Image-anary Evolution

Mhindepinde Rez Zone
Mhindepinde Rez Zone

Last year I created a series of watercolors from some of my Second Life photos (see them on Flickr) and donated a few to the Bay City Christmas Tree Lighting Auction (as blogged here) to raise funds for Childsplay, a great charity that helps kids be kids even when stuck in hospitals. The watercolors sold well and quite a few people complimented me on the work. Some even encouraged me to do more and to sell them. All-in-all, though, I felt rather silly as the hardest part of the effort was moving the files from my desktop computer to my iPad so I could work them in the Waterlogue app then getting them back.The app does the heavy lifting as I pick among some options.

Sure, it is a bit more complicated than just pressing a button, but you get the idea. It is not like when I was doing watercolors for art class. But since starting this project I have a computer that uses AirDrop so moving images back and forth is, indeed, push-button simple. And I have a new app called Brushstroke. As with Waterlogue, one chooses various options and tweaks the final result. It does take an artistic eye but not the same manual skills of an artist. Let me walk you through the process of one of my latest pictures.

My brother's place in Bay City - Dennis (SLurl) is a lovely spot.
My brother’s place in Bay City – Dennis (SLurl) is a lovely spot.

After de-rendering much of The Plaza from the background, I experimented with Windlight settings and framing, finishing with a 5120 x 2630 pixel original, using the Viewer’s tools to see what a final would look like cropped to a 16:9 ratio.

Fixing the sky.
Fixing the sky.

From there I used Pixlemator‘s cloning and healing tools to tidy-up the sky then the levels tool to sweeten the colors. If I had more skill, all the subsequent steps could be accomplished without leaving this application but I’m not that good yet.

Using Brushstroke and Acorn.
Using Brushstroke and Acorn.

I tried a number of options in Brushstroke though I don’t recall the name of the one I finally picked. One day I’ll have the discipline to take notes at each step just as I learned to do back in the day when I worked in photo darkrooms. But I exported the now 4182 x 2150 pixel image back to the desktop computer so I could add a rough-edged border like the Waterlogue app automatically adds. For this I used a couple techniques in Acorn, my go-to image editor for fast and easy work.

Then it was a matter of scaling the final result to 1024 x 576 pixels (still the 16:9 ratio I use for such images) for import into Second Life. I’ll use that for large reproductions and will upload a 512 x 288 pixel image for efficient rendering on smaller objects.

How long did this all take? The original image was captured in about 15-20 minutes (de-rendering bits took a while). The edting from start to finish was about another 20-30 minutes. Writing this blog post took nearly an hour.

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