As well as being a keen photographer, I have also more recently taken an interest in creating photo composites. I won't repeat what I've already written about this art form, but would recommend anyone interested to have a look at my reference post on this subject. I hope you find the background and links to resources interesting.
What I wanted to do in this post is talk a little more about he process I went through in creating my latest composite which I have entitled 'Mariabronn' (the name of the monastery in the book upon which I based my work).
As mentioned in my previous post about compositing, one of the most important principles is to be clear about the story you want to tell, and in this case I was. One of my favourite books is Hermann Hesse's "Narziss and Goldmund," a story set in the Middle Ages that tells the relationship between two men (it's better than it sounds), and I have always been attracted by the opening description of an old chestnut tree "isolated here in the North, planted long ago by a Roman pilgrim" that shadowed the entrance of the cloister, a tree that "generations of school boys" walked past, some to stay, grow old and die, others to have a short stay at the monastery before going back into the world
The novel is set at a time when the Black Death was sweeping Europe, and I wanted my composite to reflect what the tree and the monastery might look like today, while still giving some impression of the original setting.
This is where the freedom of photo compositing comes into play, and after deciding on what I wanted to create, I went through the following steps:
- Do an outline drawing of my idea.
- Find images from my photographic library I could use to create the elements in the image (to be honest I already had an idea of what they would be).
- Combine the elements in Photoshop to try and reproduce the image I had in my 'Mind's Eye'.
Below you can see my final composite:
It is made up of the following elements:
- The sky For this I used some clouds I had previously photographed on a walk when I was attracted to them.
- The tree. When I started the piece I remembered an old black and white photograph I had taken of a dead tree some years ago. I don't know what originally compelled me to take the photograph but I thought it might work well in this work. That proved to me the case I think, but not before I tried different alternatives!
- The monastery. Not far from where I live are the ruins of an old Monastery which was left abandoned shortly after the Reformation, I had a number of photographs of the ruin and chose one for the composite.
- The land. For this I used a moorland scene in which I exaggerated the hills.
- The birds. In the upper right hand corner of the image there are a couple of birds (rather fancifully I suppose meant to represent the souls of Narziss and Goldmund" escaping into the light). I cut out a couple of birds from a larger picture I had previously photographed.
- The background texture. I find the background texture an important unifying element in my composites and this particular one (possibly too rough) was a photograph of the back of a gravestone in the local cemetery. I felt the 'providence' was right and ultimately gave the final image the 'feel' I was looking for.
After choosing the different elements, the hard part is combining them to bring together the image you were seeking. Expect to resize, cut out elements and change contrast. Although far from perfect, and a million miles away from the work of advanced artists, I felt the final image held something of my original vision.
Should you be interested in learning more about photo compositing in general, and links to resources to help you learn the process, please refer to my reference post on the subject, Photographic Compositing - An introduction.
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