That’s an attention grabbing headline! But to reassure you: this Post is not about a surgical operation, no blood has been spilled in the taking of today’s image nor in the making of the final result. It’s about a radical cut and paste of one part of an image to improve a composition. It was a prolonged procedure. There were one or two false starts. But after an hour or more, the image was stitched up so that hopefully there are no residual scars. The issue is this: was it worth it? You can be the judge of that.
Last weekend we had a family get together that included a walk on Box Hill on the North Downs, south of London near Dorking. I think I might just have found a replacement for Ivinghoe Beacon that has featured a number of times on this blog (see here for example). I have to stand on a hill from time to time. It keeps me sane.
The first potential image I saw as we walked to the edge of the escarpment and looked south over a vast undulating area of Surrey was a father and son sitting on the edge of the hill. I had been given strict instructions by she who must be obeyed not to travel weighed down with cameras, so I just had the G10 with me. A quick snap and then I hurried to catch up. The unedited RAW file image is alongside.
I processed the image and straightened the edge of the hill. See below.
It’s an OK image, but the more I looked at it the more I was aware of a flaw in the composition. Father and son are importantly placed on an intersection of thirds, but the man is looking left – out of the image. To my mind that just doesn’t work.
I decided I would get him looking right. I made a copy of the image and saved it and then flipped it horizontally so the figures were on the right with the man now looking right.
And I simply cloned his head across. Not difficult – I got it right first time, to my surprise. I also cropped some of the foreground out. The man was now looking across the frame. That was better. But…
I still wasn’t entirely happy with the composition. The man was looking in the right direction, but he was now looking away from his son. It felt as if they were disconnected. I had a think.
It was time to try rather more radical surgery. And this is where it became clear that the crucial final ‘transplant’ was only feasible as a consequence of the original straightening of the hill’s line.
I went back to the flipped copy of the image and cloned the entire pair of figures plus rug and a section of field overwriting the original figures. The figures now looked connected – the father now looking towards and past his son across the image.
My wife approved but pointed out that the ‘magic carpet’ on which they were sitting now looked as if it was about to slide leftwards out of the picture. So, a few final corrections were made. Transform/warp to straighten up the magic carpet, the removal of a duplicate set of cows, and I also had removed the bright highlights associated with the pylon buried in a hedgeline (which is otherwise unobtrusive). And here, below, we have the final image.
Compositionally I think the image is now stronger. The taller figure looks better on the left of the pair and his gaze is directed across the screen, and importantly involves him looking towards his son.
Attempting something as radical as this is always a learning experience from which we come away with enhanced skills. Stretching oneself beyond one’s normal comfort zone is always worth the effort. Was the result worth the time spent? What do you think?
I’ve put the sequence of images in a gallery for you to scroll through more easily.