Photographer And Digital Artist John F. Edwards

Purple Rain by John Edwards

Purple Rain by John Edwards

I was very pleased recently to conduct an Internet interview with a fantastic artist whose amazing work I found on Redbubble.com, British photographer and digital artist John F. Edwards.  Mr. Edwards is an accomplished landscape and macro photographer, who also has developed his own special and beautiful technique for layering textures with his macro subjects, in particular flower blooms, in a most unique way.  For this article, I have asked John a few questions about his background, preferences and technique, then as an added bonus, John has agreed to allow me to post a short tutorial he wrote that gives you a simple step-by-step description of how he creates his magnificent digital photo art pieces!

 

First off, I asked John a few questions about what kind of equipment he uses to capture his marvelous flowers and other subjects with:

Question: What kind of camera and lenses do you use? (can you be specific about the models, etc.)
Answer: I have two DSLRs which I regularly use. My main camera is a Canon 5D that I use for all my stock images and macro work. I use the 5D mainly in combination with either a Tamron SP90 f2.8 Macro lens or a Sigma 80-400mm f4.5-5.6 EX OS APO. I also have two Canon lenses; a 35-70 f3.5 USM and a Canon 75-300mm f4-5.6 USM from my film camera days that I use occasionally.

I also have a Samsung GX10 with a Schneider D-Xenon 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 lens that goes with me everywhere as it’s far lighter and more compact than the Canon.

As well as the DSLRs I have two film cameras that I use occasionally: A Canon EOS 3 body and a Zenza Bronica ETRSi medium format body with a Zenzanon EII 75mm f2.8 lens that delivers superb results.

Question:  What kind of tripod (if any) do you use?

Answer: I use a Slik SL88 Black Diamond that I’ve had for around twenty years now. It’s still fully functional and has never yet let me down so I’ve never felt the need to update it.

Question:  If there was no limit on your budget for photography equipment, what would you buy (include name brands and models, etc.)?

Answer: It wouldn’t improve my photography, but I’d buy a Hasselblad H3DII-50 with a full set of HC lenses and adaptors. I’d also need some serious digital storage space as each of the files from the Hasselblad’s 50 megapixel Kodak sensor is around 300Mb. I’d also need a computer powerful enough to edit them.

Question:  What, in your opinion, do you think has contributed to making your photos ‘superb’ (in my opinion)?

Answer: Thank you for the compliment Zoe. I think feedback from sites such as Redbubble and ePHOTOzine really help. Also I feel my work improved tremendously with the advent of digital imaging and the instant review facility that is available now. Finally a good imagination helps as well.

Question:  Do you have any favorite books, and also favorite photographers?

Answer: I have a couple of favorite photography books; The HDRI Handbook by Christian Bloch (ISBN: 978-1-933952-05-5) and Photographing Flowers by Sue Bishop (ISBN: 1-86108-366-1.

Where would I start with favorite photographers?  There are a couple of top flower photographers whose work I find inspiring. They are Carol Sharp and Sue Bishop. Then there are the artists on Redbubble who are too numerous to name but whose work is so beautiful and inspirational.

Next, I asked John a few questions about his artistic background:

Question:  When did you get interested in photography?

Answer: I started at around the age of 10 with my dad’s old Brownie camera, which I still have.  Later on I was given my own camera, a Kodak Instamatic, and at around the age of 14, I tried to develop films from that and the Brownie, although the attempts always resulted in a length of perfectly clear gelatine!  I could never get close enough to the subjects I was photographing (mainly birds and animals), however, and over time my interest waned.  A few years later, my interest was rekindled when I borrowed a Halina Paulette from a friend to take some holiday shots.  I was amazed by the quality of the results from such an inexpensive camera.  Later that year, in 1972, I bought a Zenit E SLR and joined a City and Guilds course on photography.  It was in this course that I learned the magic of watching a print develop in a tray and became well and truly hooked!

Question:  What inspires you as a photographer?

Answer: I’m inspired by the life I see all around me in my garden and in local woodlands and parks.  Flowers have a particular fascination for me as I love their color, form, and ephemeral nature.  I guess I’m an old romantic at heart as I’m also inspired by poetry, and a lot of the work I produce has romance as a theme.

Question:  What brought you to creating the multi-layered texture background flower/nature images?

Answer: My texture work started around eight years ago when I was shooting some Carnival Glass tha used to belong to my grandmother.  I didn’t particularly like the background I had used, and decided to change it rather than re-shoot.  I added a different texture to the image and rather liked the effect of the texture over the glass.  A few months ago I started producing more of this texture work involving flowers, and this resulted in some collaborative work I’ve also been doing with artist Rose Moxon, one of the world’s top 3D artists.

Question:  Okay, John, one last question is on my mind…What is your “real” profession, or is it art and photography?

Answer: I wish I could say that my real job is photography, but I doubt I would be able to earn a living from that unless I did wedding photography in my local area, and I don’t do wedding photography!  I actually work as a Business Analyst and Software Developer for a Global company.

It was nice to get to know about John, and what propelled him toward his style of photography and art.  Below is a selection of John’s textured floral and other images with a brief description under each one.  After that we’ll get to the tutorial that explains how John creates these lovely masterpieces!

In The Deeps Of My Heart

In The Deeps Of My Heart

I was reading a poem, “The Rose in the Deeps of His Heart”, by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) a few weeks ago and I suddenly remembered a series of photographs I had taken of a rose that I thought would fit well with the poem. I selected the image of the rose I wanted, and using texture overlays and a few layer masks, this image was the result.

