Surf's Up for Chris Orwig
Portraits may be too generic a term to describe Chris Orwig’s photographs. They are character studies that go beyond what we may normally think of as a portrait or visual representation of a person.
Orwig, a photographer, author and educator, is also an avid surfer and outdoor adventurer so it’s no surprise that many of his favorite subjects are those who share his passion for, and connection to, the water and the outdoors. As part of his ongoing project titled "SALT," Orwig photographs older or seasoned surfers and watermen—people whose long-time bond with the ocean has helped form who they are. It’s the spirit of these surfers and watermen that Orwig so sensitively captures with his camera.
But, technically, these portraits of watermen are often more difficult to create. Orwig sees that, for many of his subjects, their rugged imperfections are, in part, physical evidence of their strengths and life experience—elements that are an inherent part of their strong character. Because of that, says Orwig, who combines capture and post- production work to create these character studies, "You have to be really careful to hide your tracks in order to make the post-production work look honest, authentic and full of life." In other words, Orwig explains simply, "You have to allow the flaw to make the frame."
For this tutorial, Orwig guides us through the creation of a portrait he made of world champion surfer, Kelly Slater. As all photographers know, some of the best images come about by chance—being in the right place, at the right time (and having a camera with you, as Orwig almost always does). That’s what happened when Orwig and Slater’s paths crossed at a surfboard factory in Santa Barbara, California. The photograph used in this tutorial, is one of several Orwig took of Slater in the factory’s parking lot.
When reviewing the images after the shoot, it was this photograph that captured Orwig’s attention. "There was something about the kinetic energy, focus and connection in this frame," Orwig recalls. "Yet," he goes on to say, "it just looked too ordinary and I wanted this portrait to be something that you could believe in. I wanted it to look weathered and old." (As it turns out, the finished photograph was published in a special edition of Surfer Magazine, which highlighted the top 50 most influential surfers of all time—Slater was #1. Even more impressive is that the magazine ran the image as a full page—one of the largest portraits they had ever run.)
In order to achieve the look he wanted, Orwig—whose teaching credentials are as impressive as his photography— used Adobe© Photoshop© CS6 and the Wacom Intuos5 touch pen tablet to merge his vision with the photograph he captured. He’s been using a Wacom tablet for more than ten years and initially moved to the Wacom tablet and pressure- sensitive pen because, "Using a mouse is like drawing with a bar of soap." The Wacom tools, on the other hand, allow him to make "subtle yet significant adjustments with precision."
Although multi-touch technology was first incorporated in the entry-level Bamboo tablets, the Intuos5 is the first pro model to use multi-touch, which Orwig loves. "As an iPhone and iPad owner, it’s a nice transition for me to have the [touch] options for scrolling, pinch zooming and general navigation."
What follows is a tutorial that leads you through some of the steps Orwig took to create the Slater image. He touches on specifics of using Adobe Photoshop CS6 and the Wacom Intuos5 that you can follow. However, Orwig offers, "What’s most important with any tutorial, is remembering that the concepts and techniques used with one particular image can be repurposed to accomplish many different visual ideas."
So, we invite you to try out Orwig’s techniques and then use them—in whole, or in part—to explore the possibilities when making them your own.
1. To create the final image of Kelly Slater, Orwig opened the photo in Adobe Photoshop (Tip: use this step to test out the image and see if you like it enough to go further)
1a. Duplicate background layer (CMD J/Ctrl J)
1b. Select Burn tool to darken background on duplicate layer; (Tip: use Wacom tablet controls or Touch Ring to change opacity and brush softness; Orwig assigns Cmd+Opt or Ctrl+Opt to the Express Key just above the Touch Ring to adjust the Brush tool’s hardness and size in the Heads-Up Display. Simply hold the key, then drag up/down or left/right with an active Brush tool.)
1c. Reduce or remove blemishes and distractions using Healing Brush and Clone Stamp tools
1d. Convert to black and white by creating a black and white adjustment layer (Tip: program Express Key for black and white conversion)
2. Add film grain to give photograph more texture
2a. Merge layers (Tip: program Express Key to merge underlying layers to the top)
2b. Zoom in (Tip: use Intuos5 multi-touch functionality to zoom)
2c. Run Filter>Noise>Add Noise (settings: Amount = 2, Distribution = Gaussian and Monochromatic)
2d. To make the grain effect more realistic, create a mask based on the luminosity of the red channel. Use the shortcut Command + Option + 3 /Control + Alt + 3 to load the luminosity of the red channel, then press the add layer mask button in the layers panel.
