Saturday, 26 March 2016

Captured by the Camera - Portrait of an Owl-Man

This picture was recently submitted to the Tring Camera Club competition for black and white prints. It was not selected as one of the top pictures - possibly it is not the kind of picture you would hang on your wall. Several people liked it and the only specific comment I got was that there was not enough contrast in the "face".

From my point of view its chief interest is that the picture says a lot about how the eye/brain combination works.

As presented here the eye immediately recognizes it to be a a face - admittedly one that you would only expect to see in science fiction films.The eyes are straight-forward enough and the lower patterns suggest an open mouth, with two prominent teeth and a narrow protruding tongue. The miniture face looking out of the forehead suggests the "Owl-Man" has extra senses directly connected to the brain.There is also something that could well be ears, and the face is clearly wearing  a jacket with white lapels ...

Of course it is just a modified picture of a chain-saw sculpture of an owl, currently for sale at College Lake, by Daryl Fryers (
So how was the picture created?

The idea came after an earlier competition (Light, Abstract and Lines) had included some Photoshop type tricks and I decided to explore the equivalent facilities on my ancient copy of Photoshop Pro. The chainsaw carvings had just appeared at College Lake and it tried a reflection option which looked interesting - but not good enough to tray and enter it.  So I went back and took some more photographs - particularly of the owl shown in the picture on the left., moving ot to get a better angle and better side lighting on the "feathers."

I then took the right hand side of the picture, using the tip of the beak as a reflection point - trying several positions a few pixels apart for the biggest effect.

The picture now looked like this image to the right - but is still quite clearly a carved owl on a block of wood.  I then converted to black and white and modified the contrast to darken the background and the parts in shade - and get a bit more contrast into the "feathers" carved in the wood, and the grain. The only specific touching up was to remove a couple of very light blades of grass from the background and transform was complete.

I believe that most people see this as the portrait of a science fiction monster - but it is possible to see it as a somewhat funny owl sitting on a block of wood.

[Note. I hand kept the original working pictures and I seen that the picture to the right differs by a narrow band two or three pixels wide from the picture at the top,]

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