Exercise 1.4 – Digital manipulation

The idea for this exercise came by while I was walking to work. There are quite a lot of road works along my regular route and in many of these there are quite a lot of manholes which are being rebuilt / repaired. While looking at some of the workers laying down the pavement, I started to wander what would be like if somebody was trapped in any of these holes and emerged all of a sudden from the middle of the works, to the amazement of the workers. As I kept walking, I started looking down and paying attention to the rain water drains on the road and how these, even if relatively large (about a foot and a half on each direction), would still be too tight for a relatively large person to be trapped in them. This is when I made the connection with the idea of documenting something that appears realistic, but on second though could never be: somebody trapped in one of these drains trying to escape.

I took all the photographs on that same morning to make sure the light was as similar as possible: a picture of the drain, two pictures of my hands and a shot of my head and shoulders from above (holding the camera as high as possible over my head). The original pictures are show below:

I started by importing all the images into Photoshop. With the aid of the quick selection tool, I selected the fingers from each of the two hand shots and copied each one into a separate layer. I then used the free transform tool to reduce the size of the fingers and move them around to the correct position and orientation on top of the drain. With the aid of a layer mask and the brush, I painted back the drain on top of the bits of hand that were not needed. Because the hands came out much clearer than the drain, I then added an adjustment layer for levels and another one for saturation in order to tone down the lightness and colour in the fingers (they became quite red when I darkened them down). I subsequently selected the head and shoulders from the final shot, using again the quick selection tool, and added them on to the drain image. Free transform was used again to resize and relocate the head, with a layer mask being added to paint back the parts of the drain that I wanted to show up. I then added a bit of Gaussian blur to the head and shoulders to make them slightly out of focus (focus is clearly above the head, on the top of the drain grill). Additional adjustment layers for levels (to darken) curves (to control contrast) and saturation (to reduce redness) were added to the head and shoulders layer.

Semi-finished image from Photoshop

Following the above, the semi-finished image (see above) was imported into Lightroom where additional adjustments were made to come to the final image: perspective was adjusted, the image cropped, further work was undertaken on the fingers to selectively darken them and to create shadows under them, as well as on the head and shoulders to selectively darken or brighten certain areas. The final picture is shown below:

The photographer trying to scape from a drain



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