Visual Roles (Photographers Gaze, Surveillance and Toxins) | Project Development | Surfaces and Strategies |

My next process in developing my editing skills toward enhancing emotion was to experiment in finding a way to display individuals roles visually through editing the photographs I have taken of subjects doing different activities.

This Idea was sparked whilst in Thailand when noticing a police man directing traffic. I will move onto this at the end of the post as I felt it was the most challenging role to edit.

When going through the stages of editing I like to start at the basics and move my way up, this way the outcomes have time to evolve through out the body of work, giving me time to grow and discover the most fitting and detailed methods of editing for the most complex photos taken.

And so I began with editing a select set of images I shot recently which was photographing a photographer taking photos…

Contact Sheet.jpg

I choose to begin with the field images. The thing about this shoot as it was as natural as it could be, based on the fact I didn’t even notify the subject that I would be taking photos of her photographing. Therefor the subject was completely in her own element.

My subject came across a single red poppy flower amongst a wide crop field. My aim was to highlight this flower whilst finding a way to visually portray the focus involved with the subjects action of taking a photograph.

I know that I wanted some sort of cone to represent the photographers field of vision. So I went to google and found a free png to be used…

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Now I wanted to find a way to make this look more realistic, or at least less artificial. So I used the gaussian blur tool to blend it into the image.

Next I coloured in the cone to represent the photographers field of vision…

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I felt this was not a strong enough impact. I also thought that this would’t fully represent her entire vision, so I extend the colour and came up with my first shot…

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I reduced the opacity of the cone as I felt it was still too strong. I highlighted the field but I still felt it needed more and so in the next version I included the sky in colour. Also the photo to me needed a boost so I enhanced the image…

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I next used the dodge tool to amplify the photographers focus…

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I was happy with this outcome and I felt it highlighted the photographers aim and needed the extra boost of the dodge tool. I used different strengths for the core and the end of the cone. I wanted the background left in black and white to represent the area that is not being used in her vision and bring the viewers attention more so to the flower. Finally for this image I ended up with colouring the sky fully…

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I made it so the surrounding area of the sky was not as bright. The work done with the tools has all done by free hand so it wasn’t perfection, in the next image I found a way to make the colour editing more accurate.

I first tried expanding the length of the cone, but I felt in this case the circular end of the cone was useful as it can be used to run around the flower.

 

I started to adjust the cone…

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And then added the blur…

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And then the colour…

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Before moving on I wanted to see a combination I was yet to use which was the short burst of colour with a coloured sky…

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I quite liked this one as it displayed a strong contrast between the colourless and coloured sections of the photo.

However I want to extend the colour again, so this time I added lines to help guide me and make the process more accurate…

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The outcome…

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Again I felt the colours of the sky were being wasted with such a small focus and so I widened the lines of the focus to reach up to the sky…

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Also if you look closely I made the colours stronger parallel to the line along the cone…

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I then lowered the opacity of the cone…

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And added the dodge tool, this time removing the cone completely…

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And finally I extended the dodges reach parallel along the lines of the cone…

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I did this by free hand but looking back now I think would had looked better if I used the lines again as guidance. I preferred the second image but I am yet to decide which edit I think is the best and most effective.

The next photo I moved on to was closer to the subject and their perspective. I began my experiment with subtly lowering the colour of the of the surroundings and increasing the colour of the subjects focus by the same method as last time. Black and white layer first then removing the layer with the eraser tool.

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I found a different cone free to use through google. I wanted to see what it would look like with one of the combinations made from the negative series…

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I was quite happy with this turned out alone, combining the ‘of this world look’ with the visual representation of her focus. I then used the eraser tool on the area of the cone…

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This was an interesting result, but not one I would consider a final. I found the correct angle was hard to replicate with the positioning of the cone and eraser tool.

I went for the opposite effect on the next selected image…

I have similar views on these however I think the cone looked even better in white as it was more distinct.

One thing I noticed when erasing the metallic layers, was how it looked against the subjects arm. It kind of reminded me of a bionic arm. I want to try this against a subjects face, half normal half metallic. I feel the metallic represents a sort of darkness, emptiness and resilience to the darkness we all have built inside ourselves somewhere…

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Next up I wanted to photograph another photographer in a different environment.

