After two rounds of judging it’s now official. My image of a chalk dudleya (Dudleya pulverulenta) is the winner in a contest looking for an image to use to promote the upcoming California Native Plant Week, which this year is April 17 to 23. The competition was held by the San Diego Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, and the winning image will be used locally in publicity and on t-shirts and who knows what else.
Woohoo! I’m jazzed!
To the right is the winning image, Chalk Dudley, Budding Out.
Down below I detail the steps I took to turn a snapshot into this final photo.
To the left is the original image that I prettied up for the contest, basically a snapshot for this blog that I took for the February Garden Bloggers Bloom Day meme. It was a few minutes before sunset when I took the photo, within the “golden hour” that you hear photographers talk about sometimes. During that time of day colors can look more saturated, and the color balance of the afternoon (or morning) sunlight shifts to the colors towards the warm golds and oranges and reds. I’d like to say it was intentional, but that was the only time I had to go out and take pictures. Sometimes things just work out.
The first modification I made was to crop the image. The original photo had the 2:3 (2 wide, 3 high) aspect ratio that my Canon Rebel camera takes. The contest, however, asked for an image that would be 8 1/2 by 11 inches, which is more like an aspect ratio of about 2:2.259. That meant I had to prune the image in the vertical dimension.
There was dark space on the left side that in the end I thought was a little distracting, so I cut that out. And the lower left emerging bloom stalk was a bit out of focus, so I placed it on the edge of the photo, moving attention away from it. Okay, so I found all sorts of reasons to crop it horizontally.
But finding a way to crop it vertically was tough. I placed the central rosette higher in the photo so that it wasn’t a plain boring formally balanced composition. Still, the photo wanted to be just a little bit taller than the rules allowed for, so this modification seemed more like an amputation. I wasn’t 100% happy with the result, but I thought it wasn’t too egregious.
The final touches were to use Levels in Photoshop to lower the white point and raise the black point–effectively upping the contrast–and to change the center point to brighten the image. Last, I applied some gentle sharpening and used the Burn tool to gently darken the edges and some spots of the image that seemed too bright, to draw attention to the parts that were most interesting. These final changes are subtle, but distinct if your carefully compare the top image and this third image.
But the contest also wanted an image that worked well in black and white as well as color. Here’s what you get if you drain all the color out of the photo. It’s okay graphically, but I thought it was pretty flat looking.
And here’s the final grayscale image after I played with the contrast, modified the black and white points, sharpened everything, and darkened the edges of the photo using the Photoshop Burn tool. As much as I like the delicate blues and greens of the color photo, in a lot of ways I like this version even better.
There you have it, from snapshot to winning masterpiece (yah right…) Anyway, I’m happy, and I can hardly wait to see people walking around town with this image on their t-shirts.