Assignment 4: Real or fake

DPP Assignment 4 Tutor Report

Task: Choose a project that lies in the middle ground. Produce a photographic image to illustrate an imaginary book or magazine cover. Explore the areas of adjustment and possible manipulation.

Searching for Inspiration

Having completed the exercises for Project 4 I had learnt a lot of image manipulation skills that I was keen to put into practice. However I was aware that the key to a successful assignment would be my choice of image and book to be illustrated. With an almost endless set of possibilities I had to keep thinking back to the assignment brief, to produce an image that ethically sits in the middle of what is acceptable and unacceptable image manipulation.

Using the clone tool in Exercise 23: Alteration inspired me to write the blog post The Cleaner Side of Photo Manipulation, where I removed graffiti from a wall. It was whilst cleaning up the image that I thought about how image editing can be used to improve things aesthetically. Now, I understand that  there is a lot of controversy about using Photoshop to enhance images for the sake of fashion, however to use the same principles to improve an environment and illustrate it in its best light seems to me to be acceptable. Whilst photo manipulation in the fashion industry can strongly influence peoples perception of themselves and drive them to extreme measures, to ‘clean up’ images of environments could be used to strengthen the case for looking after our world, without harming the interests of others.

During the summer I was lucky to have had the opportunity to visit the lost city of Pompeii. AD 79 was the year that saw the Roman town-city obliterated. Mount Vesuvius, that towered above the city, erupted with between 4-6m of volcanic ash. The city and its inhabitants were lost for almost 1700 years. Archaeologists have recovered a large amount of the structures that were buried. These structures enable visitors to visualise what the city would have looked like before the disaster, however with so many buildings incomplete and in ruins, it is only a perception of what it might have been like. I wondered if it would be possible to use what I’ve learned so far to recreate part of what Pompeii may have looked like. I created a scenario in which Pompeii had been fully restored, and intended to create a front cover for a book that might address this. The book was to be titled ‘The Rise of Pompeii’.

Pompeii Original

The Initial Image

Having decided on a theme I needed to find a suitable image. Eventually I chose the photograph above showing part of Pompeii’s forum and Vesuvius towering above in the background. Facing the camera head on meant that I wouldn’t need to worry about maintaining perspective. There was also enough of the existing brick work and a complete column that I could use as a point of reference.

Rebuilding Pompeii

After opening the image up in Photoshop I rotated it 1 degree anti-clockwise since the subject was at a slight angle. I then zoomed in at 100% and used the clone tool to restore the brick work to areas that had been damaged. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to manipulate the image in a way that would have taken weeks in reality. I ensured that I copied different sections of source brickwork so there wasn’t an obvious repeated pattern. This would have been an indication that the image could have been faked.

Cloning Columns

Whilst I was cloning the brickwork I became more engaged with the image, thinking of other things that I could do to restore the structure. There was a brick block in the foreground that was distracting and difficult to add to, so I ‘removed’ it by extending the cloned brick wall. This led to me also using the clone tool to extend the grass area in place of the path and the lower part of the distracting wall. There were also some sightseers on the left hand side that were distracting so I cloned the shadow of the doorway to paint over them. Some of the steps had crumbled and were uneven so I located a section that was almost perfect and cloned it over the others, again varying each source to avoid any obvious repetition. Making such small alterations before I started this part of DPP seemed to be pointless, but now I understand how each pixel adds to the overall effect.

One of the main reasons for choosing this image was the complete column on the right-hand side. At first I tried to clone it 5 times but it was difficult to fit the replicated image to the existing bases. Therefore I selected the existing column using the magnetic-lasso. Then I copied it 5 times, so that I could position them over the bases without disturbing the background. Once the columns were in place to create a colonnade, I needed to add the pulvinated frieze that would have run across the top. Since there was not one in the original image I had to copy a suitable one from the image below.

I used the magnetic-lasso to select the pulvinated frieze and then copied and pasted it onto the assignment image. I needed to stretch it slightly so that it’s proportions fitted to the scene. My Latin is pretty non-existent, but I thought it would improve the image if I could touch-up the lettering across the top. Luckily some letters that needed replacing, such as the M, had an almost intact equivalent, so I was able to clone them, as if they had been restored.

Having rebuilt much of the structure using the clone and selection tools the image looked flat so I increased the contrast slightly, as well as the gamma to create the image above. I had remembered back to my Monochrome assignment which consisted of images taken on a bleak March day. The lack of strong colours had produced a low contrast when converted to black and white. Increasing the saturation to the image above made it look much better, although there was still an unnatural quality about the image. I also started to think more now about the image being for a book cover.

Pompeii Black & White

Therefore I flattened the image and converted it to monochrome. By lightening the reds I was able to reveal more of the texture of the renewed brickwork, and darkening the blues and greens helped the colonnade stand out and made Mount Vesuvius appear more imposing.

Finally I needed to include this image in a book cover. The landscape format didn’t lend itself easily to a book, since they are usually in portrait. I could have cropped it, but would have lost a significant portion that I had taken so long to create. This is something I should have thought about when selecting the most appropriate image.

Instead I positioned the image across the middle of the book. I chose red lettering for Pompeii, as red is the colour I most associate with the Romans (below).

Book Cover

Assignment Reflection

The aim of this assignment was to produce an image for a book cover that has been manipulated in some way that the viewer would be uncertain if this was real or fake. To a large extent I think I have achieved what I set out to do. The final image is a considerable improvement on the ruined city. There are no obvious inaccuracies in the final image that would suggest it is a montage of separate elements. The monochrome treatment is a reference to times gone by and it also resolved problems with colour matching of different elements.

Responding to my Tutor’s feedback

My tutor was really pleased with this assignment and the image I had produced. The only thing she suggested that needed changing was to slightly rotate the image so that the columns aligned with the II on the text. Whilst feeling very happy that I had achieved the requirements of the course, my feedback reminded me that it is important to consider the purpose of the image and to make sure that it is displayed correctly. I had spent so long thinking about the visual effect of my editing that I had overlooked how it fitted into the overall finished product of a book front cover. Below is my corrected final assignment.

Assignment 4 Corrected

2 Responses to Assignment 4: Real or fake

  1. Pingback: A picture’s worth…. « MY DIGITAL EYE

  2. Pingback: The final chapter « MY DIGITAL EYE

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