Contact Sheet

This time I moved away from black and white and decided to use the layers I had created form the Smile/No smile edits (displayed to the right).

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I had no idea how this would end up looking as it involved 20 plus individual layers. But the result was something I thought was fitting for the shoot. I felt it amplified the surroundings and gave a sense of the photographers world in that very moment. Instead of black and white, a dull blue colour was created that almost distorted the image. I felt this was a stronger was of portraying the photographers role as he wanted to light up and bring life to the area he was shooting…

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As you can see here the effect made the subject almost look inhuman or ghost like. It also reminded me of a skeleton. This is one of my goals, to make a photograph look out of this world, but still remains as a photo and is not so distorted that it becomes graphic art.

I began by making use of the cones I have previously used. I would reshape them with the transform tool whilst holding down ctrl to be able to stretch the cone into position…

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It was fun to work with a wider focus area for the photographer this time around. I Lowed the opacity of the cone again so that it wasn’t to harsh…

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Here is the first result…

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I’d noticed that I hadn’t enhanced the original image underneath the layers, It to blend in bit better to the colour scheme of the overall photo as I felt at this point it was a bit too red. So I edited the colour balance to a more bluish tone…

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After this I experimented with several light opacity levels by going over the cone with the dodge tool repeatedly and saving each state in order to find and feel what is the best outcome for these first two shots selected…

 

After this I used the secondary cone to implement into the next selection of photos which held a different angle looking upwards and downwards…

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Once enhanced…

(Click to enlarge)

And in the last set of images, I found removing the cone to be quite effective. Especially in the image where the photographer is looking down the waterfall and more so towards the camera. The way his focus is traveling down is almost in resemblance of the waterfall…

 

Due to the edits style, to me it felt as if it was someone discovering a new landmark for the first time, like in a SciFi setting. This time around, When using the cone, I found myself liking the cones opacity to be more bright as I felt it made it look like it was a type of scanner used to search the environments landscape, as if the subject was creating his own path ways.


Moving on, I originally thought and began this process in Thailand. The shots where based around security and police officers doing there jobs. I managed to capture a few shots of a security man wandering through an arcade once the shopping mall had closed. I didn’t have much time and I made sure I wasn’t seen…

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I wanted to further make use of the scanning aspect of the cone. Especially as it seems fitting for someones who’s job it is to scan the environment…

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I stretched out the cone in the direction he was looking. I wanted to try something other than free handling the dodge tool and so I selected the background layer, held command and selected the cone, this selected the cone only…

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I then went over this 4 times with the dodge tool, but the outcome left an exposure which I thought was too harsh. So to find a way around this I used the blur tool to make the edges of the cone softer…

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I repeated the dodge process and this was the outcome…

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As you can see the holes of the cone are still visible but softer which gave it less of an artificial look. I also had to make sure I didn’t exposure the two crane machines to the near left with the dodge tool as his vision is behind them. I was happy with this result as it again looked as if the subject was scanning, (like a cyborg) but this time it looked more realistic and fitted the subjects role even more. I like how the circle at the end of the cone looks as if it is against the wall also.


Continuing on we have the shoot that inspired this activity. Whilst walking through the chaotic streets of Bangkok there is a lot going on. One thing you may notice is the high number of police that is required in the busy and dangerous city. Often they are sent out to control the traffic. The roads in Bangkok are crazy to say the least. Everyone drives frantically and rush to any given opportunity to pass through a space or take a short cut. Zebra crossings are completely disregarded also. But when a police officer steps out in the road, he or she has complete control. I sat and observed this for a while…

I found one officer scanning the traffic and controlling an opening that people use as a U-turn. I do not know why he was there, but my guess is that it was to do with the high volume of traffic for other peoples safety when turning, or there had been an accident or roadworks ahead. Either way, he was deciding who could and could not and when they could go through the opening. This to me created a sort of invisible barrier that I could visualise in my head which I wanted to bring to life in the photographs…

I began by finding something online that I could use as the barrier. I managed to come across a downloadable piece of artwork which I felt lucky to find. It was the closest thing I could of imagined to what I had visualised.

I placed it into the image, my aim after this was to reposition it, fade it and then add grain to give it as much realism as I can possible achieve, as if it was like a cctv image.

