: there’s every color of the rainbow there if you look close enough). Perfect source files for Photoshop layer effects!

Okay, onto an example of using our textures…

Fractal flowers
Fractal flowers

The photo on the left is as-shot. Looks nice, but for me it was missing something: the background is a little boring and dead. Layering in some ice texture in these areas lifts the final photo up considerably by adding movement, turning the final image into something much more organic.

Conclusion

Consider using your own textures rather than relying on Photoshop generated textures, except when you want pure noise. Natural textures tend to be similar, so using ice textures to change a sky (say) is not as odd as it might seem: both are natural fractals and therefore easier to blend into each other than (say) starting with synthetic Gaussian noise and trying to blend that into the sky.

Using your own photographed textures in Photoshop rather than using something like Instagram or Pixlr is preferable because the former (a) gives you a higher resolution final image, (b) you can create something more unique and personal to yourself because you are the sole content creator for the image and effect, and (c) with Instagram, any idiot who knows how to press a button can’t do just that and copy you!

Notes

  1. Photographic equipment used: Sony Alpha A77, Sony 50mm/f1.8 prime, Sigma 24-70/f2.8, Tamron 90mm/f2.8 macro.

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