Skating on the Rideau Canal, Ottawa – Postcard

Here’s my new postcard design of skating on the Rideau Canal. This is an abstraction of an aerial view of skating on the Rideau Canal. The original photograph was taken with Kite Aerial Photography.

The postcard is offered for sale in my Zazzle store. Click on the postcard to go straight to page.

© Rob Huntley

December 2, 2009 – Pic A Day

Seedhead pinwheel. A couple of simple photoshop manipulations and poor photo of a seed head becomes a colourful pinwheel. I applied the distort / twirl tool and then increased the saturation significantly.
Seedhead pinwheel. A couple of simple photoshop manipulations and poor photo of a seed head becomes a colourful pinwheel. I applied the distort / twirl tool and then increased the saturation significantly.

This is the original seedhead image used to create the pinwheel above.
This is the original seedhead image used to create the pinwheel above.

Web site: www.robhuntley.ca
Click on the image to go straight to the same image on my website.

How to Make Tiny Town Miniatures!

This post demonstrates a process known as “Fake Tilt-Shift” carried out in PhotoShop or other image editing software.

After a mere two weeks of playing with the creation of these miniatures, I don’t imagine I’ve become an expert yet. However, I took the opportunity to share what I’d learned with my camera club, the Camera Club of Ottawa, and since I had done the work to prepare the slides I’m posting them here for anyone’s benefit. What follows are a few examples of the results of applying the technique and then subsequent to that I’ve included a short demo of how to create a miniature using PhotoShop CS.

I also have a separate photo gallery where I am adding my own creations over time. Please see TinyTown – (Fake Tilt-Shift Images).

This process has nothing to do with tilting or shifting anything. The name is derived from the fact that there is an in-camera technique that has been around for awhile for creating similar effects using a lens called a tilt-shift lens. We are using PhotoShop to create fakes; hence the name Fake Tilt-Shift.

Basically we are reducing the depth of field to create an illusion that the photograph was taken on a tabletop using model railroad miniatures or similar objects. The process tends to work better on scenes where there is a downward angle on the subject. It is through my Kite Aerial Photography that networking colleagues made me aware of this technique, pointing out that certain of my images might make a good “fake tilt-shift” image. However, the techinique is not limited to aerial shots, and not necessarily to shots where there is a downward view. The example I’ve chosen to demonstrate with, the train lines next to Vancouver harbour, is a compromise. It is not an aerial shot, but it is taken from the raised elevation of the adjacent promenade.

If you would prefer to view a version of this presentation where you can enlarge the images, please go to the How to Make Tiny Town Miniatures! gallery on my website.

Fisherman's Cove in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The low level aerial photograph of the line of shops is ideally suited for a Fake Tilt-Shift Miniature. The houses take on the appearance of Parker Bros. Monopoly figures and even the people look artificial. The background has been thrown out of focus plus the colour saturation has been greatly boosted to give the objects a plastic-like, toy-like appearance.
The title slide is of Fisherman’s Cove in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The low level aerial photograph of the line of shops is ideally suited for a Fake Tilt-Shift Miniature. The houses take on the appearance of Parker Bros. Monopoly figures and even the people look artificial. The background has been thrown out of focus plus the colour saturation has been greatly boosted to give the objects a plastic-like, toy-like appearance.
View the original aerial photograph.

Again, a low level aerial photograph proves ideal for making a miniature of the Atlantic Fisheries Museum in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
Again, a low level aerial photograph proves ideal for making a miniature of the Atlantic Fisheries Museum in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. In this example, both the foreground and background are thrown out of focus and the colour saturation enhanced to give the toy house appearance to the museum.
View the original aerial photograph.

The original image for this example was shot from the roadside in a very slightly elevated position. The rising hills in the background may add to the affect by eliminating the horizon.
The original image for this example was shot from the roadside in a very slightly elevated position. The rising hills in the background may add to the effect by eliminating the horizon.

This red car is in a roundabout or traffic circle in Conwy, Wales. The shot was taken from the wall of Conwy Castle adjacent to the road.
This red car is in a roundabout (traffic circle) in Conwy, Wales. The shot was taken from the wall of Conwy Castle adjacent to the road.
View the original photograph.