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The outcome…

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I felt it needed more, after adding grain, sharpen and opacity changes and colour balance to the traffic layer as well as the background I decided to see if I could use the dodge tool to make it seem if the barrier has energy and is glowing against the road…

I also tried lighting up the whole road, but now looking back I don’t think it is needed as it is a bit to much and looses its realness…

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Next I tried to add two barriers, but I found that it didn’t look good stretched and I could’t get the proportions correct, so I scrapped the idea, but here is the result…

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Next up, I wanted to fins a way to portray the police officers job of scouting the traffic. Once again, I searched for free clipart I could use on google, This time I searched network/connection png and I came across this…

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Once positioning the png by doing my best to make the end points of the connection link against certain vehicles. I had to find a way to edit this to make it look less like a clipart png and more life like. I began by adding an outer and inner glow…

After sharpening, grain, colour balance and light levels…

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I also attempted adding the metallic layer and erasing the just the cars to portray the police officers vision…

After sharpening, grain, light levels and erasing along the lines of the connection…

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Whilst it was a good experience attempting this, I wasn’t too happy with the result. I don’t have the best hand when it comes to reading the metallic layer against the background and the connections coming from the police officer were two fluky and inaccurate.

So I had another idea and that was to create the connections myself using an individual clipart png…

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In my first attempt I duplicated and stretched the png, connected the from the officer to the surrounding vehicles and added a red inner and outer glow…

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I had to keep it life like, therefore I noticed the lines across the bikers face would be behind. I removed them carefully with the eraser tool…

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I then added sharpen, grain, adjusted the opacity of the lines and two different colour balances to finish with two final outcomes…

Next I wanted to make it look as if the police officer was in-between the barrier. The red section being where the driver is checked, the green section where the driver is let through. I added colour balance, grain and dodge tool to the individual barrier layers as well as the background. The barriers where shaped with the transform tool sided with ctrl to be able to fully reshape the barriers into what was as close as I could get the life like dimensions…

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I then tested with the dodge tool against the barriers, floor and the sky above, these where the results…

I am not sure which one I prefer. But I did try to implement the connection lines from the previous image, but I instantly thought it was too much and didn’t suite this image because of the positioning of the vehicles…

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I also took some close up side shots of the police officer directing and permitting bikers to go through onto the opposite lane…

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I caught this process in 2 photographs, the scouting ahead for traffic, and the moment where the police offers stops the traffic and lets the bikers through…

This first stage was adding the red barrier infront of the bikers, this was a difficult angle to achieve. I also had to erase the barrier where it covered the back of the car…

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Next I brought in the cone to portray searching…

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And then followed up with the dodge tool…

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The outcome…

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I also tried again with a taller barrier, this enabled me to try again and avoid the part whee I had to erase the barriers lower right corner against the concrete slates to my near right…

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(I also added gaussian blur to the barriers to try help blend them in)*

And here is the second image…

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I had the cut off the lower half of the barrier to the left where the concrete rises. I also attempted adding the smallest amount of dodge at the bottom of each barrier but in this case it didn’t look as life like so I didn’t include it. In my opinion this image didn’t look as life like overall as the others may, but i’m glad I was able to give it a try at bringing my visualisation to life and being able to make use of the opportunities the actions of these people gave the photo.

I continued the scanning network coming from the policies head…

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This time adding grain and blur to each individual line. Anything to try and make it blend into the image. If you follow the line coming towards the camera you’ll also see a lens flare I added to give the impression of lasers beams and light…

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Occasionally, the police officer would lock eye contact with me and catch me taking photographs, although on this occasion, thankfully he didn’t seem to bothered. The police  have quite an intimidating apparel in Thailand…

I selected one of the shots and used it as an opportunity to shine one of the beams into the viewer. I tried to achieve this with the flare tool…

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As you may notice here I use two flares. To try and create the effect as it has just hit the viewers eyes, I used a red filter over the image…

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I also raised the opacity of the lines from high to low depending how far the lines are from the camera.

And finally for the role of the police officer, I wanted to include all 3 of the techniques I had learnt into one photo. This includes the barrier, beams and search light coming from the officers eyes…

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And with dodge included under the barrier…

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Hopefully this amplifies, expresses and highlights what the police officer has to do and his role as for traffic control visually in a still image. I feel like all of these effects add some movement to the photograph.