3. Darken Background More: Orwig felt background brightness was competing too much with the subject. Make smooth and subtle adjustments. Think about how light travels and falls and start to build emotion by changing tones.
3a. Select Brush tool, choose Black from the Color Picker (Tip: use the tablet’s Touch Ring to change the brush size or see Step 1b for Express Key brush size/hardness setup; Use pressure sensitive Pen to darken background area)
4. Tone the Image with a sepia-type color palette
4a. Add Color Balance adjustment layer—Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Color Balance (Tip: create a custom keyboard shortcut in Photoshop for New Adjustment Layer and then program the Wacom tablet’s Express Key with that keystroke or, as Orwig does, create action in Photoshop and then assign action to Express Key, e.g., new Color Balance Adjustment Layer)
4b. Increase reds and yellows
4c. Add Photo Filter adjustment layer—Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Photo Filter (Tip: see step 4a) to further adjust color tones
5. Remove logo
5a. Zoom using the tablet’s multi-touch pad
5b. Merge layers to the top (Tip: program one of the Intuos5’s Express Keys to merge layers)
5c. Start off by using the Patch tool to remove logo 5d. After using the Patch tool, use the Healing Brush and Clone Stamp tools to rebuild texture and detail on the shirt; be sure to zoom in/out using the tablet’s multi-touch functionality while retouching (Tips: Use the Touch Ring to increase/decrease brush size; program the Pen Switch to modifier Option (Mac)/Alt (Win) so all you have to do is tap the Pen to the tablet to target the source for Healing Brush/Clone Stamp; customize Express Key for Undo/Redo)
6. Enhance shirt after removing logo
6a. Zoom in using multi-touch gesture
6b. Select Brush tool (Tip: use Touch Ring to adjust brush size)
6c. Choose dark brown color and paint to create shadows to counterbalance the flatness resulting from logo removal (Tip: remember, the Pen is pressure sensitive, so be sure to use it to create natural looking shadows)
7. Add Texture
7a. Find an image with a texture that works well with the image (Orwig used the texture from a photograph of wood he had captured a few days earlier)
7b. Open the texture image and add it as a new layer to the original
7c. Change the blending mode to Soft Light (Tip: Shift/+ cycles through blending modes. Or, if you have your function keys programmed, as Orwig does: Cmd+Option+F (Mac)/Ctrl+Alt+F (Win)
7d. Create a mask and selectively paint in the texture. (Tip: use the Wacom tablet to adjust brush size and opacity levels, along with the Wacom pressuresensitive Pen to vary the texture so that it looks like it was, “worn into the image or that the image was worn out.” Orwig cautions that you don’t want it to look like the texture is sitting on top of the image.)
8. Correct face shadows
8a. Create new Curves adjustment layer (manually or using custom Express Key). Drag the curve up to brighten the overall image.
8b. Create a mask by pressing the add layer mask button in the layers panel. Next, press Command I / Control I to invert the mask and conceal the brightening effect.
8c. Choose Brush tool; select white and adjust size, opacity, flow, etc. 8d. Paint with white on the mask in order to brighten the shadows and details where light is required.
9. Adjust tone and details (Tip: Orwig uses Express Keys that are customized with actions he usually assigns to his F [Function] keyboard keys)
9a. Create new Curves Adjustment Layer and adjust contrast
9b. Create a new layer; choose Brush Tool; change blending mode to Soft Light, select a dark brown color from the Color Picker and paint to darken areas of the background.
9c. Merge layer to top, apply sharpening filter: Smart Sharpen > Remove Lens Blur, Amount = 100, Radius =
9d. On the sharpened layer, add a layer mask by clicking the add layer mask icon. Press command + I/control + I to invert mask. Choose a soft edged brush with 30% opacity and paint in the sharpness to the face.
10. Finishing touches
10a. Remove logo on surfboard (see Step 5)
10b. Remove dark line on the background using the Healing and Clone Stamp tools.
10c. Make final tonal adjustments (see Step 9) to create more drama and to finish the image off