This is a fake tilt-shift of the Champlain Bridge over the Ottawa River between Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec. This is a unique angle of the bridge, obtained through Kite Aerial Photography.
This is a fake tilt-shift of the Champlain Bridge over the Ottawa River between Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec. This is a unique angle of the bridge, obtained through Kite Aerial Photography (KAP). Note how just a few cars and the surrounding bridge and lamp posts are kept in focus while the foreground and background are out of focus.
View the original aerial photograph.

This is a fake tilt-shift of the former EB Eddy mill on the Ottawa River in Ottawa, Ontario. Again, the original low level aerial picture was obtained from a remote-controlled camera suspended below a kite.
This is a fake tilt-shift of the former EB Eddy mill on the Ottawa River in Ottawa, Ontario. Again, the original low level aerial picture was obtained from a remote-controlled camera suspended below a kite. The orientation of the wall face of the mill being roughly the same distance from the camera makes it an ideal subject for retaining the focus of the whole building while throwing the rest of the picture out of focus.
View the original aerial photograph.

This is a Tiny Town version of the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, Ontario. It is a heritage building also known as the Cattle Castle as a consequence of livestock fairs being held there.
This is a “Tiny Town” version of the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, Ontario. It is a heritage building also known as the “Cattle Castle” as a consequence of livestock fairs being held there.
View the original aerial photograph.

This covered bridge is found on Chemin Cross Loop south of Wakefield, Québec. It is not to be confused with the larger covered bridge just to the north of Wakefield. Again, the foreground and background have been blurred to shorten the apparent depth of field and the red colour of the bridge has been saturated to the point of synthetic toy look-alike.
This covered bridge is found on Chemin Cross Loop south of Wakefield, Québec. It is not to be confused with the larger covered bridge just to the north of Wakefield. Again, the foreground and background have been blurred to shorten the apparent depth of field and the red colour of the bridge has been saturated to the point of synthetic toy look-alike.
View the original aerial photograph.

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Demo Slide 1
Demo Slide 1 (Larger images available with website version.)

To demonstrate the creation of a fake tilt-shift miniature I’m using an image that any photographer might have taken without the assistance of aerial photography. It was taken in Vancouver, British Columbia at the harbour port. Rail lines and trains are particularly good for this technique. Most of us have seen model railroads before and the result of miniaturizing this scene should give the sense that the shot was taken in the basement of a train-a-holic.

I have an older version of PhotoShop, PhotoShop CS. I hope you can convert these instructions to your software and version. After loading A COPY of the picture into PhotoShop, click on the “Quick Mask” indicated by the bottom green circle on the left-hand-side. Then click on the gradient tool, the middle circle. After clicking the gradient tool you will see 5 options for this tool presented at the top and you should select the 4th one which is “Reflective Gradient”.

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Demo Slide 2
Demo Slide 2 (Larger images available with website version.)

Imagine a horizontal zone in the picture where you would like to retain sharpness. I am selecting the foreground passenger trains to be the main subject in this demo, but you could have selected the freight trains in the distance.

The top green arrow indicates where I have initially placed the cursor on the roof of the red car. You can see a thin grey line which I have drawn to the bottom green arrow. This line indicates 1/2 of the height of the gradient zone (the bottom half), from the sharpest point at the top to the least sharp point at the bottom. The top half will simply be mirrored above the top green arrow so you will end up with a “reflective gradient” both upwards and downwards from the top green arrow.

If this is confusing, take note of where the top green arrow is on the roof of the red car, then take a peek at the next slide and note where the roof of the red car is, then come back. Reread this and hopefully you will better understand.

As soon as you release the mouse button after drawing this gradient line, you will get a red band of gradient mask as shown in the next slide.

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Demo Slide 3
Demo Slide 3 (Larger images available with website version.)

This red mask is the area which will be preserved in subsequent steps that we take to throw the background and foreground out of focus. The “gradient” ensures that the most central area of the band will be the most sharp, gradually losing focus towards the edges.