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In Bangkok, one thing you cannot avoid is the pollution. Not only is it incredible intense due to the extremely high volume of vehicles and limited emission care. This pollution is immensely amplified by the climates heat. I wanted to find a way to show this visually also…

And so I looked back to the metallic layer I had created. And realised that this could be used as a way of representing the pollution in Bangkok. It’s dark, its gritty and its black.

Using similar techniques I had learnt through out this process, I used different layers of eraser strength to highlight the intensity of the heat and pollution that came form the traffic and slowly disintegrate as it rise’s…

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I wanted to find a way to portray the heat the waves heat creates, so I tried experimenting with the dodge tool…

2 (4).jpgI tried just the top above the traffic first, and then I tried smudging the entire traffic itself…

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I am not sure which I prefer, or wether it needs it all, but it’s good to experiment.

Continuing on with this method, there were several times where I had to take public transport. Just being on the bus was a completely new experience in Bangkok. For a little bit extra you can pay for a bus with air con. The contrast of temperature was extreme, along with the feeling of being able to breath for the short period of time on the bus before you step back outside to the polluted heat.

One thing I noticed when I sat next to the automatic doors in the middle of the bus was the wave of heat and fumes that would sweep into the bus when they opened for people to leave the vehicle. When in this position I took the opportunity to capture people leaving the bus mindful that I would like to someway replicate this experience.

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So thankfully at this moment in time I could use the metallic layer once again to replicate the heat and fumes…

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The first one I tried at the time to me didn’t work too well as the it was very hard to distinguish any people outside. Also I wanted to try and make it look as if the heat and fumes were sweeping in as it felt…

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And so for this one I brought the metallic layer in more and the people were more distinguishable. I then felt it needed something to being it more to life to I used the smudge tool again…

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And then with a fade to represent the atmosphere outside reaching the camera/viewer…

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Hopefully to the view this creates some sort of representation that it is very different outside the vehicle and whilst the doors are open, the environment outside enters…

Here is another image with two different strengths of smudge, one more subtle than the other…

I like the more subtle one to the right but I think the one to the left is more visually impactful.

Finally for this section I attempted an edit whilst the door was closed. This was difficult as I had to carefully erase the bars in-between the windows displaying outside…

I zoomed in to try and be as precise with the tool as I could…

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Even with adding grain trying to make the image blend into a more life look, due to my lack of skill using brushes I felt it wasn’t the best work, but was worth a try…

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At the end of writing this post for the progress of my first attempts at visual roles, I had realised that I had missed a camera role shot that I took in a church. And so using the techniques I had learnt I edited immediately once I had noticed I hadn’t included it.

Whilst inside a church in Denmark, we were gifted with sun light shining through the windows down onto the church seating and floor. My subject as described in the first section of this post was taking photos at her own will, I proceeded to take photographs of this action.

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I decided to use the second cone I had used at the beginning. I highland the background and selected the cone, then proceeded to use the dodge tool, however this time the dodge tool only effected the lines of the cone and not the area inside the cone. Leaving this result…

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At first I didn’t know what to think, but after a few seconds of observing I realised I liked it. This was mainly due to the colours that really shine through the lines and are enhanced in some way. The brown from the wall and blue from the floor go nicely together.

I then tested what it would look like by filling in the area inside the cone with the dodge tool, I gradually went up in layers and saved each one individually in hopes to find which one worked best…

(Click to enlarge)

What I learnt from this is that it can be quite effective to have the background darkened and the photographs focus lit up. I tried to adjust the background levels and colour balance but nothing but making it lighter didn’t improve anything, it just took away the impact of the photographers gaze (light coming from the cone), it wasn’t needed and so I left the background at its natural state. This is one of the reasons why this is one of my favourites from the entire body of work.


 

This experience as a whole was challenging. Whilst shooting in Bangkok was stressful at times due to the immense heat and pollution leading to a lack of energy, the most difficult part of the visual role stage was the editing. I didn’t find it enjoyable, it is not my area of expertise and was very time consuming. However, it was rewarding. Through a step by step process I felt I managed to evolve my methods for editing my photos which brings me closer to be able to express people roles visually. I will use what I have learnt through this process on towards where my project is directed in, expressing peoples emotions visually through enhancement.

Thank you.

 

 

 

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