From Cityscape to Portrait

When I have the opportunity to travel, which of late seems to be more and more often (thanks to my bud Steve Shulem of Strictly Vacations), I love to get out into the city to walk about in the late afternoon and capture the environs around me. I refer to the images I create from these serendipitous sessions as Cityscapes. Were I independently wealthy, I would dedicate myself to them every chance I could. 

Nassau Wall ©2011 Mark Jordan

A couple weeks ago, while stolling though the streets of NassauI came across an interesting textured wall (replete with red accents of shutters, windows, doors and service portals). As the sun was setting fast, I too had to move quickly. In the short five minutes I was given, I was able to squeeze off maybe a hundred exposures on my Canon 5D Mark II (much of which were a tad soft due to long, hand held exposures - and possible a little excitement). 

When I arrived home and viewed my raw files, I knew I had a great deal of "lab" work to perform in order to extract from the image what I had in my mind's eye.  Not only would I have to reveal the tonalities  and texture I felt it demanded, the perspective would also have to be corrected to yield a more balanced expression. As you might have guessed, I already had the composition in mind before creating my exposure. Foolishly, I only took one. 

After a few hours of experimentation, I came with up several interpretations, of which the framed image above is one of my faves. I imagine Nasssau Wall as a 45x60 hanging in a quaint B&B, possibly in a hotel lobby. Regardless of where it might be displayed, with the right framing, I think it's a fine image that would complement the right setting.

Though Cityscapes, in of the themselves, have ample design elements to hang of their own, what I find particularly challenging, and fun, is to later add people to them. The image above is a prime example of a fascinating Cityscape, which, on it's own, would not only make for a handsome display for the right admirer, but might also appeal to those looking for an one-of-a-kind portrait. 

As to my secondary purpose of inserting people into my Cityscapes, on the right is a portrait of a handsome executiveI I recently photographed in my portrait studio. I used this image as sort of a "stock-photo" to demonstrate how I might approach adding a person to my latest Cityscape. Were I to design this image most effectively, rather than dipping into a readily available image, I would begin from scratch, ensuring every detail harmonized with the Cityscape. I chose this particular image not only because of his piercing blue eyes, but the light quality (soft and low, like the setting sun) and direction, which is a close match to the light direction on the Cityscape.

After meticulously extracting my subject for this particular portrait (of which the light stray hairs are vital to include, i.e. to maintain a natural look), I then tweak the outlining edge by removing anything that does not belong. I then soften the edge so as to avoid appearing cut out. I also blur the torso, rendering the back shoulder more diffuse than the front.

©2011 Mark Jordan

Once the edges are just perfect, I make a copy of both Cityscape and subject, then compress the two so that the images are one. I then take my Brush Tool (0% hardness and 20% opacity, 2-3 diameter), and draw-in a few more stay hairs. I am careful to take continuous color samples so that the strays will be as varied as his hair (yes, I know the odds of someone actually spotting the subtle difference are nil, but it's my nature - and yes, I paint on the underside of chairs as well...).

©2011 Mark Jordan

Lastly, I run my image through my a few plug-ins to balance tones, contrast, texture, etc. The idea here is to meld the images not only layer-wise, but the total feel of the image. I can't make up my mind which of the two renditions I like most. How about you?

©Photosical - the photographic, philosophical observations of Orange County Photographer, Mark Jordan

Mark Jordan Photography specializes in crafting stunning contemporary, traditional, classic, and storytelling family portraits (high school seniors, children portraits, babies, maternity, pregnancy), headshots and pets. Mark Jordan, a Photography Hall of Fame photographer in Rancho Santa Margarita and provides portrait photography throughout Orange County. The portrait studio also serves San Diego County and Inland Empire. Studio Photography Services are also provided in Riverside County and Los Angeles County. Local Cites where photography studio services are offered are in Aliso Viejo, Anaheim, Brea, Costa Mesa, Coto de Caza, Cypress, Dana Point, Dove Canyon, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Ladera Ranch, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach, Northwood, Orange, Orange Park Acres, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, Tustin, Villa Park, Westminster, Yorba Linda, Corona del Mar, Murrieta, Murrieta Hot Springs, Quail Valley, Riverside, Temecula, Winchester, Woodcrest, Chino Hills, Fontana, Grand Terrace, Loma Linda, Montclair, Rancho Bernardo, Carlsbad, Coronado, Del Mar, Escondido, La Mesa, Oceanside, San Diego, San Marcos, Solana Beach, Vista, Carmel Mountain Ranch, Rancho San Diego, Rancho Santa Fe, and San Diego Country Estates, Turtle Rock, Shady Canyon. Portrait Photographers everywhere (photographers in O.C. as well) are welcome to contact our portrait studio for mentoring/guidance.

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