Porcelain

Porcelain

The base photograph was taken last year I was out walking with my dog at Wembury Bay in Devon. I decided to use it in a series of images I called the Enchanted Forest, and so ran the fractalius filter over the background and then added the beam of light and the dust in Mystical Lighting.

The Glade

The Glade

The base photograph was taken last year I was out walking with my dog at Wembury Bay in Devon. I decided to use it in a series of images I called the Enchanted Forest, and so ran the fractalius filter over the background and then added the beam of light and the dust in Mystical Lighting.

Spring Flowers

Spring Flowers

This image was not planned, but was the result of playing around with various images of flowers and textures. The main flower is a yellow Polyanthus and the main texture is of wood grain. In total the final image consists of 13 layers (eight floral and five texture).

Spanish Blue

Spanish Blue

An experiment at combining texture overlays with the orton effect resulted in this image of a single flower of Spanish Bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica). The flower was approx 20mm in size so I used a Tamron SP90mm macro lens when shooting.

John certainly has created some wondrous textured images.  In order for us to better understand the processes that he employs for creating some of these beauties, let us take a look at one of John’s lovely flower photos and read how, in his own words, he creates a magnificent work of art by adding textures and layering them in Adobe Photoshop:

Texture overlays in Adobe Photoshop

Since I started producing images with texture overlays I’ve had many requests for information on how I produce the images. This short tutorial is based around one of my images titled “Purple Rain” and uses a base image of an anemone photographed against a grey background plus four texture images. All images are the same dimensions.

Textures can be found by doing a search via Google for “Free textures” or you can  use either www.cgtextures.com or ww.textureking.com. Both sites have some very useful textures.

Step 1

First we need to open the photograph we will use for the subject of the image, in this case a pink anemone flower photographed against a grey background as shown below in fig.1:

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

 

Step 2

The first thing we need to do with this image is to convert the background to a layer. In the layer palette double click on the background and a “New Layer” dialogue box will appear as in fig. 2. Enter the name “Flower” and click ok

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

Step 3

The next step in the process is to extract the flower from the grey background. This can be done in several ways such as using the eraser to remove the grey, using the magic wand tool to select the grey and then deleting it or by use of the “Extract” filter. Once the flower was extracted it was repositioned higher in the frame to improve composition. See fig. 3 below.

Fig. 3

Fig. 3

 

Step 4

Next we open the first of our texture images which in this case is bright green! I know the final image is purple so we’ll change the color later. Position the flower and texture images side by side as in fig. 4.

Fig. 4

Fig. 4

 

Make the texture image active by clicking on it, and then select the move tool from the tools palette. Click somewhere in the texture image and while still holding the mouse button down, drag across to the flower image. Hold the shift key down and then release the mouse button. Close the texture file.

We now have our first texture layer in the flower image. See fig. 5. Holding the shift key down before releasing the mouse button centers the new layer in the image. Note: In the example below I’ve not done this so that you can see both layers.

Fig. 5

Fig. 5

 

Double-click on the texture layer and rename it texture 1, and then drag it below the flower layer in the layer palette so that it becomes the bottom layer.

Step 5

We now open the second of our texture images which is some water droplets on a blue background that has had motion blur applied to simulate falling rain (see fig. 6), and move it to the flower image as in the previous step. This texture layer should be renamed Texture 2 and be positioned above the first texture layer. In the layer palette change the blending mode to “Multiply”. Close the texture file.

Fig. 6

Fig. 6

 

Step 6

Next we open our third texture image of some crumpled paper (see fig. 7), and again move the layer to our flower image. This layer is renamed “Texture 3” and is positioned as the third layer in the layer stack just below the flower layer. Change the blending mode of the new texture layer to soft light.

Fig. 7

Fig. 7

 

Step 7

Now we change the color of the image. From the layer menu select “New Adjustment Layer” and then “Hue/Saturation.” Set the Hue to +131 and the Saturation to +3 leaving the Lightness at 0 as in fig. 8. This layer is positioned above the texture layers and below the flower layer.

Fig. 8

Fig. 8

 

Step 8

It is time to add our final texture layer which is a photograph of some cracked mud (fig. 9).

Fig. 9

Fig. 9

This is moved to the flower image as we did before and positioned at the top of the layer stack above the flower layer. Rename it “Texture 4” and in the layer palette set the blending mode to Multiply and the Opacity to 48%. (See fig. 10)

Fig. 10

Fig. 10

 

Step 9

Our image is almost complete, but the flower is now a little dull and muted. To brighten and lift the flower slightly select the flower layer in the layer palette, and then select “Duplicate” from the layer menu and click ok when the “Duplicate Layer” dialogue box appears. Using the layer palette, move this duplicate layer to the top of the layer stack. Change the blending mode to Overlay and the Opacity to 55% (See fig. 11). The image is now completed (see fig.12).

Fig. 11

Fig. 11

Fig. 12

Fig. 12

 

If your first attempts at texture overlays are not successful, it is worth repeating with different texture images. By experimentation and experience you’ll find which textures work best for the subject and the effect you want to achieve.

Also, if you would like to try the technique using the images I used, click the link to a zip file which contains low resolution copies of the four texture files plus the flower cut-out.

The link is: http://johnfedwards.co.uk/cms/images/files.zip

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