Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back to School

A long time ago, in a lifetime far, far away, I studied marine biology and invertebrate zoology at San Francisco State University. It was definitely a learning experience: I discovered that I'm not a field scientist at heart and I get brutally seasick. Eventually I got a real job and moved on to other things, but I still love my little sea beasties, as long as someone else takes the photos!

Fast forward a couple of decades, and I'm collecting images for a workshop with Sue Benner called "Driven to Abstraction: Developing Abstract Imagery." I'm looking forward to the retreat but it will be a real stretch, since I am pretty darned left-brained. When I work from photos, I tend to want to use those same colors and keep the color placement fairly true to the original. That doesn't sound abstract, does it? :-)

As a warm-up for the retreat, I thought I'd play with some photos in Elements. The idea is to see if I can "goo up" the photos enough so they feel more abstract, but I don't want to obliterate them quite yet (the way the Liquify filter would, for instance). So here goes...

Nudibranchs (shell-less mollusks) are some of my favorite critters because they come in outrageous colors and fantastic body shapes. I did some internet searches and have come up with a great selection of photos to play with. The image above is by Chriswan Sungkono and was taken in Indonesia (Wikimedia Commons). The background is wonderfully colorful and "mushy" as it is, but the sea slug really stands out.

I made copies of the background image and tweaked them with the Watercolor, Posterize and Crosshatch filters. I like the way the filters worked on the background, deepening the shadows, but they had much less impact on the critter than I expected:

It is fun to revisit the past, this time more creatively (no actual dissections involved!!!) I doubt Photoshop even existed when I was in grad school, and I certainly wouldn't have guessed I'd be working with my little invertebrate friends in this way. Stay tuned for more fun!

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