Quick! Look busy!

Over the summer, I’m supposed to be researching and experimenting for what’s called my “negotiated project” for an assignment next year. It’s about time I made a start.

First up, a composite street shot. I’d seen these online recently:

©Pelle Cass

©Pelle Cass

Pelle Cass shoots a whole series of photos from the same location and then carefully composites them to make these over-crowded scenes. I read about his work on PetaPixel here (PetaPixel is a source of much inspiration and I expect it will get mentioned a lot on here) and straight away thought I’d like to have a go. I’d seen the exact opposite idea mentioned a while ago – to use the same technique to show completely empty street scenes – but this was a new idea to me.

Finally I’ve had a go. I started by doing a very basic test out of my front room window as the bins were being collected. This was the result:

A little test for a possible project idea.

This was only six layers, and very little overlap between the dustman’s positions so was relatively straightforward, but it was a good opportunity to test out several methods. (You did notice it was just one dustman, didn’t you?)

Having done that I set myself up in Stevenage Town Centre and shot around sixty versions of a view over the town square over the course of about 45 minutes. And then set to work making this composite:

Stevenage Town Centre was busy that day

Do click on the image to see a full-screen version so you can see properly what’s going on. The final image was made up of about 40 layers, opened as a stack in photoshop and each layer masked to reveal only those people I wanted.

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 09.50.43

This time it was much more complicated, as now I had people – and more fiddly, shadows – overlapping. But I persevered and am pleased with the result. I’d estimate that it took up to about six hours compositing this all together, but I was refining the technique all the time and finding ways to make it easier, so if I did it again (and I plan to) I’d hopefully be a bit more efficient with my time.

Main lesson? Start from the back and work your way forwards. Would have simplified a lot. Just saying.


Update: I sent a link to this blog post to Pelle Cass to let him know I’d taken inspiration from his idea and had a go. Just had a reply from him saying “Nice compositing! You’ve got the technique down.” How nice to get positive feedback from your inspiration. Thanks, Pelle. 


4 thoughts on “Quick! Look busy!

  1. Rob

    I like this. It threatens to open up the whole ‘how much processing can you do before it isn’t photography any more’ can of worms but it’s not more processed than HDR which is mostly accepted.

    1. Trevor Post author

      Yes, Rob. Don’t know if you looked at Pelle Cass’s website, but in his introduction to this series he actually uses the phrase “Nothing has been changed, only selected”.

      Nothing changed except reality, eh?

  2. clifford coultart

    I think Andreas Gursky did the editing-everything-out thing in his photo “Rhein II” 1999.


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