When I saw this balancing pile of rocks, I was sure I could make a picture out of it, with the pebble beach in the foreground and the silvery sea and sky in the background.
I didn’t stack these rocks. I don’t know who did. Someone with more skill, patience and dexterity than me, obviously. I like the mystery of these things. It went with the remoteness of this place (it can only be reached on foot, not by road), and its forgotten past (it was an old serpentine works, for those who still remember what this is).
There were a whole range of programs I could have used to make this image, but I chose Exposure X5, because its black and white presets seem to echo my own sense of what these places should look like, and the look of the black and white analog films I used to use.
- Exposure X6 review
- More Exposure X articles
- Download the 30-day Exposure X trial
- Exposure Software website
So here’s the nitty-gritty of what I did, how I did it and why I did it in a particular order.
01 Cropping and rotating in Exposure X
In Exposure X, it’s important to do any cropping and rotating on the base image layer, before you do anything else, and then add any further effects on new layers. This image didn’t need much adjustment – just a tiny bit of straightening to level the horizon.
02 Adding a preset on a new layer
I have a preset here that I like, which simulates Fujifilm Neopan1 600 film, with authentic-looking grain and a rough image border. I’ve got Exposure X set up to add presets on a new layer, but you can also right-click a preset (shown here) to add it on a new layer, or create a new layer in the Layers palette first.
03 Adding a mask
My image is close to what I want, but the foreground rocks are too dark. I can fix this with a gradient mask and an Exposure adjustment. If I had applied the preset to the main image layer, this would also lighten the frame. But because the effect is on its own layer, I can select the background layer instead, select the mask tool (circled), choose the gradient mask tool (also highlighted) and add a gradient mask to the image. By default, the top part (the sky) is masked.
04 Lightening the foreground
Now all I need to do it increase the Exposure setting in the Basic tab. You can see the mask on the background layer in the Layers palette. Doing it this way means that the foreground lightening effect applies ‘underneath’ the black and white preset effect.
The finished picture
I like this image a lot for its stark and strange graphic quality. It has been pointed out to me that the rock pile might resemble the emperor Napoleon or a sailing ship (really?), which is a reminder that people often look for a literal interpretation of an image even when it’s the furthest thing from your mind, dammit.