At this point select the standard editing tool indicated by the green circle on the left-hand-side.

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Demo Slide 4
Demo Slide 4 (Larger images available with website version.)

By selecting the standard editing tool, the red mask has disappeared to be replaced by two horizontal lines of “marching ants” indicating the selected area. The area above and below the lines will be put totally out of focus by our next steps. The area between the lines will have a focus gradient outwards from the centre.

From the top menu select “Filter” (green circle) and from the drop-down menu select “Blur”, then “Lens Blur”.

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Demo Slide 5
Demo Slide 5 (Larger images available with website version.)

This is the “Lens Blur” menu. You can play with the radius and probably select between 20 to 60. I have selected 40 in this example. The other variables I have not played with and I believe are the default settings.

Click OK.

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Demo Slide 6
Demo Slide 6 (Larger images available with website version.)

Here you see the basic result of your efforts. At this point if you are not happy with the selected area, you can go back and redraw your gradient line and then reapply the lens blurring.

If you are happy with the blurring, then select “Select” from the top menu and “Deselect” from the drop-down menu to remove the marching ants. Proceed to the next slide.

Aside: (You can skip this). In some cases you may find that something projects out of the sharp zone which you would expect to be in focus given the perceived distance from the lens and the narrow focal area. Imagine a crane in this picture with the arm reaching upwards, yet the same distance from the camera as the rest of the crane. Conversely, you may wish something was out of focus that is in the centre of the focused area. In this demo picture, the nearest lamp post is out of focus at the base and sharp at the top. Clearly this is not quite right but in this example it is hardly noticeable. In such scenarios, additional PhotoShop skills may be applied in the mask phase to either paint in some mask to retain focus, or paint out some mask to lose focus. This was necessary in the earlier shown picture of the Aberdeen Pavilion (Cattle Castle) where the dome of the building was outside of the focused area and had to have mask painted back in to preserve its sharpness.

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Demo Slide 7
Demo Slide 7 (Larger images available with website version.)

This is the same as the previous slide after the selected area has been deselected.

Now, in order to increase the toy-like appearance of your image, if desired, give it a blast of saturation. You can do this a couple of ways but most simply go up to the third item “Image” in the top menu and from the drop-down select “Adjustment” then “Hue/Saturation”.

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Demo Slide 8
Demo Slide 8 (Larger images available with website version.)

Applying +40 saturation seems to be a standard here but I suggest that you flavour to taste. Look back and forth between this slide and the previous slide to see the difference especially in the reds and yellows of the passenger cars.

Similarly you can apply some additional contrast to sometimes improve on the result (next slide). Contrast is also accessed through the top menu “Image” then from the drop-down select “Adjustment” then “Brightness/Contrast”.

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Demo Slide 9
Demo Slide 9 (Larger images available with website version.)

Here is the difference, though small, of applying +10 contrast.

Essentially that’s all there is to it, but I have decided that this particular image might look better as a cropped version. So go to the next slide.

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Demo Slide 10
Demo Slide 10 (Larger images available with website version.)

I used the crop tool, indicated by the green circle, to reduce the amount of sky in this image.

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Demo Slide 11
Demo Slide 11 (Larger images available with website version.)

This is my final version, still viewed in PhotoShop.

The next 3 images show the original in comparison with the final version and also with different option of selecting the distant freight cars as the subject.

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This is the original photo.
This is the original photo.

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This is the result of demo.
This is the result of demo.

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This is an alternate result if we had initially selected the freight trains in the distance instead of the passenger trains in the foreground.
This is an alternate result if we had initially selected the freight trains in the distance instead of the passenger trains in the foreground.

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There is a Flickr group called Tilt-shift Miniature Fakes devoted to these types of images and discussion by their creators. You might get additional ideas for your own Tiny Town images if you take a look through the group’s photostream.

There are other tutorials and articles around on this subject. Here are a few examples:

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Please visit my website.

