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The Photoshop Blog offers the latest Photoshop news and software updates, Photoshop tips and tutorials, and random thoughts from graphic artist and Photoshop expert Jennifer Apple.
TUESDAY - OCTOBER 11 2005
Liquid Sculpture - A World Of Frozen Moments
A couple of weeks ago while reading through a GoLive List there was a post by Stephen Hart that mentioned a photo site his son Robbie had found through Boing Boing. I had nothing pressing to do at that moment and so I went to visit - and I became totally entranced.
Since the dawn of forever water has captivated the human imagination, inspiring rituals, stories and arts throughout the world. With his new site Liquid Sculpture, photographer Martin Waugh has joined this history of water worshipers. The site features delightfully beautiful images of drops, splashes, ripples and the like. Striking a balance between contrived and natural outcomes, Waugh rarely retouches his photos, preferring instead to just set the stage for the water to do its thing by adding color and other materials. Intrigued, we contacted Martin and asked him a few questions.
What was the process that led you to take these photos?
The whole process was evolutionary. I started out to mimic some of the classic high-speed photographs: Breaking light bulbs, popping balloons, and splashing drops. Fun stuff for someone trained in physics. Beyond requiring photographic technique, the project catered to my tinkerer side, incorporating the design of custom electronics and mechanical systems. It took me several iterations to get a good photographic set up, and then came the fun of figuring out which tricks I could do with the drops and splashes.
The resulting shapes that I discovered were captivating. I see the curves as smooth and effortless, the forms reflecting a perfect balance of dynamic forces. They tickle some faint physical memory in my body, as a scent can evoke some forgotten mix of feelings.
On average how many shots do you take before you get the "right" one?
Short answer: One hundred. However, that doesn't describe the process very well; it's feast and famine. I seem to work in two modes: experimental and goal-oriented. I might ask, "What might happen if I add soap to the water?", and then take a bunch of shots to find out. Not many usable images come from that, but new ideas do. Other times I have a plan: "I am going to create a large blue bowl sitting on top of a skinny pedestal." I might spend a week or more chasing after that particular type of shot, wasting hundreds or thousands of frames. Once I have all the parameters dialed in, I could get 30 keepers in an evening, by making various adjustments.
Can you tell us a bit about which digital camera you've chosen to work with, and why?
I'm on the subscription plan - every year, I buy a new camera and sell my old one. So, at any given time I use the top of Canon's consumer line. Currently, that's the 20D, and I have my eye on the 5D. I may decide to stay with the smaller sensor size, though, to give me a bit better the depth of field. Canon cameras have always given me good noise immunity (I haven't tried Nikon's SLRs yet, they are likely just as good).
This project has benefitted immeasurably from digital camera technology. I have made thousands of test shots and mistakes (I think I have taken 20,000 pictures of drops.) The immediate feedback of digital has been invaluable.
How do you use Photoshop in your work?
I use Photoshop to crop, adjust color and contrast, remove unwanted droplets, and clean up the background some (a large surface of water collects all kind of detritus, most notably cat hairs.) I don't substantially alter the veracity of the image.
What is your favorite thing about the software?
For this work, I like that Photoshop handles 16-bit files well, and it has very useful choices for selection tools. And, it's comforting to know that it has almost every tool that I will ever need. Its plug-in architecture allows it to integrate with some great third party add-ons (I use NeatImage).
Other than water, what do you enjoy photographing?
My favorite subject is people, especially kids. They are so naturally expressive and the embodiment of hope.
Have you thought of publishing a book?
Absolutely. I had a publisher contact me nine months ago about doing an art book. We just haven't moved it forward very fast. Many people have asked me this question, so I believe it would sell well. I also want to do a book of stereographic images of the shapes.
Do you have any advice for photography and Photoshop artists?
I don't feel I'm in a position to offer much advice. I am not a particularly good photographer, nor a Photoshop power-user. That said, I would recommend really studying Photoshop, perhaps taking a class, to shorten the time to results.
Visit the Liquid Sculpture website. To see large versions of some of Martin's images, visit our Liquid Sculpture Inspiration Page.
Photoshop Tip: Merge Stamped
Merge Stamped works a little differently in Photoshop CS2. It's actually more useful now. In prior versions of Photoshop you could create a stamped (or merged view) of all your layers. However, whatever layer you currently had targeted would bear the brunt of this process, as it would be converted to a stamped version of your active layers. If you wanted to stamp to a new layer then you'd have to create a new layer first and then use the shortcut. Now CS2 will do that automatically for you when you press Command/Option/Shift-E (PC: Control/Alt/Shift-E).
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Photoshop CS3 Tutorial High Dynamic Range
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