LIFE IS A COMPOSITE
Hello everyone! For this guest blog post (thank you Scott and Brad for the wonderful invite to contribute!), folks are probably hoping to eek out some super slick tips and tricks about compositing, both for shooting and editing alike (and I’ll definitely deliver on those—I promise!).
But I also wanted to get a bit more philosophical about the nature of compositing and its greater possibilities and implications in my own life’s grand composite—and perhaps yours as well.
For those that could care less about the musings and meandering background of a super Photoshop wizard/nerd and just want the goods, feel free to jump down to the header “Five Tips for Shooting and Editing Composite Images” (you’re welcome :-)!
For everyone else feeling either a bit more curious, pensive, or similarly introspective, please read on!
Like creating any new image, I like to start at the beginning with sketches of the process and figure out some kind of endgame. So here we go with a medley of biography, discovery, and realization—but first, an overview!
Filtering and searching way way back, some of my earliest memories are of making art with computers—and after teaching Photoshop for over a decade at the university and college level (yes, big time-leap there!), and writing two books on compositing in Photoshop, I realize the lens through which I perceive the world and life in general has been forever altered. It’s helped me shape my own creative direction. As my (nearly) six year old son now describes his dreams to me in terms of Photoshop tools and features (and accurately I might add!), I see that my focus has even spilled (just a bit) onto my family as well (sorry, family!).
I also realize that I’ve always been a compositor in life—or at least a collector, editor, and creator in some form for nearly my entire 33 years of being. I also believe that we all are compositors to some extent, whether or not we realize it; after all, life is essentially one mega composite we piece together one experience, moment, scar, and laugh at a time… I know, deeeep, right?
But seriously, there is a lot to be said about having a creative career concept, a goal, and using the pieces you have at hand (some garbage and some pure gold)—and seeking out or creating the ones for the concept we’re after. Yes, this is one big “compositing is a box-of-chocolates” life metaphor/story (please excuse the metaphor merge here). So for those interested in going a bit deeper into these layers, here’s a bit of my own composited story… And no, it does not start with a floating feather picked up by Tom Hanks—but that was a pretty damn good composited intro for its time!
A Little Personal History Panel
Scrolling way back again into my own childhood, I was doomed to be an artist from the onset. Starting with lining beans up into a perfectly (obsessively) straight line on some craft paper, my mother had me pegged at only a year or so of age. I believe her gardening journal for that day read something prophetic such as, “he’s definitely doomed to be an artist.” Okay, she probably did not use the word “doomed” but the realization was definitely meta tagged in there.
And while my mom was hobbit level earthy, my dad was equally Tron level nerdy as he ran his own “cutting-edge” computer business in the 80s. Dual custody between the two was like going back and forth from PC to Mac every week—blast you Ctrl vs Cmd!
However, when living with my dad on his week with me, I had access to gadgets such as those early scanners (the kind you had to hand roll over your images with) and the very first digital art applications. I discovered that when bored enough, there was definitely quite a bit you could do with nothing more than a pencil tool and paint bucket.
I was constantly inspired with the fantasy garden dreamland of my mom’s place and was jacked into the Grid at my dad’s. This all happened with a backdrop of living near Yosemite as my non-virtual backyard. This combination made for some interesting early digital art to say the least! Hidden metaphor tip in this—pick out an interesting background if you can.
Learn From Failure And Success
Unfortunately though, my first memory of inspirational and creative failure hit deep (definitely a destructive edit). Apparently the local county fair art competition judges did not understand digital art of any kind (there was definitely no category for it in the early 90s). I suppose I can dismiss my “honorable mention” non-award award, in that I was perhaps a bit too ahead of my time as the crayon drawn house with a crappy looking rainbow took first place that year. Solid play on that kid’s part though—and it’s a good thing I’m still not bitter about it… because that would be one strange snapshot of childhood to travel around with waiting to use as a background to motivation.
Speaking of which, these are all literal (mental) pictures in my life I that have inserted into a number of life compositions and choices. Some imagery we just have with us, and it shapes what we can do with it, who we are, and where we’re going with the pieces. My mental archive to this day is my most cherished inspirational material. Sometimes for texture, narrative, concept, or adding some atmosphere—or revenge! Check out my composite from ten or so years ago (notice the house with a rainbow? Take that, first place-winner kid from childhood!).