Example of a photo salvage operation

Ron’s Kap (Flickr nickname) asked me to share the details of how I salvaged this image:

Britannia Park, Britannia Pier, Ottawa, Ontario - Kite Aerial Photography (KAP)

This KAP (Kite Aerial Photography) session was abandoned after a few minutes due to rain. The few images I had in the camera had to be tilted, cropped and doctored somewhat.

A similar article was also placed in a discussion thread in the Flickr Kite Aerial Photography group.

I don’t profess to be a PhotoShop expert, but there are number of steps I apply to almost all my images, KAP or otherwise:

- save as a working copy file
– tilt
– crop
– levels
– saturation/lightness
– contrast/brightness
– noise reduction

Skip any steps that don’t seem to make a difference. I try to avoid going “over the top”, avoiding artificial-looking adjustments, hopefully still achieving something that under other circumstances “might” have come directly out of the camera. Tilt really only came into play seriously since I started KAP.

Here is the initial image:

IMG_1629_768

FIRST I SAVED THE FILE UNDER A DIFFERENT FILE NAME AS A WORKING COPY.

Next I tilted the image about 10 degrees counterclockwise (image > rotate canvas > arbitrary > 10 CCW).
I was looking to get the tree vertical not worrying about the horizon as I already had plans to crop the horizon.

IMG_1629tilt_768

Next I used the cropping tool (from the tool bar) leaving the height and width parameters blank to give me control of the dimensions.

IMG_1629tiltcrop_768

The rule of thirds tended to work well putting the tree and people in the top left and top right thirds respectively. This is what resulted:

IMG_1629tiltcrop2_768

Then I adjusted levels, which most photos can benefit from (layer > new adjustment layer > levels), moving the left and right sliders to the edge of the histogram. I also moved the middle slider to the right to compensate for the fact I thought the image was made too bright.This is what resulted:

IMG_1629tiltcroplevels_768

Next I usually adjust saturation (layer > new adjustment layer > hue/saturation), but this image did not benefit much from this. You can adjust colours separately but usually a minor tweak with the Master adjustment by moving the saturation slider to the right is all that’s necessary. If you feel that a particular colour needs to be brought out more strongly (like red canoes or covered bridges) then change the Edit window to “reds”. Using the lightness slider here sometimes enables you to use the saturation slider more without going artificial. Play with it. Anyway, I basically had the same result after playing with saturation on this image.

IMG_1629tiltcroplevelssaturation_768

Next I go to contrast (layer > new adjustment layer > brightness/contrast). I usually play with contrast before brightness. Watch out for the white parts of the image so you don’t blow out any detail in the white areas. This can make a big improvement to some images but in this case not so much. Use the contrast slider conservatively. Usually the image has brightened significantly after the “levels” step but if you still think it needs some help, play with the brightness slider. Here is my result after playing with contrast:

IMG_1629tiltcroplevelssaturationcontrast_768

Since you have made a new layer at each step, you can go back to any of the steps and tweak them again. When finished you can save this as a .psd file for future editing (huge file size so I rarely save them). Then “flatten” the image layers (layer > flatten image) and save the file (.jpg) (UNDER A DIFFERENT FILE NAME if you haven’t done that as your first step).

The next thing I try to mitigate if necessary is digital noise. If it is just the sky I tend to do the correction in PhotoShop so as to not blur the details in other parts of the image. I use the wand select tool from the tool bar to select the sky areas, holding down the shift key to select additional areas. Then I use the noise filter (filter > noise > median). Try radius 2 to start with.

If the whole image needs work I use a software called “Neat Image“. There was a lot of noise in the water in this image so I used Neat Image. It also tended to iron out some of the ripples, making the image look less like “pending storm” and more “tranquil”. However, I did not use the default setting which seemed to overdo it. On the noise filter setting I set it to “remove only half the noise”. Otherwise I let the software run automatically. Here’s the end result:

IMG_1629tiltcroplevelssaturationcontrast_filtered_768

I’d be grateful to hear how people do things differently as I still feel to be on a learning curve myself. I just thought I’d share what I’m currently doing to tweak my images in case anyone else feels they can benefit from trying my approach.

Please visit my website.