Desert Reality?

Desert Reality Inspired Bird House
Desert Reality Inspired Bird House

Looking through my April issue of Rangefinder magazine I came across an interesting profile of photographer Ed Freeman. Titled Desert Reality, the article focuses on the composite images Freeman created and then used for his book Desert Reality. While the photographs appear totally realistic, they are fakes. For Freeman, Adobe Photoshop is as important as his camera because his “photographs” are actually very well done creative composites. The theme is that of unusual or dilapidated buildings, isolated, and placed into a California desert setting. Freeman photographs a building, removes it from its original setting, and then composites it with a desert landscape and an appropriate sky.

One fascinating aspect pointed out in the article is that the background mountain range in all but one image in the book actually came from the same source photograph. Freeman used various Photoshop techniques to alter the appearance of the mountains for each of the images in which it was used.

If you visit the book's web site,, there is a gallery displaying some of the images from the book. There is also a before and after feature whereby for two of the images from the book you can see the original photograph of the building and then the building as composited into the desert landscape. You may also want to visit Ed Freeman's web site.

As I was writing this entry, it occurred to me that I would need an appropriate illustration. I went to to grab a couple stock photos. One of the first pictures I found was of a bird house – that would be my structure. Next was to find an appropriate background. Seeing an image of a stately lawn, I knew that I had my picture. It was a simple task to use Photoshop's Lasso Tool to isolate the bird house from its background and drag it in as a new layer on the lawn photo. Positioning the bird house slightly back from the central gravel path seemed natural. I then used a combination of the clone stamp and eraser tools and layer masks to blend the base of the house with the gravel path. The final step was to create a shadow layer for the bird house so that its lighting would match the shadows being cast by the trees to the left. One thing I thought of doing but didn't was to enlarge the bird hole and add a sign “Beware of Bird.”

Just one more example of how Photoshop can be the digital photographer's best friend.

Ad Astra, Jim

| Return to the Blog Index | This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 1st, 2007 at 9:11 pm and is filed under Digital Art, Digital Photography, Photoshop.